Overall Crime and Safety Situation
As Qatar prepares for the 2022 World Cup, Doha is saturated with a massive number of construction projects and economic activity. Qatar's population continued to increase, reaching over 2.4 million people in December 2015, with a steady influx of migrant workers. Expatriates vastly outnumber Qatari nationals (approximately 9 to 1), and labor workers heavily contribute to a significant gender imbalance (75 percent male) in the overall population.
Post Crime Rating: Low
Available data indicates that the crime threat in Doha remains low. American visitors are less likely to be a victim of crime in Doha than in most large U.S. cities.
Murder rates reported in recent years are well below global averages. Violent crime targeting U.S. and other Western expatriates, although relatively rare, does occur.
In November 2012, a private American citizen was sexually assaulted and murdered at her residence in Doha. The perpetrator, a foreign national working as a guard at the victim's residential compound, was arrested a few days later and was convicted of murder in April 2015.
In another high-profile case, a British woman was sexually assaulted and killed in October 2013 after leaving a nightclub with two Qatari acquaintances who were subsequently found guilty of murdering the woman and attempting to dispose her remains. An appeal court upheld their sentences in 2015.
Government authorities indicated that rates of crimes such as kidnapping, assault, and arson are low compared to the rest of the region. The burglary rate is also reportedly well below the global average. Burglaries and thefts typically occur after dark and/or when Western expatriates are away from their homes for extended periods.
In October 2015, police arrested a "gang" of four women for burglarizing residential apartments and recovered a large amount of gold jewels and currencies.
Incidents of vehicle break-ins, theft, and motor vehicle theft (sometimes in connection with "joyriding") do occur as crimes of opportunity but are rare in guarded/gated residential communities. In November 2014, the Ministry of Interior, after arresting two individuals for stealing 251,000 QAR in cash from one vehicle, urged "citizens and residents not to leave cash or any valuables in their cars to avoid theft and to be more vigilant while withdrawing large amounts from the bank."
There have been reported incidents of sexual harassment and assaults targeting expatriate females.
Because of Qatar's reliance on foreign workers, foreign labor camps have been established to house the large resident foreign "blue-collar" labor pool. These areas tend to have higher incidents of crime. Large numbers of foreign workers congregate in certain areas of Doha and its environs during weekends and after hours, making visits to these areas by most expatriates and their families, unaccompanied women, and minors inadvisable and/or unappealing due to overcrowding and the presence of an almost exclusively male laborer demographic. The government reports that most instances of violent crime are between/among certain third-country national ethnic groups comprised of young male laborers and are not generally directed against Western expatriates. The government is adept at deporting any guest workers who might be involved in crimes or are deemed to pose a threat to public security. Since foreign workers might fear deportation, crimes committed by Qataris against foreign workers (domestic staff) often go unreported. Violent crime is more prevalent within the third-country national labor camps and the industrial areas. Edged weapons are available and are often the weapon of choice, as are blunt instruments. Improvised weapons (tools, sports equipment, construction materials) are frequently used in targeted instances of violence by one group of third-country nationals against another. These altercations are often the result of specific disputes that are unique to industrial neighborhoods and labor camps and the sub-populations living there. These incidents occasionally occur near, or overflow into, commercial business areas where criminals can locate/create burglary tools and other cutting instruments to perpetrate criminal activity.
While possession of firearms is not widespread among the general population, individuals can obtain permits to purchase and carry firearms. Illegally obtained/smuggled firearms have been used in the commission of crimes.
In November 2015, a Qatari court sentenced a Saudi man to death (in absentia) for killing an individual at a Doha mosque in June 2014, reportedly in connection to a long-standing feud between tribes. The attacker, who had entered Qatar via the land border from Saudi Arabia and had surveilled the victim for several days, was in possession of a revolver and a Kalashnikov rifle when he gunned down the victim.
In September 2015, a minibus carrying labor workers on Al Kharara Road was shot at by an individual following a brief interaction on the side of the road.
Also in 2015, a man reportedly entered the police station in Mukaynis with a Kalashnikov rifle to demand the release of his sons held in custody. As police attempted to disarm the individual, he shot and injured three police officers before being taken into custody.
