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'I fear for my life': Qatari opposition spokesperson on living in exile

Khalid Al-Hail
LONDON: A prominent Qatari opposition figure living in exile in London says he fears for his life, amid worries over his “bad history” with Doha and possible reprisals by Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers active in the UK.

Khalid Al-Hail, spokesman for the Qatar National Democratic Party, is organizing a conference in London this week that aims to put forward opposition views.

He has however been forced to keep the venue and most of the speakers secret to avoid the event being disrupted, on top of the wider security concerns he faces.

Al-Hail described how UK counterterror agents had to install safety measures in his home due to the perceived threat against him.

“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.

Al-Hail is a Qatari national and in his youth rubbed shoulders with many prominent people in the Gulf state. But as his concerns over a disconnect between the rulers and people grew, he became an increasingly active opposition voice.

He claims to have been asked to fly back to Qatar in 2014 at the “direct request” of the emir, only to be detained by security agents upon his arrival.

“I was arrested at the airport and detained for 22 days. They tortured me. I escaped and crossed illegally into Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Hail.

Speaking to Arab News at a London hotel, Al-Hail said he now needs 24-hour security, and claims to have received news of a fatwa issued against him by a controversial Doha-based Muslim Brotherhood cleric.

“Tell me how you would feel: Could you just walk in the street? … For me, that’s a big concern,” he said.

Al-Hail is the organizer of the “Qatar, Global Security & Stability Conference” slated for Thursday. It is being held amid the diplomatic row between Qatar and the Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — which accuses Doha of supporting terror groups.

“Qatar is … using the Muslim Brotherhood as a tool to influence the region,” Al-Hail said. “I call (the Muslim Brotherhood) an organized terror movement.”

He promises an “amazing” lineup of speakers at the conference but is keeping most secret due to fears that it will be disrupted.

“I have a very bad experience with the Qatari government, of hunting my speakers, making my life difficult … chasing the venues, trying to buy (them) out,” he said.

“They think that, because they could stop such a thing in Qatar, they could stop it in the UK.”

A “fake” organization has already written to British MPs in an attempt to halt the conference, Al-Hail said.

The London conference will not tell “lies” about Qatar, with its aim being purely to put forward opposition voices.

“We as Qataris don’t have the chance to do so. We don’t have a Parliament … it’s an absolute monarchy regime,” he said. “They never like the other point of view.”

Al-Hail was vague about the Qatar National Democratic Party membership numbers, but insisted the party is made up of a “decent number” of people, including some based in Qatar itself.

The party is strong enough “to change the regime” in Qatar, Al-Hail believes.

“The Qatar government keeps pretending that there is no crisis, there is no problem, that everything is fine, everything is under control, that people in Qatar are very supportive of the regime, which is not true,” he said.

“I just want a reformed Qatar … Yes, I’m concerned about my life. But this is my fight.”

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