Saudi-led 'hate campaign' included threats to kill Qataris: report

Saudi-led alliance accused of hate campaign, death threats against Qataris
4 min read
09 January, 2018
Analysis: The UN's human rights office has accused Saudi Arabia of orchestrating a hate campaign against Qatar, including threats to kill the emir and other citizens, reports Anthony Harwood.
Qatar's emir has seen a surge of popular support since the blockade was imposed [Getty]

The UN's human rights office has accused a Saudi-led alliance of a hate campaign against Qatar, which included threats to kill the country's emir.

In a devastating report, the Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) set out how a quartet of Gulf countries began the attacks after launching their diplomatic and transport blockade of the tiny Gulf state last summer.

Between June and October 2017 there were 1,120 press articles and 600 anti-Qatar caricatures published in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, it said.
The OHCHR report said: "Such material included… calls for a regime change or a coup d'etat, attacks against leading figures and symbols of Qatar, as well as attacks on and murder of Qataris.
"For instance, a Saudi tweeter with five million followers has been issuing 'religious opinions' calling for the killing of the emir of Qatar. Another Saudi tweeter warned he could send one million Yemeni suicide bombers to Qatar."

As well as within mainstream press and social media, the OHCHR also documented how television and entertainment had been used to whip up hatred of the Doha government.
It said: "Rotana media company produced songs by popular artists stigmatising Qatar ('Qulo la Qatar' - 'Tell Qatar', and 'Sanoalem Qatar' - 'We will teach Qatar') and well-known television series on MBC and Rotana channels conveyed negative messages on Qatar, which have been regularly and widely broadcast."

The Saudi-led alliance, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, launched its boycott at the start of June accusing Qatar of cosying up to Iran and supporting terrorism, charges which Doha vehemently denies.

The UN report said that number 18 on a list of 59 individuals accused of being terrorists was Jaber al-Mirri, the editor-in-chief of Qatar's daily newspaper, Al Arab.

"He reported having received 10 death threats since then and described the psychological impact on his family," it said.

In a major crackdown on free speech, a hotline set up for people in the blockading countries to report Qatari sympathisers to the authorities received 800 calls.

Apart from describing the establishment of a "social media army", the report also set out how the blockade caused "separation of families across the countries concerned" which was leading to "psychological distress".

According to official data, there are 6,474 mixed marriages involving citizens of Qatar and one of the blockading Gulf countries.

But the OHCHR said promises by the quartet authorities that they would grant exceptions for "humanitarian cases of mixed families" to travel back and forth between Qatar and their territories had not materialised.
Measures targeting individuals on the basis of their Qatari nationality or their links with Qatar can be qualified as non-disproportionate and discriminatory
In addition, many students had their education interrupted and vital medical treatment was also disrupted, with Qatari patients being treated in Saudi Arabia having to be transferred to Turkey and Kuwait to continue their care.
The report also set out ways in which access to property had been cut off, as well as "severe restrictions of movement, termination and disruption of trade, financial and investment flows, as well as suspension of social and cultural exchanges imposed on the State of Qatar".

The report singled out for criticism the "arbitrary" nature of the blockade which affected equally the government of Qatar and its people.

"The majority of measures were broad and non-targeted, making no distinction between the Government of Qatar and its population," it said. "Measures targeting individuals on the basis of their Qatari nationality or their links with Qatar can be qualified as non-disproportionate and discriminatory."
It said the dispute had shown the Gulf Co-operation Council, an umbrella alliance of Gulf states including Qatar and the blockading countries set up in 1981, to be "defunct".
Dr Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri, chairman of Qatar's National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), said the report proved the measures imposed "are not only diplomatic and not even an economic boycott".

"These are unilateral, abusive and arbitrary measures that are having repercussions on the citizens of and people who live in Qatar."

Anthony Harwood is a former foreign editor of the Daily Mail.