Held Hostage in Qatar!

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!!!

ISR MEMBERS CAN LOG IN HERE TO SEE THE NAME OF THIS  SCHOOL AND READ MORE REVIEWS. PLEASE!!! HELP US AVOID LEGAL ISSUES AND DO NOT POST THE NAME OF THE SCHOOL ON THE BLOG. SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS BY WORD OF MOUTH OR EMAIL. THANKS FOR YOUR COOPERATION AND UNDERSTANDING.

84 Responses to Held Hostage in Qatar!

  1. Anonymous says:

    someone is in the same position… a dear friend who has been in Qatar for the past 30 years is not been allowed to leave the country.. he has received his immigration for USA and has to enter USA in September before his visa expires but his employer is not giving him exit… he has already sent his wife and children.. one his daughter has a rare blood disorder… and wants her dad to desperately join her.. even him being alone in Qatar is making him depressed..

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  2. al says:

    Im just out of Qatar after 14 Months. My contract was initially for 1 year and my employer wanted me to stay an extra year.
    No doubt whatsoever that the law around exit permits is unjust. Having to ask your employers permission to leave the country for whatever reason is a serious breach of freedom and basic human rights. My company wouldnt give a multiple exit permit and i have asked many many times. The reply i eventually got was that it wasnt company policy. As time goes on it leads one to question the motives for such a policy.
    I had one bad experience at the airport where the permit wasnt issued even though i was emailed to say it had been done by the HR department. A missed flight and extra expense incurred, lead me to thinking what if that was an emergency and something had happend with my family back home or something.
    So…………after 14 Months i have exited and never to return. Telling my employer that i was going on vacation, clearing my apartment and locking the door.
    I would not go to Qatar unless you have the multiple exit permit. There are so many annoyancies about the place and it is easy to focus on the negative, but for me the exit permit saga was the last straw

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  3. sjmanniex says:

    Interesting post. I’m in Qatar and am just emerging from the other side of a similar experience. But I’m sceptical about the writer’s experience of being held at gunpoint at the airport. As for exit visas, it’s important to note that your Qatari sponsor CANNOT deny you exit from Qatar, UNLESS you have 1. a court case pending against you, or 2. outstanding debts or fines. If you have neither, then the immigration dept. or your embassy can release you from the country. Whether or not you’ll be able to return for another job is questionable, since that depends on getting a no-objection letter from your former employer. But you can return as a tourist or on a business visa.

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  4. I suspect that the initial poster was denied his exit visa because the school management was concerned he would do just what he did – skip out on his contract. I have heard many stories from here in Qatar where I live and work of teachers going off on “vacation” at term break and never returning – leaving the school and the children in their classes in the lurch.

    No doubt there are two sides to every story and less than ideal school situatations here in Qatar, as there are everywhere, but to generalize across institutions and an entire country is self-serving and not a true reflection of many wonderful international schools in Qatar.

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  5. sinjim says:

    Make sure that you get a multiple-exit visa in your passport before you enter the country in question. No multiple-exit visa, no-go. It is that simple.

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  6. Anon says:

    Needless to say, there are some very unpleasant practices that take place, and there are definitely schools with issues and cause for concern, however we all know that most schools will not be all be as monstrous as this one, though for sure, some of the advice offered in here should definitely be followed. It is a sad fact, however that some weaker minded directors – even from the US or UK, are unable to resist the abuse of power that is facilitated by less stringent local employment laws, and will take advantage of them, even in well established schools in Cairo. That is the flip side to many of the advantages we have of being international teachers.

    I do have a sense of some respondees attempting to self-validate – I must confess I actually despise the these over dramatic replies, varying between the incredibly stupid, “nothing like that has ever happened to me…” to the hysterical “avoid the whole of the Middle East.”

    As educators, we should think critically, objectively and set a model of cogent thought in the way we come to our (reasonably valid! conclusions for our students and peers.

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  7. hereandthere says:

    I have talked to “a few Indians and Filipinos” and have “gauged their experiences.” my my. aren’t you queen for the day at amnesty international…

    It might not be a pleasant thought that many feel that they are better off where they are in the Middle East than they were ‘at home’, but it is a reality. (that’s coming from the woman who couldn’t go home because her husband might kill kill her–or those who had no passport because they were from a refugee camp in beirut”. pls don’t simplify a complicated life truth just because you are so sweetly and ignorantly western enough to know what is really happening) t’s lovely when a colonial mindset seems to “know what’s best’. and you are coming from what framework? What exactly do you understand about the world?

