Browsing 'Politics' News

Abdul Baset Thajudeen/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar is committed to defeating terrorism in all its forms, contrary to a recent “orchestrated campaign” that asserts otherwise, a government official has said.

In a statement this week, the director of the Government Communications Office (GCO) denounced a series of opinion pieces recently published in US media.

Recent op-eds on Qatar

Over the past month, more than half a dozen op-eds have urged a rethink of ties to Qatar. They allege that the government sympathizes with or overlooks the actions of extremist groups in the region.

The pieces ran ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, which kicked off yesterday.

Qatar’s Emir is set to meet Trump in Riyadh today.

Championing causes

In one op-ed, published in US News & World Reports last week, Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council highlighted Qatar’s relationship with Hamas, a group on the US’s designated terrorist list.

Salman Siddiqui/Twitter

Former Taliban office in Doha.

He also pointed out the hosting of Taliban leaders in Doha and Qatar’s purported ties to Syria’s Nusra Front.

Berman added:

“What drives Qatar’s duplicitous policy? Perhaps it is simply an attempt by the kingdom’s savvy emir to navigate the volatile politics of the region, where one keeps his friends close but his enemies closer.

Maybe, however, it is an accurate reflection of the Qatari government’s enduring conception of itself as a champion of radical Islamic causes, notwithstanding its close ties to the West.”

‘Absurd’ claims

The GCO’s Director Sheikh Saif Al Thani however called such claims “absurd,” saying that Qatar is actually a target for terrorist groups.

MOI

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

“They threaten the peace and stability of our region and they put our national sovereignty at risk,” he said, adding:

“Which is why it is absurd to suggest that Qatar would either aid and abet those seeking to finance these extremist groups or harbor an Al Qaeda mastermind, as the anti-Qatar campaigners have recently alleged.”

Qatar actually helps fight terrorism in the region by participating in coalitions such as the US-led one against ISIS, Al Thani said.

Additionally, officials are working to support education, reconstruction and economic development programs throughout the Middle East.

Education Above All/Facebook

A child helped by Qatar non-profit Education Above All

Emir Sheikh Tamim previously said hopelessness due to a lack of opportunities was among the root causes of terrorism.

Foreign minister speaks out

Qatar has long fended off allegations that it supports extremist groups in the region.

However, government officials have previously pointed out that Qatar and other countries may have different definitions of what constitutes a terrorist group.

MBA_AlThani/Twitter

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani

In a recent interview with Arab News, Qatar’s Foreign Minister took the same approach.

When asked why Qatar doesn’t classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, as the UAE and Saudi Arabia do, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said:

“The question is whether the data or information that led these GCC countries to classify the organization as such is the same information available to Qatar?

No it is not, and thus we have not placed the Brotherhood on the terrorist list because we have not obtained proof that the Muslim Brotherhood present in the state of Qatar are planning terrorist activities against Qatar.”

Al Thani was also asked about why it does not honor Egypt’s demand for controversial scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi to be extradited.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi

To this, the minister said Al Qaradawi is protected by Qatari citizenship.

“The Qatari constitution does not allow for the submission of any Qatari citizen to foreign judiciary, be it in an Arab or non-Arab country.”

Thoughts?

Nepal Embassy in Doha/Facebook

Ambassador Ramesh Prasad Koirala

One of Qatar’s largest expat communities welcomed their long-awaited ambassador to the country this week.

Nepal’s Ramesh Prasad Koirala presented his credentials to authorities in Qatar on Wednesday.

He fills a post that has been left vacant for the past four years, following the abrupt departure of his predecessor in 2013.

Nepal Embassy in Doha/Facebook

Nepal Embassy in Doha

There are now more than 350,000 Nepalis in Qatar, accounting for roughly 13.5 percent of the population.

That makes the Nepali community the second largest in the country, after Indian expats.

Expanding community

Speaking to the Qatar Tribune, Nepali leaders said they are pleased to finally have official representation again in Doha.

They also expressed hope that work can start on Qatar’s first Nepali school, as well as a cultural center.

Wikipedia

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

“Now, we have somebody who can address our concerns about the welfare of our community,” the newspaper quoted Sushmita Ghoshal, President of the Nepali Women’s Association, as saying.

Ensuring workers’ rights is also on the agenda.

In January this year, Nepal’s Foreign Minister met with the Emir in Qatar, and suggested the construction of temporary shelters for Nepalis who are having work problems.

He also urged the country to set up a better mechanism for these expats to complain when they aren’t paid by employers.

‘Open jail’

Not much information is publicly available about Koirala, except that he was nominated for the post by ruling party Nepali Congress.

Diplomatically speaking, the new ambassador will have his work cut out for him.

Nepali expats in Doha have been the subject of intense international interest since Qatar was selected as the host of the 2022 World Cup.

Richard Messenger/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Many visiting journalists have zeroed in on human rights abuses affecting the group, which is comprised mostly of blue-collar workers.

But embassy officials have had to tread carefully when asked questions about worker treatment in Qatar.

One cautionary tale is Nepal’s previous envoy in Doha, Dr. Maya Kumari Sharma. She was recalled by her government in September 2013, less than halfway into her term.

BBC Sajha Sawal

Video still of Maya Kumari Sharma

At issue appeared to be frank remarks Sharma made to the BBC earlier that year, calling Qatar “an open jail.”

Local officials complained about the comment, and she eventually apologized.

Thoughts?

Lesley Walker / Doha News

US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith at the election results reception

US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith raised eyebrows this week after posting a tweet that appeared to criticize President Donald Trump and his government.

Smith, a career diplomat who began her Doha post in 2014, tweeted that it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to explain US democracy and institutions to others.

The post came just a few hours after news broke that Trump had fired FBI director James Comey. The FBI had been investigating potential ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russian officials.

The US Embassy has not yet responded to a request for comment about the tweet.

But the message has gotten nearly 10,000 likes on Twitter. However, it also drew criticism from people who said it was inappropriate for diplomats to criticize the president.

In apparent response to the backlash, Smith explained the next day that she is regularly called upon “to explain and defend” her nation’s political system.

She added that this is particularly difficult “when partisan acrimony is so high.”

A career diplomat

Shortly after Trump was sworn in as president in January, he fired all US Ambassadors who had been directly appointed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

MOFA

Assistant Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Meraikhi with US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith.

However, Smith remained in her post, as she was not a political appointment.

At the time, the US Embassy in Qatar told Doha News that as such, Smith “looked forward to continuing her service to the United States as Ambassador to Qatar under the next Administration.”

Strong ties

Many in the US and internationally were shocked when Trump won the election in November, instead of his opponent Hillary Clinton.

At the time, the US Embassy held an early breakfast reception at the W Doha to watch the results coming in.

Donald J. Trump/Facebook

US President Donald Trump

Smith wore a cream-colored pant suit – a possible nod to Clinton’s outfit of choice – and sought to reassure people about Qatar-US ties, saying:

“Our relationship is strong today and will continue to be after our next president is inaugurated.”

Smith is fluent in Arabic and has served in the UAE, Jordan, Israel, the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Taiwan during her time with the US State Department.

Thoughts?