Other reported crimes include, but are not limited to, various types of immigration and residency fraud, ATM/credit card theft, white collar fraud, embezzlement, counterfeiting, illegal narcotics (use/smuggling/possession/trafficking/distribution), identity theft/fraud, begging, pickpocketing (particularly in crowded locales), unauthorized real estate businesses, illegal private taxi services, and various cyber crimes. Corporate disputes over business practices are also frequently reported.
The government monitors crime trends carefully and expends great effort to keep pace with it via improved enforcement capabilities in an effort to identify, deter, and neutralize emerging crime trends.
Qatar takes cybersecurity seriously and, over the last few years, has been the victim of several high-profile, publicly reported cyberattacks on government and media websites and on energy industry networks. The Ministry of Information, Communication and technology (ICT) has a dedicated computer emergency response team (Q-CERT), which identifies major threats and resolves them and which maintains a reporting and analysis coordination effort. Q-CERT works to address the cyber security threats in order to provide protection to minimize the risks from hackers, malware, and more malicious actors (terrorists, organized criminal networks, industrial and foreign government espionage) to cyber warfare. Companies and members of the public can report cyber incidents by phone, by email, and through an incident reporting form. Their website is www.qcert.org and includes a daily threat alert dashboard, statistics, and access to technical services assessment and testing. The Ministry of Interior is charged with investigating and prosecuting cyber crimes, which fall under its criminal investigation jurisdiction that under Qatari law can include defamation and using the Internet for a wide range of criminal purposes. The operations, control, and security monitoring branch of the Ministry's Cybercrime Center provides data and security intelligence to roving security patrols to secure geographical areas, and its Counter-Cybercrime unit proactively applies technology to interdict criminal acts on the Internet.
Other Areas of Concern
It is not unusual for private watercraft to be stopped and boarded by the Qatari Coast Guard and/or Navy for straying into sensitive or restricted zones. Furthermore, Qatar has experienced maritime-based narcotics smuggling and conflicts in its territorial waters with foreign fisherman, so security awareness while in the maritime environment is essential.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
The road network in metro Doha, though generally in good repair, is increasingly strained due to the growing number of vehicles and construction and is unable to handle current traffic levels. This is exacerbated by the widespread presence of inefficient and dated British-style traffic roundabouts. The government enacted a plan in mid-2013 to smooth the traffic flow in many heavily-traveled areas, and efforts are underway to replace the roundabouts with traffic intersections. Construction on roads is often poorly marked and can present obstacles that pose a safety hazard, and the presence of unmarked speed bumps can cause loss of control of vehicles if hit at high speed.
Outside of Doha, the roadways vary from very good to poor condition. Many are not properly illuminated during hours of darkness and lack shoulders. Although many highways are fenced to prevent livestock from venturing onto the road, many fences have improvised gates and holes. Low areas are frequently muddy or washed out during the winter when rains occur.
Participating in off-road desert excursions can be dangerous, so it is better left to the experienced "off-road" driver with a suitably equipped four-wheel drive (4x4) vehicle. Always have a travel plan/itinerary that can be shared with colleagues or family members. Travel with one or more other appropriately equipped vehicles and always carry extra potable water, food, first aid equipment, excavation tools, reliable navigation and communications equipment (GPS, a map, radio, satellite phone, extended range cell phone with antenna, etc.), and layered clothing suitable for the variable temperatures. All navigation/communications equipment should be well charged and have extra batteries.
