(MENAFN - The Peninsula) By Fazeena Saleem / The Peninsula
As the unprecedented blockade entered 100 days, just ahead of the new academic year, students, lecturers and research leaders in the country reflect on how the crisis has helped bring the local community closer together and how Qatar's commitment to education and innovation remains as strong as ever.
With the indiscriminate siege violating the human rights of citizens and expatriates alike, students attending the eight international branch campuses at Qatar Foundation's Education City in Doha, are determined to fulfill their goal of accessing a world-class education in the Gulf.
'I worked extremely hard to be accepted at Weill Cornell Medicine Qatar (WCM-Q), and to lose that opportunity because of the colour of my passport would be devastating, said Alanood Aljalahma, whose mother is Qatari and father is Bahraini and who has been particularly affected by the cutting of diplomatic ties by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt since June 5.
'I've been told that if I don't return to Bahrain, I may lose my passport. My family is here Qatar is the place I call home. It represents my past and my present. Thankfully, there is a very strong feeling of unity both in Qatar and abroad which is resonating with many people I know, told The Peninsula.
'Qatar is an incredibly multicultural country, and to be here is to live, work and study with people from every imaginable background and nationality. If anything, this crisis has brought us all even closer together, said Alanood.
Valeria Marinova, a recent graduate of Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), who moved to Doha from Bulgaria when she was 11, also believes the crisis has had a galvanizing effect on the wider community in Qatar.
'I feel the blockade has served as a push for the country, in that it has encouraged Qatar and its people to think in more sustainable ways, to come together and work smarter to improve things for the benefit of the entire community. I've seen new Qatari products on the shelves and have heard of new startup businesses come on the market over the last number of weeks. Even though I wasn't born here, I feel every part of the country, and the people. I am 100 percent invested here I grew up very happily in Qatar, and this is where my friends and my family are.
Soraya Ridanovich, a US citizen who also studied at NU-Q in Education City, echoes the same sense of a united community, and believes it goes beyond the borders of Qatar. 'Qatar is a country filled with opportunities which has opened doors for thousands of people. I think that for a lot of people who have lived in Qatar or who are living here still, this is their home because it has given them so much. Every day, I see friends who live in America, in England friends from all around the world, posting the same statuses, the same pictures. And the message is clear: people are coming together to support Qatar.
A college lecturer Dr Nayef Alyafei, who attended primary school in Doha, graduated from Texas A & M University at Qatar (TAMUQ) and returned to teach at the branch campus after attaining his PhD in the US, says the opportunities in education and research provided by Qatar continue to bring great numbers of people together.
'Everyone I know is continuing to live their life as though nothing has changed, and everywhere I go I see posters and bumper stickers on cars that express admiration for the country's leadership. When I think of the investment that Qatar has made in me from a very young age, and how I am now trying to repay that debt every day, I know that I am proud to stand behind our leadership. I want to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities I was granted. Dr Alyafei's views are reflected throughout the burgeoning research and development ecosystem at QF's Education City.
'Technology and innovation have always been about breaking down barriers between people, and recent events have only strengthened our resolve toward that goal, said Dr Maher Hakim, Executive Director, Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), which serves as an incubator for tech startups. 'From the day we opened our doors in 2009, QSTP has sought to attract top minds to help develop innovative solutions to issues impacting not only Qatar, but the world as a whole.
Across Qatar's thriving education landscape, university leaders have been working hard to ensure that students affected by the blockade are being given the chance to continue their education with as little disruption as possible. One way they are achieving this is through providing webcam sessions for affected students, so that they are able to continue attending classes via an online platform.
'This is not a journey you stop just because the current political environment has been distorted. We recognise that given the opportunity, today's young people will be the driving force of meaningful change. For this reason, we continue to work hard to provide learning opportunities that are designed to unleash the creative and innovative talents of the youth, said Dr Hamad Al-Ibrahim, Executive Vice President of QF Research & Development (QF R & D).
From the outset of the current crisis, Dr Al-Ibrahim said: 'We will not stop fostering a culture of innovation within Qatar. You cannot put a blockade on innovation and you cannot hinder the human thirst for knowledge.
To which the 21-year old WCM-Q pre-med student, Alanood also agrees. She says the support students receive from their universities is just one example of how Qatar, 'and everyone who calls it home, have pulled together in the face of crisis. The countries around us are trying to silence our voices and threaten our futures. But here in Qatar, we are determined to stick together and stay on the paths we've carved for ourselves.