Feel-crimes, broken families: Counting the anti-Qatar blockade's human cost

Feel-crimes and broken families: Counting the human cost of the anti-Qatar blockade
5 min read
16 June, 2017
As the Saudi-led blockade of Doha nears its third week, Qatar's semi-independent National Human Rights Committee, which has been counting its human cost, is threatening to sue for reparations.
Some Gulf mixed families may not be able to celebrate Eid together this year [AFP]
As the Saudi-led blockade of Doha nears its third week, Qatar's semi-independent National Human Rights Committee, which has been counting its human cost, is threatening to sue for reparations if it continues.

Speaking in Geneva on Friday, NHRC chairman Dr Ali Bin Samikh Al Marri called for an international investigation committee to look into the blockade and the allegations against Qatar, saying that if it is not lifted in the coming days, his organisation will take Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and others to the United Nations and the Human Rights Council.

The measures against Qatar constitutes as collective punishment that impacts not only citizens and residents of the country, but also those from other Gulf countries, Marri said.

He was referring to Gulf families – including Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis – where one or more member is a Qatari citizen. These families have been badly affected by the blanket ban on Qataris entering or remaining in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, with mothers separated from their children, and even relatives unable to bury their dead.
These families have been badly affected by the blanket ban on Qataris entering or remaining in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, with mothers separated from their children, and even relatives unable to bury their dead
Measures against Qatar also entail gross violations of freedom of speech, where sympathy with the region has become a major offence, Marri said, citing the example of a Bahraini lawyer arrested this week for perpetrating "feel-crime".

Doha's human rights chief stressed that accusations against Qatar of supporting terrorism are being made casually without a single shred of evidence, insisting that such matters – if true – should have been addressed to international bodies and tribunals, including the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Marri called on the three Gulf countries to lift the blockade, saying it threatens the welfare of more than 11,000 Gulf citizens.

Counting the human cost

Amnesty International warned last week of the "heartbreak and fear" being suffered by potentially thousands of ordinary individuals because of the political dispute in the Gulf that has isolated Qatar.

By Friday, the NHRC had received 1,064 complaints from Qataris, Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis regarding the adverse effects of the blockade. 

Mariam, a Qatari woman in her thirties, is one of those affected by the blockade. After a visit to her relatives in Doha at the start of Ramadan, she was not able to rejoin her Saudi husband and their children in the kingdom following the June 5 announcement of the blockade and entry ban on Qataris.

Mariam, who did not share her real name for fear of recrimination, is concerned she may not be able to spend the coming Eid holiday in her home. 

Mariam contacted one of the hotlines the Saudi authorities set up to help mixed-nationality families like hers, but she told The New Arab that there was no answer. Others have reported the same, according to complaints documented by NHRC.
On Tuesday, the Qatari human rights committee issued its first report on the human costs of the blockade
Six degrees of violations

On Tuesday, the Qatari human rights committee issued its first report on the human costs of the blockade (at the time, 764 complaints had been received by the NHRC).

The report classed the human rights violations observed as a result of the blockade into six categories:


Violation of the right of family reunification

The NHRC recorded 15 forms pertaining to families that were separated, "even though we are absolutely certain the actual number is far greater," the report said.

The report included testimonies by a Saudi and a Bahraini affected by this violation.

Violation of the right to education

The education future of several thousand Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini studying in Qatari schools or universities, and vice versa, is in jeopardy, said the report, saying 30 complaints in this regard have been received since the blockade was announced.

Violation of the right to work

NHRC said it has received 38 complaints from individuals who now find themselves "jobless and with no source of income and no compensations from the three states that initiated the blockades". It says entire families rely completely in their livelihoods on travelling between Gulf states.

Violation to the right of freedom of opinion and expression

In the context of harsh punishment imposed on sympathisers with Qatar, the report said there are hundreds of journalists and ordinary citizens affected.

In addition to the Bahraini lawyer who was arrested, it cites the example of non-Qatari Gulf citizens working in Qatari media who were forced to resign by their governments.

"These actions constitute a blatant violation of the freedom of the press, freedom to work, freedom of residence, and freedom of opinion all at the same time", it said.

Violation of the right to movement and residence (including for the dead)

"My father died at Hamad Hospital in the State of Qatar. On 7 June, 2017, Saudi authorities prohibited me from going to Qatar to receive his body," a Saudi citizen testified to the NHRC. "They don't respect the sanctity of death," he added.

Other violations (e.g. access to healthcare, rights of ownership, freedom of religion)

Qataris going for minor pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia were prohibited from doing so, and were forced to leave after being treated in an ill manner, said the report.

It adduces video footage it said shows a Qatari citizen being roughened at Jeddah Airport (video since removed).

Full report here. The New Arab cannot independently verify its contents