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Turkey-Qatar Posture for Joint Afghan Role Despite Human Rights Concerns

11/16/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 12, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken announced that Qatar will act as the US diplomatic representative in Afghanistan. This announcement came one day after Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar met his Qatari counterpart Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah in Istanbul, where the two countries agreed that they would strengthen their military ties.  

At the signing of the US-Qatar agreement, Secretary Blinken stated “Qatar will establish a US interests section within its embassy in Afghanistan to provide certain consular services and monitor the condition and security of US diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan.”  

State-backed Turkish media outlet the Daily Sabah described the Turkish-Qatar meeting, “(They) discussed bilateral and regional defense, security and cooperation in the defense industry. The two ministers also pledged to increase cooperation in mutual military training. Turkey and Qatar have been cooperating on numerous regional issues, including the Libyan crisis and Afghanistan.” 

ICC released a September report entitled Turkey’s Overflowing Influence: Religious Freedom Impact which describes how Turkey uses humanitarian aid and the defense contractor SADAT to worsen the human rights situation in unstable countries in such a way that minorities are excluded and displaced. SADAT’s specialty is military training and actively recruits terrorists into its ranks. Turkey has postured itself as the bridge between the Taliban and the outside world, partially by deepening its relationship with Qatar.  

Both Afghanistan and Turkey are recommended by the United Stations Commission on International Religious Freedom for the State Department’s Special Watch List. Qatar has been heavily criticized for its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organization.  

Open Doors’ World Watch List says“Life for Christians in Qatar can look very different depending on what type of Christian you are… Foreign workers who are Christians are much freer to worship… Muslims who convert to Christianity face much more significant persecution. Converts from both indigenous and migrant backgrounds bear the brunt of persecution.”  

Afghan Christians are exclusively Muslim converts, most of whom are attempting to escape the Taliban following the takeover. Approximately a hundred Afghan Christians are waiting in Qatar for resettlement, and the length of time where they will have to stay in Qatar is unknown.  

Given the deepening of Turkish-Qatari relations, as well as Turkey’s status as the world’s largest host of refugees and its relationship with the Taliban, the religious freedom implications of such geopolitical posturing are unclear.  

Matias Perttula, ICC’s Advocacy Director, said, “We are troubled by the increasing reliance on Qatar as an intermediary for the United States in Afghanistan, given their close relationship with Turkey. We urge U.S. officials to remain diligent of their Qatari delegates to ensure that they hold U.S. interests and the interests of Afghan Christians at the core of all negotiations.”    

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