With reporting by Riham Sheble
Over the weekend, several senior Muslim Brotherhood members announced that they will be leaving Qatar – a development that is being seen by many as a sign of mending relations between the Gulf country and its neighbors.
However, despite the imminent departure of the leaders, Doha continues to be home to dozens of the organization’s members.
On Saturday, Amr Darrag – a senior Brotherhood leader – said he he was honoring a request by local authorities to relocate outside the country “to avoid causing any embarrassment for the State of Qatar,” which he described as “a very welcoming and supportive host.”
He did not indicate when he and his colleagues would leave the country.
Qatar has not made any official announcement regarding the pending departure, but reports citing unnamed government sources say the Brotherhood members are actually leaving voluntarily and are not being forced out.
Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood has been a source of friction between it and other GCC states, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Those countries view the Brotherhood’s brand of political Islam as a threat to the authority of their own governments and have banned the organization, designating it a terrorist group.
The Qatar government, meanwhile, allows Brotherhood members to operate freely in the country, and state-funded Al Jazeera has been accused of having a pro-Brotherhood editorial bias.
It’s unclear what impact the departure of the seven Brotherhood members will have on the organization’s operations in Qatar, where “dozens” of their colleagues are still based, according to Andrew Hammond, an analyst with European Council on Foreign Relations.
He told AFP that the apparent ousting is likely a compromise measure does not indicate that Qatar is changing course.
“I don’t think it signals a major shift in policy, it looks like incremental concessions to placate (Qatar’s) neighbours and prevent the dispute from getting out of hand,” he said.
Similarly, Jabir al-Harami – the editor-in-chief of Al Sharq newspaper, who said he was asked by the Qatar government to speak publicly about the issue – suggested that the Brotherhood still has a critical mass in Qatar.
Speaking to Al Jazeera’s Egyptian broadcasting arm, he argued the fact that so few Brotherhood members were leaving Qatar is proof that they men are departing voluntarily and were not forced to exit.
“It is unrealistic that the Muslim Brotherhood in Qatar is only seven people … History has shown us that Qatar does not succumb to pressure and that when Doha takes a decision, it is one that is out of conviction.”
Al-Harami’s comments run counter to the argument that this is a pragmatic move aimed at improving relations within the Gulf.
Qatar supported former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood party and was deposed by the military last year. That put Qatar offside with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both of which favor the current government.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as Bahrain, withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March as a public rebuke of Qatar’s foreign policy. While tensions are believed to still be simmering, GCC ministers publicly declared the dispute resolved in April and again last month.
How the feud was resolved has not been made public. However, several reports have speculated that Qatar’s expulsion of senior Muslim Brotherhood members is a key component of the agreement.
All seven of the Muslim Brotherhood members leaving Qatar are Egyptian, according to Al Sharq, which cited the Turkish news agency Anadolu. They are:
- Mahmud Husein, secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood;
- Amr Darrag, an executive member of the Freedom and Justice Party – the Brotherhood’s political wing – and former minister of Mursi;
- Hamza Zawbaa, another executive member of the Freedom and Justice Party;
- Ashraf Badr-al-din, a member of the party’s supreme committee;
- Gamal Abd al-Sattar, the former undersecretary of the Egyptian Ministry of Endowments;
- Wagdi Ghoneim, a preacher;
- Isam Tillima, known to be an Islamic scholar.
After the news broke, Zawbaa tweeted his appreciation for Qatar’s support:
خير الكلام ما قل ودل
شكرا قطرالتي استضافتنا واكرمت وفادتنا
ولا ينكر المعروف الا حاقد أو جاهل
والحمد لله الذذي عافانا من هاتين الخصلتين
— د. حمزة زوبع (@drzawba) September 13, 2014
(Translation: Since brevity is a virtue, I’ll be brief: Thanks to Qatar for its generosity in hosting us. It’s only spiteful ingrates or ignorant individuals who deny good deeds and thanks be to Allah, we are neither.)
It’s not clear where the men will go after they leave Qatar. One source close to the Brotherhood in Qatar told Doha News that a likely destination is Turkey, which has been called a “regional hub” for the Brotherhood’s international organization.
Late last month, Darrag tweeted a photo with a caption saying he was meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan – who happened to be in Doha today meeting with Qatar’s Emir.
لقاءي مع اردوغان ضمن وفد المجلس الثوري المصري pic.twitter.com/TD70uqPOOC
— Amr Darrag (@amr_darrag) August 27, 2014
(Translation: Meeting with Erdogan as a member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council)
So this is happening to please Saudi, but they’re making it clear that they’re not changing course, and they’re not evicting them just asking them to relocate to another friendly country, and there’s many others still here. Am I missing something?
Nope, you got it spot on I think. Typical GCC/Arab Politics at play.
Qatar some what caved into pressure from Saudi Arabia to deport members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were actively targeting the current government of Egypt. Egypt and the UAE have been aggressively lobbying Riyadh to influence Doha to stop supporting these individuals.
There are still several dozen members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Doha, however they are not politically active and are not openly taking aim at Sisi’s government.
Though Qatar didn’t outright “kick” them out, they have asked them to leave within a week. Qatar is working with a leading London legal firm to try to secure political asylum for these members in the UK and to ensure London does not extradite them back to Egypt. Other members will also be moving to Norway and perhaps Turkey and Malaysia.
“to try to secure political asylum for these members in the UK ” Surely this is a joke. Does anyone seriously think that the British Government would grant asylum to members of the Muslim Brotherhood? Could anyone in Qatar really be so ignorant of how the Muslim Brotherhood is viewed in the UK? The government would fall.
You’re certainly not up to speed with the latest news. Do you know the EU, UK and USA do not list the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. They are also the legitamate political party which won in Egypt’s first democratic election and were deposied by a military coup.
Only the current Egyptian government, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have banned them. I also think Jordan, but I’m not sure.
And given UK’s record of taking them all in, I see this as no suprise.
I’ll return to this post once the individuals are in London.
Following the murder of David Haines by IS, which incidentally has not even been mentioned in the Doha News commentary, any proposal to admit members of MD to the UK would result in riots in the streets. It doesn’t matter that MB isn’t IS, it is seen as part of the problem. MB may well not be listed as a Terrorist organisation, but really, Britons don’t care, people are so appalled at what has happened in the name of Islam.
Hizbulla also won elections in Iran and in Lebanon. From what I know and the world agrees to, Hizbulla is a terrorist organization. Hamas is a terrorist organization too. I am sorry but any party that kills civilians or destroys infrastructure in the name of God or Islam is terrorist by default. This is 2014 not 1014 sir.
I do respect your opinion though.
Wait did you confuse the MB with ISIS …
I wouldnt be surpirsed if they turn up in Londonistan.
Well it seems the Muslim Brotherhood is not popular in the UK at the moment…. so it seems unlikely they will agree to take them. Why not France, they have taken plenty of Qatari money in the past I guess they owe Qatar something.
Good news for Qatar but it looks like bad for Turkey. The last thing that country needs is religious problems being stirred up by these men being there.
Congratulations to Qatar and its citizens for kicking out these terrorists from their country. This is a great step to combat terror.