American woman's life has been torn apart by Qatar's abuse of the Interpol Red Notice system, raising serious human rights concerns.
New Jersey international relations professional Nancy Samir never imagined that accepting an incredible offer to work for the Qatar Foundation would have ended as it did. 50 year old Nancy wound up hopeless, broke, stranded and separated from her children and parents and with the trauma ultimately resulting in her father’s death. Nancy was on her way to attend a job interview in the UAE that she thought would help her get her life back on track and even allow her to pay off her loan. Little did she know that it would be the start of one of the most traumatic experiences of her life.
The mother of two grew up in New Jersey and pursued a graduate degree at a prestigious private university. She held many impressive positions in New York & Washington DC with a number of different international foundations & diplomatic missions. From a young age, Nancy travelled often around the world visiting different orphanages and refugee camps and was an active humanitarian and published many articles about the empowerment of women and youth.
Deciding to develop her skills further, Nancy accepted a senior research position at one of the universities in Doha under the Qatar Foundation umbrella. In her exciting new role, Nancy worked directly with a former US Ambassador and advisor to Presidents Nixon and Reagan.
Having settled into life in Doha and with her new employment, she was aggressively pursued by Qatar National Bank (QNB) and agreed to take out a loan to buy a car. The bank asked her to sign a ‘security cheque for the total amount of the loan. The justification for this bizarre practice is to prevent customers from defrauding the bank. If they default on a payment or flee the country, the bank will present the cheque. If it bounces, a criminal charge will be made. Nancy was very concerned but the bank employee assured her that it was standard practice in the Middle East and she had a steady job.
Back at the office though, Nancy’s boss was writing on topics that were critical of the Muslim Brotherhood which was sensitive to the government of Qatar and so the decision was made by the management of that university to make both Nancy and her boss redundant, by explaining that the center where they both worked was going to be closed and that their possitions no longer existed as a result of the restructuring. Nancy was devastated considering that her employment contract listed an indefinite term of employment. Upon losing her secure employment unexpectedly, Nancy fire sold the car, losing much of its value. This left her with a bank debt, no car and no job. In no time at all, QNB presented the cheque which naturally bounced. They phoned her, pressuring her, telling her to turn herself into the police or prove that she had already secured another job. Nancy had managed to find a short term 6 month contract and appease the bank. Upon presenting the bank with proof of that new Kafeel or employment sponsor, they dropped the case but had her sign a new cheque.
Nancy kept up her payments and was given leave to visit her family in the US. During her holiday, her new company notified her that the contract was not going to be renewed citing that Nancy was overqualified for the position. Nancy called and emailed QNB reassuring them that she would seek a new job in Qatar but she was told by the bank or collections agent, “No no no, if you come to Qatar, you’re going to be arrested at the airport because we’ve already filed a case against you in the prosecutor's office and there is a warrant for your arrest”. They began to harass her regularly and even threatened by email that they would issue an Interpol red notice in her name. Nancy didn’t take them seriously because her friends who worked at Qatari banks reassured her that there was no risk, “You owe around $50,000, why would any bank issue an Interpol red notice for that?” Nancy continued seeking alternative employment.
Her luck seemed to change when she managed to land an interview with a government agency in Abu Dhabi. “I was so excited”, recalls Nancy, “in my mind I said, now I can make enough to pay back my loan.” On arrival though, Nancy was immediately arrested. “I was locked in an interrogation room for some time, handcuffed, then taken in a white car to CID, to the Interpol office. Most of the Emiratis that I dealt with were very compassionate and nice to me, but because of Qatar’s Interpol red notice against me, I had to be processed like a criminal. Walking outside of the airport in handcuffs was the most humiliating time of my life. When I arrived at the next holding room at a CID building, they told me there would be no extradition because there are currently no diplomatic relations between the two countries, but that I had to wait for a while to see what the Ministry of Interior was going to do with me. It was the scariest moment, not knowing what was going to happen next.
“They didn’t keep me in jail, they told me to go home and come back in the morning but they kept my US passport. I stayed in the UAE for about three weeks. I was losing my mind, I was suicidal. I went to the US Embassy, they wouldn’t help me. They wouldn’t even let me into the Embassy or allow me to speak to anyone. They just offered to provide me with a list of lawyers, reminding me that they didn't recommend any of them and they would not provide any financial or other support’.
“I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was starting to lose it, big time and then my father, when he heard what happened, had a stroke. My father’s condition started to deteriorate in 2017, he then contracted covid and sadly, passed away June of 2020”.
“What I endured, after losing my job through no fault of my own and then being treated like a criminal, or even worse than criminals because I think some criminals don’t get the same treatment was a direct result of the inhumane way that QNB treats their customers.
“When I was in Qatar, I attended so many human rights meetings. I actually believed Qatar stood for human rights, but when I tried to contact those same human rights organizations to ask them to advocate for me they ignored me completely.
“Qatar reminds me of the Eagles song, “Hotel California”. In the beginning you think that you are in heaven but sooner than later you find yourself in the deepest pits of Hell”.
“I managed to survive divorce, death of loved ones, disability and being a single mom, but what QNB put me through sucked the life out of me, and broke me. I believe that the post-traumatic stress that I have faced as a result of this experience has changed my outlook on life. I will never be the same.”
A British national, John Nicholas was also wrongfully listed on Qatar's Interpol Red Notice database by Qatar National Bank for a small bank loan which Mr Nicholas had almost entirely discharged by the time he left Qatar. QNB added atrocious charges to try to escalate the claiming amount beyond Interpol's minimum 15,000 Euro threshold for a Red Notice.
“QNB and other Qatar based banks have been repeat abusers of Interpol’s Red Notice database,” said Radha Stirling, an expert witness, leading voice in the fight against ‘Interpol Abuse’ and founder of IPEX (Interpol & Extradition) Reform. “It’s absurd that Qatar has been permitted by Interpol to use their database as a means to collect bank and credit card debts from foreign nationals. Banks have pressured Qatari law enforcement to report even small debtors to Interpol, with a view to having them detained abroad and pressured to discharge credit cards and loans. This is clearly against INTERPOL’s charter and a violation of their membership agreement but Interpol would rather accept the donations from Middle Eastern countries and remain silent, than to punish them for abusing Interpol’s power and reputation.
“Alan Stevenson was detained in Prague on a frivolous notice and David Blackhouse was pulled from his car in Britain as though he were an international fugitive.
“Interpol has become a pay to play organisation, open to manipulation and abuse by countries with poor human rights records. Countries like the UAE, Saudi, Qatar, Bahrain, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Egypt and China have been able to use the crime tool for their own personal vendettas.
“Countries like Qatar and the UAE, have used Interpol’s reach to extend their jurisdiction beyond their borders, causing the arrest, detention and prosecution abroad of many innocent victims. Innocent individuals have been listed on Interpol, arrested, detained and tried for “crimes'' that don’t even meet Interpol’s minimum reporting criteria. Journalists, activists, businessmen and credit card debtors have been locked up in Western nations at the mere request of countries who repeatedly take advantage of their membership with Interpol.
“We have managed to remove numerous Qatar issued arrest warrants for violating Interpol’s charter and it’s certainly time that Interpol themselves were legally held to account.
“Nancy has suffered greatly as a result of the wrongful red notice. It is time US policy makers review Interpol’s sovereign immunity and promote the accountability of such powerful organisations. Nancy’s name will be removed from Interpol’s database but she will not be compensated, she will not get an apology, and this will happen again and again until powerful countries recognise the damage a frivolous notice can cause”.
Founder & CEO at Detained in Dubai