I met Dorje Gurung in 1996 during my second year at an international school in Norway. I was a long way from home -- I grew up in South Africa -- but teachers like Dorje made me feel welcome and part of a global community.
Dorje’s a great guy and a gifted teacher. At the school he often led hiking and kayaking trips and was very involved with student activities. He knew what it is like for someone like me to be in a new country. Dorje grew up in Nepal and like me received a scholarship to go abroad to finish the last two years of high school. After finishing college in Iowa, Dorje decided to give back by teaching at schools like the one he had attended.
Dorje has lived in eight countries and has taught at schools with kids from over 85 nations. That is why I was shocked to hear that Dorje has been jailed in Qatar on charges of “insulting Islam” and faces seven years in prison for what seems to be a misunderstanding.
Two years ago, Dorje took a job teaching at a school in Qatar. According to news reports, Dorje had been recently having problems with students who did not respect his authority, in part due to his nationality.
According to the Doha News:
(T)he seventh graders poked fun at his appearance, calling him “Jackie Chan,” a famous Chinese actor.... (T)he mocking again began in earnest while Gurung was in line for lunch. At first, he said the teasing was light-hearted, but then one student put his hand on Gurung’s shoulder and a finger in the teacher’s nose. At this point, Gurung grew agitated and said remarks to the effect of, how would you like to be stereotyped i.e. called a terrorist?
After trying to get the students to reflect on their actions, he was fired from his job and later arrested.
Dorje shouldn’t be in prison for trying to teach his students to be tolerant of people from other countries.
There is growing international attention to his case and we fervently hope that Qatar will uphold their international reputation of being a tolerant and welcoming country.
Please sign my petition to show the Qatari government that the people of the world are paying attention to this case and show them they should release Dorje immediately.
We are writing to request the release of Dorje Gurung, a Nepali citizen who was recently arrested and brought before a lower Doha Court on May 9, 2013 on charges of insulting Islam. Dorje Gurung had been a Chemistry teacher in the prestigious Qatar Academy in Doha. According to Doha News, Mr. Gurung, “whose two-year teaching contract was set to expire in July, had been facing problems at QA with students who did not respect his authority, in part due to his nationality” (Doha News, May 9, 2013).
Dorje Gurung is a graduate of the Adriatic United World College located in Italy, and he holds a degree from the University of New South Wales. For those who know him as a colleague, a mentor, a teacher and a friend, Dorje Gurung epitomizes a heartfelt commitment to international understanding, respect for different cultures, social awareness and education. Prior to his teaching engagement at Qatar Academy, he taught at The Australian International School Saigon, the International School of Azerbaijan, and the Bishop Mackenzie International School. Mr. Gurung also returned to the United World College communities in Norway and in New Mexico to teach Chemistry. In his professional capacity, he has mentored and befriended people of many different religious and cultural backgrounds, and he has consistently garnered love and respect from his peers, friends and students who are all shocked by the recent events.
Based on reports of what transpired on the week of April 22, 2013, the charges brought against Mr. Gurung do not seem to reflect what transpired in the Qatar Academy. There is growing international attention to his case, and those monitoring the developments fervently hope that due process will be followed, and that Qatar will uphold its international reputation of being a tolerant and welcoming country. Given the facts of this case and Mr. Gurung’s long standing professional credentials, those of us who are following his case hope that justice will be done, and Mr. Gurung will be promptly released.
Thank you for your timely consideration of this matter.