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)) 

Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

Updated 26 min 26 sec ago

Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

  • Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley
  • Demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”

BEIRUT: Hundreds of people took to the streets across Lebanon on Thursday to protest dire economic conditions after a government decision to tax calls made on messaging applications sparked widespread outrage.
Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, in its southern suburbs, in the southern city of Sidon, in the northern city of Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Across the country, demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”
Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tires, while others massed near the interior ministry in central Beirut, NNA said.
“We elected them and we will remove them from power,” one protester told a local TV station.
Public anger has simmered since parliament passed an austerity budget in July, with the aim of trimming the country’s ballooning deficit.
The situation worsened last month after banks and money exchange houses rationed dollar sales, sparking fears of a currency devaluation.
The government is assessing a series of further belt-tightening measures it hopes will rescue the country’s ailing economy and secure $11 billion in aid pledged by international donors last year.
And it is expected to announce a series of additional tax hikes in the coming months as part of next year’s budget.
On Wednesday, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products.
Earlier on Thursday, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah announced a 20 cent daily fee for messaging app users who made calls on platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber — a move meant to boost the cash-strapped state’s revenues.
The decision approved by cabinet on Wednesday will go into effect on January 1, 2020, he told reporters after a cabinet session, adding that the move will bring $200 million annually into the government’s coffers.
Lebanese digital rights group SMEX said the country’s main mobile operators are already planning to introduce new technology that will allow them to detect whether users are trying to make Internet calls using their networks.
“Lebanon already has some of the highest mobile prices in the region,” SMEX said on Twitter.
The latest policy “will force users to pay for Internet services twice,” it added.
TechGeek365, another digital rights group, said it contacted WhatsApp and Facebook regarding the matter.
“A spokesperson mentioned that if the decision is taken, it would be a direct violation of their ToS (terms of service),” it said.
“Profiting from any specific functionality within WhatsApp is illegal,” it added on Twitter.
But SMEX said that the 20 cent fee would be “a condition of data plans” offered by mobile operators.
“Also, Facebook previously complied with a social media tax in Uganda, which is effectively the same thing,” it said on Twitter.
Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86 billion — higher than 150 percent of GDP — according to the finance ministry.
Eighty percent of that figure is owed to Lebanon’s central bank and local banks.