A Syrian serviceman stands guard on the front line against Jabhat al-Nusra rebel forces, in Latakia governorate, in 2020. Al-Nusra is an offshoot of al-Qaeda. Mikhail Voskresenskiy / Sputnik

When it comes to hijacking headlines, Qatar is no stranger, hosting the upcoming soccer World Cup, and even writing the world’s headlines through its state-financed Al Jazeera network. Doha’s natural-gas wealth has bolstered Qatar’s influence, helping it fund US universities to the tune of $5 billionlobby the US Congress, and subsidize the highly influential Brookings Institute.

Whether via high-profile spectacles, writing the headlines, or coercing those defining them, Qatar has managed to suppress its dark side – its terrorism financing.       

Qatar has provided billions of dollars to Muslim Brotherhood regimes and affiliates, such as Hamas, and to Islamists who have fueled civil war in Libya and Syria, such as Ahrar al-Sham, which executed attacks alongside the successor of Jabhat al-Nusra, an offshoot of al Qaeda.    

Receipts uncovered from Qatar’s state-run Eid charity – perhaps the world’s largest “Salafi-controlled relief organization” – by the Middle East Forum, a US-based think-tank, suggest that the black hole of Qatari Islamist financing plunges deeper than previously thought. The receipts indicate that Qatar has provided 45,000 grants worth billions of dollars to charities in more than 70 countries – over a third of the world.

Beneficiaries include organizations in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, but also some in Canada, Mexico, the UK, France, Germany – and even the US state of Colorado.

Though many Eid Charity beneficiaries have yet to be audited, some preliminary findings further reveal Qatar’s ties to Middle Eastern radical groups including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Hamas, and Ihsani Yardim Vakfiih (IHH). Collectively, these groups and their referenced affiliates have received about US$75 million from Qatar’s Eid Charity.

AQAP’s ties to the Eid Charity are unsurprising given the haven that Qatar afforded to 9/11 mastermind and al-Qaeda figurehead Khaled Sheikh Mohammed (KSM). In Qatar, KSM was employed by the Ministry of Electricity and Water, and helped plot attacks targeting the World Trade Center (1993) and the Philippines – where he reportedly sought to assassinate then-US president Bill Clinton as he traveled abroad.

Notable AQAP affiliates to benefit from Qatar’s Eid Charity include the Al Ihsan Charitable Society, a recipient of nearly $17.8 million and a terrorist organization as designated by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The society is reportedly led by Abdullah al-Yazidi, an alleged former “member of AQAP’s Hadhrami Domestic Council” who supposedly co-founded an organization alongside Abdul Rahman bin Umayr al-Nuaimi. Nuaimi appears on “US and UN terror lists” and is himself a founder of the Eid Charity.

The Eid Charity has also funded Yemen’s Rahma Charity Foundation, a US-designated terror group due to its AQAP ties, and the Al Hikma Al Yamania Charitable Society, which has equipped “money and logistic aids to al-Qaeda leaders from Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” helping them “recruit fighters and smuggle them into Iraq.” Those two organizations have received about $319,000 and $6.5 million respectively.

The receipts also expose new channels of Qatari funding to Hamas, whose leaders have been afforded the impunity necessary to host conferences in Doha’s premier hotels.  

One of Hamas’ affiliates to benefit is the Jerusalem International Foundation (Al Quds International Foundation), a Lebanese terrorist organization designated by the US Treasury Department for “being controlled by and acting for or on behalf of Hamas.”

According to the US Treasury Department, the foundation is an extension of Hamas, whose officials draft the foundation’s “documents, plans, budgets, and projects.” It has received about $3.7 million from the Eid Charity.

Hamas officials likewise play an active role in another Eid Charity beneficiary, the House of the Noble Quran and Sunnah Society (Gaza), which has received around $565,000. Graduation ceremonies commenced by the society have been attended by Hamas leaders. 

The society even hosted Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political chief, to “inaugurate” the opening of its new headquarters. At its Koran memorization competition in 2015, Haniyeh awarded certificates and delivered a speech, referencing “the blessings of the days of jihad and resistance” (see 1:18:23), and glorifying deceased members of Hamas’ Izz al-Din Al Qassam Brigades as “martyrs” (see 1:24:10). Haniyeh has made numerous appearances at the society’s events.

Another Hamas affiliate warranting mention is Jamiyyah Al Mujama’a Al Islami in Gaza (JMIG). The branch in Khan Younis has honored former board members before Hamas officials and regularly identifies as Al Mujama’a Al Islami, a Hamas-controlled organization established by Hamas’ founder: Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. JMIG has received about $6.3 million.

The last notable group to receive Qatari funding is Ihsani Yardim Vakfiih (IHH), which received nearly $23.2 million. Banned by IsraelGermany and the Netherlands, IHH remains infamous for its 2010 flotilla fiasco, when its Mavi Marmara and 40 Turkish jihadi passengers sought to clash with Israeli forces and illegally infiltrate Gaza.

Nine died in the confrontation, including three IHH jihadis who beforehand “declared their readiness to become martyrs.” 

“Passengers” aboard the flotilla brandished “knives, broken glass bottles, and slingshots,” and, allegedly, Molotov cocktails and detonators.

Some IHH affiliates to receive funding unsurprisingly bear Hamas ties. Cue the Al Nusra Charitable Society, which has received grant money from IHH and sponsored an event with the Ibn Baz Charitable Society, another beneficiary of Eid philanthropy. Those organizations have received about $13.2 million and $3.5 million respectively.   

Ibn Baz’ president, Sheikh Omar al-Homs, has sought to overcome differences and promote cooperation with Hamas, observing, “the goal that we see is to bring hearts … closer and postpone disputes before the battle with the Jews…. Hamas bears the slogan of Islam, and whatever our differences, Islam brings us together.”   

In sum, as Qatar razzles-and-dazzles with its flamboyant displays of wealth, it funds jihadist organizations under the table, such as AQAP and Hamas affiliates, and the IHH. The Eid Charity’s receipts reflect the true motives of the pro-Islamist Qatari government, and the dangers the West welcomes as it flirts with Qatari money while turning a blind eye to its black hole of terrorism financing in the Middle East.                  

Jordan Cope

Jordan Cope is the Middle East Forum’s Qatari finance fellow.