Driving can be dangerous. Drivers displaying varying degrees of skill, aggressiveness, and attentiveness often maneuver erratically and at high speed, demonstrating little road discipline or courtesy. Drivers often fail to use turn signals and may neglect to turn on their headlights during hours of darkness or inclement weather. Many drivers do not use seat belts and tend to disregard traffic signals at intersections and roundabouts that are not monitored by the comprehensive traffic enforcement system of radars, sensors, and photo/video monitoring systems to enforce speed limits and red light controls. Even with these increased controls, however, compliance at non-controlled intersections and along unmonitored roads is poor, resulting in a vehicular accident rate in excess of 70,000 per annum. Traffic fatalities are one of Qatar's leading causes of death and are the number one cause of accidental deaths. According to the Annual Bulletin of Vital Statistics, a majority of the victims of vehicle accidents are under 30-years old. Foreigners or others who are unaccustomed to Qatar's liberal rules of the road and who lose their temper and engage in road rage could face severe civil and/or criminal penalties, or (in rare cases) be subject to a travel ban, preventing them from departing Qatar until the matter is resolved to the offended party's satisfaction. Many U.S. companies provide employees with defensive driving training to prepare them for driving in Qatar.
In traffic, always attempt to leave space in which to maneuver. Always leave yourself an exit and be prepared to take evasive action at any time. Avoid choke points of travel. Be wary of diversions. Check the interior and exterior of your vehicle prior to getting into your vehicle. Look for things that are irregular and/or abnormal and for any indicators suggesting that somebody has been working on your vehicle while you were away. Also, routinely make sure your vehicle is in good working condition: check your tire pressure and have enough gas. Keep bottles of water in your vehicle. If you are being followed or harassed by another driver, do not escalate a confrontation and instead go to the nearest safe place (U.S. Embassy, police station, hotel, etc) to call for help. Always remember to carry appropriate forms of identification with you at all times. Always carry a charged cellular phone and utilize a hands-free device while driving. Follow the directions of the host nation police and obey all local traffic laws. Use defensive driving techniques to prevent accidents and injuries on the road.
If involved in a vehicular accident, it is best to remain with the vehicle, provided that this can be done safely, until the police arrive. The traffic law of October 2007 stipulates a 1500 Qatari Riyal (U.S.$412) fine for anyone who blocks traffic after a minor vehicular accident. If the cause of the accident is disputed or if a party is injured, the vehicles involved should not be moved. This is particularly true if there is significant property damage or if the accident requires further investigation to determine culpability. It is also a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident, although in the case of minor accidents that are not disputed (both parties agree to the cause/culpability of the accident), it is generally permissible to drive to a police station and file a report. In accidents with property damage, it is imperative that a police report be filed in order to have the vehicle repaired or to collect on an insurance claim. If an accident results in injuries, it may be necessary to self-transport to medical facilities. There are no Good Samaritan laws, so assisting at the scene of an accident may expose the responder to liability.
Public Transportation Conditions
The use of metered fares for a taxi should be established prior to entering the vehicle. Uber is available and increasingly popular. Limousine services are the preferred means for females traveling to/from hotels, and females should always sit in the back (never the front) seat. When using public taxis or limousine services, do not allow the driver to pick up additional passengers along the way.
Qatar's airport and civil aviation officials work closely with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration on security screening and compliance with U.S. security requirements on governing flights to/from the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security has a Customs and Border Patrol protection (CPB) unit at Qatar's Hamad International Airport (HIA) and also conducts Global Entry interviews at their airport office upon appointment. HIA opened in 2014 and is one of the world's busiest civil aviation hubs for transit flights, with an estimated 90 percent of all travelers passing through HIA in transit status. Qatar aviation officials reported that the biggest threat faced by the travelling public at HIA is theft onboard the airplanes, from other passengers during their flights. There have been reports of arrests for thefts of passports during flights; while passengers were asleep or not paying attention, criminal rings pilfered the overhead baggage areas to steal passports, money, and other valuable items.
Other Travel Conditions
Public intoxication and/or driving while under the influence of alcohol/substances is not tolerated. Offenders will be detained, arrested, and if found guilty required to pay heavy civil/criminal fines and other penalties. Immediate deportation/expulsion is also common.
Exercise care and caution before chartering any local watercraft (dhows, in particular), motor boats, and jet skis for recreational excursions, particularly when operating close to shore in congested waterways. Safety procedures and protocols are generally not up to U.S. Coast Guard standards. There may not be adequate numbers of and/or accessibility to life jackets onboard vessels, and licensing requirements to operate certain types of motorized watercraft are not required. The Gulf's waters are heavily traversed by commercial and military vessels and are laced with many offshore oil and gas rigs, sunken platforms, and artificial atolls.
