New York Times Gets It Wrong on Qatar

National Council Founding President Dr. John Duke Anthony, presently in Doha, Qatar, escorting a delegation of outstanding Model Arab League student leaders and their faculty advisers, wrote the following today.

I was saddened and disappointed to read about the unfortunate circumstances related to American couple Mathew and Grace Huang from Los Angeles, California. After having been imprisoned in Qatar for a year, the couple was acquitted by Qatar’s Appellate Court Judge, Abdul Rahman Al-Sharafi. In a story that appeared in the International Edition of the New York Times on December 1, 2014, the authors, in their account of what happened next, wrote, “their attempt to leave Qatar was thwarted hours later when immigration officials refused to allow them to depart Doha’s airport. In a roller-coaster day of legal ups and downs, the couple had their passports confiscated in the airport departure area.” The authors seemed to imply that the reason the American couple were not allowed to leave the country was due to either malfeasance or incompetence, or possibly both, on the part of Qatari officials. In fact, neither was the case.

It was brought to my attention that in such circumstances a minimum of bureaucratically required paperwork, which often can be processed within a matter of a few hours , must not only be completed. It must also be properly submitted, scrutinized, and verified by the appropriately designated authorities. It appears that in this case the necessary and required forms only needed to be completed and processed. This morning I was informed by a Qatari government official, whom I respect, that the needed forms are not complex, but simple and straight forward.

These important facts were omitted from the International Edition of the New York Times on December 1 and served to harm the image of the Qatar-U.S. mutually beneficial relationship. This detracts from the need to elucidate for the reader what Qatar and the United States are and have long been doing to cooperate with one another across a broad range of common needs, concerns, interests, and key foreign policy and defense objectives.

Not least among what the two allies have been addressing in a cooperative manner for quite some time is that which drives the engine of the world’s material wellbeing, namely energy; their allied hour-by-hour efforts to counter violent extremism; their extensive joint endeavors in defending the aerial and maritime arteries in the world’s most economically vital area; and their and the five other Gulf Cooperation Council countries’ geopolitically and strategically aligned efforts to achieve a secure, stable, and peaceful Gulf and nearby areas, without which there can be no prospects for sustained prosperity either in the immediate region of Qatar, its fellow GCC countries, and its neighbors, or countries further afield.

Add the one-of-a-kind range of educational and cultural ties between Qatar and the United States, and include the numerous mutually beneficial facets derived from this kind of cooperation. In the developing countries and in numerous among the industrialized countries, the benefits of these dimensions of the relationship are increasingly well known and, understandably, the envy of many. They are also hard to come by in either quite the same nature or to anywhere near the same extent elsewhere.

I was pleased to learn today in a tweet from U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith that the travel requirements have now been met and the couple can now return to the U.S. tomorrow. I hope a future International Edition of the New York Times will better explain this to its readership.