    Since we can assume you are not Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa..is it too much to ask you to keep your– wanna be human rights activism— to the correct forum..like one where anyone actually seems to give a flip. If you really wanted to make a difference you wouldn’t be wasting your time on this forum, you would be actually doing something more worthwhile than arguing over what makes a’ TIER one school or two. So bloody meaningful….hmmm? Human decency?
    I don’t know a single decent human being who would choose to “boycott” a part of the world in the name of their own personal concept of decency. You want to take it on? than take decency on. But you might want to start in your own back yard. like..here on this site where people do nothing but discuss schools all over the world who do “business” with governments who don’t ” do the decent thing”> take a look closer look to home– ISR show me the overall quest for sustainable justice and I will show you a site far from this one.

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    • Lindsay K says:

      It’s interesting that people often make comments re what they think they read, as opposed to what was written.
      eg Where did I ever mention Tier 1 and 2 schools?
      It’s also interesting that you didn’t seem to disagree with the idea that human rights (or words to that affect) are not treated as they should be in the M.E.
      Two wrongs do not make a right. If there are injustices in other people’s countries, that does not condone what the ME does.
      Yes, some Filipinos do have a better life in the ME than at home; but that is not because they wish to be there, it’s just that their own government does nothing to provide local opportunities.
      Who are you to say what the correct forum is?
      Accountability; free political, religious association; due process under the law; irradication of torture and arbitrary arrest; equality under the law; access to affordable medication, housing, education; voting rights etc, ect are hallmarks of a civilised society. And that is what we have in Western style democracies, and if you wish to label that as a colonial mindset, well and good, I’ll happily accept that as a compliment.
      You want me to start in my own back yard? Well, last week I gave over $2000 of my money to help people directly in the Philippines and average over $1000 a month. These people I’ve never met and I’ve helped them graduate from college, buy houses, pay for medical costs etc; so, I think I’ve done my own little bit.

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      • hereandthere says:

        sorry. you lost me at “Yes, I’m xenophobic and racist.” Anyone who can write whole chunks of humanity off, then try to explain how benevolent they are to others is a hypocrite. Ever read ‘Animal Farm?’ Your testimony basically says ‘We are all equal, but some are more equal than others.” The right forum for discussion? One that doesn’t start with the assertion that an educator is racist and proud of it.

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    • Peggy says:

      Well stated, Hereandthere. As a teacher in the some countries in the Gulf, you can also go into the work camps and offer to teach once a week or help with employer relations, social services, helping many of the illiterate men and women learn English and get better jobs, whether in the Gulf or back home.

      In the UAE and Oman, all people of MOST religious affiliations are free to attend the religious temple, church or other of their choice. Foreign communities of different religions have received the land free and the religious communittees have had to pay for the construction of their building and community centre and maintenance, be you Buddhist, Sikkh, Hindi, Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican….well you get my point. I had no problem finding a church I wanted to attend with a number of services either on Fridays or Sundays (often both days).

      Foreigners have very similar rights as citizens in the courts, and rights of their own countries depending on the legal case if you wish to avail yourself of them. A long process? Yes, but so are they in most countries.

      Again, a matter of knowing the laws and how they apply to you in a given situation. Most times you can get this info from your embassy consular affairs officer.

      Enough already! There’s a Stanley Cup playoff game to watch.

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  8. Lindsay K says:

    Well, I’m willing to put my hand up and say, “yes, I’m xenophobic and racist when it comes to rich Arabs”. To those who defend that part of the world – Wake up!! It’s not about cultural experiences or differing perspective, it’s about common decency, equal enforcement of laws and respect. The Western world should boycott that part of the world. Ps I’ve worked in 7 international schools over 20 yrs, been to 60 countries and am married to a “foreigner”.

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  9. teachbc says:

    Very interesting conversations/experiences. I have experience at schools in three very different countries. In each school there were major positives – namely the kids. In each school there were major negatives – namely the school making contract promises that they did not keep. I suspect that this problem is not typical of all schools in any one country/location.

    It would be helpful to find a way to “do one’s reseach before agreeing to any contract,” but sometimes this information is not available for specific schools. I’ve also found that talking with current/past teachers helpful, but far from definitive, as people tend not to want to go into much detail about problems with a school.

    Any suggestions for finding reviews of lesser known schools?

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    • teachbc says:

      Hello again,

      In my previous post I didn’t mention that none of the countries in which I’ve worked is in the Middle East.

      Like

  10. spring_nono says:

    I agree with comments up, the rules in Qatar that you cannot leave without an exit permit, but there is no way that the officers will hold someone at gun point, I have lived and worked in Qatar for several years and never had an issue traveling on holidays or even weekend as long as I had my exit permit. Some schools would even allow you a multi-exit visa which is a yearly exit permit that allows you to travel whenever. Not sure about the info regarding the British embassy and as someone else said if you don’t have an exit permit you cannot leave the country regardless of where or why you are flying!
    Those teachers who just decide to do a runner on the school are extremely unprofessional and do not think of the welfare of those students they are leaving behind, which is unbelievable and unethical from some teachers!
    I have to say that some comments here about some schools are really unfair! You get what you give!

