TWO Arab youths were deported from Qatar on Thursday, according to activist organisations, after staging an unregistered protest in the main hall of the Qatar National Convention Centre, the venue for this year’s United Nations climate change negotiations.
Nearly 200 nations are battling to come to agreement on how to stave off damaging climate change through an international treaty.
Raied Gheblawi and Mohemmed Anis Amirouche’s silent protest, during which they held up a banner reading "Qatar, why host, not lead", lasted less than a minute.
They were taken by the arm and escorted away by UN security officers.
Asked for comment, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change spokesman Eric Hall had not yet given any several hours after the occurrence.
Qatar government spokesman Jonathan Smith said he needed more information before he could comment on the unregistered protest.
Qatar’s government has been criticised for not taking political control of the notoriously difficult talks that bring together nations from the US to Vietnam and South Africa to Finland.
The talks deadlocked late last week, with the world split roughly along the very line the US does not want encompassed in any deal — developed countries versus developing countries.
"We tried to register it and they did not allow it, they said it (protests in the main hall) stops the process and makes a noise," said Taki Eddine Djeffal, a member of Lebanon-based climate activist group the League of Independent Activists (IndyACT).
Mr Djeffal said Qatar’s government had refused permission for any protests in the main hall of the massive convention centre. Protests had been allowed in side halls but that meant they went largely unnoticed.
"It’s an insult to civil society," he said.
Time running out
The Qatari government was running out of time to make an emissions reduction pledge that would have enough time to spur action from other Gulf states, said Climate Action Network International spokesman Wael Hmaidan.
Although a few Arab states, such as Mr Hmaidan’s native Lebanon, had set emissions reductions targets, none of these was impressive and no Gulf state had done so, he said.
"The Arab youth are starting to lose hope (in the Qatari government’s presidency of the climate change talks)," Mr Hmaidan said.
Journalists marching up and down the convention centre’s halls have repeatedly queried why the larger international activist organisations such as Greenpeace have been so quiet at this year’s talks.
Asked whether Arab youths were feeling abandoned by such organisations, a top Arab activist who asked not to be quoted said: "You are correct in that, but we don’t want to get into that because we will need them after this."
Greenpeace International head Kumi Naidoo said the activist organisation, known for its often controversial publicity stunts, had decided against activism at the conference because it "didn’t want to perpetuate a lie that the people of Qatar have a right to demonstrate".
Last Saturday young climate activists from around the world, but predominately from Arab states, took part in the first climate-related protest march in Qatar. It was also one of the tiny emirate’s first protests of any kind.
Mr Smith said every climate change conference was marked by heightened emotions as it drew to a close. This one is scheduled to end on Friday night.
The Qatar government had been working "around the year" to create opportunities for the different parties to "come together", he said.
Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) Abdulla Saif said the idea of creating an Arab youth climate activist organisation had been "brewing since Copenhagen" hosted the talks in 2009.
The AYCM was created earlier this year.
"It was long overdue. Other regions are organised, it’s about time for the Arab youth to catch up," he said.
IndyACT member Katherine Shabb said: "In the context of the Arab Spring it is nice for Arab youths to take charge of this too. There is big movement to political change."
The Arab Spring is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests and wars that began in December 2010 and has seen the overthrow of dictators in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and the deaths of an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 people. The major oil-producing nations, including Qatar, have managed to keep their ruling families in power.
AYCM member Ibrahim Salem said the Arab Spring had definitely given the region’s youth courage and resolve.
"Sure, before the Arab Spring it was very hard for the youth to launch a youth movement like this across the Arab world.... Now we feel we can change, push, lobby, achieve."
• Blaine is attending the talks on a scholarship from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.