Doha ‘losing fight for US public opinion’

Updated 14 August 2017

Doha ‘losing fight for US public opinion’

LONDON: Qatar is losing its battle to win favorable public opinion in the US, with more than a third of Americans linking Doha with accusations of terror financing, an Arab News/YouGov poll has found.
The poll of 2,263 US citizens, conducted in July, suggests that Qatar is “failing miserably” in its effort to convince Americans it is in the right over the row with its Arab neighbors, according to one analyst.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar two months ago, accusing Doha of supporting terror groups and meddling with their internal affairs.

The Arab News/YouGov poll found that 71 percent of Americans are aware, to various extents, of the diplomatic row.
It also found that those who are aware of it have a good understanding of the reasons behind the crisis, with 67 percent correctly identifying the factors behind it.
In the wake of the diplomatic row, the poll found that the US public view Qatar in a negative light.
Just 27 percent of Americans consider Qatar as a friend or ally to the US, while 31 percent consider Qatar to be an enemy of their country. Almost half either don’t know or are unsure about how to classify the relationship with Doha. 
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said that the data show that Qatar is losing the fight for American public opinion.
“The numbers make a fairly strong case that despite its best efforts, Qatar is failing miserably in attempting to convince Americans that it is in the right,” Shahbandar told Arab News.

“Perhaps Doha would be best served in saving the millions that it will spend in its public relations campaign in the US and instead just do the right thing and agree to meaningful steps that end financial support to terror and extremist incitement.”
Shahbandar added that the poll has helped clarify where Americans stand on the diplomatic rift between Doha and the Anti-Terror Quartet — namely Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.

“Deciding who was the villain and which side stood by principles that coincided with US strategic interests was no easy matter for thought leaders and your average American voter. That said, the recent data from YouGov has helped crystalize just where the American public stands — and the data is damning for the Qatari side,” he said.
Shahbandar pointed to the millions of dollars that Doha spends on lobbying and public relations campaigns in the US — much of which is centered around the US military presence in Qatar.
The Al-Udeid Air Base currently hosts more than 11,000 American soldiers. However, 49 percent of Americans say they are unsure if it is best for the base to remain there, while 20 percent thought that it should be moved somewhere else, according to the Arab News/YouGov poll. Only 31 percent said the base should remain in Qatar.

“The center of the Qatari media strategy is to highlight to the American public the defense cooperation between the two countries — anchored by the presence in Qatar of Al-Udeid Air Base,” Shahbandar said.

“Despite that, 43 percent of Americans are unsure if Qatar is an ally or an enemy of the US. This is a startling find ... that a country which has hosted thousands of American military men and women for over a decade is still unable to garner the goodwill of the American public.”

The poll found that very few US citizens associate Qatar with the 2022 World Cup, with more making the link to the terror financing allegations against Doha.

“What should concern Doha is that of those Americans who were aware of the crisis, a significant amount (two-thirds) of those polled blamed Qatar for initiating the dispute due to support of terror groups,” Shahbandar said.
“The Qatari public relations narrative has attempted to paint the dispute as a result of an effort by the Anti-Terror Quartet Arab states to impose control over Doha’s sovereignty. Nonetheless, that line seems to have fallen on deaf ears amongst a wide swath of Americans.”

• For full report and related articles please visit : YouGov Qatar Poll

Award-winning Palestinian photographer ‘dies in Syria jail’

Updated 52 min 12 sec ago

Award-winning Palestinian photographer ‘dies in Syria jail’

  • Niraz Saied was arrested by security forces in October 2015

BEIRUT: An award-winning Palestinian-Syrian photographer who documented life in the Yarmuk refugee camp in southern Damascus has died after nearly three years in regime detention, his partner said on Monday.
Niraz Saied, who himself hailed from the Palestinian camp, was arrested by security forces in October 2015.
His longtime partner, Lamis Alkhateeb, wrote on Facebook on Monday that Saied had died while in detention. He was believed to be 27 years old.
“There’s nothing harder than writing these words, but Niraz doesn’t die in silence,” wrote Alkhateeb, who lives in Germany.
“They killed my darling, my husband, my Niraz — they killed you, my soul. Niraz died in the Syrian regime’s prisons,” she wrote.
It was not clear how Alkhateeb had learned of Saied’s death, and she did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for additional comment.
Their relationship had formed part of the 2014 film “Letters from Yarmuk,” which featured clips filmed by Saied of daily life in the battered, besieged camp.
That same year, Saied won a photography competition run by the United Nations’ Palestinian agency (UNRWA) with a snapshot titled “The Three Kings.”
It depicted the downtrodden faces of three brothers waiting to be evacuated from the camp for medical treatment.
“You can’t find a complete family in the refugee camp,” Saied said after winning the award.
“I used to feel that in every portrait of a Palestinian family you could see the shadow of a person missing, and that is why my photos are dimly lit. But there is always hope.”
Yarmuk was once a thriving southern district of Syria’s capital home to more than 160,000 Palestinian refugees as well as Syrians.
Syria’s government imposed a crippling siege on it in 2012 and activists inside — including Saied — documented the dire humanitarian situation with photographs of gaunt families waiting for aid.
The Daesh group overran the camp in 2015. In May, after a blistering government assault, the ruins of the camp returned to government control.
Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been forcibly disappeared since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011, the vast majority by government forces.
Rights groups have accused the regime of large-scale torture and extrajudicial killing in its prisons.
Families of detainees often hear nothing after the arrest, but in recent months some are discovering their detained relatives have been officially registered as deceased.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said that within less than a month, some 28 families were either informed their detained relative was dead or told to come retrieve the body.
Hundreds more discovered their relative was recorded as “deceased” by government agencies while filing other kinds of paperwork.
Saied’s childhood friend Ahmad Abbasi described him as “the finest person I knew.”
“In the early days of his detention, we heard that he was still alive. Then we didn’t know anything.”