Author: qataramerica

The Chainsmokers at Shop Qatar Week

The Chainsmokers will perform as part of the Shop Qatar Week, Qatar’s biggest shopping festival held from 7 January to 7 February 2018. The performance will be held Thursday, January 25, at 9pm at the Doha Exhibition & Convention Center. The Chainsmokers are known for hits like ParisCloserSomething Just Like This and Don’t Let Me Down. Other notable participants to headline events this week include Bollywood singing sensation Song Nigam. 

The Festival organizers announced that Shop Qatar 2018 will offer a rich array of live performances by singing sensations and unlimited family-friendly entertainment in a festive, safe environment that reflects local culture and heritage.  Shop Qatar 2018 – launched earlier this month under the slogan A Brand New Tradition – will celebrate cultural diversity with themes such as Arabian Week (Jan 7 – 13), Bollywood Week (Jan 14 – 20) and International Week (Jan 21 – Feb 7).

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Qatar: Year of Crisis Spurred Rights Reforms

(Beirut) – Qatar announced a range of significant human rights reforms during 2017 that if carried out would usher in some of the most progressive human rights standards in the gulf region, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2018.

The reforms include legislation that can dramatically improve labor standards for migrant workers, including a migrant domestic workers law, and to grant permanent residency to children born to Qatari mothers and foreign fathers and to some foreign residents living in the country.

“Qatar could have retrenched into authoritarianism in the face of a political crisis but instead has responded to a breakdown in neighborly relations by raising the bar on human rights standards in the Gulf,” said Belkis Wille, senior Qatar researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Implementing its commitments to respecting the rights of Qatari women, millions of migrant workers, and vulnerable refugees in the country will be the real measure of its success in 2018.”

In the 643-page World Report, its 28th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that political leaders willing to stand up for human rights principles showed that it is possible to limit authoritarian populist agendas. When combined with mobilized publics and effective multilateral actors, these leaders demonstrated that the rise of anti-rights governments is not inevitable.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic relations with Qatar citing political grievances and demands. The crisis precipitated a range of human rights violationsagainst people living in Qatar, infringing on their right to free expression, separating families, and interrupting medical care and education.

On August 3, the Qatari cabinet moved to protect the legal status of foreign nationals in Qatar, approving a draft law that would allow permanent residence for children of Qatari women married to non-Qataris, as well as expatriates who “provide outstanding services to Qatar.” While the law falls short of granting women the same rights as Qatari men to pass citizenship to their children, it would help children of Qatari women secure resident status in Qatar even if they do not have valid passports from another country. The law could also help Emirati, Egyptian, Bahraini, and Saudi nationals who otherwise have no rights to legal residence in the country but who remain there for family or work reasons or because they fear persecution in their home countries.

The government’s most significant reform commitments came in protections for the nearly 2 million migrant workers in the country who make up 95 percent of the country’s workforce but are barred from unionizing or collective action. The government passed a new law to protect migrant domestic workers and pledged to end the sponsorship system of labor employment and to implement a minimum wage.

On August 22, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, ratified Law No.15 on service workers in the home. The law grants labor protections for the first time to Qatar’s 173,742 domestic workers. The new law guarantees domestic workers a maximum 10-hour workday, a weekly rest day, three weeks of annual leave, an end-of-service payment, and healthcare benefits. However, the new law is still weaker than the country’s general Labor Law and does not fully conform to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention, the global treaty on domestic workers’ rights.

On October 26, Qatar committed to extensive reforms of its kafala (sponsorship) system, which ties workers to individual sponsors for their visa and employment, replacing it with a system of government-sponsored employment. It also promised to institute a nondiscriminatory minimum wage, improve the payment of wages, end passport confiscation, enhance labor inspections and occupational safety and health, including with a heat mitigation strategy, and improve labor recruitment procedures.

Qatar also unblocked local access to the Doha News website, the country’s only independent news website, which authorities had ordered Qatar’s two internet service providers, Vodafone and Ooredoo, to block on November 30, 2016.

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Tiny, Wealthy Qatar Goes Its Own Way, and Pays for It

NY Times – Tiny, Wealthy Qatar Goes Its Own Way, and Pays for It

This New York Times article, published this morning, by Declan Walsh presents a snapshot of the Gulf crisis from perspectives not necessarily endorsed by Qatar-America Institute. QAI encourages the reader to do their own research on this topic, including with the links at the end of this post.

