The fake protest follows revelations that a PR firm in London offered cash to extras to form an “anti-Qatar event” near Downing Street during a meeting between the Emir and Theresa May.

Qatar has found evidence of an “international smear campaign” after extras were offered US$100 to take part in a demonstration against the country outside the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The fake protest follows revelations that a PR firm in London offered cash to extras to form an “anti-Qatar event” near Downing Street during a meeting between the Emir and Theresa May.

A woman who said she attended the protest told The Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom that she spotted a “vague” Facebook post asking locals in Brooklyn to “wave flags” and “stand up for peace” near the UN’s headquarters in Manhattan on September 25th – the same day Donald Trump delivered a controversial address to the organization’s general assembly.

The woman told the newspaper that there was no mention of Qatar in the Facebook post, but on arrival at around 2pm found it was “clearly” a protest against the Gulf state, featuring “lots of French speakers” holding signs. 

She said she was given US$100 on arrival by the woman behind the message, but later left after being given an anti-Qatar flag and returned the money.

“The group assembled by the woman who made the original Facebook post for extras were mostly folks who were French speaking – she was French also – and maybe about 30-40 of us,” the 23-year-old told The Independent.

“When we walked up to the area that seemed designated for demonstrations, there was a second group of also about 40 people already protesting with the same signs our group had, except they seemed to be from Egypt – they had flags, were chanting and were playing music.”

“I came home from the event, distraught and soaking wet from the rain they had us waiting in,” she added.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, shared with The Independent a Facebook message sent by the apparent organizer, a woman called Nezha Tagmouti.

The message to the extras on Facebook Messenger read:

“I am organizing an event which is to promote peace in the world,” Ms Tagmouti wrote. “There will be music, speeches for peace that will be before the United Nations. 

“I need extras of people who will just listen to the speech, applaud and have the flags of all the countries around the world. These extras are paid $100 each.”

Ms Tagmouti’s Facebook page reveals she also attempted to hire extras for an “advert” in London in July, the same day Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrived in the UK capital.

“I’m looking for extras to shoot an ad in London, Sunday from 1pm to 4pm. It’s very urgent. Thank you for your help,” she wrote in a post. 

A Qatari diplomat told The Independent: “Qatar continues to be the target of an international smear campaign designed to damage its reputation and strip it of the 2022 World Cup, in the context of the blockade

“The campaign has repeatedly used underhand tactics, including paid protests, as part of a failed attempt to spread false accusations and manipulate opinions of Qatar in the United States, Europe and beyond.

“Yet again, the campaign has been exposed, further discrediting it’s creators in the eyes of the international community.”

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Author

Omar Hajjar is a journalist based in the UK. An investigative reporter, he has lived in 3 different countries in the Middle East over the past 10 years.

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