Post Terrorism Rating: Medium
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
The security and threat environment in Gulf States remains significant, as regional extremist groups maintain the capability of conducting attacks in Gulf countries and attempt to inspire potential sympathizers to conduct "lone wolf" attacks. The possibility of a terrorist attack against U.S. interests in Qatar cannot be dismissed.
Continued threats from terrorist groups directed against U.S. interests worldwide require that U.S. citizens in Qatar exercise a high-level of vigilance and security awareness, keep abreast of regional developments, and incorporate good security practices into their daily activities.
The last terrorist bombing in Qatar occurred on March 19, 2005, when a suicide bomber crashed a car bomb in the lobby of the "Doha Players" Theatre, a place routinely frequented by Westerners. The attack killed a British citizen and injured about a dozen others, including six Qatari, a Briton, an Eritrean and a Somali. The suicide bomber, identified as an Egyptian national residing in Qatar for 15 years, also died in the attack.
In April 2015, an individual used a knife to attack an on-duty guard assigned to protect the U.S. Embassy in Doha. The attacker was quickly subdued by guards and authorities.
There have been no known acts in recent years of violence directed at American-branded businesses in Qatar. Regional developments in the Arabian Peninsula and the broader region may affect local public opinion and sentiment.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Post Political Violence Rating: Low
Public protests and/or demonstrations are rare. Demonstrations usually occur only with the prior approval from the government, and tight controls are imposed on the event organizers. U.S. citizens should take reasonable and prudent security precautions at all times regarding their personal safety by avoiding any large public gatherings and demonstrations and remaining alert when visiting any establishments or events known to be frequented by Westerners.
The climate is extreme and unforgiving for several months of the year. During the summer months (April-October), temperatures can average between 95-122 degrees Fahrenheit (35-50 degrees Celsius). The average humidity is 90 percent. During the winter months (December-February), rain showers are more likely to occur, with the days generally being mild and the evenings relatively cold at 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). Residential apartments and villas are usually not equipped with substantial insulation, lack water-proofing, and often have no interior heat. Throughout the year, especially in the spring, Qatar is subject to dust storms that can emerge quickly, causing white out and low visibility conditions for hours to days. These storms can have a substantial impact on driving/road conditions and airport operations.
Qatar is also in an earthquake zone. Buildings on any reclaimed property or landfills are often not fully evaluated for structural integrity and are more susceptible to damage from natural acts (flash flooding or earthquakes with epicenters in the region).
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Industrial and public health/safety standards are not always up to Western standards. Workplace accidents are common due to hazardous working conditions, relaxed safety standards, and the presence of dangerous/toxic industrial materials and equipment.
Travelers, especially females, perceived to be part of the "blue-collar" migrant work force might face discrimination, often from other foreign residents. Depending on regional developments, certain nationalities might be targeted for additional security screening and attention. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.
Local authorities have seized drugs through improved enforcement, greater emphasis on interdiction, and increased law enforcement capabilities to identify, monitor, track, and apprehend offenders. Seizures occurred primarily at ports of entry and in coastal waters during interdiction operations. Media reports have pointed to an apparent increase in the past couple of years of drug seizures at the airport in Doha; cases have involved international drug smugglers using couriers to transport quantities of narcotics (hashish, cocaine, methamphetamine). In October 2015, Lebanese customs inspectors at Beirut International Airport also seized 1.5 million Captagon amphetamine pills, weighting a total of 230 kilograms, hidden inside table beams being shipped to Qatar.
Qatar possesses enormous financial resources that have been used to purchase top of the line law enforcement equipment, communications systems, and both private and governmental training. However, a small Qatari population limits the amount of manpower that can be recruited, creating perpetual shortfalls in the public safety and law enforcement fields. The majority of the uniformed enlisted police forces working within the Ministry of Interior are third-country nationals from the Middle East and North Africa. Police holding the rank of officer, and personnel in the Internal Security Force (ISF) who drive red police vehicles, are Qataris. This mixture of nationalities in the public safety field can present some command, control, and communications challenges. Customer service, response, and investigative skills may not be at a level expected in the U.S. English language skills of first responders may be lacking. Depending upon traffic density and other priorities, police response times in Doha can range from 5 to 30+ minutes. Response times can be even longer during local religious holidays (Ramadan, in particular), on weekends, and/or during hours of darkness. The presence of major events may result in blocked roadways, further delaying responders. Nevertheless, police officers are generally professional, cooperative, and courteous when responding to American community requests for assistance, particularly when assisting and adjudicating traffic accidents and infractions.
