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

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)) 


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 21 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”