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Qatar arrests seven people for racial speech, 88 others for breaking COVID measures

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Qatar authorities arrested seven people and referred them to the Public Prosecution for using social media “to spread false news” and “stirred up racial and tribal strife,” Qatar’s Ministry of Interior announced on Monday.

The official Qatar News Agency (QNA) confirmed the statement and said that an additional 88 people were also referred to the prosecution for not adhering to the country’s precautionary and preventative COVID-19 measures.

The ministry also added that it will not hesitate to take legal action against anyone who “embraces racial speech” aiming to threaten the stability and security of the country and society.

Several people took to social media to speak out against the conditions for running for Qatar’s Shura Council elections, which are scheduled to be held in October, the BBC reported.

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Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani approved the electoral law for the country’s first-ever legislative elections earlier this week. He will appoint 15 members of the 45-seat Shura Council who will all be given the legislative authority to approve general state budgets and policies, according to Reuters.

The new law states that anyone who is of Qatari origin and is over the age of 18 is allowed to vote. Those who are not of Qatari origin but whose grandfather is of Qatari origin and was born in the country are exempt from the “original nationality” condition.

It also states that candidates who would like to run for the Shura Council elections will need to be originally Qatari and aged 30 or above.

Qatar's ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, gives a speech to the Shura Council in Doha, Qatar, November 3, 2020. (File photo: Reuters)
Qatar's ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, gives a speech to the Shura Council in Doha, Qatar, November 3, 2020. (File photo: Reuters)

Approved in a 2003 constitutional referendum, the elections are being held before the country’s capital hosts the World Cup football tournament in 2022.

These conditions, especially the requirement of the candidate needing to be of Qatari nationality originally, have sparked a great deal of controversy on social media, prompting members of the country’s al-Murrah tribe to speak out on the matter as they do not meet the requirements.

The al-Murrah tribe, descendants of camel-herding nomads who (historically) controlled vast parts of the Arabian Peninsula and made up a large proportion of Qatar’s ethnic population, took to social media and posted several videos in protest of what they described to be the “arbitrary law” that was against them, essentially preventing them from running for the Shura Council elections.

Some activists on social media also launched an Arabic hashtag which translates to something along the lines of: “Al-Murrah was found in Qatar before the government,” the BBC reported.

The ministry added that it will not hesitate to take legal action against anyone who “embraces racial speech” aiming to threaten the stability and security of the country and society.

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