Emir's Wife Works At Progressive Image, Too
Like her husband the Emir, Sheikha Al Missned has cultivated a benign, liberal image, not only through her work on behalf of children, but also as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Arab Democracy Foundation, which she helped establish in 2007. In its mission statement, the foundation says it "is an independent international Arab civil society organization advocating democracy as a culture, as a way of life, and as the best system for good governance. "
The Foundation says it also "seeks to disseminate the culture of human rights and to increase the citizens' awareness of, and commitment to, their legitimate rights."
Sheikha Al Missned is the daughter of Nasser bin Abdullah Al Missned (died in 2007), who was an opponent of Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad bin Abdallah Al Thani, father of the current Emir. The family lived in exile in Egypt and Kuwait, but returned to Qatar for the Sheikha's marriage. She married the Emir (at the time Heir Apparent) in 1977 at the age of 18, while she was attending Qatar University . She received her BA degree in Sociology from there in 1986.
At Qatar's National Human Rights Committee, the emir chose Mohamed bin Saif al Kurawi as his spokesman to talk to reporter Amy Goodman of DemocracyNOW! on December 7. The spokesman began by explaining that he couldn't discuss the al-Ajami poetry case:
"" because this is in the court. I mean, this is his case in the court, his case and the judge. I can't answer this and quickly without to see the file, without to see the cases in details--well, I mean, in deep details. I cannot answer this is OK this is in prison or not. But for human rights in Qatar, always to see this is--this people or this persons will get his rights fully--total rights for him, even in the prisons or in the courts, about the procedure. This is very important with us, is the procedure is according to the international conventions, international laws, also something in human rights."
"You Can't Talk Everythings"
He also noted that Al Jazeera and other Qatari news organizations hadn't covered the story, that he'd seen it only on the BBC. Referring to Qatari law under which media and poet all function, he explained that the law allowed freedom of opinion and expression, but -- "You can't talk everythings."
On December 10, which was International Human Rights Day 2012, in Qatar the Doha Centre for Media Freedom broke its silence on the al-Ajami case. Speaking at an event sponsored by Al Jazeera English, the center's director ducked specific comment on the case, but went on to say:
"Prominent international human rights organisations and the international media reported extensively on this case but the Qatari media remained silent. Including until now, I must admit, the Doha Centre for Media Freedom. But today is the day, I feel, to speak out and to break the barriers of fear.
"We still don't know all the details about this particular case, but we feel local media failed their mission and should be able to inform the general public in this country. To inform and be informed: it is simply a question of basic human rights."
U.S. Commemorates Human Rights Day with Inaction
Also on December 10, the United States joined in commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations in 1948. Discussing human rights in a recent speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that free societies have two responsibilities toward peoples in nations with repressive governments:
"First, to remain vigilant in ensuring that we honor and implement our own commitment to human rights at home, and second, to help others gain what we have, the chance to live in dignity."
When the media-dubbed Arab Spring began two years ago in Tunisia, western media called the uprising the "Jasmine Revolution," after the Tunisian national flower, but Tunisians referred to it as the Dignity Revolution.