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  11. 2xaround says:

    I just checked and there was a Grand Prix in Qatar in 2009.

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  12. 2xaround says:

    I just looked at this review on the pay side of ISR and it is dated 2005 – 2009. This year the Grand Prix was called off. Do you know where it was held in previous years?

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  13. Pete says:

    This story has many holes in it. It’s true that you need an exit permit to leave and clearly the writer did not have one so he was refused exit. But at Gunpoint! I think not – same thing happenned to me and I was politely told to get an exit permit.

    Then the story about the Bahrain GP. Firstly it was cancelled this year. Secondly GP or no GP the writer would still not have been able to leave the country without an exit permit.

    Sounds to me like a largely made up story based on stories that the writer has heard.

    Like

    • Nomad says:

      I agree with Pete. I think ISR needs to investigate this story a bit further and remove it, if it’s fiction. The Bahrain GP was cancelled this year. Surprising to see how long it took to point this out.

      ISR Note: This event took place in 2009 not this year.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    There were also many credable accounts from other teachers all over the middle east that tell of ill-treatment.

    The Middle East is the A-hole of the world and the majority of locals I came into contact with only followed local laws and customs when it suited them.

    If a westerner however broke any of the local laws or customs all hell would rain down on those individuals!

    Avoid the Middle East at all cost and head to SE-Asia/Africa or Latin America!

    Like

    • Nomad says:

      Zzzz….shall we assume that you wrote the previous anonymous email too? Read ISR and you will find schools all over the world that have poor ratings and that state they are ‘international’ or ‘American’ or British.’ Quite a few are not true international schools. Fortunately, there are many schools that receive positive reviews. If I were a teacher considering international teaching or teaching in the Middle East, I would be scared off by some of these comments. Fortunately, there are enough level-headed comments by others to balance the ignorant, xenophobic ones. Maybe people need to list several schools in Qatar or the region that are good?

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  15. Anonymous says:

    I find it amusing to see so many teachers defending schools in the middle east. In my experience there are alot of people that ignore bad treatment of staff until it happens to them! I taught in a school in the Middle East and had super results in IGCSE Maths, A-Level Maths and IB. I worked very very hard and was doing a good job. I was fired by the owner for encouraging her children and other influencial children to do there homework. Go figure! Isnt that what we get paid to do?… Motivate learners to complete work and raise there attainment?… In my personal case I feel I was seriously wronged. The particular school in question did the same thing to over 14 members of staff in 2 years. All were excellent, genuine and honest people!

    Stay away from the Middle East you are a 2nd class citizen there. Anyone that tells you any different is in denial!

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    • Nomad says:

      Another example of a racist or xenophobic response by a teacher who was mistreated by a school. So…because you felt you were mistreated at your particular school, you feel the ENTIRE region is not worth going to. Several people here are not defending the region. They are telling people to do their research. I’ve taught in several regions around the world. There are good and bad schools everywhere. By the way, if you are a teacher, learn the difference between their and there. There is nothing more annoying than a teacher with poor spelling or grammar! We all make typos, but…jeez!

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  16. Baghdad says:

    I have worked in the Middle East for the last five years and overseas five years further. I have friends who are both teachers who are asking for advice about leaving the UK. To be honest, I am not sure what to say. I would refer them to sites like this for them to read other peoples’ experiences rather than just my own. It is not just a case of ‘doing your homework’ as the school involved here apparently has a reasonable reputation and as the author writes had worked there without issue for three years previously.

    I was under the impression that this site was just for sharing experiences rather than having those experiences and their personalities judged by others who are maybe fortunate so far in not encountering a similar situation.

    I hope that no one is discouraged from posting as I know that I found this piece very interesting although I am already aware of the laws in Qatar regarding sponsorships. There are also lots of positive posts in the school reports about the country itself indicating that the people concerned do not have ‘axes to grind’ or are full of emotion but trying to share their experiences to inform others.

    I have friends who have had quite distressing situations with their schools and management in the UK also and I would want to know about those schools too, whatever their geographical location.

    It is difficult to be informed either way if people do not post the good and the bad or are attacked when they are honest enough to do so.

