Qatar stronger despite blockade

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On May 24, 2017, the Qatar News Agency was hacked and a fake statement purported to belong to his Highness the Emir of the State of Qatar Sheikh Tamin Bin Hamad Al-Thani was broadcasted. This, as would be proved later, was the start of a well-planned but a failed strategy to block and exclude Qatar from the rest of the world.

 

On June 5, 2017, three countries in the Gulf region (namely Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain), together with Egypt, declared a sea, land and air blockade on Qatar, accusing it of supporting and financing terrorism-related activities. They put forth 13 demands as prerequisite to lift the blockade. The key demand was to shut down the international news channel, Al Jazeera.

The announcement of the blockade was preceded by well-oiled malicious campaigns through international media and PR firms. The campaigns, which were geared towards smearing Qatar's image, flopped. While proponents of the blockade did not attain their objective of paralysing Qatar economically, it had effects socially. The normal lives of thousands of citizens and families in the four Gulf countries were significantly disrupted.

The blockade was not only on the diplomatic front but was also sadly, designed to be as inhuman as possible. Any form of human contact between the citizens of KSA, UAE & Bahrain on one side and Qatar on the other was not only illegalised but also severely dealt with. The decision violated the rights of movements, education, and residence as well as denying Qataris the right to perform Umrah and Hajj at the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina.

According to the National Human Rights Commission in Qatar, more than 13,000 people were affected directly by the blockade and the rights of more than 2,000 citizens violated. Human Rights Watch says parents were forcibly separated from their children, husbands from their wives and families prevented from visiting each other. The sick, the elderly and the young were not spared either. Amnesty International documented the same.

The irrational and irresponsible blockade also grievously infringed on animal rights. Saudi authorities deported about 12,000 Qatari-owned camels and sheep; hundreds of these poor animals died cruelly after being subjected to harsh conditions.

Despite the blockade lasting a year now, Qatar has become stronger and made great strides economically. All the mega projects in Qatar were not affected in any way, including preparations to host the 2022 World Cup. The Qatari economy proved to be extraordinarily resilient and remains one of the strongest in the world. Oil and gas exports have continued uninterrupted and new trade routes have been established and the authorities are keen to achieve a high level of economic independence. The government plans to increase LNG production and aggressive marketing strategies were put in place to make Qatar a highly competitive tourists destination.

As a firm believer in upholding international obligations and guided by respect for human rights, Qatar gave the citizens of the blockade countries the option to stay and continue with their normal lives. A report released by Qatar National TV shows that quarter of a million citizens of the four countries lived in Qatar before the blockade. A few of these citizens heeded the call from their countries to leave Qatar.

Qatar, despite sustained provocations, did not take any action against the citizens of those countries. There are more than 200,000 Egyptians working in the private and public sector. Considering Qatar can easily procure more skilled and affordable manpower from other countries, this is undoubtedly a kind and honourable gesture. That Qatar still supplies the LNG that supports the UAE power energy speaks volumes of the virtues the state stands for.

Qatar – rightly- rejected all the accusations levelled against it and refused to give in to the baseless demands fronted by the blockade countries. It agreed to and declared support for the Kuwait initiative of dialogue and solving issues amicably. All accusations levelled against Qatar are baseless, and the demand to shut down Al Jazeera is unjustified. Interference with the media is a clear violation of the freedom of speech, which Qatar is committed to upholding.

Qatar has never and will never support any form of violence, be it based on religion, ethnicity or race. We stand for peace, respect and sanctity of human life. Qatar stands for respect for property, peaceful coexistence and dialogue. The state has played a pivotal role in solving the Darfur crisis; it deployed a peacekeeping mission to the disputed border of Eritrea and Djibouti. It also extended a hand to the people of the Republic of Somalia in their peace, reconciliation and reconstruction efforts. Qatar’s foreign policy is based on respect and noninterference with other countries' sovereignty and internal affairs.

The four blockading countries tried to lobby other nations to join them in their illegal blockade but the free world refused to be dragged into this lowly and undiplomatic move defined by illegalities and violation of human rights. Some countries that joined the four in cutting ties with Qatar have since restored their diplomatic relations with Doha after objectively analysing the issue.

We extend our gratitude to our friends (countries/nations/organisations) who stood with us in the trying moments, who called for sanity and respect to International law; more so when the world space, regulated by the ICAO, was illegally shut off for our national airlines. In the face of the propaganda, diplomatic pressure and threats, the free world chose to stand with the truth and justice and shunned the selfish demands from the four countries.

Kenya and Qatar enjoy deep and warm relations. Kenya's President visited Qatar in April 2014 and His Highness the Emir reciprocated the visit in April 2017. The two countries have signed several agreements on education, economy and culture. I take this opportunity to thank the government and the people of Kenya for standing with the truth. May God bless Kenya, its government and people. Ahsanteni

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