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Qatar ruler says no Brotherhood members in Doha, warns of a new Arab Spring

Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani says the 'root causes' of the 2011 uprisings are still in place and could prompt similar upheavals if unaddressed
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani addresses the assembly during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, 23 May 2022 (AFP)

Qatar's emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, said in an interview with a French magazine on Wednesday that the causes of the Arab Spring are still present and that his country has no connections with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sheikh Tamim, interviewed by Le Point, said that countries in the Arab world could witness similar events to that of the pro-democracy uprisings that rocked the region in 2011.

'The root causes of the Arab Spring are unfortunately still there. Poverty, unemployment, ... Have we solved these problems? No, on the contrary, they have worsened'

- Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

The interview came on the second day the Gulf royal hosted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Doha, the same leader accused of leading a counter-revolution in 2013 that was perceived as an end to his country's Arab Spring

"The root causes of the Arab Spring are unfortunately still there," Tamim said. "Poverty, unemployment, unemployed graduates... Have we solved these problems? No, on the contrary, they have worsened. If we don't address them, the events they caused may repeat themselves."

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The events that started in 2011 saw millions of youth in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Libya, among others, protest to demand social justice, jobs and political reform.

The emir, meanwhile, claimed that his country does not host any members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates severed their ties with Qatar, before resuming them in 2021. One of the reasons for the rift was Doha's alleged support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Doha has remained adamant that it never supported the Brotherhood, which ascended briefly to power in Egypt in 2012 before Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi in a coup one year later. 

"There are no such links. There are no active members of the Muslim Brotherhood or related organisations here in Qatar," he said.

"We are an open country; many people with different opinions and ideas come and go. But we are a state, not a party. We deal with states and their legitimate governments, not with political organisations," he added.

Foreign policy

On foreign policy, Sheikh Tamim said that his country remains an ally of the US and that it has played a role in mediating talks between Washington and the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan.

"We do not want to see the world polarised between two superpowers; that would be very dangerous," he said about the threat of a new cold war. 

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"But honestly, I do not think that is the case at the moment, and I hope it won't happen. Our country is a major ally of the US and the West in general, but our main importer of liquified natural gas (LNG) is China," Tamim said, hoping that tensions could be resolved between China and the US through diplomatic means.

Meanwhile, Tamim said Qatar would like to see the Palestinian-Israeli conflict come to a peaceful conclusion.

"The most important issue is the Israeli-Palestinian question. As long as it is not resolved, the region will unfortunately not be at peace," he said.

Tamim said that countries who signed normalisation deals with Israel have the right to do so.

"But what is normalisation with Israel?" he asked. "Seriously, are things normal in Israel? No. There are still occupied Arab lands, refugees who have not been able to return to their homes for over 70 years, Muslims and Christians living under siege in Gaza," he added.

"Palestinians and Israelis should live side by side in peace. Unfortunately, we are far from it," he said, reiterating his support for the two-state solution.

World Cup 2022

Sheikh Tamim, a fan of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) football club, which Qatar owns, will see his country hosting the World Cup 2022 in November.

Le Point asked him if it was a problem that France's President Emmanuel Macron is an ardent fan of Olympique de Marseille, the rival of PSG.

"We always joke about it, but it's really not a problem. He loves sport, and I look forward to talking to him about it," he said.

"We are the first Arab country to organise such a global event. It is very important for the youth, especially in the Arab world," he said about Qatar hosting the tournament.

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