Former justice minister says Qataris 'scared' of repression

The Economist pulls the curtain on a Qatar "less tolerant than it seems."

LONDON - Despite the image of a "beacon of openness" Qatar has tried to promote, there is pervasive fear and intolerance in the country, a report in the Economist stated.

The Economist, a British weekly magazine, quoted Najeeb Nuaimi, a former Qatari justice minister, who is under a travel ban, as saying: “We’re scared. They’ll take your passport or your property and leave you stateless if you talk.”

The magazine said Qatari researchers who express dissent fear being dismissed. “I can’t even organise a workshop,” a Qatari writer said.

The Economist described political institutions as "window dressing." It said parliament's appointed members wield little power and the 2003 elections have never taken place.

The policies of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, it said, are the subject of widespread scepticism.

"Qataris have doubts about the emir’s decisions," said the magazine. "They wonder why he squandered billions on foreign ventures and arms deals and struggles to reconcile with Saudi Arabia, which has led a blockade on Qatar since 2017."

Propaganda efforts aimed at giving Sheikh Tamim a larger-than-life image are backfiring. "In Doha," the Economist wrote, "the image of the emir is as ubiquitous as Saddam Hussein’s once was in Baghdad. ‘Tamim the Glorious,’ reads the slogan underneath."

The magazine criticised a recent Qatari law that sanctions media criticism, showing that the country's ruler "is less tolerant of criticism directed at him."

It noted that "Qatar’s newspapers often have the same front-page stories, with near-identical headlines."

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