Qatar Airways/Flickr

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker

The recent ban on most electronic items onboard planes going from Doha to the US is simply a “security measure,” the CEO of Qatar Airways has said.

According to Reuters, Akbar Al Baker said this week that he did not feel the policy singled out GCC carriers.

“I don’t think it is fair for me to say it is targeting Gulf airlines,” he told reporters at a Qatar investment forum in London.

Colin Harris/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Since Saturday, electronic items larger than cell phones have not been permitted inside the cabin of aircraft flying to the US from 10 Middle Eastern cities, including Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Instead, passengers must check their laptops, iPads and e-readers, among other devices. Nine airlines are affected by the ban, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad.

No US carriers were on the list.

Kevin Morris/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Al Baker added that it was “too early” to say whether the policy would affect his airline’s profits.

However, Emirates’ CEO has been more vocal about the ban, calling it “disruptive and operationally challenging.”

Industry analysts have also suggested that business class passengers in particular may choose to book with carriers unaffected by the ban.

Questions about ban

American officials said that the new policy is temporary, and in response to concerns about terrorist attacks.

The UK has also implemented similar new rules, but excluded Doha and Dubai from its list of restricted routes.

Andrew Cupitt / Flickr

British Airways A320, for illustrative purposes only.

This has prompted questions about whether the US regulations are partly designed to put pressure on the big three Gulf airlines.

For years, they have been the target of criticism from major US airlines.

Many claim that Gulf carriers are receiving unfair government subsidies and therefore damaging American businesses.

New Indian airline

Also this week, Al Baker offered more details to reporters about plans to establish a new, Qatar-owned domestic airline in India.

“It could be this year,” the CEO told Bloomberg in London. “It depends (on) how fast we can arrange our application.”

Chantelle D'mello

For illustrative purposes only

The carrier is expected to be funded by the Qatar Investment Authority and run by Qatar Airways.

The move was made possible by a rule change in India last June that allows 100 percent foreign ownership of Indian airlines for the first time.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways announced last month that it had decided to drop plans to launch a domestic airline in Saudi Arabia following licensing delays.

Thoughts?

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Via Alison Patterson

Lauren and Alison Patterson

It will be at least another week before a local court decides whether to find a man innocent or guilty of the “worst crime ever committed in Qatar.”

Badr Hashim Al-Jabr is currently on trial (again) for stabbing Lauren Patterson to death in 2013.

He faces the death penalty for killing her. A verdict in the case was due this week, but has now been pushed back to April 3, according to the victim’s mother.

Via Alison Patterson

Badr Hashim Khamis Abdullah Al-Jabar

Speaking to Doha News, Alison Patterson said she and several supporters flew into Qatar for yesterday’s verdict.

But the judge declined to issue a verdict.

Instead, he asked her to discuss with her lawyer whether she wished to opt for retribution, compensation or forgiveness regarding what happened.

“As you can imagine, I’m feeling very stressed out,” Patterson said.

Back story

Lauren Patterson, 24, was last seen alive leaving a La Cigale nightclub in October 2013 with Al-Jabar and his friend, Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz.

Her burned remains were found hours later in the desert, along with the murder weapon, a knife.

Alison Patterson

Flowers laid where Lauren Patterson’s remains were found.

Citing investigation results and confessions from the men, a Qatar prosecutor previously told the court that Al-Jabar took Patterson to a home he used for sexual trysts with women.

He then “conquered her body,” and killed her by stabbing her twice. However, the defense said that Patterson’s death was an accident, and called the confessions coerced.

Abdul Aziz served a three-year sentence for his role in the killing, and has since been released.

Via Alison Patterson

Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz

Meanwhile, Al-Jabr was sentenced to the death penalty in 2014. Qatar’s Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s verdict against him.

But last year, the ruling was vacated by the Court of Cassation, which ordered a new trial.

Decision day

Legally speaking, victims’ families in Qatar are allowed to choose a “blood money” payment of QR200,000 instead of jail time or the death penalty for a defendant.

But no verdict has been issued yet. And it is unclear what impact Alison Patterson’s wishes will have on the court’s decision.

my_southborough/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Yesterday, Patterson declined to share her thoughts on a potential answer to the judge’s questions.

But she previously told Doha News that she is against the death penalty and would instead favor a lengthy prison sentence.

In a December 2014 interview, Patterson said:

“At first, I was seized by passionate anger and I wanted both (defendants) off the earth, gone … But after this time and now when I think about it from a moral standpoint, I feel that I can’t be as cruel as they have been.

I’d be agreeing to exactly the same thing. Even though a murderer kills someone, they also have a family who would be going through the same thing if they are dead.”

Thoughts?

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar will spend some £5 billion on the UK’s economy over the next three to five years, its prime minister has announced.

