The Gulf siege of Qatar backfires

How the Gulf siege and blockade on Qatar backfired on its perpetrators
7 min read
20 June, 2017
The Gulf blockade on Qatar was a blessing in disguise, turning into a tsunami-like reverse blockade against its creators in several ways, writes Maryam Al-Khater.
A blockade has been imposed against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the UAE [Getty]
It is said that the aftershock of an earthquake is more damaging to neighbours than the earthquake itself.

This is true of what Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have done in an ongoing and outrageous violation against Qatar since early June.

On May 24, relations were severed and a blockade was imposed following a campaign of incitement against Qatar; this included the hacking of Qatar News Agency and the fabrication of declarations through it in the name of the emir of Qatar.

Despite knowing nuances between a boycott and an unjust blockade, these governments have violated international law by “encircling a certain area and closing its borders”.

They did so in the hope of forcefully achieving political objectives: a three-pronged blockade of land, sea and air, especially detrimental since Qatar only has one land border with Saudi Arabia.

Despite knowing nuances between a boycott and an unjust blockade, these governments have violated international law by 'encircling a certain area and closing its borders'

However, it was a blessing in disguise, turning into a tsunami-like ‘reverse blockade’ against its creators in several ways.

Firstly, the siege of Qatar quickly exposed a media conspiracy on all fronts ranging from the crime of piracy against the news agency to the use of private domains.

CARE spoke through media outlets "owned and funded by Saudi Arabia" and managed from the UAE. These were accounts associated with tabloids, allegedly Saudi, in addition to the recruitment of accounts of electronic committees and e-commission accounts on the eve of the hacking.

Secondly, the siege of Qatar is physical, not intellectual. Observers realise that in Qatar we were, and we remain, free. The siege did not originate from internal authoritarianism to which we are subjected to like others.

The violators only succeeded in preventing people from food by closing borders, land, sea and airspace. But they did not get to our most prized possession – our minds and will – despite their continuous attempts to backstab us and portray us as traitors by playing on an ugly “tribal” string.

The siege of Qatar is physical, not intellectual. Observers realise that in Qatar we were, and we remain, free

For this reason Qataris came together with the hashtags #we_are_all_Qatar and #Qatar_is_our_tribe. 

On the other hand, the three authoritarian states besieged the brains and minds of their people by silencing them and minimising the value of their national popular representation.

They are afraid of something. They want subjects and not citizens. 

These are structural transformations in human dignity, which put close to 32.6 million Saudis, 9,346 Emiratis and 1.45 million Bahrainis in the hands of oppressive forces that fight against human dignity and practice Trump-like political fascism.

They tightened their rights to open information and controlled content by falsification on their channels.

Moreover, they crushed human rights by imposing criminal penalties and excessive fines like 15-year prison sentences and a fine of three million Riyals for what they call the “crime of sympathising with Qatar”.

The fines vary from country to country, but brings to mind the hated McCarthy Era in the 1950s associated to the US congressman Joseph McCarthy, who took the lead in oppressing American intellectuals and sending them to prison if they opposed US foreign policy.

This was only broken through the awareness of America’s youth, who protested loudly against the American aggression in Vietnam before the era of digital technology and social media.

The three authoritarian states besieged the brains and minds of their people by silencing them and minimising the value of their national popular representation

Thirdly, the siege of Qatar saw the geographically larger countries flex their muscles to bully the country on two fronts; their geographical extension, meaning the land surface only, not international weight.

The aggressor countries did not rely on the strength of political and geopolitical influence nor the change of axis of diplomatic weights in international politics.

Here the difference is in the influence that the geographically small state of Qatar managed to achieve. It is large diplomatically and economically, which has caused jealousy and a readiness to punish Qatar so that no geographically small state would ever be independently sovereign or work unless under the mantle of the larger states.

These aggressor states did not realise that there is a huge difference in size in the traditions of international politics and the land surface in the traditions of topographic geography.

Secondly, this “conspired collusion” with the crimes of hacking, an enticing campaign and electronic armies, were preordained for the purpose of demonising Qatar based on the war propaganda rule: “Lie and keep lying, until matters get confused, so a lie would become a truth, and then believed”.

They took advantage of Twitter being the largest influential platform in the Gulf, especially among the youth, and took advantage of the power of the hashtag in internationalising issues.

They learned their lessons from the Withdrawal of Ambassadors Crisis in 2014, and the dimensions the escalation took on Twitter, as it was proved that those countries used programmed electronic committees to create popular incitement and misinformation campaigns against Qatar.

The besieging states could not block Twitter, despite the multiplicity of their electronic armies, because it is a general collective tool that is not a monopoly of any of these states. These electronic platforms are tools to expose lies and provide the whole world with facts.

Despite this, the criminal penalties and fines imposed by these states on their citizens means they only receive politicised messages from their governments that are not different than what these three states practice. They simply only want robots and not people. 

Fourthly: the siege of Qatar is considered to have exposed the scale of aggression imposed on us as Qataris in a religious right that belongs to more than two billion Muslims, and which we will not be silent about. In other words, the politicisation of visiting Mecca.

The siege of Qatar is considered to have exposed the scale of aggression imposed on us as Qataris in a religious right... the politicisation of visiting Mecca

Two issues stand out: Qataris are forbidden from the holy city of Mecca and from performing Umrah in the best of months, stifling those already there, or even expelling them during the first hours, which is humanely and religiously insulting.

“Personalising the Dua of Qunut” if it is correct to say so, by politicising the vocabulary of the Dua in al-Tarawih prayer in Mecca in the first week of the siege by transforming its end to an agenda of political conditions that paralleled the political claims themselves.

The siege of Qatar has economically backfired against the states in huge material losses in different spheres. They have lost much of their people’s rights that are invested in the state of Qatar, which has enormous economic capacities and investment opportunities,

It has also backfired politically, leading to a counter international block that condemned the besieging states, and unfortunately opened fire against them, accusing them with the same claims they threw at Qatar.

They unjustly accused Qatar of terrorism and of funding it, and they received these accusations back, which we have always refused and stood up to. Examples include 9/11, the US Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and exporting the terrorism of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, because they misunderstood the alliance with Zionism and the Trump deal and the indulgences of Trump’s daughter, following the Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh in May.

They were also accused of other thorny issues that emerged from reports of human rights violations issued by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International since 2011 recorded in the UAE and Bahrain up until 2017.

Finally, the three states initiated hostilities and cut the core ties even before cutting food supplies in the holy month of Ramadan.

But we repeat: the siege backfired against its makers, and the stick “some relied on” and “threatened us with” has been thrown back to them to deal with what they created.

Maryam Al-Khater is a Qatari writer and media personality. Follow her on Twitter: @medad_alqalam