Consortium Against Terrorist Finance Jul. 5, 2016, 2:46pm

The Sheikh Eid bin Mohammad al Thani Charitable Association, or Eid Charity, has grown steadily in importance and influence since its establishment in 1995. Today, the Qatar-based charity spends hundreds of millions of dollars on aid projects around the globe and has declared its plans to work with Qatari businesses to raise close to $10 million during the holy month of Ramadan. The introduction of private-sector businesses as funding sources for Eid Charity suggests a shift in structure for an organization that has traditionally relied on individuals and the Qatari government for financial support. As millions of dollars of private-sector money are soon funneled through the philanthropy organization, Eid Charity’s history of associating with extremist groups, directly and through its leadership, cast doubts over where this new source of money will end up.

Founded in Doha, Qatar, Eid Charity is an Islamic charitable organization that has provided a wide range of services since its launch in 1995. Eid Charity operates as a Government Organized Non-Governmental Organization (GONGO) with close connections to government institutions, as indicated by the organization’s name. Once described as a small organization that “does little international charitable work” by the U.S. Department of State in 2003, Eid Charity has since grown to offer vital aid to underserved communities in Qatar and throughout the Middle East and has played a central role in assisting Syrian refugees. In addition to more traditional sources of aid, Eid Charity has built 6,000 mosques around the world in a move that mirrors Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s attempts to buy influence through the construction of mosques and Islamic centers.

With the help of the Qatari royal family, Eid Charity has become one of the largest charitable associations in Qatar with operations around the world. In fact, by the end of 2015 the Qatar News Agency reported that Eid Charity had spent approximately $125 million in 59 countries over the course of the year. This considerable aid package reportedly reached 44,000 orphans and families and helped build 469 mosques and 359 houses. More recently, Eid Charity announced its intentions to spend over $41 million in 60 countries around the globe during Ramadan 2016.

A significant portion of Eid Charity’s funds has been spent on maintaining the organization’s role in assisting refugees from war-torn Syria; a role that has also become the charity’s trademark in recent years. As of the time of writing, Eid Charity had spent more than $60 million on supporting Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq as well as Syrian internally displaced persons (IDPs). This aid reportedly reached more than 7 million people including 4,323 Syrian orphans. In addition, The Peninsula reported that 2,000 Eid Charity workers are in “affected areas” of Syria assisting needy communities. Eid Charity has also placed a focus on the increasingly ravaged city of Aleppo where it “has put its emergency crews on full alert to reach the affected areas, transport the wounded and provide the injured in Aleppo with emergency first aid.”

Despite Eid Charity’s long history of depending on individual donations and government support to fund its expensive projects around the world, the charity has demonstrated its plans to attract further private-sector investment through the introduction of the Al Baraka initiative. Announced in May 2016, the Al Baraka initiative “seeks to raise QR 36m (approximately $10 million) during Ramadan by encouraging companies to donate a percentage of their profits to Eid Charity to be spent on charity projects.” According to Nawaf Abdullah Al Hammadi, Eid Charity’s Executive Manager of Resources Development and Media, over 20 Qatari businesses have expressed interest in donating a portion of their profits to Eid Charity. Despite the fact that specific fundraising goals have been set for the month of Ramadan, the initiative has no “specific time limit” and will continue even after Ramadan.

As of now, details regarding the specific companies interested in contributing to Eid Charity and the percentage of their profits that will be donated are not readily available and are likely not yet finalized. However, the introduction of new, diverse sources of funding for a government-aligned organization presents new risks. Different contributing companies have different interests regarding the use and/or destination of their donations, interests that may contradict Eid Charity’s formal objectives. For example, Qatar Charity and Madid Ahl al-Sham, both Qatar-based organizations and possible contributors to Eid Charity under the Al Baraka initiative, have proven histories of funding al-Qaeda and its affiliates throughout the region. Under Al Baraka, Eid Charity will have to remain committed to ensuring that the charity group is only funding legitimate projects – a commitment that requires the leadership’s goals to be exclusively legal and legitimate. On this note, Eid Charity’s record is less clear. Although the organization has been at the forefront of many commendable humanitarian projects, they have also been surreptitiously involved in suspicious activities and associations. With this in mind, the likely inclusion of Qatari businesses as sources of funding for Eid Charity only raises more questions about who will be on the receiving end of their money.

Abd al-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nuaymi, a founding member of Eid Charity, has a proven record of unlawful activities. As a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), the U.S. Department of the Treasury accused Nuaymi of overseeing the transfer of over $2 million per month to ISIS’ predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq. Nuaymi has also transferred or ordered the transfer of funds to al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria and the al-Shabaab terrorist group based in Somalia. Nuaymi was also the president of Alkarama, a Geneva-based human rights organization whose former clients have been linked to Islamist militias operating in Syria. Nuaymi and Abdul al-Humaiqani, also a SDGT for his role in transferring funds to al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, are both members of Alkarama.

Eid Charity also has a history of organizational ties to terrorist groups and organizations funding terrorist groups. In a 2007 U.S. Department of State wire describing Hamas’ money laundering scheme released through WikiLeaks, Eid Charity was described as having transferred money to “Hamas charities” through JP Morgan Chase. In 2008, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed Eid Charity’s connection to Hamas by emphasizing the group’s membership in the “Union of Good” organization led by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a controversial Islamic theologian. The 36 funds that make up the “Union of Good” were banned in Israel “since they are part of Hamas’s fundraising network, and both support and assist it.” 

Eid Charity has also been linked to Madid Ahl al-Sham, a fundraising campaign supporting al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. In a 2014 social media announcement, Eid Charity was mentioned as supervising a project led by Madid Ahl al-Sham. Madid Ahl al-Sham, a Qatar-based online fundraising campaign, was shut down by Qatari authorities in 2014 for its connections to terrorist groups. When the Nusrah Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, described the fundraising campaign as “one of the preferred conduits for donations”, few doubts remained about Madid Ahl al-Sham’s underground goals. Eid Charity’s partnership with Madid Ahl al-Sham, despite the fact the U.S. Treasury acknowledged its serious connections to terrorism, demonstrates the group’s eagerness to engage in destructive activities.

Eid Charity, described as “the biggest and most influential activist Salafi-controlled relief organization in the world”, has yet to demonstrate that an influx of private-sector funds will alter their proven record of funding terrorist groups and organizations that fund terrorist groups. Without a leadership committed to ensuring all funded projects are entirely legitimate, Eid Charity leaders may allow their money to end up in the hands of dangerous actors. As Eid Charity moves towards including Qatari businesses as prominent supporters, the organization’s activities should be closely monitored to ensure this new source of funding is used exclusively to fund legitimate projects.

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