The image of the Qatari Emir’s wife, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missnad, on her visit to Iraq, in which she stood side-by-side with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki, can only be described as striking. It would be difficult to let it pass without commenting on it or analyzing it.
It was declared that Sheikha Mozah’s visit came within the framework of the commitment to support issues of rights to education, and that she was implementing recommendations of the UNESCO’s last conference held in Paris on protecting educational systems in crisis situations, such as the situation in Iraq.
This of course deserves support. However, Iraqi Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Mohammed al Sheikh told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There are definitely political dimensions to Sheikha Mozah’s visit,” and only a few days ago he explained that there is an intense Iraqi movement in Doha. A coincidence or are matters slowly heating up in Qatar?
That’s not all; we should also mull over the statement made by Sheikha Mozah al Missnad a few days ago in Qatar at the ceremony of UNESCO’s 2009 World Press Freedom Prize, especially as these statements and actions all took place roughly within the same week. According to the Qatari paper ‘Al Raya’, Sheikha Mozah said, “The role of a responsible and professional press as well as the role of a good education to bring positions closer and bridge the gap between people is essential. This in my view is the path towards achieving reconciliation among people and cultures.” She added that this reconciliation must not be tactical; it should stem from a strategic vision that aims at achieving the objective of living in harmony and most importantly, “we should forget the past,” and “benefit from its lessons in order to build the future.”
Some might say that these are general statements and statements like these have been made time and again. But for such comments to come from Doha in particular – commenting on the media’s role of bringing positions together rather than distancing them and bridging gaps rather than widening them and that all of this must not be tactical – suggests that there are major changes [taking place] especially as the majority of the problems that the Arab states have with Qatar are based on media wrangling and not media freedom.
Of course there is a big difference between wrangling and fishing for trouble on the one hand and the freedom of a responsible media on the other. Egypt for example enjoys more media freedom internally than Qatar; in fact, the newspapers of the opposition are quick to criticise the Egyptian President himself. Therefore, Egypt, like many other Arab states, is not in need of any foreign parties to try and outbid it in this regard.
The question here is: what direction will these Qatari changes take? What will be the positive outcome of Sheikha Mozah’s visit to Baghdad? If it is an attempt to improve and normalise Iraqi-Qatari ties in the interests of both countries and the Arabs in general then it deserves to be met with open arms. However, if we are standing before a new alliance that represents nothing but a continuation of old alliances that are still ruining as they support one party at the expense of another on this map of Arab political crises – then it is here we say may God help us in the upcoming days.