The past year has flown by in a whirlwind of developments, tragedies, celebrations and suspense for Qatar residents.
From kafala reform to Salwa Road flooding to the long-awaited opening of Hamad International Airport, here are some of the stories that appeared to resonate most with our audience in 2014:
Despite the initial hype, however, many remain confused about what will actually be changed, and when. Though officials promise to make it easier for expats to leave the country and switch jobs, some have said the announced reforms do not go far enough to protect human rights.
And despite hope for a speedy passage, implementation of labor law changes have been pushed to 2015.
In one of Qatar’s deadliest incidents in recent memory, 11 people were killed and 35 others injured after a gas explosion at a Turkish restaurant near Landmark Mall on Feb. 27.
The blast was apparently caused by an oven that was not properly turned off. It leaked gas for hours before a spark from a nearby refrigerator caused the explosion.
Nobody was inside Istanbul restaurant at the time of the accident, and the majority of those killed and injured were eating at a neighboring cafe.
The restaurants were situated inside of a petrol station, spurring authorities to crack down on other eateries using gas to cook food.
Four men are on trial for negligence over the deaths, in a case that is ongoing.
An altercation between some security guards and construction workers at the Sheraton Doha hotel turned into an all-out brawl in June, shocking residents and prompting authorities to deploy four buses of riot police.
Apparently fed up with their treatment, hundreds of workers began trashing the construction site, and some even attacked a portacabin full of employees. Video footage showed workers swinging large pieces of wood and throwing stones at the portacabin, where a handful of people including architects said they remained trapped until help arrived.
Passions eventually cooled, but news of the fight sparked conversations about workers’ treatment in Qatar. Protests are very rare here, but taken seriously by authorities given the large number of construction workers in the country.
It’s finally open! After years of flying in and out of the outdated and over-capacity Doha International Airport, residents now enter and leave Qatar from a sparkling new facility.
Yes, some residents do still need to use buses to get to and from aircraft, and the lines at immigration are sometimes much too long. But to help ease our pain, Hamad International offers 80 retail outlets, 30 cafes/restaurants, several lounges, children’s play areas and a giant yellow teddy bear.
But keeping an eye on the future, as Qatar continues to rapidly grow as a passenger transit hub, authorities have already announced expansion plans that would increase airport capacity by two-thirds, to accommodate 50 million travelers a year by 2017. That construction is expected to start “soon.”
(For the nostalgic, here’s a list of five things we’ll miss about the DIA, and five things we won’t).
Responding to a murder that horrified Qatar’s community, a lower court in Doha sentenced one man to the death penalty for his role in the killing of Lauren Patterson.
The 24-year-old British teacher went missing briefly before her smoldering remains were found in the desert by campers in October 2013.
A Qatari man, Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah al-Jabar, was found guilty of murdering her in March of this year. His friend, Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz, was sentenced to three years in prison for helping him burn Patterson’s body, as well as damage and erase evidence.
When it rains, it pours. Or so it seemed in March, when sudden flooding inside Salwa Road underpasses caused several cars to get stuck, and traffic in the surrounding areas to become snarled for hours.
In response to criticism from Qatar residents – as the Salwa highway was brand-new, after all – Ashghal said the issue stemmed from as-yet uncompleted Abu Hamour infrastructure work.
But a month later, an investigative committee found both the public works authority and the contractor who worked on the underpasses responsible for the incident, citing lack of coordination, a failure to follow up and an absence of crisis management.
It appears that work is still going on the drainage systems needed to ensure such flooding doesn’t happen again. Only time will tell if another such disaster can be averted.
Looking for more? Here are the next most viewed stories on Doha News this year…
- Four people killed in bus station accident
- Death of Filipino family sparks road safety debate
- Security agent hailed for recovering $82,500 stolen at Qatar airport
- Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain announce withdrawal of ambassadors from Qatar
And here’s a link to our annual report in numbers, comments, and other stuff about our viewers.
What moved you in 2014? Thoughts?