Friday, August 21, 2015

Heightened Security in Qatar

I've noticed in the past month or so heightened security in the country. When I've gone to hotels they now have metal detectors at the front door, something that was standard up until around 2010 or so but hasn’t really been in use the last few years. A new twist is mall parking lots, at two malls I've been to with basement parking there were security guards at the entrances to the basements, using mirrors to search under cars and in some cases asking people to open the trunks of their cars so it could be searched. I've never experienced that before in Qatar.

Why this is happening? I did a search and discovered an article from Dohanews that during Eid there was a directive from the Government for places like malls and hotels to increase security. I was on vacation during Eid so I missed the article. It appears that a month later the security measures are still in place.

That increased security has been put in place in Qatar is not too surprising given recent problems in the Middle East with extremists and terrorists. There have been attacks in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in recent months so it's reasonable to assume that Qatar is at increased risk. Thankfully nothing has happened here yet though. In fact I don’t recall any kind of terrorist attack in Qatar in the last 10 years. The last one that I know of took place in 2005 when a bomb blew up outside of a theatre where a play was being held, killing one person. The guy responsible did not appear to have been connected to a known terrorist group.

GCC nationals (citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) can freely travel to other GCC countries, making it more challenging for Governments to scrutinize potential terrorists. The recent mosque bombing in Kuwait was done by a Saudi who had flown into Kuwait that day, he could just as easily have driven across the border.

Based on recent attacks it is mosques that are at greatest risk, especially Shia mosques. I don’t hang out in mosques so I don’t think I’ll be in much danger. There is a small Shia population in Qatar so there are a few Shia mosques, hopefully they’ve improved security there as well.

I still intend to live my life as usual and not get caught up in a cycle of fear.

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