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souk shopping by Julie V
Hi everyone! Glad to hear my garden is looking good, tell that mutt to stay out of it! Marg and I are living on sandwiches and greasy, fried things off the street because food is so costly—so water that okra! This morning it is cooler, no wind, I turned off the air and opened my door and have 3 visitors, Harry, Brian, and Phyllisshirleystacia (Margaret has named her) visiting. Little thin kitties, really sweet. At the Donohues, dogs and cats come first! I love it!

Man, what a day yesterday! My 7 day allowance to drive expired, the thought of giving up our car was excruciatingly painful, and I can’t drive illegally after seeing Land Cruisers play bumper cars with Mercedes, so with great difficulty we found our way down to the Minister of Interior, Traffic Police Station about an hour before they closed for afternoon nap, grabbed a number and got in line. First thing they wanted was 4 photos, we groaned, looked sad and asked where to go for photos. Instead of the 15 minutes of directions we expected, a man led us to a little trailer in the alley, we had a seat and he took my passport, driver license, and started typing. Someone took my picture, glued them onto the paper, told us to come back at 4pm with a sponsor. We drove home, had a sandwich, and wondered how we would get someone to sign for us in person all the way down there, and make it to our meeting with Majdalany by 5pm. Kevin to the rescue! He left work, met us there, signed, cut in line, complained about the delays, argued with the help…we left at 4:45 with a temporary Qatari driver license good for 30 days!! What a relief!

Drove like mad to Majdalany’s, called on the way and the lady said that “Mr. Majdalany has not arrived in office.”—great luck! We found the KAAMCO building, parked in a back alley, walked in the door and before we could ask directions, a man led us to the elevator, up to the 8th floor and delivered us to the office. Big reception room with about 10 desks and people all staring at us, and lovely Swarna greeted us. She is young, very pretty, her English is excellent. We had brought a gift for her, a big box of Este Lauder things, so glad we didn’t arrive with flowers and cookies as we had planned. It was like a family reunion!

She took us to Maj’s huge office, he is a large, stooped, Walter Matthau looking man, we sat down with tea and right away he started telling us how he is going to help us with John Wesley. He said our letters to the Emir requesting a meeting or a pardon are useless, that connections are needed and that he has them. John’s situation is a human rights issue, we need to get him out of the country, and once he is out of sight, out of mind, then work on obtaining a pardon from the Emir. He emphasized that Qatari law states that prisoners are to see their families once a week to preserve their humanity. He said that depression, mental illness, and suicide will result from being so far away from one’s home and that the family cannot afford to travel to the prisoner and these are serious human rights violations. He said that no crime was committed, no information changed hands and John collected no money—that he did indeed make a mistake but no harm was done. He then spent a good 30 minutes bragging about his connections; Minister of State, Minister of Interior, Sheikha Mouza’s neice (a new attorney working for him)and the Emir’s moves to place Maj in charge and make him a Qatari national.

Maj thinks that John Wesley should and would be transferred to a local prison if our government agreed to the life sentence. It would be Qatar’s way of saving face and only after that would we be able to obtain a pardon. If our American Embassy writes a letter requesting that he be transferred to the US to serve his sentence, then Maj will work through the two human rights organizations in Qatar to support the move.

I told him that the us embassy attorney that we met with in DC said that a transfer from Qatar is absolutely impossible without a prisoner transfer agreement between the countries, and he said that is hogwash (actually I don’t remember him using that word) but he said it happens all the time. I asked what it would cost for his help and if we need to draw up a contract—he said it won’t cost a dime, that it’s his pleasure to do so. And he would like to visit us in Arkansas!

Marg and I have an appt with Mr. Ponce at the Embassy at 10 this morning—wish us luck! Tomorrow we go back to the prison and will ask for a contact visit with John Wesley so we can deliver his new glasses (I will wear them in and exchange for mine that he borrowed) then again on Friday and Monday the day I leave. The Dohohues want to have a BBQ this weekend, we have a couple of lunch dates, and hopefully we will have time to so something fun, maybe ride a camel! Haven’t had time to type John’s story for rosenose yet but if anyone wants to write him a little note, we will print them out and make a special delivery!! Hint, hint Ma! Received a couple of great notes from Nick and Tom this am and are excited to get them to John.

We are so excited about pushing for a transfer to the US. Margaret and the boys are planning a protest in DC in August that we will organize over the summer. John Wesley is always smiling and joking about conditions at the prison, but I have never seen a more horrible place to lock up a man. Concrete and endless dirt. Everything is the same color, tan. Not a single blade of grass or a tree, no birds, no water, no seasons, just a few pitiful, thin cats.

After our meeting with Majdalany last night, our host, Mr. Donohue met us at his bank downtown and helped us cash the traveler checks for John Wesley. We have to deliver cash to the jail and put it in an account for John so he can buy things there. We had tried several times, different banks, different days, etc. but had had no luck. Mr. Donohue is Kevin’s father, they are very much alike and very good at not taking no for an answer. We got out of the bank at 8pm, drove home exhausted, and so relieved to have some of our chores done. Now we have a few more things to find for John Wesley, coffee maker, bucket for washing clothes—it will be fun shopping at the Souk!!

Gotta go wake marg up. She is the sweetest travel companion and best GPS! We go absolutely anywhere and have great fun doing it! This is a trip I will never forget!


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