Political Reform in Qatar: Participation, Legitimacy and Security

In a surprising announcement in November 1995, the Qatari regime declared its intention to hold elections for the 29-seat Central Municipal Council (CMC), an advisory body attached to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture. All male Qataris over the age of 18 would be eligible to vote. Then, in an even more surprising move, a reporter with CNN asked Qatar’s emir in 1997 whether women would be allowed to vote. The emir cautiously said that he did not know, but that he saw nothing wrong with their voting.1 Later he announced that women would be allowed to vote and run as candidates. Qatar deliberately set the CMC election for March 8, 1999, International Women’s Day.

Most regimes in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region allow some form of electoral politics within their states. While many of these regimes actually use political participation to avoid democratization2 or manipulate electoral politics to reinforce authoritarian rule,3 political participation in authoritarian regimes, even when not promoting democracy, does open political space within such states. Lust-Okar and Zerhouni, for example, argue that elections in authoritarian states are often fiercely contested by domestic political actors, help lead to the formation of political associations if not actual political parties and can influence decision making. Some Arab Gulf monarchies began to institute some form of electoral politics within their states in the 1990s. Kuwait started holding regular elections in 1992. Oman initiated a Consultative Council in 1991 but only allows each district to submit three suggestions for each seat. In 2003, Oman granted universal suffrage to all Omanis; however, the sultan must still approve each representative.

The Qatari leadership followed this trend in 1995, when they decided to initiate national elections for the CMC. They also decided to take a step that none of their neighbors had yet taken by giving women the right to vote and run for office. As noted earlier, regular elections for the Kuwaiti National Assembly began in 1992.4 Until 2005, however, only Kuwaiti men were allowed to vote and run for office.5 Omani women gained the right to participate in elections in 2003, and Bahraini women only won the right to vote and run for office in 2002. While other states in the MENA region are having far more nuanced discussions about women’s political and social rights (e.g., Morocco, Tunisia), women in the Arab Gulf are only just gaining the right to participate in political life. Women in Qatar, as in most Arab Gulf monarchies, have traditionally been relegated to the domestic sphere and often avoid calling attention to themselves in public. Thus, granting women political rights legitimizes their existence outside the home in a way that is quite revolutionary for the region.

Read the full post at the Middle East Policy Council website


Formation of the Fifth Iraqi Government

List compiled by Dhafra al-Azzawi and Scott Weiner


Prime Minister: Nouri al-Maliki (SLC – Dawa)

Deputy PM – Rouz Nouri Shawees (KA – KDP)
Deputy PM – Hussein al-Shahristani (Shia – Independent)
Deputy PM – Salih al-Mutlaq (Iraqiya – Iraqi Front for National Dialogue)

Head, National Council for Strategic Policy – Iyad Allawi (Iraqiya – al-Wifaq al-Watani)

President – Jalal Talabani (KA – PUK)
Vice President – Adel Abdel Mahdi (INA – ISCI)
Vice President – Tareq al-Hashimi (Tajdeed)

Parliament Speaker – Osama al-Nujaifi (Iraqiya – Iraqi Front for National Dialogue)
First Deputy Speaker – Qusay Abd el-Wahid el-Suhail (Sadrist)
Second Deputy Speaker – Aref Tayfour (KA – KDP)

Ministries – Total: 42

Interior – (acting – PM Maliki)
Security – (acting – PM Maliki)
Defense – (acting – PM Maliki)


Ministry of State – Ali al-Dabbagh (SLC – Dawa)
Government Spokesman – Ali al-Dabbagh (SLC – Dawa)
Higher Education – Ali al-Adeeb (SLC – Dawa)
Ministry of State for Foreign Affairs – Ali Abdullah al-Sajri (SLC)
Oil – Abdul Karim al-Lua’ibi (Shia)
Ministry of Electricty – Hussein al-Shahristani (Shia- independent) (acting – position assigned to Iraqiya)
Youth and Sports – Jasim Mohammed Ja’afar (Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkomen)
Human Rights – Mohammed Shayaa al-Soudani (Sadrist)
Ministry of State – Hassan Radhi al-Sari (SLC)


Labor and Social Affairs – Nassar al-Rubaie (Sadrist)
Planning – Nasser al-Rubaie (Sadrist) (acting – position assigned to SLC)
Reconstruction and Housing – Mohammed Sahib al-Darraji (Sadrist)
Municipalities and Public Works – Mohammed Sahib al-Darraji (Sadrist) (acting – position assigned to Sadrists)
Ministry of State- Abd el-Mehdi Hassan al-Matiri (Sadrist)
Justice – Hassan al-Shimmari (Fadila)
Ministry of State  – Bushra Hussein Saleh [female] (Fadila)
Transportation – Hadi al-Ameri (Badr)
Tourism and Antiquities – Lua’ Smeesim (Sadrist)
Water Resources – Muhanad al-Sa’idi (Shia – position assigned to Sadrists)
Ministry of State for National Reconciliation Affairs – Ali al-Adeeb (acting – position assigned to al-Mihrab)
Electricity  – Hussein al-Shahristani (Shia- independent – acting – position assigned to Iraqiya)
Ministry of State – Thia Najim al-Assadi (Badr)
Ministry of State for Parliamentary Affairs – Safa’ al-Din al-Safi (Shia)

