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

The London conference was organized by Khalid Al-Hail, spokesman for Qatar National Democratic Party.
Updated 14 September 2017
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Qatari exiles in UK make plea for end to ‘suffering’

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.
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.


First Arab-EU summit billed as chance to cooperate in troubled region

Updated 40 min 17 sec ago
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First Arab-EU summit billed as chance to cooperate in troubled region

  • President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will host the two-day summit in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh
  • EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the gathering is about much more than migration
CAIRO: European and Arab leaders are to hold their first summit Sunday, in what the top EU diplomat sees as a chance to boost cooperation across a troubled Mediterranean region.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will host the two-day summit in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss topics like security, trade, development and migration.
Wars and conflicts in places such as Syria and Libya are on the agenda at a summit guarded by the security forces who are fighting a bloody jihadist insurgency a short distance to the north.
But analysts voiced doubts over how much progress can be made, with Europe split over migration and Arab countries still grappling with the fallout from Arab Spring revolutions.
European leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria in September amid efforts to agree ways to curb the illegal migration that has sharply divided the 28-nation bloc.
But checking migration is only part of Europe’s broader strategy to forge a new alliance with its southern neighbors.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini insists that the gathering in Egypt of more than 40 heads of state and government is about much more than migration.
“We will have frank, open discussions, not only on migration, definitely not,” Mogherini told journalists in Brussels on Monday.
“We will have first of all discussions on our economic cooperation, on our common region,” she said.
“That is a troubled region but also full of opportunities.”
Attending will be Donald Tusk, president of the European Council of EU member countries, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.
EU officials said 25 European heads of state and government will attend.
These include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who could also discuss the stalemate over Brexit on the sidelines.
Apart from El-Sisi, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will attend from the 22-member Arab League, which is based in Cairo. It is not yet clear who else will be present.
A UN official warned that Europe’s failure to bridge divisions on migration “risks blocking all the other discussions” at the summit.
“How do you discuss an issue if you can’t even mention it!” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He said EU countries like Hungary refuse to mention migration because they oppose asylum seekers and migrants, particularly from Muslim countries.
The EU has struck aid-for-cooperation agreements with Turkey and Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, which has sharply cut the flow of migrants since a 2015 peak.
But the official said broader cooperation with the Arab League, which includes Libya, is limited without the EU being able to speak in one voice.
Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Tunisia and Libya, said the summit will struggle “to establish a dialogue between two sides who are confronted with their own challenges.”
The meeting comes as “the Arab countries are still feeling the effects of the revolutions started in 2011,” Pierini told AFP.
“Arab League unity is in trouble,” said Pierini, now an analyst with the Carnegie Europe think tank.
With expectations low for EU-Arab progress, the focus may shift to EU efforts to break the logjam over Britain’s looming exit from the bloc on March 29.
Britain’s Philip Hammond said May would have an “opportunity” in Egypt to discuss Brexit with her EU counterparts who have balked at her requests for concessions to sell the divorce to her parliament.
But officials in Brussels and London have played down the prospect of a Brexit “deal in the desert” to try to ensure an orderly departure.