Thousands of people of all ages and nationalities have taken part in a student-led solidarity walk in the Qatari capital Doha in commemoration of the three Chapel Hill victims.
Organised by the students of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), the branch campuses of Qatar Foundation (QF), and Qatar University, the walk was held in honour of the three American Muslim students who were killed last week: Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu Salha, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu Salha.
The Qatar Solidarity Walk was a demonstration of participants’ common belief in the principle that education and not hatred must be the shared goal of all of us, organisers said.
Students had the largest presence as young men and women from HBKU, the branch campuses, Qatar University and other academic institutions in Qatar walked side by side.
The solidarity walk’s route was specifically chosen to pass by the branch campuses in a symbolic gesture of fellow feeling and brotherhood to reflect the associations that all students have with their universities.
The walk started outside the HBKU Student Centre and followed a route through Education City that finished at the Ceremonial Court where the participants stood together to watch a specially commissioned film with speeches by family members of the victims.
Marchers called on all nations to keep students around the world safe and recognise that the talents of young men and women in education constitute the future.
“It is amazing that Qatar is thinking about us and our family,” Faris Barakat, the brother of Deah, said, moving the crowd. “We want to spread the message that love overcomes hate. It is our responsibility as the youth and the citizens of this world to fight ignorance and to come together with Americans, with Qataris and with everyone as, after all, Earth is not that big of a place.”
Deah’s sister Suzanne also spoke about the shootings and told of the impact it has had on her life.
“I think that at the end of the day, people realise that we are all the same regardless of where we come from, who we are, what we do and what we believe in,” she said.
“We all want the same things. We all want to be loved. We all want to belong. We all want to make an impact in the world. The loss of these three beautiful people has inspired everyone to come together. I know they have inspired me to have a real purpose in life. I honour their legacy and I follow in their footsteps.”
Following the broadcast, local students spoke to the gathered crowd about the importance of overcoming extremism and violence, and called for the protection of students around the world.
“My mind is unable to take it all in and my heart almost stops when I think about how the families of Yusor, Razan and Deah received this terrible news,” Khawla Al Derbasti, a student at Georgetown University in Qatar, said. “In every corner of the world, there are thousands of people today whose hearts are breaking following the murder of these three people.”
Abdul Aziz Al Tamimi, a student at HEC Paris University in Qatar, called for reconciliation and for an end to extremism.
“We are gathered here to show solidarity with the Qatar Foundation community, the families of the victims and people all around the world,” he said. “We invite them to embrace peace and reconciliation, rejecting violence and extremism. The time has come for us all to unite and to build societies that are founded on love, respect, understanding and compassion for others everywhere.”
QF said the students’ academic pursuits and their charitable endeavours, in particular Deah Barakat’s campaign to alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees in Turkey, particularly touched and moved the QF community to express its sympathy.
The Chapel Hill killings have affected people worldwide and donations from Qatari and international community members have boosted the charity fund established by Deah Barakat.
American Ambassador Dana Shell Smith attended alongside a number of other foreign dignitaries. Senior officials from QF, including Shaikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, QF Vice-Chairperson, Saad Al Muhannadi, QF President of Qatar Foundation, Fahad Saad Al Qahtani, Group Executive Director of QF Administration, and Jassim Telefat, Group Executive Director of Qatar Foundation Capital Projects and Facilities, took part.