*Sadrist Ministries of State are: Marshes, Foreign Affairs

IRAQIYA LIST – 9 Ministries

Finance – Rafaie al-Issawi (Independent Patriotic Gathering)
Education – Mohammed ِAli Tamim (Iraqiya )
Agriculture – Az Adin Abdullah al-Doula (Iraqis Gathering)
Communication – Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi (al-Wifaq)
Science and Technology – Abdul Karim al-Sammraie (al-Tajdeed)
Ministry of State – Salah Muzahim Darwish al-Jubouri (Iraqiya – Iraqi Front for National Dialogue)
Culture – Saadoun al-Dulaimi (Iraqiya – al-Wifaq)
Industry and Minerals- Ahmed Nasr Dali (Iraqiya )
Ministry of State for Provincial Affairs – Turhan Muthhar Hassan (Turkomen)
Ministry of State for Tribal Affairs


Foreign Affairs – Hoshayer al-Zebari (KA – KDP)
Health – Majeed Hamid Ameen (KA)
Migration and Displaced Persons – Dindar Najman Shafeeq (KA)
Ministry of State for Civil Society Organization Affairs – Dindar Najman Shafeeq (acting)
Women’s Affairs – Hoshayer al-Zebari (KA – KDP – acting)
Trade – Rouz Nouri Shawees (KA – KDP – acting)

Other – 2 Ministries
Environment – Sargun Slayuh (Christian)
Ministry of State – Yassin Hassan Muhammed

*Ministry of State is not a portfolio in and of itself, and is therefore not included in ministry counts.


How dangerous is al-Awlaki?

The Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder described the Yemeni-American-born radical cleric Ayman al-Awlaki as “He would be on the same list with bin Laden[1].” Al-Awlaki officially and legally is not affiliated with al-Qaeda yet his radical and violent Jihad views are falling in the same line as those of al-Qaeda. Though the Awlak tribe[2] in southern Yemen is providing the protection for al-Awlaki, the leader of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula Nasir al-Wuhaishi known with the pseudonym Abu Baseer, offered in a statement posted online in May 2010 that it is their “legitimate duty,” to protect al-Awlaki[3].

Al-Awlaki’s name rose in a very short time in comparison to that of Osama bin Laden and al-Libi[4]. First time we heard of Awlaki’s name was after the horrific Ft. Hood shooting in November 2009[5], and then a month later with the failed Christmas Day underwear-bombing plot[6]. He is behind the radicalization of the 21-year old London-University student Roshonara Choudhary who attacked British MP Stephen Timms “in revenge for the people of Iraq.[7]” Today his online statements and lectures in English and Arabic are the powerful recruiting method that is reaching out to the moderate young Muslim youth living mainly in the United Kingdom and the United States[8].

Al-Awlaki is different from other radical leaders in that he was born and raised in the United States, i.e. he is able to think, understand, and communicate smoothly with followers living in the West. His danger lies in that he knows both Arab/Muslim and Western cultures very well which lifts all barriers in communicating with his victims born and raised in Western/Muslim communities. In other words, he is one of us who turned against us so he knows our weakness and our strength. His statements and calls for Jihad are clear, based on a western-style rationalization unlike the vague and poetic Bin Laden speeches and the loud sectarian al-Qaeda in Iraq statements.

Al-Awlaki sent out a video message in November 2010 that there is no need for a Muslim to seek a special fatwa or consultation from a Muslim authority to kill Americans, “because fighting Satan does not require a fatwa or advice. They are Satan’s party and fighting them is the duty of this era.[9]” He is dissolving all nationalities and uniting all of his “students” under one identity as Muslims who need to be enlightened about the Western oppression to Islam and attempts to change Islam as it did to Christianity and Judaism.

The factors that help Awlaki spread his views are the intelligent young Muslims living in western communities and suffer a form of an identity crisis due to the lack of open and free communication with their parents. These young self-radicalized Muslims though brought up in the west still cling to habits from their original cultures such as the mixed respect and fear emotions of parents, seeking success to make parents proud, not debating seniors, being a proud Muslim yet not educated about Islam. When children fear to ask a question lest they would be ridiculed or reprimanded for thinking of such ideas, they tend to turn to the internet or a friend, where the high risk of learning immoral ideas and wrong patterns of thinking about one’s religious duties and one’s rights and duties as a human being. Self-radicalized individuals are difficult to track down, because these individuals tend to work not as a group, motivated by views of well-educated and charismatic rational radical speakers whom they do not necessarily meet in person. The power of the word and the means used to spread that word is what makes al-Awlaki dangerous both to the national security in general, and to the Muslim families living in the West in particular.