    Like

  17. Nomad says:

    Kind of odd with a few comments here stating, “I’ve lived in X (some Gulf country) for 4 or 5 years and I don’t trust my school” blah blah blah…and I am thinking that you can’t stand it, BUT you’ve stayed THAT long. Jeez…

    I have been teaching in Kuwait for several years now , work for a decent school, and feel well supported overall. No place is perfect as some others have stated. With ANY region of the world, you need to do your homework because there are a ton of schools popping up every year that are not “American” or “International” despite what the name of the school states. I came to the Middle East to learn about this amazing region of the world and to see the non-CNN/BBC side of life here. The travel opportunities are amazing and you will find life comfortable. It’s not perfect, but find me a place that is…Frankly, I grown tired of people talking trash about the Middle East.

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  18. QMan2011 says:

    Good on you Maureen, That said I guess puts light on the situation for those who refuse to accept it. And if you take one person who thinks its all ok – then keep peeling the layers off him/her and you will discover that they are habituated with the “bully mentality” and it is deep ingrained within them that it is a perfectly alright attitude to take, thus it is all ok them as long as they are not on the receiving end. Sorry to hear about your horrible experience Maureen, which illustrates the point that I was trying to make earlier -if your heart is set on travelling and working, then do it. If it turns out to be a bad experience put it down to that individual organisation/ management team. Of course certain practises that exist here would not elsewhere. But for one second those who are highlighting that they have been here for 15 years and enjoying everybit of it and accept what ever ill experiences others had, then they are merely bullies themselves and strive in such environments. For that very same person, come and try the same practises in the mainland/europe after 15-20 odd years out here in ME and see what happens to your opinions. Thank you Maureen for your comments – So as it stands if you dont mind being owned by some so called school or organisation- then go venture out -but not all places are like that. And if you dont want to accept being treated ill or cannot stand to observe some one else being treated ill in front of your eyes, you dont have to and dont let any one else convince you otherwise. For all those who are venturing out, take a leaf from Maureen’s book, it can happen to anyone at any level.

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  19. Maureen says:

    I was in Qatar with my husband and daughters in 2007 where i was the principal of an international school and had a similar problem. on arrival our passports were collected and we didnt see them for four months and only then when my husband threatened to leave and go to the British Embassy. One teacher who tried to leave was denied his passport and told that it was with ‘the ministy’ – i later found out that it was with the owner of the school as were all of the others. when it reached a point where i felt i could no longer work for the school, my resignation was denied and we were refused exit visas. our only option was to ask for a temporary exit visa to go shopping in Dubai – from there we flew to Kuwait and from there we were free – I have never been so frightened in my life! there was a delay at the airport for 5 hours in Qatar and I was a complete nervous wreck by the time the plane eventually took off!
    I also agree that this is not a problem that exists in all schools, but it is much more common than other people seem willing to accept.
    We loved living in Qatar and would gladly return – the people are very friendly, and the lifestyle – not to mention the food – is wonderful. we made many friends there and would dearly love to return – but after i had been told by the owner of the school that she ‘owned me’ I agree with the suggestion that there is a form of modern day slavery in operation in that country!
    Its only when people speak out against such practices that they will eventually be changed!
    But i certainly wouldnt advocate simply staying at home – if your heart is leading you to travel – get your cases packed and do it damn it!🙂

    Like

  20. QMan2011 says:

    Andy is most probably one of those guys who is defending his imperial corner. What the hell have u been doing out there for 15 years and I bet your one of those who finds it easy to accept that the workers from the East in the ME are commodities but just too much of sly and cunning imperialist to admit it (just so you dont rock the boat and find yourself political incorrect). And I bet you have your ego massaged everyday. 15 years!!get out of here you most probably spent most of that in an expat compound and still dont speak the language or seen the other side of town. I have met plenty of Andy’s across the gulf, I speak 5 languages and have trekked from the empty quarter to the the jordan valley meeting plenty of locals along the way. Yes there is a reason for certain laws, certain history that comes with the way things are at present in this part of the world in that sense-YES the culture is different if you want to classify like that. But you Andy have completely missed the point -its not about being xenophobic/racist or judgemental. So get your facts correct. And if you still dont understand then maybe you have been out of touch with for so long you think sliced bread is the best thing going or just being ignorant to all this as it suits you. And if you still not sure I can give you your full analysis north or south of the river thames you name it. So please dont brush things under the carpet because it serves your purposes. I totally agree it is a different culture but just because you are ok with it does not mean everybody else has to be and thats why I say you my man have been out here to long!!!

    Like

    • Nomad says:

      QMAN 2011,

      Your reply to Andy is supremely arrogant and obnoxious. His comment is short and simple and states the obvious that there are a number of racist and xenophobic comments on this thread. I don’t know how you can make the assumptions you are making about him based on his comment.

      How about YOU not slapping a paintbrush across the whole region and laying down some stereotypes. There are good and bad schools EVERYWHERE in the world. I feel bad that the author of this letter is at a lousy school and this happened to him/her. However, his/her school could be in many countries. Pick one!

