Siege hampers promotion of science in Gulf

 29 Jan 2018 - 8:31

Siege hampers promotion of science in Gulf

By Irfan Bukhari | The Peninsula 

DOHA: The illegal blockade on Qatar is not only violating the right to education of hundreds of students but also damaging the promotion of science and research in the region.

Times Higher Education (THE), the London-based publication which extensively covers news and issues related to higher education, has published a latest article titled “The blockade on Qatar will damage science across the region” to highlight the negative impact of the siege on the promotion of science in the region.

“During the years prior to the blockade, proactive steps were taken by the scientific communities in Gulf countries to promote exchange and collaboration in both higher education and research. For instance, the Qatar Foundation invested in a series of initiatives to promote entrepreneurship and technical innovation, and to make Qatar a destination for scientists, entrepreneurs and investors from around the region,” writes Hilal A. Lashuel. 

Hilal A. Lashuel is associate professor of neuroscience at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. 

He writes that for the past nine years, the Qatar Foundation has funded the popular “edutainment reality” Stars of Science television show, aired across the Arab world. “This is a competition among young science and technology entrepreneurs for significant seed funding to help them commercialise their innovations. The winners have mostly come from outside Qatar – including all those countries leading the blockade ... More recently, the foundation launched the Arab Innovation Academy, in partnership with the European Innovation Academy.” 

According to statistics released by QNHRC in September 207, a total of 919 students at different levels of education were forced to discontinue their studies because of the crisis and measures taken by the siege countries. 

National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) Chairman Dr. Ali bin Sumaikh Al Marri has recently stated that the committee has so far received 3993 complaints of human rights violations committed by the siege countries.

Al Marri has frequently asked the blockading countries to separate political differences from humanitarian issues and people’s rights to education, travel, doing business, performing religious rites and meeting relatives must not be violated. 

“We, as scientists from the region, were thrilled to see such initiatives, and were hopeful that they would pave the way for more strategic regional coordination and collaboration in science and research and development.

The current crisis, if not resolved quickly, could undermine these efforts,” Lashuel says.

In November last year, Qatar’s Minister of Education and Higher Education H E Dr Mohammed Abdul Wahed Ali Al Hammadi during a speech in the 39th conference of Unesco had said that the siege countries had violated all human rights principles and values including the right to education with the measures it took against Qatar. 

Some of those measures were not allowing Qatari students continue their academic years, and not providing Qatari graduates any proof of their studies in those countries.

Qatar National Human Rights Committee (QNHRC) has also repeatedly asked the blockade countries to respect international laws guaranteeing rights of students.

Hilal A. Lashuel further writes in the article: “There are no winners in the current conflict between Qatar and some of its closest Arab neighbours – but science, scientists and the region’s youth are certainly big losers.

”He says that since the decision last June by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to sever all ties with Qatar, scientists from those countries have been discouraged from collaborating with those from Qatar, or from publishing papers with them – even if the collaborative work is complete. 

“The current travel ban is not only denying such opportunities to scientists from the Gulf region but also making conferences in these countries less attractive beyond the region, as most renowned international speakers and institutions use such events to learn about the state of higher education and research in the entire region, and to explore the possibilities for new collaborations and strategic partnerships,” Lashuel points out.

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