Dubai: The Qatar, Global Security and Stability Conference held in London on Thursday has been described as a historic moment for Qatar and its people keen on freedom and living in dignity.

The conference was organised by Qatari businessman and reformist Khalid Al Hail and other exiled Qataris pressing for reform in their country.

“I am fortunate that I have escaped with the hope of returning one day soon to be able then to express myself freely and talk about my ideas and my aspirations for my country,” Al Hail said at the conference.

“However, there are many other honourable people who are still held in terrible jails. Some of their relatives are here with us. They have come here to say that time for change has come.”

Every Qatari citizen hates to see his country loathed by its neighbours and friends and forsaken by the whole world because of the clumsy policies of its rulers, he said.

 “For such reasons, we have organized this conference to launch a constructive dialogue and find sensible solutions.”

Debates at the conference focus mainly on political Islam and terrorist groups, Qatar and Iran’s foreign policy, a source of regional instability, democracy, human rights and a quest for global prestige, Al Jazeera: Free press or voice of terror, and Qatar’s economic and geopolitical influence.

Lord Paddy Ashdown, Ambassador Bill Richardson, Iain Duncan Smith, John Simpson, Jamie Rubin, General Chuck Wald, Brigadier General Shlomo Brom, Dov Zakheim and Daniel Kawczynski MP joined leading Middle East commentators and members of the Qatari opposition to debate the past, present and likely future of Qatar, organisers said.

“One decade ago, we launched a youth movement to save Qatar to confront a political regime that does not know respect for the rule of law and for human rights or free expression of media or the exercise of democracy,” Al Hail said.

“The regime did not hesitate to violate all charters, covenants and human values in dealing with free people and honest views. It imprisoned and tortured activists, journalists, intellectuals and deprived thousands of indigenous Qataris of their citizenship for false reasons.”

Al Hail said the conference was held in London as the organisers were well aware that Qatar’s political regime would not permit them to have it in Doha.

“However, the regime also attempted to prevent us from holding it here in London, the capital of democracy and the capital of a country of law and institutions. The dictatorial regime paid off briberies, prepared fake reports and sent out some groups to try to make participants withdraw. The regime also resorted to threats,” he said.

“It is a great honour for me to launch this conference based on my deep belief that patriot Qatari action should be fully independent. It should be the pure expression of Qataris with a single agenda: the glory of Qatar.

“The change that the free Qataris want will not be easy, but I and many others stand here before you as a voice that is hardly heard across the world: the voice of the people of Qatar calling for living freely and in dignity and confronting relentlessly the police state.

This is a historic moment for Qatar and for the conscience of its people who do not have the opportunity to express themselves.”