      Your comment is way, way overboard. BTW, we don’t give a toss if you can speak 5 languages. Why don’t you go massage your ego some more (as you have told Andy).

      Like

  21. Andy says:

    Well, there is an awful lot of xenophobic and racist comments here. I’ve worked in Kuwait for 15 years and have no problems. So lets stop the garbage about alien cultures and the like. It stupifies me that people can be so racist and judgemental without ever working there.

    Like

  22. China Teacher says:

    How many times has it been said in these columns? Do your homework and attend to your qualifications! Check specific schools through multiple sources, learn who the good and bad ones are, and make yourself attractive to the good ones. If you walk around blind and are desperate for a job, you are going to have a bad experience in international teaching and should stay home. You need to have the will and the smarts to take care of yourself — not just in the ME, but anywhere.

    And I would have to add that those folks above making the blanket condemnations of the ME don’t belong in international teaching, either.

    Like

  23. John Mac says:

    Here in Kuwait we have our share of horror stories as well, but they are few and far between. There is talk here of modifying or abolishing the ‘kafeel’ or sponsorship system which is subject to abuse by the unscrupulous. A culture of laziness, a tribal mindset, parent power plus ‘wasta’ or ‘influence’ has most of us walking wisely and being diplomatic on the roads and in the classrooms. It’s just not like it is in the UK, however frustrating that might sometimes be. Finally, one horror story does have a tendency to trigger a collective paranoia which may or may not be wholly justified

    Like

    • John says:

      “Being diplomatic in the classrooms”–Does that mean not holding students accountable?

      Like

      • John Mac says:

        In the sense that they have ways of circumventing accountability, yes, unfortunately, it does. If we want to get rid of a troublesome studenta depressingly large minority come to school to be with their friends then catch up at home with private tutors – we must painstakingly collect evidence, snippet by snippet so that the Ministry endorses our decision. It’s also political; if we need to lose Abdullah in year 10 because he’s a pain, we run the risk of losing 5 younger siblings as well which a privately run school won’t stand for.

        Like

  24. Anonymous says:

    I’ve lived in Dubai, UAE for four years, two years at a bad school and two years at a great school…I’ve NEVER had an issue leaving the country, even when I was at the bad school. No teachers here have had issues with that, and some were ones who used to talk constantly about leaving and the school didn’t treat them as a special case and restrict them from travelling so I don’t think the UAE should be included in this ‘don’t work in the ME’ thing, it is just inaccurate.
    There are things about being here that drive me mad, but at the end of the day, there isn’t anywhere else i want to go right now, and I definitely don’t want to go back home (to England) yet either, so it can’t be that bad!!!!!!

    Like

  25. anon says:

    I work in Kuwait for a locally-owned profit-making private school and I don’t trust them. I’ve watched them mess people about for the last 4 years, so I’m getting out. Admittedly, the worst they can do is withhold money, but to people who have made a lot of sacrifices to shift to the ME and have worked hard whilst there, it is a disgraceful thing to do. It does go on a lot, I don’t care what people say.

    That said, I’m trying a new school. Word of mouth says they are more reliable and organised, so the possibility of being shafted financially is significantly less.

    Whoever wrote this article had a very real experience; don’t patronise them by saying ‘life is what you make it.’

    My advice, if you’re considering work in the ME, is enjoy it for what it is, but never get too comfortable and always remember, you’re just a commodity at the end of the day. By all means, make it work for you as best you can, but you are not, and never will be, a local. It is naive to lose sight of this, as the tide could turn any day.

    Like

  26. Chris says:

    I’ve worked in Saudi for the last 6 years and am in the process of movIng to Qatar. Saudi can get a bad wrap but I have loved my time there. The company I work for is good and we keep our passports at all times, with multiple visas in. We can leave any time we like without consulting anyone and our company has never refused any one the right to leave. I love working in the middle east exactly because of the differences. My warning would be to people not willing to adjust to another culture and to those taking jobs with small local schools as that’s where most of the horrible stories come from.

    Like

  27. Nick says:

    What’s going on with all the negative comments?! I’ve been in Qatar for 3 years now and I love it here. Yes, some employers may have reservations about dishing out multiple-exit visas but that is often due to the relationship the employee has with their management. I have seen people, clearly crooks, take out massive loans and leave the country. No wonder some employers don’t want this happening! I have never had a problem with exit visas (even with a few hours notice) and the only time my employers take my passport is to renew my visa, which clearly is not a problem. This fuss about multiple-exit visas; if your employer wants you to not get out of the country for any reason they can cancel it anyway. Eventually rules may change but until now, if anyone wants to live the standard of life out here (amazing), then quit moaning about it and go back home to half the money, bills and rain…..

