UAE’s targeting of Muslims in Europe during the 2017 anti-Qatar campaign exposed


Recently released documents known as the Abu Dhabi Secret Files have revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched a wide-ranging campaign against Muslims across Europe as part of its anti-Qatar smear campaign during the 2017 GCC crisis. The UAE’s intelligence services reportedly hired a private Swiss company, Alp Services, to investigate thousands of European Muslims, including influential figures, rights activists, and journalists, falsely linking them to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

Although the MB is a popular regional movement that played a significant role in the Arab Spring of 2011, the UAE considers it a “terrorist organization”. The UAE’s fierce opposition to the MB goes beyond ideological differences; it is rooted in the fear of potential threats to the region’s autocratic regimes and monarchies, as demonstrated by the rise of elected governments affiliated with the Brotherhood in Tunisia and Egypt after the Arab Spring.

During the 2017 GCC crisis, the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt, imposed an illegal blockade on Qatar and launched a mass smear campaign, claiming that Doha had ties to the MB. The Abu Dhabi Secret Files expose how the UAE intentionally misidentified targets as Islamists affiliated with the MB through an operation codenamed ‘Arnica’ or ‘Crocus,’ primarily focusing on Qatar and the MB.

The files indicate that Alp Services supplied the UAE with a list of over 1,000 individuals and 400 organizations falsely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in 18 European countries between 2017 and 2020. Many of these individuals had no connection to the MB. The list equates them with convicted terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda and includes their personal details and telephone numbers, labelling them as closely affiliated with or supporters of the MB.

Critics have highlighted the dangers of such operations, which aim to tarnish the reputation of respected Muslims in Europe, as well as Muslim institutions and civil society organizations. The UAE’s relentless targeting and surveillance of adversaries through spyware like Pegasus have also come to light, raising further concerns about privacy and human rights violations.

Although the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt have resumed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, ideological differences and tensions still exist in the region. The UAE’s campaign against Qatar’s positive reputation continues through information networks aimed at proliferating disinformation and misinformation about Qatar.

Experts predict that such operations will persist, with plausible deniability allowing the UAE to achieve relative gains in the information environment. The future of the UAE-backed anti-Qatar campaigns remains uncertain, but the potential for mobilization against Qatar still exists if the UAE chooses to do so.


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