Qatari opposition figures to announce 'government-in-exile': report

#GulfTensions

A number of dissident members of Qatar's ruling al-Thani family are set to launch the initiative, according to informed source

Navy Special Forces off the coast of the Qatari capital, Doha (AFP)
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Thursday 12 October 2017 11:20 UTC
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Qatari exiles, some with Saudi business interests, are set to declare the formation of a Qatari government-in-exile to push for regime change in Doha, a source briefed on the declaration has told Middle East Eye.

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, said a number of exiled Qataris, already known publicly as opponents of the ruling emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, were preparing to announce the establishment of an opposition government, possibly on Saturday.

Qatar has been isolated in the Gulf since June when neighbouring Arab states broke off diplomatic relations and imposed a blockade.

Since then, a number of events have been held featuring Qatari dissidents calling for a change of government in the country and the creation of a constitutional monarchy, as well as an end to what they label Qatari "terrorism" funding.

'I learnt from the Gulf crisis that calm precedes the storm, and next week will see a historic decision for the crisis'

- Sultan Bin Suhaim al-Thani

Sultan Bin Suhaim al-Thani, a member of the ruling Thani tribe who has previously condemned Qatar's "embrace" of terrorist organisations, said on Twitter on 4 October that there would be a "historic decision" the following week.

"I learnt from the Gulf crisis that calm precedes the storm, and next week will see a historic decision for the crisis," he wrote. "Remember this tweet very well."

He also tweeted a hashtag referring to the "Movement of 13 October in Qatar".

MEE understands that the prince is one of two figures leading the new initiative, the other one being Abdullah bin Ali al-Thani, another dissident Qatari royal who has been publicly highly critical of the current Qatari administration.



Saudi's King Salman with Abdullah bin Ali al-Thani in Riyadh (SPA)

Abdullah is the brother of Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al Thani, who ruled Qatar until 1972 when he was overthrown by the current emir Tamim's grandfather.

The other individuals thought to be involved in the new project include Fawaz al-Attiya, a former Qatari spokesman who accused the former Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, of imprisoning and torturing him in 2016, and businessman Khaled al-Hail, who organised the Qatar, Global Security & Stability Conference in September.

The conference brought together a number of political and media commentators to discuss the future of Qatar in the light of the Gulf crisis.

It also raised the possibility of establishing a constitutional monarchy in Qatar, where political parties are currently banned and the hereditary emir is all-powerful.

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A Qatari exile, a spin war, and a 'cack-handed' push for a coup

Sultan Bin Suhaim al-Thani, the eighth child of Qatar's first foreign minister Sheikh Suhaim bin Hamad, is based in Paris and is known to have business interests in Saudi Arabia.

In January 2016, it was announced that the royal's company SST Holding was set to build a $8.8bn development in Riyadh, including a shopping centre, mosques and hotels.

In a statement last month, Sultan expressed his sadness that Qatar had become "associated with terrorism".

"Because of the government’s policy which allowed hateful bitter people to deepen its roots in Qatar and spread their poison everywhere, we have bitterly reached the abyss," he said, in a statement heavily circulated on Saudi and Emirati media.

"Our goal today is to stand together to purge our land from these outsiders and to continue our development efforts to bring pride to our country Qatar in an effort to gain a more civic and humanitarian role and aspect. We need to stand together to protect Qatar from terrorist organisations."

The possibility of the blockade countries Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recognising a government-in-exile led by Abdullah al-Thani was first raised in August.

However, so far there has been no official recognition given by any of the states to the opposition figures.

Khaled al-Hail's spokespersons, Sultan Bin Suhaim al-Thani and Abdullah bin Ali al-Thani, were contacted by MEE for comment, but none responded.

Andreas Krieg, a research fellow at King's College London who has close links with the ruling family in Qatar, said their reported attempt to create a government-in-exile had very little significance.

"These are two individuals who have never been on the radar of any power circle of Qatar, they've never been part of the inner circle of the Thani family," he told Middle East Eye in reference to the two al-Thanis.

He suggested that they were more likely driven by their business interests in Saudi Arabia than by any particular concerns about political reform in Qatar.

"There are no grounds to think that there would be any government-in-exile - but it would be a great PR stunt."

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.