HH the Emir proclaimed Qatar’s independent foreign policy as the true explanation for an ongoing blockade that cut off his country from its Gulf neighbors:

“They don’t like our independence,” he said in an interview in New York in September. “They see it as a threat.”

Qatar’s foes accuse it of financing terrorism, cozying up to Iran and harboring fugitive dissidents. They detest Al Jazeera, Qatar’s rambunctious and highly influential satellite network. And — although few say it openly — they appear intent on ousting Qatar’s young leader, Tamim, from his throne.

Tamim denies the accusations, and chalks up the animosity to simple jealousy.

The blockade turned out to be the first strike of a sweeping campaign that has electrified the Middle East:

[Saudi Arabia] has shaped the Trump administration’s approach to the Middle East and his endeavors could have far-reaching consequences, potentially driving up energy prices, upending Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and raising the chances of war with Iran.

The Qatar dispute is perhaps the least understood piece of the action, but it has a particularly nasty edge.

Sheikh Tamim’s young, steadfast rule is markedly different than that of his Gulf neighbors:

His rise to power in 2013, at the age of 33, offered a stark contrast with the gerontocracy of Saudi Arabia, where rulers clung to their thrones till reaching their deathbeds. And his easy manner belies a stubborn streak that his neighbors see as the mark of a dangerous gadfly.

Qatari society has been a boon for transformative changes in the region:

While Saudi women will finally be allowed to drive in June, Qatari women have been driving for decades. In Qatar, there are cinemas, bars and even female race jockeys. Christians can worship openly.

Tamim lauds his country’s democratic values. In 50 years, he recently predicted, Al Jazeera will be seen to have “changed the whole idea of free speech in the region.” In many respects, it already has.

In the Middle East, though, Qatar’s rulers have deployed their wealth to assert their independence from their larger neighbors:

For decades, Saudi Arabia, which is 186 times as large, treated Qatar as a virtual vassal state. In the 1940s, Saudi rulers took a slice of Qatar’s modest oil revenues; later they nibbled at Qatar’s territory and dictated its foreign and defense policy.

Tamim’s father, Hamad, accused the Saudis of trying to oust him in a failed coup in 1996 — a bitter episode that has framed the decades of simmering rivalry ever since.

Striking out on their own, the Qataris at first played the role of regional peacemaker, turning Doha into a sort of Geneva-on-the-Gulf where protagonists from wars in Sudan, Somalia and Lebanon could hash out their differences in five-star hotels. They embraced America, hosting a vast air base since 2003, the year of the Iraq war, and won popular influence through Al Jazeera, whose provocative style irked just about every Arab government.

U.S. officials determined the Qatar News Agency hack, a precursor to the June 2017 blockade, originated from the one of the blockading nations:

American intelligence officials determined that the planting of the fake news story had been orchestrated by the Emirates, which had been quietly pushing for a boycott of Qatar since 2016, a United States official told The New York Times.

Qatar has responded to the blockade with unprecedented ingenuity and resourcefulness, as well as a renewed national patriotism:

[Sheikh Tamim’s] ministers, making a virtue of necessity, are developing new trade and transportation links. To make up for lost Saudi milk, they created a new dairy industry from scratch in the desert. In a surreal tableau one day in July, German cows toddled down the ramp of a Qatar Airways Airbus at the Doha airport, the first arrivals of around 4,000 cattle flown in from Europe, Australia and California.

The Emir’s image adorns billboards draped off skyscrapers, and he is lionized in saccharine songs hailing his steely leadership. “He’s the embodiment of the philosopher king,” said Dana al-Fardan, one such balladeer.

Is Qatar soft on terrorism? Some of the charges are red herrings, American officials say:

Tamim cut funding to most extremist militias in Syria and Islamist groups in Libya in 2015, at the urging of the Obama administration.

Fact Sheet: Qatar Combatting Extremism at its Source

Report: Qatar Takes Aggressive Action Against Terrorism Finance


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Qatar Signs Security Agreement with NATO – Qatar Signs Security Agreement with NATO

Qatar signed a comprehensive agreement with NATO to establish a framework for protecting and exchanging classified information:

At a signing ceremony, Brigadier General Tariq Khalid M. F. Alobaidli, Head of the International Military Cooperation Department, Armed Forces of the State of Qatar, and NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, stressed the importance of NATO’s cooperation with Qatar in the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI).

