Qatari ex­iles in UK make plea for end to ‘suf­fer­ing’

London con­fer­ence hears of Doha’s al­leged sup­port of ter­ror groups Coun­try is ‘har­bor­ing fugi­tives and ex­trem­ists,’ says op­po­si­tion fig­ure

Arab News - - FRONT PAGE - BEN FLANA­GAN

The op­po­si­tion event was held in London amid high se­cu­rity, with some speak­ing about their plight pub­licly for the first time.

In a panel dis­cus­sion chaired by the vet­eran BBC jour­nal­ist John Simp­son, one Qatari ex­ile de­scribed how he had been stripped of his cit­i­zen­ship.

Mo­hammed Al-Murri made a plea for Saudi Ara­bia and the UK to help. He asked the UK, with its his­tory of democ­racy, to ad­dress the hu­man rights is­sues in Qatar in or­der to “put an end to our suf­fer­ing,” he told the con­fer­ence.

“All of us were de­prived of our pass­ports … It is im­pos­si­ble for us to ac­cept this,” he said.

It emerged ear­lier this week that Qatar has stripped 55 mem­bers of the Al-Mur­rah tribe of their cit­i­zen­ship, in­clud­ing its head Sheikh Taleb, in a move slammed as “col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment” by hu­man rights groups. It fol­lows a pre­vi­ous move by Doha to force 6,000 tribal mem­bers to flee the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Al-Murri claimed to be re­lated to Sheikh Taleb, al­though this could not im­me­di­ately be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied. “Un­for­tu­nately the Qataris took away the na­tion­al­ity from the … tribe,” he told the con­fer­ence in London. “Even though we are Qataris through and through, we are suf­fer­ing.”

Al-Murri said his fa­ther had been im­pris­oned in Qatar, while he had not been able to see his mother be­fore she died. “My fa­ther was tor­tured,” he said. “My mother suf­fered from can­cer un­til she died, but we could not visit her … We have been suf­fer­ing for decades now and we would like to see a so­lu­tion.”

Al-Murri was ad­dress­ing the “Qatar, Global Se­cu­rity & Sta­bil­ity Con­fer­ence,” which was held amid the diplo­matic row be­tween Qatar and the Anti-Ter­ror Quar­tet — Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

Op­po­si­tion mem­ber Khalid Al-Hail, spokesman for the Qatar Na­tional Demo­cratic Party and or­ga­nizer of the con­fer­ence, re­it­er­ated claims that Qatar sup­ports ter­ror groups. Doha de­nies the charges. “I rep­re­sent the voice that is not be­ing lis­tened to by the world … The voice of the Qatari peo­ple,” he said.

Al-Hail said that Qatar sup­ports ter­ror groups like Al-Nusra Front — which is now known as Jab­hat Fateh Al-Sham — along with Al-Qaeda and the Mus­lim Brother­hood.

“Qatar is har­bor­ing fugi­tives and ex­trem­ists,” he claimed. Al-Hail also pointed to Qatar’s al­leged ties with Tehran, some­thing he be­lieves is at odds with the in­ter­ests of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil (GCC). “We had prob­lems be­cause Ira­ni­ans al­ways had their eye on Qatar… You can­not be a friend of Iran and claim to be a friend of the GCC,” he said.

“Most of the il­licit trade that finds its way into Qatari mar­kets come through Iran.”

The con­fer­ence also heard from Thomas Mace Archer-Mills, a con­sti­tu­tional ex­pert, who said Doha’s claims that the coun­try is a con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy amounts to “white­wash­ing.”

Qatar’s fund­ing of the Al Jazeera me­dia net­work was also raised at the London con­fer­ence, with for­mer em­ployee Mo­hammed Fahmy tak­ing aim at the chan­nel’s edi­to­rial line.

Fahmy worked in Cairo for Al Jazeera English, but was ar­rested and spent time in prison on charges that af­ter allegations, he and col­leagues filed re­ports that were dam­ag­ing to Egypt’s na­tional se­cu­rity.

Af­ter his re­lease Fahmy ini­ti­ated le­gal pro­ceed­ings against Al Jazeera; he told the London con­fer­ence that the net­work did not re­flect the con­cerns of Qatari cit­i­zens.

“They say ‘we are the voice of the voice­less.’ Where is the voice of the Qataris? Where is the voice of the Qatari op­po­si­tion?,” he said. “That is the prob­lem with Al Jazeera.”

The con­fer­ence in London was held amid tight se­cu­rity, with po­lice, snif­fer dogs and pri­vate se­cu­rity guards pa­trolling the site.

Or­ga­nizer Al-Hail said at­tempts had been made to pre­vent the event from go­ing ahead, and that he has fears about his per­sonal safety due to his op­po­si­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

“I fear for my life. I have a very big gen­uine fear of per­se­cu­tion from Qatar. I know what these guys are do­ing, and they have lots of bad his­tory,” he told Arab News in an in­ter­view ear­lier this week.

LONDON: Qatari ex­iles gath­ered at a con­fer­ence in the UK on Thurs­day called for in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance to end their “suf­fer­ing,” a day af­ter it emerged that Doha had stripped 55 na­tion­als of cit­i­zen­ship.

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