Qatar: Student Activism “for Cafeterias and Covered Car Parks”

Universities are renowned for being the epicenter of student activism. Qatari Esraa Al Meftah talks about how Qatari university students’ only form of activism is in asking for “opening cafeterias on campus and installing car shades in the student parking lots.”

In a series of tweets, Al Meftah says:

من المفروض ان توفر الجامعات للطلبة وغير الطلبة مكان آمن للتعبير عن آرائهم.. مهما كانت تلك الآراء شاذة عن الرأي العام


@esra2qtr: Universities should provide their students and others with a safe place to express their opinions, however much those opinions are removed from public opinion

She gives an example of the student movement at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in 1969. She says:

صور من الحراك الطلابي في الجامعة الامريكية في بيروت في ١٩٦٩.. وضم ذلك الحراك اقتحام المباني وإضرابات عن الطعام

: These are photographs of the student movement at the American University of Beirut in 1969… that movement included breaking into buildings and hunger strikes

Photographs shared by Al Meftah on Twitter showing student activism at the AUB in 1969

Photographs shared by Al Meftah on Twitter showing student activism at the AUB in 1969. Seen are students on hunger strike (top) and students demonstrating (bottom)

She said the university tried to absorb the students’ anger by allowing for more freedom of expression, by setting up a Speaker's Corner, which allowed for debate and discussion on campus.

She further adds:

والحراك الطلابي في الجامعة لم يكن متعلق بالأمور الداخلية فقط.. بل كان غالبا حراك مسيس ومطالبه سياسية..
@esra2qtr: Student movements on campus were not restricted to issues related to the university alone. Student movements were mostly politically charged and had political demands

Returning to the present, Meftah notes:

هذه الايام وللأسف، هم الطلاب لايتعدى النطالبة بفتح قهوة في المبنى الفلاني.. ونصب مظلات في الباركنج الفلاني..
@esra2qtr: Nowadays it is unfortunate that the demands of students does not exceed calling for opening a cafeteria in this building or installing covered parking in that parking lot

She adds:

وبالرغم من بساطة المطالب مازالت الجامعة تراقب الطلاب وتخاف ان تعطيهم اي مساحة للتحدث بحرية عن هذه المواضيع بل حتى المواقع الاجتماعية مراقبة!

Despite those simple demands, the university continues to monitor students and is afraid of giving them any opportunity to speak freely about these issues. Even social media sites are monitored!

In conclusion, Meftah says:

وللأسف هذه المؤسسة التي يفترض ان تكون محرك التغيير في المجتمع ليست الا انعكاس لمؤسسات الدولة.

: It is unfortunate that this institution, which is considered at the dynamo for change in society, is just a reflection of the state's institutions

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