NATO officials highlighted their important security partnership with Qatar:

In their statement announcing the deal, NATO said that during the signing ceremony between Brigadier General Tariq Khalid M. F. Alobaidli, Head of the International Military Cooperation Department, Armed Forces of the State of Qatar, and NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, the representatives stressed the importance of NATO’s cooperation with Qatar in the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI).

The ICI framework was launched in June 2004 and aims to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering countries of the broader Middle East region practical bilateral security cooperation with NATO:

This security agreement provides the framework for the protection of exchange of classified information, as defined by all 29 member countries. These agreements are signed by NATO partner countries that wish to engage in cooperation with NATO. All four ICI partner countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and U.A.E.) have now signed individual security agreements with NATO. This enables the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programmes (IPCP) of the ICI countries with NATO to be implemented as effectively as possible.

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Defense Minister Discusses Qatar’s UK Alliance, Anti-Terrorism Efforts

Speaking at the world’s oldest independent think tank on international defense and security, Al-Attiyah discussed the pressing security issues for Qatar, the wider region and relations with the United Kingdom:

“My current visit to London marks an important moment in our continuous effort to engage with our allies here in the United Kingdom and to further advance and solidify our strategic military-to-military relationship. We have recently signed a landmark defense cooperation agreement with the United Kingdom concerning the purchase of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon Aircrafts.”

“This agreement builds on the historic friendship that joins both nations and further advances the strategic defense partnership that aims to serve our common security objectives.”

Dr. Khalid noted a recent defense deal signed between the UK and Qatar on a joint operational squadron:

“This deal has also contributed directly to the preservation and creation of tens of thousands of jobs here in the UK. We have also agreed on the establishment of a joint operational squadron, which will ensure our mutual combat readiness, further our joint actions in combatting terrorism and advance our strategic efforts towards the stability of our region and beyond.”

“This squadron will also play a vital role in securing our skies during the 2022 World Cup, which despite people’s fruitless efforts, will be hosted by the State of Qatar.”

Qatar is a regional leader in fighting terrorist groups and is fully committed to bringing them to justice:

“Qatar has spared no effort in its fight towards countering extremist ideology and eradicating terrorism in all its forms. We have provided operational and technical support to our allies and have joined in the fight to ensure that groups that violate international laws, commit gross systematic abuses of human rights, and terrorize entire communities are brought to justice.”

The Defense Minister praised Qatar’s commitment to preventing extremist ideology from prospering by providing access to quality education across the region:

“We have also taken the fight beyond the battle field, by funding educational and development programs all across the Arab region and beyond. Educational organizations such as Educate a Child – that has made a commitment to providing access to quality education for tens of millions of children around the globe, have achieved immensely towards fulfilling their commitment and realizing their objectives through operating in 54 countries and providing to date around nine million out of school children access to quality primary education.”

Concerning the situation of the blockade he said:

“The Quartet [Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain] should realize what they are doing is harming their own interests as well.”

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President Trump Thanks Qatar for Efforts to Combat Terrorism

Reuters – Trump Thanks Qatar for Efforts to Combat Terrorism

President Trump thanked HH Skeikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani for Qatar’s efforts to combat terrorism in the region:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday thanked the ruler of Qatar for “action to counter terrorism and extremism in all forms,” the White House said in a statement that suggested a warming of ties between the two countries.

The White House statement on the call with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani did not directly address the rift but said Trump “reiterated his support for a strong, united Gulf Cooperation Council that is focused on countering regional threats.”

“The leaders discussed areas in which the United States and Qatar can partner to bring more stability to the region, counter malign Iranian influence, and defeat terrorism,” it said.

Fact Sheet: Qatar Combatting Extremism at its Source

Report: Qatar Takes Aggressive Action Against Terrorism Finance

Fact Sheet: Qatar is a Beacon for Academia

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Qatar FM Confirms QNA Hacks Were State-Sponsored

HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar, confirmed on January 10 that the investigations into the cyber attack on the Qatar News Agency on May 23 implicated two countries involved in the diplomatic siege against Qatar. He stated that Qatar will take legal action against these countries.

HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister said the people of Qatar have a right to know who carried out the cyber attack that precipitated the diplomatic crisis and to take action against the perpetrators. He mentioned that Qatar as a country, as well as HE himself and HH the Emir, had largely friendly and cooperative relations with the rest of the GCC prior to the cyber attack and diplomatic crisis.

