Facebook page calls for Qatar emir's ouster

Posted at 02/27/11 2:01 AM

DUBAI - A Facebook page demanding the ouster of Qatar's moderate, pro-Western emir, accusing him of being an agent of Israel, had attracted 18,262 fans by Saturday in the latest web-driven push for change in the Arab world.

In what is apparently the first call for change in the gas-rich state since popular revolts began sweeping the Arab world, the page has a profile picture with an image of Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, crossed out in red.

Against a backdrop of Qatar's flag is the tagline: "For Qatar: try the traitor, an agent of Israel."

Entitled "Freedom Revolution, March 16, Qatar," the page calls on Qataris to hit the streets to demand change."

It could not be determined how many of the page's followers are in the gas-rich emirate, nor how many many might turn out.

Among other demands are the exclusion from public affairs of the emir's wife, Sheikha Mouza, and an end to Qatari ties to Israel and the United States, which has a military base in the small Gulf state.

Qatar does not have diplomatic relations with Israel but did maintain informal ties with the Jewish state.

It broke off those ties and closed Israel's trade office in Doha in protest at Israel's offensive against the Gaza Strip over New Year 2009 in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

The page features pictures of Hamad and others with Israeli officials accompanied by angry comments about the emir being a "traitor like Mubarak."

Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak pursued close ties with Israel during years of efforts to help broker a peace deal with the Palestinians.

The number of Facebook users in the Arab world rose by 78% in 2010, from less than 12 million to around 21 million, according to a report published by the Dubai School of Government.

Facebook and Twitter have played a significant role in a wave of anti-government protests around the Arab world, fanned by poverty and unemployment, that have grown into major revolts.

A popular uprising led to the ousting of Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Mubarak, and similar revolts have sprung up in Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.

Earlier this month, a page dedicated to Saudi Arabia surfaced on Facebook, urging political, social and economic reforms. By Saturday, the page had attracted more than 9,400 fans.

On Wednesday, in an apparent bid to keep his citizens happy, Saudi King Abdullah announced a boost in social benefits, a 15% pay rise for state employees and an increase in cash available for Saudi housing loans.