Qatari police officers, particularly patrol officers, public premises, and traffic police, do not make traffic stops as often as police in the U.S. or other countries but instead rely on an extensive network of cameras for traffic enforcement. Police officers are often assigned to locations mainly as a visual/psychological deterrence, not necessarily to perform response or incident management functions.
The capability of governmental law enforcement has increased in recent years. Leveraging innovative technology to mitigate manpower shortfalls, the government still lacks skilled manpower and experience in investigating sophisticated crimes to fully meet all of the law enforcement challenges it faces.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
If arrested or detained, U.S. citizens should politely insist on speaking with a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy or if after-hours, with the Embassy's after-hours Duty Officer who can be reached at (974) 4496-6000. Do not assume the police reported your arrest to U.S. Embassy. A Consular Officer will visit the U.S. citizen within 24 to 72 hours of the initial notification. If a local attorney is required to assist in any civil/criminal proceeding, their professional fees can approach or exceed QR 30,000 (US $8,250) to consider the case.
Crime Victim Assistance
The police may be contacted for emergency assistance by dialing 999; English speaking dispatchers are routinely assigned to handle calls to this number, but their language proficiency can vary.
The Qatari Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the Internal Security Force (ISF), also referred to as "Lekhwiya," are primarily responsible for law enforcement and security in Qatar.
Most residential compounds occupied by U.S. government and expatriate personnel also employ local security guards who are under contract with the compound's management. Most compounds have varying degrees of physical and technical security systems, including various types of access control, vehicle placards/stickers, barrier systems, CCTVs, and other countermeasures. Some compounds have local police (MOI Public Guards) assigned to provide deterrence/response.
The MOI/Al Fazaa police (Rescue Police) provides response units.
The Ministry of Interior operates the National Command Center (NCC) in northern Doha. The NCC possesses sophisticated capabilities to respond to emergency calls, identify and monitor security incidents, and provide response coordination in the event of contingencies. All MOI entities are represented at the NCC, which operates on a 24/7 basis, 365 days per year. The NCC continues to expand its capabilities and serves as the primary focal point for incident response and crisis management, as well as a control center for major events.
Depending upon traffic density and other service calls, ambulance response time in Doha usually ranges 5-30 minutes. During local religious holidays (Ramadan, in particular), weekends, and/or after hours, response times could be longer. Relative to the region, responding crews are considered to be well-equipped and trained. Patients may find that their actual experience will vary.
Fire/Police/Ambulance: Tel. 999
Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics
Patients will, in most cases, be transported to the government-owned Hamad Hospital Emergency Room (Tel. 4439-2333, http://www.hmc.org.qa) for triage and treatment. Hamad Hospital's ER was reportedly rated as the busiest in the world by an accreditation committee. Emergency care is assessed to be adequate.
For secondary care, many expatriates and visitors choose to visit the Al Emadi Hospital (Tel. 4466-6009), Doha Clinic Hospital (Tel. 4438-4211), or Al Ahli Hospital (Tel. 4489-8901).
Available Air Ambulance Services
Hamad Hospital operates an air medevac service as part of the government's emergency medical service system.
Recommended Insurance Posture
Before traveling, U.S. citizens should ensure they have comprehensive travel and medical insurance that will provide adequate coverage while in-country. Regardless of insurance coverage, many physicians and health care facilities will require payment with either cash or credit card before rendering service; medical treatment costs are considered expensive.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/qatar.
