* Sarhan Taheri Saadi: “The support of Doha and Tehran for extremism has undermined efforts to combat it in the Middle East.”
* Beige Fatini: “Qatar accepts international laws and treaties but does not apply its obligations regarding the rights and freedoms contained therein.”
* Iyad Shuaibi: “The attack by the media supported by Qatar on the role of the Arab alliance and security institutions as well as military intervention in southern Yemen, fiercer than the military attack launched by extremist organizations and their allies before clearing the area.”
* Carla Kiguin: “We are surprised at the silence on the terrorist campaign targeting the fabric of societies in the region.”
In a panel discussion organized by the Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) & Ecumenical Organization for Human Rights at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on the sidelines of the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council, human rights activists reviewed evidence of the involvement of the Qatari government in supporting extremist groups and destabilizing a number of Middle Eastern countries in the name of promoting democracy and human rights.
Qatar and Iran have faced sharp criticism about their role in supporting terrorism in the Middle East, amid calls for the international community to take firm action to stop such support if stability is to be achieved in the region and terrorism not to be spread throughout the world.
“The seminar is being held under sensitive international conditions and a complex security scene in the Middle East,” said Sarhan al-Taheri Saadi, the general coordinator of the federation. “The first is terrorism, that although confronted by all means, continues to find support not only from individuals or organizations, but also from countries which has undermined the confrontation with extremism. And this situation has forced a number of countries in the region to stand in the face of countries that play a destructive role of terrorism.” he added
He further said that “the most prominent countries that have become a cause of concern in the world, especially in the Middle East – Qatar, Iran and Turkey – has elevated the positions of extremist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood which raises many questions.”
Proofs against Qatar
Bijeh Fatini, a researcher on terrorist groups in the Middle East, presented what she views as evidence of Qatar’s involvement in supporting terrorism and the groups that promote it and adopt its ideas.
Fatini criticized Qatar for supporting rights and freedoms without committing itself to them. “It may be a positive step for the Qatari government to make some changes to the laws on rights,” she said. “The problem is that Qatar accepts international laws and treaties but does not apply its obligations regarding the rights and freedoms contained therein on the ground,” she added.
She cited an example of freedom of expression and said that the Qatari Constitution provided for freedoms, including freedom of expression. But the reality is that the island, for example, “does not cover the political situation inside Qatar.”
Fatini warned of the “trio” of Qatar, Iran and Turkey. She said these countries “support the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations that adopt an ideology hostile to humanity.”
A right intended to promote terrorism
The human rights researcher was surprised by the Qatari objections that Doha has no connection to the Brotherhood or any extremist figures who adopt violence. Fatini asked why “there is a clear Muslim Brotherhood influence within Qatar.”
Ayad al-Shuaibi, a Yemeni researcher specializing in Gulf Affairs, said there was no longer any doubt or explanation that Al-Jazeera was involved in supporting extremism and terrorism.
“Major media outlets such as Qatar’s Al-Jazeera have long adopted statements and speeches by many leaders of extremist organizations based on the principle of opinion,” he said. He pointed out that this was a right intended to promote terrorism and extremism. “Just showing this speech is in itself a promotion of the views of these groups and individuals, which contributes to the negative impact on some viewers and followers of these ideas and the character of the course of their personal and religious behavior.”
Al-Shuaibi gave an example of the position of Qatar towards Yemen and the Arab alliance led by Saudi Arabia, which seeks to save the country from political chaos and security.
Shuaibi explained that “the media attack by satellite channels, newspapers and media institutions attributed to Qatar, the role of the Arab alliance in southern Yemen and the security and military institutions there, are fiercer and more violent than the military attack launched by the extremist organizations and their allies before the cleansing of southern Yemen.”
“While the activity of terrorist groups is limited to the borders of the area under their control, the effects of the media supporting or justifying their actions exceed the borders of the occupied zone much further.”
“For example, Al-Jazeera has adopted a clear incitement role targeting security in southern Yemen, and the role of the UAE, which is the main partner alongside the security forces, in the purging of Aden, Abyan, Hadhramout and Shabwa from extremist groups. “Without this serious and active role, the southern Yemen region would have been divided between princes and al-Qaeda.”
Country role in Yemen
The country’s negative role in Yemen was a large part in the discussions of the seminar, which had a great turnout by rights activists as well as former and legal diplomats. Abdul Rahman al-Musibli, a former Yemeni diplomat and human rights activist, said the Houthi militias “found support and funding from the State of Qatar, which is involved in conspiring with this Houthi organization seeking to control Iranian incitement against Yemen.”
He expressed his conviction that the alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE succeeded in cutting off Iran’s hand in southern Yemen and expelled Houthis from it. He stressed the need to note that the Muslim Brotherhood is no less dangerous in Yemen than the Houthis allied with it.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is another terrorist organization that claims to defend Islam,” he said. He strongly condemned the Brotherhood’s use of what it called the policy of collective punishment against civilians in southern Yemen.
“The Brotherhood sought to cut people’s livelihood, cut off electricity and communications, and even stop salaries of employees to fret and incite people to power,” he said.
Empowering moderate Islam
Carla Kiguin, executive director of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) in, was surprised by the silence on terrorism “which targets everyone in the Middle East regardless of their religion or race.”
“Terrorist groups such as Deash and al-Qaeda are threatening the lives of even Muslims, religious and ethnic minorities, and anyone who opposes their extremist violent ideology,” she said.
She equally called for attention to what it described as a serious phenomenon which is “the targeting of terrorist groups cohesion and social peace in the Middle East countries such as Iraq.”
Kiguin considered that one of the necessary mechanisms to combat terrorism “is to strictly enforce the sanctions regime so as to drain sources of funding by governments, organizations and individuals of terrorist groups.”
“Al-Azhar is now striving to promote moderate Islam,” she said. And called for the utmost efforts to enable moderate Islam to prevail and resist extremism in the Middle East.
Some participants questioned how to enable moderate, progressive Islam to counter radical Islam. “It is important to focus on education, especially in the early stages,” said Sarhan Saadi. He pointed out that the perpetrators of terrorist operations and bombings, especially in Europe are young people who are exposed to extremist propaganda.
He said that young people are one of the concerns of the Arab Federation for Human Rights, which is fully aware of the need to promote moderate Islam, which coexists and respects each other. And that since last November AFHR has launched an initiative on the role of young people and religious leaders in supporting peace and fighting extremism.
He warned that countries such as Qatar, Iran and Turkey were insisting on policies that would fuel extremism by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in various ways to destabilize regimes in the Middle East.
Arab Federation for Human Rights
Geneva – 13 September 2017