The pledge to further invest in the UK’s infrastructure, real estate and technology comes at a critical time for the country, which is preparing to leave the European Union.

PM Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani made the announcement during a business and investment forum in London yesterday.

Pixabay

Canary Wharf

The two countries already have a strong relationship, with Bloomberg reporting that Qatar has previously injected some £35 billion in the nation.

Much of this comes in the form of UK real estate, as Qatar owns the Shard, the Olympic Village and Canary Wharf, among other properties.

Qatari students and tourists also frequently visit the country.

Cushioning Brexit

According to Bloomberg, all of this helps explain why Qatar has a “big stake” in keeping the UK’s economy strong once it exits the EU.

Bloomberg

Qatar’s investments in the UK

Over the next few years, the UK will be taking the investment through the Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, which remains very interested in the nation:

During this week’s forum, the CEO of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani said:

“There is a pressure from my board to diversify in terms of geography and asset class, but we are still looking, even after Brexit, for opportunities (in Britain).”

Beyond Europe

Qatar is also hoping to attract investment to its own country, which is struggling with falling revenue from lower oil prices.

It has been doing so in part by expanding its relationships in Asia and the US.

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to Reuters, the QIA announced plans this week to open an office in San Francisco.

The moves comes after Qatar committed to spending $35 billion in the US by 2020.

Thoughts?

Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Qatar does not supply the majority of the UK’s imported fuel.

Sensory Souk

Alison Saraf (left) and Raana Smith (right)

Alison Saraf and Raana Smith are two moms on a mission.

The long-term expats are both parents of boys with autism and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPS), a condition in which the brain has trouble interpreting information from the senses.

Both children have at times struggled to learn due to these issues. And their mothers told Doha News that they have spent thousands of riyals importing educational aids to try to help.

“Both Raana and I have invested a lot of money in these items over the years. This stuff is not cheap,” Saraf said.

The duo met while their children were both receiving therapy at the Child Development Center (CDC) in West Bay Lagoon.

They soon decided to open their own shop so that other parents in Qatar and neighboring countries would be able to get hold of these aids locally.

Sensory Souk

So earlier this month, Smith and Saraf launched Sensory Souk, an online outlet that delivers to addresses in Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE.

It sells a wide range of items imported from the US that are all designed to help children with autism and related disorders in a school environment.

Sensory Souk

Sensory Souk products

“Our products are basically all the things I couldn’t get hold of in Qatar, but wanted to,” Saraf said.

The company will strive to offer high quality products at competitive prices, with the “added convenience” of online ordering, Smith added.

The items include weighted vests, handwriting helpers, bumpy cushions to sit on and items to hold, chew and balance on.

“What these products do is they instill calm in the child so that they can function,” Saraf said. “Just to sit on a chair trying to be still, that’s an epic thing for them.”

When asked to pick her favorite from their range of products, Smith highlighted their range of putties.

Sensorysouk.com

Glo Putty, one of the products on the website

She said that they give her son a very important outlet:

“My son Ayoub really likes the tactile things,” she said. “He likes slime and goo and getting messy. For whatever reason, he just has that need to touch and feel. It’s soothing to him.”

Rental program

The entrepreneurs have also launched a rental section of the site so that families can try products out before committing to buying them.

Obviously it’s a business, but we have both bought something really expensive in the past that hasn’t worked,” Saraf said.

“Where possible, we want to provide a service which will assist parents and professionals, to save them money.”

The two women also want to establish an online forum on the site so that families can exchange information about products, schools and specially trained professionals in Qatar.

Sensorysouk.com

The weighted compression vest, available via the rental program

Saraf explained that it can be very difficult for families to connect with the support networks they need in Qatar.

We want to help parents learn to be advocates for their children. We want to lift other parents up,” she said.

Autism awareness

World Autism Awareness Day falls on April 2 this year, and many organizations in Qatar are taking part.

This includes the team behind the Burj Qatar, which will light up in blue on the day, as part of a global campaign.

Sam Agnew/Flickr

The Burj Qatar

There is no publicly available data about the prevalence of autism in Qatar.

But the CDC – where Saraf and Smith met – previously told Doha News that it believes 20 percent of Qatar’s school population has some kind of learning disability.

Both Smith and Saraf said they are keen to support the global drive to educate others about autism and its associated disorders.

WAD

Autism awareness

Sharing knowledge, they said, enables parents to feel empowered and help their children succeed.

“When you first get that diagnosis, it feels a bit crushing,” Smith said. “You’re not sure what to do. You’re running behind it. But when you can get in front of it and take charge of it, you can do anything for your child.”

Local delivery within Qatar will cost QR50, according to the Sensory Souk website, and a free pick up service is in the pipeline.

Thoughts?