[1]Attorney General’s Blunt Warning on Terror Attacks,” ABC News December 21, 2010.

[2] Anwar al-Awlaki is suspected to be hiding among his tribe the Awlak in the south of Yemen in the Shabwa Province mountains, “Yemen orders troops to ‘forcibly arrest’ al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki,” CSMonitor, November 7, 2010.

[3] CNN World, “American-born cleric praised in al-Qaeda audio message,” May 16, 2010

[4]Rising Leader for Next Phase of Al Qaeda’s War,” NY Times April 4, 2008.

[5]Fort Hood gunman Nidal Hasan ‘is a hero’: Imam who preached to 9/11 hijackers in VA praises attack,” NY Daily News, November 9, 2009.

[6]Nigerian Man Indicted in Bombing Attempt,” CBS News January 6, 2010.

[7]Curse the judge, shout fanatics as the Muslim girl who knifed MP smiles as she gets life,” Daily Mail, November 5, 2010.

[8] Steven Stalinsky, “Part V: YouTube-The Internet’s primary and Rapidly Expanding Jihadi Base: One Year Later on YouTube-Anwar al-Awlaki’s presence Expands, … ”MEMRI December 11, 2010.

[9] Ana al-Muslim chat forum, http://www.muslm.net/vb/showthread.php?t=407810


Qatari Law Will Test Media Freedom

[Strategic Social analyst Jennifer Lambert's recent publication for the Carnegie Endowment]

After years of trying to differentiate Qatar from its neighbors by cultivating a modern and more liberal image, the Qatari government is set to unveil a new media law by the end of this year that has some journalists worried it will restrict certain types of speech. Already, Qatar’s ranking within the Reporter Without Borders press freedom index has fallen; its current rank of 121 out of 178 countries surveyed is its lowest since being included in the survey in 2003. If the new law imposes fines or imprisonment for certain types of speech, journalists will surely protest and efforts to differentiate Qatar from its neighbors will suffer a serious setback. Read the full story here.


How the Middle East Responds to Wikileaks

One thing that media and Middle East watchers will want to keep an eye on in the coming days is the way that news outlets in the region, especially independent satellite giants such as al-Jazeera, cover the Wikileaks scandal. Wikileaks is being covered extensively in the West, often from a US-centric perspective, but it threatens to be a big story for several Arab regimes that are mentioned repeatedly in the leaked State Department cables as well. Given the potentially embarrassing nature of some of the stories, one might expect the state controlled “official” outlets to downplay or even ignore the Wikileaks stories that deal with their respective regimes. Similarly, what opposition press exists in a given state can be expected to praise the stories. But what will (relatively) independent outlets do? Al-Jazeera is the gold standard for Mideast media, but is less than a decade and a half old and has never confronted a story like this. Its detractors have long accused it of taking direction from Qatar, where it is based, and at the very least the network clearly directs the bulk of its coverage, so stinging toward nearly everyone else, away from the tiny Gulf state. Will this delicate balance be compromised, forcing Jazeera to either compromise its independent reputation or call out its hosts?

Without access to al-Jazeera’s newsroom, it is of course impossible to know for sure why the network chooses to cover what it does, but there is always tension in the news business between shaping public opinion and responding to it, and Jazeera is a particularly intriguing outlet. Whether it is being critical of Israel, the US, or America’s Arab allies, is al-Jazeera doing so because it is catering to an audience that is already angry, or reporting in an aggressive and often adversarial manner in an effort to lead public opinion? Wikileaks will introduce another set of data points to help observers analyze the station.

So far, I would suggest that al-Jazeera seems to be under-playing the Wikileaks story. It has reported modestly on the parts of Wikileaks that include Qatar, mentioning for example that State Department cables say Qatar’s security forces have been “reluctant to act against terrorists.”[1] But story number one on aljazeera.net at the moment is about the Iranian nuclear scientists who were attacked this morning,[2] and story two is about demonstrations in Upper Egypt in the wake of Parliamentary elections.[3] Would Wikileaks be merely the third (and fourth and fifth) most popular story if the “Arab Street” knew all the details? I would guess that it would be first, and it would indisputably be ahead of Egyptian elections.

The next few days should be fascinating. How al-Jazeera deals with Wikileaks involving Qatar, especially the ruling Royal Family, compared to leaks involving other Arab or Gulf states will be critical. And if Saudi funded, rival satellite station al-Arabiya goes after any Wikileaks story, Qatar-related or not, watch al-Jazeera’s response: it will hopefully prove enlightening.

[1] http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/FCA7D659-38FD-476A-AEBC-BA956AD8BDF1.htm?GoogleStatID=1

[2] http://aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/A1938B7E-C84A-48E0-8C22-14DB59C9FB8A.htm?GoogleStatID=1

[3] http://aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/7250D237-4E28-4F77-BD81-CC8911D3D122.htm?GoogleStatID=1