Today Qatar mourns. Yesterday, 19 lives – 13 children, 4 teachers and 2 firefighters were lost in Qatar’s Villagio’s Mall fire. For Qatar, this is the biggest tragedy, ripping across all the communities at once. Many questions are seeking answers, many are still in shock at the scale of the accident and many simply don’t understand how it happened. The effects of this tragedywill linger for a long time until the investigations answer some questions.
Qatar first made news when it won the rights to host FIFA 2022 Football World Cup in December 2010. For a Middle East country to win the hosting rights of such an event was unimaginable as there were questions from the size of the country to its capabilities of hosting the event. The event did put Qatar and the Middle East on the international arena and brought the attention of the world to a country that remained relatively unknown for a large period of time.
But this was not the only feature. Qatar’s Education City featuring the best schools, Carnegie Mellon, Weil Cornell, Georgetown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Texas A&M and Northwestern University offered an insight on how a vision became reality and the purpose behind providing a high-class education. Recently, The Economist magazine published an article on the art culture, the Islamic Museum of Arts – one of the monumental museums showcasing arts from various regions and the initiatives being taken in this new field. Al Jazeera – the news channel is another key feature of the state.
But when a country opens up and makes it presence on the world arena, it must be prepared for all the contingencies. Since winning the rights of FIFA 2022 World Cup, in one way or another, the country has remained engulfed with one controversy or another. Although the issues and reasons vary, the fact that Qatar is now on the global platform means that no longer can one contain the events within the country itself. The country is open to media scrutiny and as the time approaches for the world cup, the media hype and scrutiny will only increase. The coverage of the Villagio Mall incident is just the beginning for it provides an insight as to what Qatar is and will be dealing with in the future.
In the light of the FIFA 2022 hosting rights, the role of media will play a significant role and could have spillover effects on cultural, regional, economical and political grounds. The intensity with which this will occur highly depends on the coverage of the events by the media. It is well-known that media does sometimes exaggerates the events and the ground reality could altogether be different. Therefore, journalism itself could come into questioning and place an immense pressure on Qatar’s institutions, especially Qatar’s media bodies, to ensure that the correct information, facts and figures are disseminated, for all the media outlets check the domestic media as a source for news.
In this particular incident, it was the lives of foreigners lost. As the people come to grip with the accident, there are questions and issues raised both within the local and international media. The issues range from whether a day care center should be allowed to operate in a mall, the maintenance of safety standards to the training of the personnel for en emergency situation are now on the forefront. There is a domino effect now in that the incident has caused concerns in the neighbor country Dubai, U.A.E. This is the first brush with the international media. If observed carefully, it is basically providing a picture of its ability to conjure a picture of a country in a certain way for its audience.
It is certain that Qatar’s authorities will deal with the matter in the strictest manner. There is an ongoing investigation and the authorities here are well-known for cracking down hard on matters that affect its population in a bad way. All the violations that took place in this incident, mall authorities who were unable and ill-equipped to deal with the situation and violations that might be present in other malls will be dealt with a stern hand. There is a very high probability that the Ministry will further pass and enforce strictly new safety standards and laws in all the buildings in the wake of this accident. It will provide the public with information on the investigation. But until then, questions and various emotions will rage on across the communities.
As I write this article, I find tears continuously streaming down my eyes. At times, I feel as if someone has stabbed me right in the heart. The pain of losing a loved one has become fresh. I lost my maternal grandmother this year in January. 4 months have passed and yet her face is still fresh in front of my eyes. Every day has been hard since she left. My life scattered in a million pieces in accepting that she will never ever return. But to imagine the pain of the parents is beyond words or any feeling. This is a catastrophe for the lives of parents have turned upside down. A New Zealand family lost 2-year-old triplets and many other parents lost theirs. Even as Qatar bid goodbye to the victims today, the emotions have made everyone numb.It has jolted all the communities because we take many things, especially relations, for granted without acknowledging the consequences if they were ever to leave us for good.
Since the accident, I have only been praying and I can only request you to join in the prayers for those who have to bear an immense loss.
‘Dear God, please give the parents and all those who have lost their loved ones the strength to bear this irreplaceable loss. Please bless those whom we have lost and grant them a place in heaven. Please help to heal this pain as this difficult time has turned the lives upside down of many. Please give us the strength to stand by them, support them and reach out to them in this tragic time. Please help us to become better human beings (amen)”