QAI published a report in December on the cyber attack against the Qatar News Agency and its legal and political implications called “Cyber Attacks on the Qatar News Agency: Fake News, Cyber War, and an Attack on International Norms of Sovereignty.”

As argued in the report, similar acts of cyber interference for political gain will become more common and difficult to deter unless cyber attacks like that on the Qatar News Agency are appropriately recognized and punished.

Read the Report: “Cyber Attacks on the Qatar News Agency: Fake News, Cyber War, and an Attack on International Norms of Sovereignty.”

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UN Report Condemns Human Rights Violations During Siege

“The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights released a Report On the Impact of the Gulf Crisis on Human Rights detailing human rights violations stemming from the diplomatic siege against Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain (the “Quartet”).

Report On the Impact of the Gulf Crisis on Human Rights

The Report On the Impact of the Gulf Crisis on Human Rights follows up on the High Commissioner’s statement on June 14, 2017 urging all parties involved in the crisis to act quickly to solve the dispute and refrain from actions that could run counter to international human rights law. The report identifies four categories of victims in the diplomatic crisis:

  1. Qataris living or studying in the Quartet countries who were forced to leave
  2. Quartet nationals who lived in Qatar and were forced to leave
  3. Migrant workers in Qatar who lost their jobs and face new economic pressure
  4. The citizens of Qatar and the Quartet in general

Several human rights violations are noted in the report, including:

Media instrumentalization and speech restrictions: state media sources in the quartet countries have been leveraged to promote anti-Qatar messaging across media formats and governments have implemented new criminal restrictions on expressions of sympathy towards Qatar.

  • Restriction of communications and freedom of movement: both Qatari and Quartet nationals have suffered sweeping new restrictions on their freedom of movement and communications. Family bonds were disrupted, students’ studies were interrupted, and workers’ employment was forcibly suspended.
  • Separation of families based on nationality and residence: the diplomatic crisis has put thousands of Qatari and Quartet citizens in mixed marriages in a precarious legal position, with many being forcibly separated from families or risking loss of citizenship and even statelessness.
  • Economic and property rights: Qataris with business in the Quartet countries lost access to their businesses and, with all financial transactions suspended, were left unable to provide salaries, pensions, rents, bill payments, and more.
  • Health rights: Qatar’s Ministry of Health has tracked over a hundred cases of Qataris previously seeking healthcare treatment in Quartet countries whose care was interrupted as a result of the diplomatic crisis and who were forced to seek care elsewhere. Despite this, Qatar has continued treating Quartet country residents in Qatar without discrimination with respect to nationality.
  • Education rights: Qatar’s Ministry of Education estimates over 200 cases of Qatari students studying in Quartet countries whose studies were effectively suspended as a result of the crisis. While Qatar University and the Ministry of Education have succeeded in placing many students in corresponding programs in Qatar, many students lack access to the necessary paperwork, were enrolled in differently credited classes, or were simply studying areas that are not yet available in Qatar.

The High Commissioner found that the non-targeted nature of the diplomatic siege, which fails to differentiate between the government of Qatar and its citizens, constitutes the definition of unilateral coercive measures to a degree. While the Qatari National Human Rights Committee has worked diligently to solve human rights problems arising from the crisis on a case-by-case basis, most cases remain unresolved and are expected to have a long term effect on the victims.

Read the Report On the Impact of the Gulf Crisis on Human Rights


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Qatar to Make Copper Wires, Aluminium Bars as it Resists Embargo

Nasdaq – Qatar to Make Copper Wires, Aluminium Bars as it Resists Embargo:

An affiliate of Qatari conglomerate Aamal Co plans to build three factories to produce copper wires, aluminium bars and drums for cables, projects that could make the country more self-reliant in the face of an embargo by other Arab states.

The factories will be established by Senyar Industries Qatar Holding, owned 50 percent by Aamal and 50 percent by Egyptian cable maker El Sewedy Electric Co, Aamal said on Monday.

Qatar’s government has been encouraging companies to set up local production facilities, reducing the need for imports, since Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries cut diplomatic and transport links last June, disrupting import channels:

The three facilities will have combined paid-up capital of 115 million riyals ($31.6 million) and be funded by a combination of equity and debt, Aamal said. They are to be completed between the end of this year and the end of 2019.

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