Egypt’s human rights battle with Qatar
Indentured labour. Migrant workers walking next to a construction site in the Qatari capital Doha. (AFP)
2017/10/15 Issue: 127 Page: 15
The Arab Weekly
Cairo - Hafez Abu Saada and Mohammed al-Ghoul represent different — and occasionally divergent — groups that investigate human rights in Egypt. Despite disagreements and trading accusations, both men agree about the scale of Qatar’s “flagrant” human rights abuses.
Abu Saada, head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), one of Egypt’s largest rights groups, is preparing a lengthy report on human rights violations allegedly committed by Doha against the political opposition and foreign workers.
The report has the backing of Ghoul, deputy leader of the Human Rights Committee in the Egyptian parliament. The committee is working on its own report about human rights in Qatar, including documenting what Ghoul described as the “unlimited” support Doha is offering terrorist groups.
Qatari authorities are accused of restricting the rights of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, particularly those working in construction on stadiums ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, face exploitation and abuses, human rights groups claim.
“Qatar must be brought to account for the human rights violations it commits,” Abu Saada said.
“It is about time the whole world knew the disgraceful record of the Qatari regime, which squanders the wealth of its people for the pleasure of terrorists and killers,” Ghoul said.
Egyptian rights groups, some backed by the government but also independent ones, such as the EOHR, said they will no longer stay silent on Qatar’s human rights abuses.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June and presented Doha with a list of 13 demands to be met before normalisation of relations.
The countries accuse Qatar of financing terrorism and interfering in their domestic affairs. They specifically called for Doha to stop supporting groups designated as terrorist organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
By opening a human rights front in the war against Qatar, Egyptian groups said they were responding in kind to Qatar’s tactics. Cairo accused Qatar of financing international human rights groups that allegedly fabricate reports about human rights violations, exaggerating problems facing Egypt.
The Qatari-backed, Geneva-based Alkarama Foundation has published reports about alleged human rights violations in Egypt. Egyptian activists, including Abu Saada, acknowledge that human rights violations do take place in Egypt and are working to address this. They said Qatar-backed groups are raising such issues for political reasons and to harm the Egyptian state.
Abu Saada and Ghoul said their groups will file complaints about Qatar’s human rights violations at relevant international organisations, including the UN Human Rights Council.
“Parliament’s Human Rights Committee is preparing to participate in a large number of international events during which it will stand up for the victims of Qatar’s human rights violations both inside Qatar and outside it,” Ghoul said. “We will file reports in this regard wherever we go.”
Abu Saada revealed that the EOHR had been granted powers of attorney from the families of dozens of victims of terrorist attacks in Egypt and that it intends to file lawsuits against Qatar in international courts over its sponsorship of terrorist groups.
“Qatar is the main sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement that has been staging terrorist attacks here for more than three years,” Abu Saada said. “We will demand compensation for the poor families of the victims of these attacks.”
This move to tackle Qatar’s human rights violations is not just taking place in Egypt. In Geneva, Switzerland, Mohamed Abdel Naeem, head of Egyptian NGO United National Organisation for Human Rights, is coordinating action against Qatar with European human rights groups.
“We are here to divulge Qatar’s practices in front of everybody,” Abdel Naeem said from Geneva in a telephone conversation. “We have prepared documents and arguments to show the world that the state that claims to defend human rights in other countries is itself the largest human rights violator.”