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  28. Diane says:

    I’m sorry the Gulf / ME experiences for some have not been good ones. I have been teaching in Qatar and UAE for the past 4 years and have never had any difficulties. Yes, there are frustrations – as with any culture and rules that are different from what you are used to. I suggest that those who want to experience “home away form home” stay at home – seriously – why have you opted to teach in a foreign country if you aren’t willing to open your mind to new perspectives and ways of doing things? All countries have their own quirks – it just depends on how you deal with them!

    Like

    • Rick says:

      Nicely said. Thank you.

      Like

    • Claire says:

      Finally the voice of reason.

      Like

    • isumc10 says:

      If we were on Facebook, I would “like” that! : )

      Like

    • Nomad says:

      Ditto, well-said. I believe there are a lot of newbies visiting this site and they just have not been around the world. They will/might get it the longer they stay in international education. It’s all about attitude for many and I see a black cloud follow some people wherever they go. They ill never be happy and always compare their new school – “Well, they didn’t do it this way in X.” You need to adapt, be positive, and be perseverant to be in international education.

      Like

  29. Beti says:

    I wouldn’t say the this applies to the entire Middle East. I am currently working at an IB school in Jordan and have had no problems coming and going as I please.

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  30. been there says:

    All Gulf countries are the same. They have western modeled laws, but they do not follow their own laws and they are just for show. Do not take a job in the Gulf if you are not given a multi-exit visa!

    Like

    • Nomad says:

      Been There,
      There are MANY countries around the world that have “western modeled laws.” They don’t follow them either. Wake up, buddy. It’s not only the Gulf Region. If someone wants it to be like home, then you need to stay/go home.

      Like

  31. Marc says:

    Afetr reading of all the hassles people have in these ME countries, it stupifies me that anyone would want to work in such an alien, corrupt culture! You have been warned!!

    Like

    • Rick says:

      This site is too often used by axe grinders so it is extremely difficult to sift through the emotion to really get any valuable information. Ask questions of many people who are currently at the school, not just the ones who left!

      I am sorry that there is no forum to share positive experiences in overseas schools. I have lived and worked in the Middle East for over 10 years at good schools and have made countless life-long friends. There are adjustments and differences but that’s why most of us choose to live abroad. Do your homework and keep an open mind and you will learn that all schools, in any country, have problems but also offer a place to grow professionally and personally.

      Like

      • anonymous says:

        I think this site gives a good overview of both positive and negative aspects of the overseas international experience. It is human nature that people who are upset have a tendency to want to vent and this is an emotional situation so they may rant a bit but it is also true that contented people do not always take the time to share when things are good. I have found a pretty good balance of positive and negative comments in the three years I have belonged to ISR and I think that you just have to take what is said with a “grain of salt” and weigh the comment according to each situation. It is just one helpful piece of the research process when looking for a school overseas.
        In all of my placements, there have been days where I could have written a scathing write-up of a school or a wonderful write-up…everyday is different and all my experiences overseas have been amazing overall.

        Like

    • Claire says:

      Marc: Too much CNN and not enough time spent living in the world. The Middle East is very different from CNN’s coverage.

      Like

  32. P O'Neill says:

    I agree with the John who posted at 8.20 pm. It all depends on the school and the management. Qatar is going through many changes very fast. Many owners and managers do not know of good practices followed internationally especially regarding foreign workers and education specialists. They are most often used to dealing with workers from the Indian sub-continent and the Philippines, and most people from these countries,whatever the profession, have their passports taken away. They don’t complain. It has happened before in Turkey, the UAE, and Oman in my experience, but this is rarely done now in either of these three countries especially to foreign teachers from countries such as the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Canada, the USA et al. It is up to the teachers to do their homework, to complain diplomatically and, as John has indicated, to check with teachers already on staff at any particular school. If the school does not want to give any names and contact email addresses or numbers, I would be very suspect.

    If a teacher has not yet received a work visa for the country in question, it will be difficult to leave the country until that happens. It depends again on the management, but the Gulf countries control their immigration quite strictly, which is quite a good thing for many excellent reasons, but very frustrating. Still, people on work visas in many of our countries cannot leave the country easily either.

    I lived and worked in the UAE and Oman. Some of the experiences, especially at the beginning were very frustrating and arbitrary. On the whole, I lived and worked there quite successfully, and left both countries with a great deal of admiration for the people. I still miss Oman a great deal, and most Omanis I taught, made friends with and dealt with were honest, warm, hard-working and very hospitable people. In a good number of cases, it was not the Emaratis or the Omanis I had to worry about…. I would return to both countries for the right job without any worries. I learned a lot living and travelling in both countries and remain in contact with colleagues, friends and former students from both countries, and Turkey.

