Qatar is a pretty new nation; it didn't gain independence from its status as a British Protectorate until 1971. Still, that's 40 years. That's a pretty long time to go without a single major public demonstration or protest. Perhaps it helps to be richer in oil and gas than God; it's one of the region's richest countries.
It's also hosting the COP18 climate talks. And, after four decades of civic quietude, it's seeing its first youth protests. And they're over climate change.
John Vidal reports in the Guardian that "Saturday's climate march through Doha, attended by about 800 people, is thought to be the first ever demonstration in Qatar. It was notable for the presence of around 100 young activists from the fledgling Arab youth climate movement, who loudly called for Arab leaders to take the lead in the talks."
Inspiring stuff! A triumph for the climate movement the world over, right? Well, kind of:
this was no impromptu "Arab spring" uprising, as much as a carefully and expensively orchestrated exercise by western-based NGOs and the Qatari government. The movement was started recently in partnership with the Lebanese environment activist group IndyAct, 350.org, the Global Climate Change Alliance and Climate Action Network. The activists from 16 Arab countries are in a state of shock being put up in the five-star Crown Plaza hotel (usually $500 a night) by the Qatar government.
So they're raging against the machine in luxury, with safety guaranteed safety from the Qatari government. Not exactly a rebellion. Still, Qatar's complicity is notable in and of itself, and it's nonetheless impressive that 800 citizens descended on the oil-rich city of Doha.
If more nations would go to such lengths to promote drastic climate action—not just those whose economies are pegged entirely to exporting fossil fuels—we'd certainly be in better shape. Kudos to the Arab youth movement, and 350.org. And well-played, Qatar.