The year is 2009, and after a few great years teaching we had a change of management at my school and this is when my adventure in Qatar really got underway.
Although the school is a new state of the art building with fantastic facilities, it is the competence of management that is key to any overseas posting. I had a disagreement with one very junior member of the management team and as a result found myself being held as a hostage in Qatar as my employer (the school) was refusing to grant me an Exit Permit to leave the Country for a short holiday. Like most Gulf States, Qatar requires foreigners who wish to work in the country to have a local sponsor. However, unlike other Gulf countries, Qatar gives sponsors the authority over whether their employee is allowed to leave the country or not. A law which some Western organizations say is akin to modern-day slavery.
During the Easter break I was going to visit Dubai. All was well. However, it was at the airport on this trip that I was taken at gunpoint by the Qatar authorities and told I am not allowed to leave! I could not believe what I was experiencing and thought there must be a mix up. However I immediately spoke to the British Embassy and they suggested that I go and see them next morning.
At the embassy I was told that under Qatar law the employer does not have to give their employees permission to leave the country, they agreed that this was a severe breach of rights. I protested and I was told to go back to work and not to worry as the embassy was aware of the situation. The embassy took my contact details and told me to wait for further instructions on what to do! I was told explicitly not to talk about the situation with anyone at the school. Now I was really worried.
A while later I was given a call out of the blue and told to visit the British Embassy. I went along and I was told that I was to buy a return ticket to the Bahrain Grand Prix with Qatar Airways and to buy a ticket for the Grand Prix on-line and when I had done this I was to request a temporary pass to go and see the Grand Prix in Bahrain. I followed the Instructions. That weekend I flew into Bahrain were I was able to fly on back home to the UK with British Airways. Once safe in the UK when I got my head back together I found out that what had happened to me was not the first time someone has been held as a “Hostage in Qatar” All because of the managers at this International school! Go to Qatar at your own RISK BEWARE!!!
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