    Yes, their culture is different, but that should be a reason to go and live and work there. I learned a lot from their cultures and the people I met and had the pleasure to have got to know. In the Emirates and Oman, I eventually had mulitiple entry visas and was able to travel without any problem, whether within the Gulf or to European countries and elsewhere.

    Like

  33. 2xaround says:

    I agree with John. Very few schools conduct themselves in this manner. I have logged in and read this review and the other reviews of the school in question. After reading the 17 earlier reviews I can’t understand what would posses the author of this review to accept a job at this school in the first place. Forewarned is forewarned! It just makes no sense.

    Like

  34. Wesley Thomas says:

    This unfortunate situation and other similar experiences happens with great frequency throughout the
    Gulf. Having spent a total of 5 years at two schools in Kuwait, I would suggest anyone thinking of working at ANY school in this region to seriously rethink your decision. You have virtually no rights in most of these autocratic dictatorships, and can be denounced/imprisoned/deported for little or no good reason. Support from the schools is minimal to non-existent in most cases, and as the above example illustrates, it can be the school itself that attacks you. Bottom line: Stay out of the Gulf and Saudi.

    Like

    • Claire says:

      You didn’t do your homework. There are many good schools in the gulf and it can’t have been that bad if you spent 5 years there. I have found that those who get in trouble are those who look for trouble.
      e.g. drinking driving, giving the finger and mouthing off to the wrong people will all get you into trouble and you probably won’t have much support from the school as they don’t want you and your behaviour dragging down the school. Solution don’t look for trouble or break the law.

      Having said that the case above sounds unprovoked and unfair, but then not every school is the same. Don’t avoid the Middle East just do your homework and avoid local, profit run schools.

      Like

  35. John says:

    Let’s put this in perspective. This type of behaviour is confined to a very few schools. The good schools just do not do this. The school I work for will not issue multi exit visas, but always give staff exit visas (at the schools cost) and no one has ever been denied. This is the usual issue- do your homework, check the blogs and comments and find out more before you sign. Most of these issues are not new and yet people still sign with schools without doing any kind of background checks or speaking to other staff that already work there.

    Like

    • John says:

      The school here is supposed to be a “good” one. Not great, but good. It must be slipping fast.

      Like

    • Been there says:

      There are actually a lot of schools in the Middle East that do this and do not honor their own labor laws. For those of you who doubt it, you are actually quite naive and lucky that you haven’t found yourself in such a school or company. It’a disgrace that teachers and professionals are treated this way and the modern day slavery of the exploited laborers, maids and workers from poor Aisan countries is appalling in the GCC countries.

      Like

  36. John says:

    Do not sign. No one should go to the Middle East. The culture there is not like Western culture; it is common practice to lie to get teachers to sign contracts. Once you arrive, your passport is taken and you are at the mercy of the school.

    Like

    • Susan says:

      John, I think you;re stereotyping. I’ve lived in Kuwait for two years and the owners of our scholl haven’t lied to me, my passport hasn’t been taken and they have been merciful – I have free healthcare – imagine that!

      Like

      • may says:

        John is very right actually, i worked in Jordan for a while and it was the same nightmare!! They do lie to get teachers to sign contracts… it is a common practice. It was hell for me. One is at the Mercy of the school. It is not worth it for any free healthcare in the world!!!! the least! I am very sorry but most schools in arab countries are a nighmare for westerners, it puts you off from teaching.

        Like

        • Beti says:

          I am quite curious as to which school in Jordan you worked at. I work currently teach in Jordan; many of my coworkers are expats (westerners) and none of us has any problems…

          Like

    • anonymous says:

      John, John, John,

      You watch too much FOX news!
      I have been in Egypt for two years and have no trouble at all with my or my non-teaching husbands passport in terms of it being commandeered. The only thing I agree with in your statements is that the culture here is not like the Western culture which is exactly why we came. We are seeking out adventures different than those of the Western world and we had an awesome experience up to and including being here through the entire revolution. You should probably stay home.

      Like

      • Claire says:

        John, I feel sorry that you live in such a narrow-minded world. I have worked for 3 years in the Middle East and although it is not perfect, neither is anywhere. I’ll be honest they take your passport to put a VISA in it then give it back. The same would happen in any country they need to put the VISA in, even in the good old US of A where I am assuming such narrow-minded prejudice comes from. I am currently living in Qatar and agree that the law where you need the companies permission to leave is bad and against basic human rights and have heard many a story like this. The lesson is do your homework as with any job anywhere in the world.

