Qatar's reactionary do-gooder

Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser in Paris. Picture: <a href=Ammar Abd Rabbo" src="/sites/default/files/moza.jpg" style="height:235px; width:388px" />

Sheikha Mozah, wife of Qatar's former emir, returned to the spotlight this week when previously-confidential emails were released by the US State Department.

The emails reveal that while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state Cherie Blair – wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair – persistently lobbied Clinton to set up a meeting with Sheikha Mozah.

"After a back and forth exchange of 19 messages, the meeting between Mrs Clinton and Sheikha Moza went ahead in September 2009," the Telegraph reports.

The Guardian adds:

A spokesperson for Cherie Blair said: “As the emails make clear, Cherie Blair established a relationship with Sheikha Mozah over a number of years based on their shared interest in disability issues.

“Cherie has been a patron of [the charity] Scope for some years, and in that capacity became involved in the Shafallah Centre for people with disabilities in Qatar, in particular as co-chair of its annual disability conference.”

She was “merely acting as a conduit – on a woman to woman basis” between Mozah and Clinton, the spokesperson added.

Three years after the Clinton-Mozah meeting, Mrs Blair's charity – The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women – received a donation of an undisclosed amount from a telecommunications company in which the Qatari government had a majority share.

The Qatari government also donated $1 million or more to ex-president Bill Clinton's charity, the Clinton Foundation.

Sheikha Mozah has acquired a reputation for "good works" and has even been described as "the enlightened face of a profoundly conservative regime". 

Outside Qatar, she has served as a special envoy for Unesco, and she sits on the Board of Overseers for Weill Cornell Medical College in the United States. She is also an Honorary Dame of the British Empire, a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in France and holder of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

However, a closer look at her work shows she is involved in promoting reactionary social policies, sometimes in collusion with equally reactionary organisations in the west.

In 2006, Sheikha Mozah established al-Aween, a "social rehabilitation" centre in Qatar which attempts to "cure" homosexuality, among other things. Dr Dalia al-Moumen, a psychiatric consultant associated with al-Aween has also given lectures on how to deal with such "problems" as men with long hair and girls who wear trousers.

In an article on al-Aween's website a senior consultant in psychiatry called Dr Abdul Alim Ibrahim explains that the development of gay rights in some countries is the result of pressure from "powerful homosexuals" and is "not based on scientific studies".

However, Dr Ibrahim does think the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, "went too far" in describing gay people as lower than pigs and dogs.

In November 2004, Sheikha Mozah hosted a notorious conference in Doha, ostensibly to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the UN's Year of the Family. Its real purpose was to "defend the family" and fight progressive social policies at the United Nations.

Those attending included Cardinal Alfonso Trujillo, who campaigned against condoms on behalf of the Catholic church; Mahathir Mohamad, the dictatorial former prime minister of Malaysia who sacked and jailed his deputy for alleged homosexuality; and Yusuf al-Qaradawi the Qatar-based Islamic scholar who approves of wife-beating (in moderation).

In the opening speech of the conference, Sheikha Mozah announced that the well-being of the family was in peril and warned of attempts to "redefine the concept of family in a manner contrary to religious precepts".

Bizarrely, Qatar put much of the organisational work for this conference in the hands of the US-based World Family Policy Centre – a front organisation for the Mormon church.

Anyway, the effort seems to have paid off. A week after the Doha conference, the government of Qatar put forward a conservative resolution on the family to the UN General Assembly which was approved without a vote, much to the dismay of European countries and several others.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Friday, 3 July 2015