Cardiff Labour councillor defends meeting with member of the Qatari royal family
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
A Cardiff Council member who met with a member of the Qatari royal family for breakfast said he stands up for democracy and human rights.
Cllr Ali Ahmed, ward member for Cathays, posted images of his meeting with Sheikh Dr Khaled Thani last Sunday on social media.
Although he wrote in his post that he had invited the Qatari royal to visit Cardiff to meet First Minister Mark Drafkeford and for “investment opportunities” among other things, Cllr Ahmed insisted the visit was “personal”.
Cllr Ahmed’s post read: “It was an honour and privilege to be invited by H. E. Sheikh Dr Khaled Thani A .T. Al-Thani to his Mayfair London mansion for breakfast this morning Allhamdulillah.
“I have invited him to visit our beautiful City and opportunity to meet our First Minister and leader of City of Cardiff Cllr Huw Thomas also for Investment opportunities.”
When asked about the meeting, Cllr Ahmed said: “I know the family, I know the other people as well, so therefore he invited me to come to his house. That is all.
“I, like any other councillor in Cardiff, would like investment into our city.
“It was just a personal visit.”
As Qatar prepares to host this year’s FIFA World Cup, the country’s government has come under fire over a lack of labour laws again after a report from human rights group Equidem highlighted the exploitation faced by some migrant workers.
There are also continuing concerns around discrimination towards women and members of the LGBTQ community in the country.
When asked what he would say to people who have concerns about Cardiff having any potential future dealings with Qatar, Cllr Ahmed said: “I totally understand.
“Democracy and human rights are our core values and this is what I want to see, but this is an international issue that I think the UK Government needs to deal with.”
Sheikh Dr Khaled Thani A. Al Thani describes himself as a businessman with ‘diverse business interests’ in real estate insurance, financial securities, healthcare and telecom.
He is also the chairman of Ezdan Holding – a real estate company that engages in the acquisition and sale of property and land.
Cllr Ahmed added: “He has got investment – massive investment – in Bristol, London, in other cities and he has got investment in other European countries. In America and New York he has got massive investment.
“I don’t have the authority to talk about international issues. What I will say is I do stand up for democracy and human rights.
“Nobody called me to talk about democracy in Palestine. Nobody called me to talk about democracy in Yemen. Nobody called me about democracy in Myanmar, where over a million people have been kicked out of their own home.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are proud that Wales will be competing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“We work hard to raise the profile of Wales and create trade and investment opportunities from our involvement in major events around the world.
“We also believe that it is better to engage with countries that do not always share our values on human rights, LGBTQ+ rights, workers’ rights and political and religious freedom.
“Engaging with countries provides an opportunity to develop a platform for further discussion, to raise awareness and to potentially influence a change in approach.”
Commenting Cardiff Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Rhys Taylor said: “Cllr Ali Ahmed has managed to cause a lot of confusion with his recent actions. Despite it now being clarified this was a personal visit rather than professional, I am not entirely sure discussing investment opportunities in Cardiff and potential meetings with the Council Leader and First Minister fall into a personal remit.
“I would like to see both Council Leader Huw Thomas and First Minister Mark Drakeford rule out meeting with Qatari Royals.
“We know Qatar has one of the worst human rights records in the world, with the country ranking 126/167 on the world democracy index and performing poorly on woman’s rights, with a male guardianship system still in place that means most women still need the permission of a male guardian to carry out everyday tasks.
“Being gay is still punishable by death in the country and foreign migrants have been continuously used for slave labour.
“We all want Cardiff to attract investment, but this can be done ethically in a way that sees us stand up strongly for human rights, democracy and liberty.”
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