OSAC Country Council Information
Qatar's OSAC Country Council was chartered in May 2004. It enjoys an active private sector-led Council, which has a diverse membership including U.S.-owned or joint venture firms from the energy sector (i.e. oil and gas), service sector organizations, academia, and the medical community. Security representatives of companies or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) doing business in Qatar are encouraged to contact OSAC Headquarters to learn of security-related issues relevant to their business plans (Tel: 1 (571) 345-7747). The Embassy's Regional Security Office (RSO) may be contacted to see if a follow-on appointment is warranted. The contact number for the RSO is (974) 4496-6767, email DohaSecurity@state.gov. To reach OSAC's Near East team, please email OSACNEA@state.gov..
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
The U.S. Embassy in Doha is located in the Al-Luqta District on 22nd February Street, P.O. Box 2399.
Absent local and U.S. declared holidays, the official workweek/hours that the Embassy follows are Sun-Thurs, 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. The hours for routine American Citizen Services are 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Embassy Contact Numbers
The main Embassy phone number is (974) 4496-6000, and once connected simply follow the voice prompts.
During normal working hours, American citizens may call (974) 4496-6614 or email ACSCONSULARDOHA@state.gov. For after-hours emergencies, U.S. citizens should call (974) 4496-6000, to be transferred to the on-call Duty Officer.
The Embassy staff takes its mandate to provide services to American citizens abroad seriously. The Embassy is ready at any time to assist American citizens in genuine emergencies (arrest, life-threatening injury, or death of a companion). There is limited outside parking available to privately owned vehicles. Although virtually all taxis in town can get you to the Embassy with relative ease, getting a taxi to pick you up from the Embassy may be problematic.
Travelers should regularly consult the Department's travel website at http://travel.state.gov. Travelers are also encouraged to read the latest Consular Information Sheet for Qatar at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis. In the United States, one can also call: 1-888-407-4747 toll free or 1-202-501-4444.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Situational Awareness Best Practices
Always be aware of your surroundings. Vary your days/times for work, shopping, errands, and personal needs. Be unpredictable with your personal routines. Maintain a low profile by not doing anything that draws attention to yourself. Be alert and look out for possible surveillance and pre-attack indicators. Do identify and report any vehicles or persons possibly involved in surveillance of your activities. Early detection of, and response to, a possible attack might save your life. Report all suspicious activities to the police and to your corporate security representative. If you are being followed or harassed by another driver, try to find the nearest police station, hotel, or other public facility to call the police. Never lead the person back to your home.
Let someone know where you are going, how to reach you, and when you are expected back. Identify nearby safe areas (police stations, hospitals, government buildings, stores, etc.) where you would go in case of an attack in your immediate area and know how to get there quickly. Know where you are in case you need to call for help. Research the location/area you plan to visit. Since some street names can be confusing, take note of landmarks (parks, schools, places of business). Avoid crowds or large gatherings. Have a plan to respond to an attack. Minimize the impact of a surprise attack by mentally preparing a response to different attack scenarios.
Keep your doors locked and windows closed (residence and vehicle).
Do not flaunt your (relative) wealth. Carry only the minimum amount of cash that you need for the day. Be familiar with the routes when moving to/from locations. Avoid poorly illuminated streets at night and unfamiliar areas of town when alone. Travel in a group (3-5) and avoid traveling alone at night. Never resist armed theft. Dress conservatively and avoid revealing clothing, especially for females. Do not discuss sensitive work-related issues in public.
Stay alert to what is going on around you. Avoid political, religious, or other demonstrations or gatherings. Keep abreast of the local and regional political scene using the media. Should you encounter a hostile or verbally abusive individual, leave the scene quickly, move to a public area (restaurant, store, hotel) and immediately notify the police.
At hotels, leave your valuables and spare cash in the hotel safe or other secure place. Always pack your own baggage and lock it when you are away from your hotel room. Never leave your baggage unattended in a public place. Should you lose your hotel room key card, bear in mind that information stored on it may include your name, partial home address, hotel room, check-in/out dates, credit card number, and expiry date. Do not leave valuables in the room unattended. Keep doors locked at all times. Use the optical viewer before opening the door. Keep at least two bottles of water in your room in case of emergency. Notify hotel security or the police of any suspicious activity.