Persecuted Qatari tribe renew protests in Geneva

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Sheikha Moza did not leave the building until the demonstration was over. (File/AFP)
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The protesters had gathered outside the conference (Supplied)
Updated 06 March 2019
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Persecuted Qatari tribe renew protests in Geneva

  • Activists were distributing leaflets to delegates which highlighted their plight
  • Qatari regime was offended by the demonstration

JEDDAH:  Members of a Qatari family persecuted by the regime in Doha renewed their protests on Tuesday at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva.
For more than 20 years the Al-Ghufrans have been systematically stripped of their citizenship, suffered discrimination and forced displacement, and been denied basic health, education and social services.
The Al-Ghufrans are part of the Al-Murrah tribe, supporters of Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, the former emir of Qatar who was deposed in 1995 in a coup by his son, Sheikh Hamad. The family have been persecuted since then.
“These violations that started in 1996 are still ongoing,” said Dr. Ali Al-Marri, a delegation leader. “They are mainly committed by the Qatari Ministry of Interior and the alleged private Human Rights Committee.”
He stressed the seriousness of the violations, which “contradict the International Convention of Human Rights and all the international human-rights pacts,” and added: “Depriving the tribe members of their nationality in such an unprecedented manner comes as the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights and the rest of the UN and international organizations are stepping up their efforts to counter statelessness.”
Another protester, Sheikh Rashid Al-Omra, said: “The tribe has always been a main part of the Qatari social tissue. What they endured under Hamad’s rule was systematic and a result of them standing by his father, Sheikh Khalifa, during the coup.”
He accused the Hamad regime, through the Ministry of Interior, of violating the rights of tribe members in a number of ways: “They followed them as they headed to pray, broke into their homes and dragged them to police stations in front of their wives and children. These practices contradict basic religious rules, and Arab and social traditions.”
Saleh Al-Hamran, a former personal guard to Sheikh Khalifa, was denied re-entry to Qatar after a vacation in Kuwait in 1996, and told that his citizenship had been withdrawn.
He asked international human rights organizations for help to be reunited with his family. 
“The nationalities of 27 members of Al-Hamran family have been withdrawn for no reason,” he said. “I am ready to stand trial in Qatar before world public opinion if I am found to have committed any crime.”
Naser Al-Manee Al-Ghufrani told how he lost his job and home and was forced into exile after the withdrawal of his nationality.
“My nationality was withdrawn while I was in Abu Dhabi in 1996,” he said. “I consulted the Qatari Embassy, where I was informed of the decision. After our passports expired, were could not go anywhere. We were not able to provide treatment for our father or find jobs, to have a decent life.”
Earlier, the tribe staged a protest outside the Geneva International Conference Center as it hosted a conference attended by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Sheikh Hamad’s wife. The protesters distributed leaflets illustrating their persecution, to the irritation of Qatari regime officials inside.
They told of the tribe’s suffering and condemned the failure of Qatar’s National Committee for Human Rights to comply with the “Paris Principles” that regulate the independence of national human-rights institutions. They called upon the global community and international rights organizations to support their cause.
“This can be achieved by holding those responsible for our suffering accountable, compensating us financially and morally, in addition to protecting our children in the face of any attempt to dissuade them from claiming their rights in front of international organizations and the public,” the delegation said in its leaflet.
Sheikha Moza and her party refused to leave the building until the protesters dispersed. 
The conference was organized by Silatech, a Qatari initiative that seeks to create jobs for young Arabs. The Al-Ghufran protesters drew attention to the irony of the Qatari government helping young people find employment while denying those same rights to its own indigenous people.
 


In Syria’s Idlib, education a casualty of war

A displaced Syrian girl carries books on her head near a bus converted into a classroom in the village of Hazano in northwestern Syria. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2019

In Syria’s Idlib, education a casualty of war

  • The conditions are dire however, with camp manager Hammud Al-Sayah explaining initial planning was done for 50 children, yet attendees now top 375

HAZANO, SYRIA: Near the village of Hazano in northwestern Syria, children come running through the olive groves every morning to meet the bus that brings school to their improvised tented camp.
Years of fighting and displacement in Idlib province have wrought chaos for the education of children, destroying schools and scattering families into homelessness across the countryside.
More than 400,000 people have been displaced since April alone, when the Russian-backed regime upped its deadly bombardment of the opposition-dominated enclave.
“These children can’t go to school, it’s too far from where they are,” said Farid Bakir, a local program manager with Syria Relief, the charity that launched the bus project.
In Hazano camp, the children get in line and hope to be among those who squeeze into the bus for a few hours.
A whiteboard is installed in the back, a thick carpet laid on the floor and a few dozen small desks, also used as chairs, are rearranged depending on the activity.
The ceiling is too low for the teacher to stand fully upright but Hussein Ali Azkour, a young boy wearing a yellow T-shirt, is enthusiastic about his classroom-on-wheels.
“The difference between a normal school and the bus, is that the bus is air-conditioned. It’s better than a thousand schools,” he said.
“When we fled here, there was no school and they started bringing the buses. If these buses were to stop coming, we would have no education and learn nothing.”
The buses cater only for ages ranging from five to 12 and include classes in Arabic, mathematics, science and sometimes English, as well as singing and drawing.
Since the project was launched in May, around 1,000 children have benefitted from the bus program, Bakir said.
That is a drop in the ocean of problems children, who represent more than half of the Idlib region’s 3 million inhabitants, are facing. According to Save the Children, the heavy bombardment since late April has damaged or otherwise impacted 87 educational facilities, while a further 200 are being used as shelters for those the violence displaced.
The UK-based NGO says some parents have been pleading with them to shut down schools for fear they would be targeted in regime air strikes.
“As the new school year starts, the remaining functional schools can only accommodate up to 300,000 of the 650,000 school-age children,” it said.
Ragheb Hassoun’s children are among the few who have been fortunate enough to receive a few hours a week of lessons through the bus project, but he says the situation is not tenable.
“We want something permanent — a school on the land where we live,” the 28-year-old said.
He and his family have been displaced several times since the start of the conflict in Syria eight years ago.

NUMBER 300K

schoolchildren out of the 650,000 can be accommodated in the remaining functional schools as the new school year starts, according to Save the Children.

Hassoun said he would be happy if his children could at least go to school during normal hours in a tent at the camp.
This is what children have in a larger camp near Dana, north of the city of Idlib, where the local school is housed under two large UN tents.
The conditions are dire however, with camp manager Hammud Al-Sayah explaining initial planning was done for 50 children, yet attendees now top 375.
Books underarm — or with bags strapped to backs — pupils are squeezed around black desks, while those unable to find a seat perch cross-legged on the floor.
Children who are four or five years apart attend the same classes.
“The pressure is huge,” Sayah said, admitting that the schooling conditions have a serious impact on the quality of education.
At 10 years of age, Abdel Razaq knows that his education is being compromised.
Standing in front of the white tent he has come to call his school, he said he dreams of a big building “where the number of children in each class is lower.”
“And where we could sit comfortably and hear what the teachers are saying.”