Media students are asked to push their limits and to define new boundaries. While reporting, you are asked to perform your best, even if your security is at stake sometimes. But what if a student actually performs what has been preached to him and gets stuck? Do you think when you are out there snapping crimes and you get yourself in trouble, there’d be anyone from your preachers to support you?
You might think yes. This is what NU-Q student Usama Hamed might also have thought when he handed over his NU-Q press pass to the policemen who asked for his identity but that’s when he realized its value.
It all started when NU-Q student Usama Hamed woke up one day and received a text message from his friend that had a disturbing photo which featuring a part of the popular Villaggio Mall that was burning down.
Hamed, who was then a second year student and a photographer, decided to go and find out what was happening over there and captured the fire that was all over the mall’s nursery ‘ Gympanzee’ in his camera.
The video that he filmed of the Villaggio fire that killed 19 people, including 13 children got around 200,000 views in a few hours on YouTube.
Unlike any professional photographer who is used to such happenings, Hamed remained troubled after filming the fire and its aftermath, which is natural as he was just a second year student who was passionate about his work.
Curious to decipher what actually caused the fire he returned to site two days later and started clicking pictures. When he was entering a policeman saw him, they waved hands at each other and he entered the site.
But a little while later he was shouted at and asked to stop by a policeman who ran after him pulling out a baton.
Hamed handed himself to the policeman who was joined by two other policemen and tried them to explain what he was doing there. Eventually they dragged him to a senior police officer where he showed him his press pass, which was rejected and claimed as fake!
On knowing that Hamed is from Spain but his father was Syrian and mother Moroccan, he was taken to the jail, accused as a Syrian Spy and was made to sign papers without even getting a chance to read them.
Hamed spent one day in the police department and 10 nights in jail. Finally he was bailed, when his father paid 15,000 riyals and he was made to sign several other laws that he didn’t break in the first place.
Hamed’s expectations were crushed when he went and sought assistance from NU-Q’s administration.
The response was pretty shocking for Hamed. He quotes in nuchronicle, “When I asked them about the possibility of helping me out, of talking to someone at the Qatar Foundation, or doing something with lawyers or with anything, I was told – I’m gonna quote this to you – ‘Northwestern University does not help or support criminals.’”
“So I was a bit shocked. I was like ‘who are you calling a criminal,’” says Hamed. “So he told me the police report said that you broke the law, and this is Greg Bergida, Dean [sic] of Student Affairs. If this was the main campus, we would have actually taken measures against you.”
“They said what I was doing wasn’t approved by any professor, so they don’t support that either. It wasn’t a class,” Hamed says.
Hamed’s case was removed in November but no one from NU-Q came to ask him for his side of the story. For him, he got in trouble for simply doing his job. He wasn’t really surprised about getting arrested and detained by the authorities.
What shocked him was his university’s reaction to the issue.
As students, we put our faith in our university. While doing what has been taught to us we believe that the institution behind our learning will always be there to support us. But sometimes life has tough lessons planned.