Qatar’s opposition finds voice in London

September 17, 2017
Exiled Qatari opposition activist Khalid al-Hail (R) and Turgut Oglu former editor of Zaman newspaper at the ‘Qatar, Global Security & Stability’ in London, on September 14. (The Arab Weekly)

London- Despite heavy security and intimidation at­tempts, the Qatar, Glob­al Security & Stability Conference in London went off without a hitch, bringing together opposition figures in re­cord numbers to voice their vision of a better tomorrow for the coun­try.

The event was also attended by international politicians, aca­demics and media figures. Exiled Qatari opposition activist Khalid al-Hail, who organised the confer­ence, said it was aimed at “convey­ing the voice of Qatari people who seek freedom and reject the police state.”

The gathering, he added, was committed to “revealing the regime that has supported terrorism and transformed the country into a big jail.”

“The Qatari authorities have done their best to ban the confer­ence through intimidation, threats and fake media reports,” he added.

British MP Daniel Kawczynski, who attended the conference, said he wanted “to understand better why and how such a small country like Qatar has managed to create so much instability and tension not just within the GCC, but Egypt as well.”

Kawczynski went on to say that many individuals were afraid to at­tend the meeting because of major Qatari investments in the United Kingdom. “But then we have to remember how our Arab partners feel if we were to ignore these con­cerns,” he added.

The conference was made up of five sessions, each addressing dif­ferent issues related to Qatar. Sub­jects included the country’s alleged support for radical Islamist groups, its relationship with Iran and its foreign policy objectives viewed by many in the region as a source of instability.

Other sessions focused on Doha’s human rights record, particularly relating to its bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Qatar has come under criticism for the alleged abuse of migrant workers involved in prepa­ration for the event.

Former Al Jazeera Bureau Chief Mohamed Fahmy said he attended the event because he would like to see a Qatar that respects press free­doms and human rights and does not support militant and terrorist groups across the region.

“At the moment we have Iran, Syria and Sudan and North Korea, who are considered states spon­soring terrorism, and Qatar should be on the list with these countries, and I see people here talking about this debate,” Fahmy told The Arab Weekly.

The conference in London came as the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its allies was well into its third month, with no clear end in sight. A couple of days before the conference, an Arab League meeting in Cairo resulted in a shouting match between envoys of the countries involved in the dis­pute. Tensions erupted after Doha’s representative called his country’s critics “rabid dogs” in a speech.

In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Doha over what they described as Qatar’s in­terference in their countries’ inter­nal affairs and support for radical groups such as Hamas, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. Me­diation efforts have yet to yield any results.

Writing in the pan-Arab daily, Asharq Al-Awsat, Saudi analyst Mashari al-Zaydi said the Cairo in­cident encapsulated Doha’s “dead­ly affliction.” He accused Qatar of “stubbornness and pretending to be clever, shouting in the media, misplaced trust and railing against glaring truths.”