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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05DOHA993
2005-06-05 11:55:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Doha
Cable title:  

QATAR NEWS AND RUMORS

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  ECON  KISL  KDEM  ELAB  PHUM  EINV  QA  INL 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DOHA 000993 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON KISL KDEM ELAB PHUM EINV QA INL
SUBJECT: QATAR NEWS AND RUMORS

-------------------
Seeds of Democracy
-------------------

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DOHA 000993

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON KISL KDEM ELAB PHUM EINV QA INL
SUBJECT: QATAR NEWS AND RUMORS

--------------
Seeds of Democracy
--------------


1. (U) Some schools in Doha have established a forum called
"small parliament" to discuss children's issues such as the
Child's Rights Convention. Several young sheiks have
participated in these small parliaments, which have held
several meetings. The views expressed in these parliaments
have been carried in local newspapers.

--------------
Recognizing a Child's Right to Nationality
--------------


2. (U) The rights of children of Qatari women married to
foreigners are expected to be addressed in the new
citizenship law currently under consideration. Present laws
constrain Qatari women from marrying foreigners. Qatari women
tend to avoid such unions because of the discrimination
against children of such unions, for instance they do not
obtain Qatari nationality as nationality is passed down from
the father. Some women and children have long complained
about this and see this proposed new law, which is expected
to provide nationality to these children, as long overdue.

--------------
Promoting Inter-faith Dialogue
--------------


3. (U) The Third Conference of Freedom of Religions is
scheduled for the 29-30 of June in Doha. For the first time
in Qatar representatives from the three monotheistic
religions -Christianity, Islam, and Judaism- have been
invited. Invitations have been extended to the Anglican
Church, Coptic Church, Middle East Churches Council, Orthodox
Church, the Vatican, and Jewish Rabbis, among others. Dr.
Aisha Al-Mannai, president of the planning committee, said
that moderate Jewish Rabbis outside of Israel had been
invited to the Conference. Rabbis in Israel were not invited,
according to Dr. Aisha, because Qatar disagreed with the
occupation policy in Palestine. Dr. Al-Mannai also mentioned
that Dr. Yousef Al-Qaradawi, the reknowned Islamic scholar
expressed reservations about inviting Jews to the conference

and declined to attend. The topic of this year's conference
is "The Role of Religions in Blessing Mankind." All sessions
are open to the public. Discussion of the individual faiths
or specific religious practices, as well as political issues,
however, is off-limits.

--------------
Equal Death Compensation... or not
--------------


4. (U) Recent articles in the local press have highlighted
the split among Islamic scholars over the issue of death
compensation or blood money (deyah). Qatari law stipulates
that the legal heirs of women murdered or killed in road
accidents are entitled to half of the blood money as the
heirs of men. However, some scholars, among them Dr. Yousef
Al-Qaradawi, argue that the heirs of women should get equal
death compensation as those of men. According to Al-Qaradawi
there is no reference in the Quran that shows that women are
not equal with men in the matter of death compensation. Other
scholars challenge this view and assert that since a man is
the bread earner of the family, Islamic laws specify that his
relatives get double the compensation as those of a woman.
Further, they argue, "this is not the right time to debate
the issue as Islam is being targeted by other cultures and
civilizations."

--------------
Unrest at the Central Municipal Council
--------------


5. (U) Sixteen out of 29 members of Qatar's elected body, the
Central Municipal Council (CMC), have signed a petition
calling for the resignation of the council chairman, Ibrahim
al-Haidous. The reasons given in the petition were not made
public, but we understand that one issue was favoritism by
Haidous in selecting council members for official CMC travel.
Other members have been dissatisfied with al-Haidous,
believing him to be too conservative in asserting the
council's authority. In the latest twists, the CMC vice-chair
refused to accept a related memo on the grounds that it was
not drafted on CMC letterhead, and the Minister of Municipal
Affairs and Agriculture met with the dissidents in an attempt
to bring about reconciliation. The Minister may be trying to
retain a CMC chairman who avoids rocking the boat.

