Wife of imprisoned Qatari royal tells of suffering of children at hands of regime

Asma Al-Rayyan says her family was targeted by the Doha regime because of family feuds and long-standing hostilities. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 08 March 2019
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Wife of imprisoned Qatari royal tells of suffering of children at hands of regime

  • Al-Rayyan listed a series of violations she said have been committed in revenge against the family by the regime of Qatar’s Emir

JEDDAH: Asma Al-Rayyan, the wife of Sheikh Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Thani, an imprisoned member of the Qatari royal family, on Thursday told how their children have suffered and been deprived of their rights. She said her family was targeted for revenge by the regime in Doha as a result of family feuds and long-standing hostilities.

She listed a series of violations she said have been committed in revenge against the family by the regime of Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. These include depriving the children of basic rights such as education, health care and proper housing. She accused the ruler of paying lip service in public to human rights and justice while subjecting her children to extreme hardship after imprisoning their father and freezing his assets.

Al-Rayyan, a German national, married Sheikh Talal in 2007. He is the eldest son of Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Hamad, one of the founders of Qatar, who died in exile in Saudi Arabia in 2008.

Speaking at the Geneva Press Club, while the United Nations Human Rights Council meets at the UN headquarters in the Swiss city, she said: “The suffering of my family, including the four children of Sheikh Talal, started with the death of my father-in-law, who also served as health minister in Qatar.”

There was a long-standing hostility within the royal family towards Sheikh Abdul Aziz, Al-Rayyan said, which has endured during the reigns of former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa and his son, Tamim. In revenge, Talal was imprisoned during the rule of both Hamad and Tamim, and is currently serving a 22-year sentence, imposed in 2013, after he was convicted of passing bad checks.

Al-Rayyan said that the suffering of Talal’s children — Al-Anoud, Al-Joharah, Abdullah and Ahmed — began after he was imprisoned, with demands that his debts be repaid. 

“Revenge was not limited to imprisoning the children’s father, but extended to putting us under enormous pressure,” she said. “We were forced to leave our house and were taken to a house that is not fit for human habitation, in a deserted area, with temperatures reaching 50°C, which exposed the young children to diseases, requiring them to get cortisone treatments for long periods.” 

Al-Rayyan said that she has documented her family’s suffering, with photographic and video evidence. She asked the Qatari authorities to move the family to another house, but was told that there is no reason to do so this was refused. She said Tamim’s regime has left her and the children destitute, with no money to find alternative accommodation on their own. The children suffered gravely and have been deprived of their basic human rights, she added, while Tamim’s regime attempted to force Talal to sign papers giving up his right to a position in the government.

The only person in Qatar allowed to make decisions is Tamim, Al-Rayyan said, who can strip anyone, even royals, of their rights. “No court can do anything about it,” she added.

Al-Rayyan said that Talal was framed and imprisoned because he had demanded improvements to human rights in Qatar. She added that the world must be told how Tamim “established his state on human rights while taking revenge on young children after imprisoning their father in retaliation.”

Meanwhile, also at the Geneva Press Club, Sudanese nanny Sahar Abul Baki Al-Sheikh told how she suffered at the hands of the regime in Doha for no other reason than she was looking after the children of Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim, who had fallen out of favor after publicly voicing his political views.

She said that she was harshly penalized by Tamim’s regime in 2017 after letting the children use her phone to speak to their father, who was abroad at the time. Security officers visited the palace to gather information, then later lured her out of the residence by saying that she had to collect a package from her employer.

Sudanese nanny Sahar Abul Baki Al-Sheikh described the ordeal she suffered at the hands of the regime in Doha. (Photo/Supplied)) 


Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Updated 21 July 2019
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Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

  • Actress and singer Zuhal Olcay was charged with insulting Erdogan using hand gestures at a concert in Istanbul in 2016
  • Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence, originally imposed last year but suspended

ANKARA: Accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lead to a jail sentence — even if the “insult” is in private, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence on actress and singer Zuhal Olcay, 61, after a complaint that she had changed lyrics of songs and used hand gestures to insult the president at a concert in Istanbul in 2016.

The revised lyrics said: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.” Olcay said she had changed the lyrics only because the president’s name fitted the rhyme.

The court confirmed a sentence originally imposed last year, which had been suspended. The singer is expected to spend up to three days in prison, before being released on probation.

“This case highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres.”

Louis Fishman Academic

“Zuhal Olcay is an artist with great stature, and this case shows that no one is out of reach of a judiciary that increasingly has little independence from the government,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News.

“The message is clear; artists in Turkey should be silent or face legal consequences that can be drawn out for years and eventually lead to prison,” said Fishman, an expert on Turkey.

He said it was significant that the hand gesture at the center of the case had happened at a private concert, and the prosecution began only after it was reported to police by someone in the audience.

“Therefore, this case also highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres,” he said. 

“In other words, there is a growing fear in Turkey of criticizing, or ‘defaming’ Erdogan, not only in public, but also in private. In both cases, vigilant citizens can report such alleged cases to the police.”