        Like

        • David Daniels says:

          Must have been written by management. Since when is Idaho in the UK? John’s experience reflects clearly the culture of privilege and intolerance in this part of the world.

          Like

        • may says:

          Not true, Claire, it is a real nighmare what some of this horribles schools do to teachers, and it does NOR happen everywhere, I have worked all around the world, and there is one place I would NEVER go back to work and that is the Middle East!! it is dreaful in every way!!

          Like

          • Peggy says:

            May, I have also worked across the world, in S. Korea (where the new coordinator decided that we didn’t need holiday pay as we made good salaries already), in France (where the English owner wasn’t paying his share of the social taxes and unemployment benefits he was supposed to nor declaring us as employees), in Denmark where the English school was using a realtor to house us while not declaring that this school even existed let alone the we from Britain were there working in an official capacity–and I could go on, including Canadian managers and companies who were in serious breach of the contract as soon as I landed!

            You’re right, there ARE many unscrupulous owners, managers and accountants in the Gulf and they sort of have you trapped once you’ve arrived there as you’ve made the emotional and social commitment (your family and friends have given you a going-away party, you’ve refused other job offers…)and you’re in a new country. But MOST of these countries have well-established embassies like the British, French, American, Australian, New Zealander, etc which can appraise you of your rights and possible alternatives. You can also commplain.
            You can also leave, as by going to your embassy, they can officially request your passport and then you can leave.

            I’ve had some very unsettling experiences in the Gulf, some because I did not know the procedures, others because
            of unscrupulous managers or owners. I have also had the pleasure of working with some great colleagues from the Indian sub-continent, from the Netherlands, from the Philippines, from Iraq, from Jordan, and Nigeria–AND from Oman and the UAE.

            Again, my suggestion is to do your homework closely and speak to teachers who already work there, by SKYPE if you can. Also, be ready to go through some normal cultural differences in administration, in counsulor affairs within the country, in immigration practices (as these countries have a great number of people from different countries who are trying to live and work there illegally), and be ready of differences–not fraudulant practices, but differences.

            I would return to the Emirates or Oman in a wink for the right job. I wouldn’t go to Kuwait–too many dodgey ‘education’ agents and not to the KSA, because I need more freedom as a single woman and more ability to live a more normal life.

            Don’t forget, May. The Emirates, Qatar, and Oman have gone from a few lessons in the desert with a few privileged boys to state-of-the-art institutions whether at the primary or post-secondary levels. I have taught a number of the’locals’ and they are as intelligent and as much like us as anyone. So, I strongly have to disagree with you.

            Like

      • John says:

        I am in the Middle East as I type. I do not have my passport. The school does. I will not return this fall. I hope to not be stopped at the airport because I have had one major negative experience this year. I have many years experience in the region but I have given up. I do not watch FOX news–I cannot even get it here.

        Like

        • dawnage says:

          You are unlucky – and in the minority. My Middle Eastern school only ever took my passport for very short spells (a day or two) for visa purposes. I was treated fantastically by my school throughout my tenure (salary, accommodation, healthcare, paid leave on compassionate grounds after a family emergency) and would recommend it to anyone else in a heartbeat. You are evidently having a negative experience but the advice that ‘no one’ should go to the Middle East is misleading: the overwhelming majority of experiences of other expats I’ve met was far closer to mine than to yours.

          Like

        • Patrick says:

          John: While I understand the frustration you have with your school and their practices, for most expats teaching in the Middle East, life is easy and non-confrontational.
          My wife and I have been in UAE and now Egypt for the past 6 years. We work at two different schools in Cairo and while both will “fudge” the recruitment banter, both schools have treated us fairly and with dignity. We’re always in in control of our passports. We’re always paid on time and even during our revolution here in Cairo, we were able to evacuate and return.
          So to our fellow expat educators I say…investigate your schools. When you go to an interview you will want to know if the school is proprietary or not. This seems to be the most critical issue and you should know exactly what you’re getting yourselves into.

          Like

      • Nomad says:

        Yes, John way too much Fox news as Anon has stated.

        Like

    • Mary Ann says:

      I lived and worked in Abu Dhabi for 3 years and loved it. I would have no problems going back. While there I met teachers from two other international schools and no one had problems leaving the country.

      Like

  37. Gary Allan says:

    I would like to know the school as well, as my wife and I are currently negotiating teaching jobs with a school in Qatar, Al-Khor IS

    Like

  38. Maestromo says:

    Sorry to hear this. Happy you got out fine. Two bits of information: don’t work for Arab owned/run schools in the Middle East if you can avoid it and, sorry to correct you, but Saudi Arabia is the other Gulf country that can do this and does it all the time.

    Like

  39. worldtravlr says:

    why is the name of the school not included? Why were you targeted do you think?

    Like

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