--------------
The Social is Political
--------------


6. (U) It is not surprising to find thousands of Asian
workers milling about in groups in downtown Doha during the
weekends. Indeed, male expatriate laborers take advantage of
their weekends to leave their crowded housing accommodations
to socialize with each other. However, recently the nature of
these weekend gatherings has changed for some. What used to
be a simple social activity has turned into opportunities for
expatriate laborers to discuss openly their sufferings (bad
living conditions, delayed salary payment, sponsorship
system, maltreatment, etc.). Shopowners, however, are
protesting these gatherings and are asking that the workers
find another place to convene. They complain that the workers
are blocking their stores and preventing would-be customers
from shopping. According to the shopowners, this has led to a
decrease in business during the weekends.

--------------
Labor Contracts Mischief
--------------


7. (U) Poloff recently brought to the attention of the
Ministry of Civil Service Affairs and Housing the issuance of
new labor contracts, which obstruct civil service laws. The
new contracts which were issued by the Ministry of Municipal
Affairs and Agriculture and which were published in local
Arabic newspapers, do not meet the mandatory guidelines and
requirements. Nor did the Ministry of Civil Service Affairs
and Housing approve them as mandated. Among others, the new
contracts omit the end of service remuneration and exempt the
employer from providing housing and transportation allowance
for the employee. The Ministry of Civil Service Affairs and
Housing reports to Poloff that it is following up on the
contracts issue. According to the Ministry, which is
reviewing the new contracts, the end of service gratuity is
an irrevocable labor right and must be included in all
government labor contracts.

--------------
More Labor Woes...
--------------


8. (U) In a related matter, the recent restructuring of the
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture has led to a
large number of terminations. Those most affected are
expatriate laborers. Unlike Qatari workers, expatriate
laborers will not receive job re-training, which would enable
them to qualify for jobs at other departments and ministries.
Among the questions that remain unanswered are: What will
happen to these expatriate laborers? Will they be allowed to
change their sponsorship or will they be deported?

--------------
Foreign Direct Investment and Economic Growth
--------------


9. (U) Visiting speaker and well-known American economist
Edward Graham discussed the topic of foreign direct
investment (FDI) at the Ministry of Economy and Commerce on
May 19. Referring to a variety of economic studies, Graham
argued that FDI leads to economic growth in cases where the
target population is educated and when the target country
also adopts a liberal trade regime. He also argued that Qatar
should focus on establishing strong property rights. The
lecture was well received, getting coverage in the local
English-language press. An audience of about 70 government
officials and private-sector business leaders engaged Graham
in discussion about the degree of Qatar's openness, most
agreeing that the country is "not open, but not closed."
Business representatives said the government should do more
to include the local private sector in emerging investment
opportunities that seemed to be steered toward foreign firms.


--------------
Software Piracy in Qatar Higher than Average
--------------


10. (SBU) On May 17, the Business Software Alliance and the
Ministry of Economy and Commerce hosted a workshop on the
protection of intellectual property. The workshop was not as
well attended as in previous years (two dozen compared to
70-odd) and overall preparation was unexceptional. Most
participants were government employees (Commerce and Justice
ministries), and the level of discussion centered on basic
IPR principles and the economic damage of piracy. However,
Microsoft's new point person on IPR protection was
knowledgeable and energetic. He characterized Qatar's rate of
software piracy as above the Middle Eastern average of 48%,
partly due to a lack of attention from western software
firms. With Qatar's rapid economic growth, companies are
paying more attention in order to stay ahead of the curve.
Qatari laws are adequate, but there are not enough resources
devoted to the protection of intellectual property. A British
lawyer did note that Qatar's attention to IPR matters had
increased as a result of TIFA talks.

-------------- --------------
Commercialbank Negotiates with National Bank of Oman
-------------- --------------


10. (U) Commercialbank, the second largest bank in Qatar in
terms of assets as of December 2004, is set to begin
negotiations with National Bank of Oman for a possible
strategic shareholding with the latter. According to a report
issued by Kuwait-based Global Investment House (Global) on
April 22 of this year, Commercialbank has an impressive track
record of profitable operations for 30 years of existence,
which has been supported by diversified revenue structure,
good asset quality, diversified funding sources and strong
capital base. Global lauded Commercialbank for improved
quality of loan portfolio, substantial improvement in
non-interest revenues and lower NPL (non-performing loans)
provisions. Commercialbank's net profit grew by 32 per cent
in 2004 to reach approximately $90 million dollars.

UNTERMEYER