International rights group says Qatar blockade hurts civilians

International rights group says Qatar blockade hurts civilians
2 min read
24 July, 2017
AFD International called for an end to the "blockade" on Qatar, warning that the regional boycott against Doha has led to "forced separation" of families.

The tiny Gulf emirate has faced a blockade for more than four weeks [Getty]

An international rights group called for an end to the "blockade" on Qatar on Sunday, warning that the regional boycott against Doha has led to "forced separation" of families.

"We demand the countries that imposed the embargo on Qatar reverse their June 5 decision, compensate the victims and allow students to complete the academic year," Abdelmajid Mrari of the Brussels-based rights group AFD International told a press conference in Doha.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on June 5 cut all ties with Doha, recalling their ambassadors and banning Qatar from using their airspace. They accuse Qatar of ties to Iran and of supporting Islamist extremism - allegations the emirate has consistently denied.

The four Arab states also ordered all Qataris to repatriate, including students, and closed the country's only land border with Saudi Arabia.

Some rights groups have raised concerns that the measure could split mixed families.

"Mothers have told me that children have become frightened, overwhelmed watching the news, terrified that they are going to be taken away from their mother, which no child should undergo, when it is a distinct violation of children's right to a childhood," said Mairead Tagg, a psychologist with AFD International.

"Childhood should not be characterised by terror, worry and separation, and forced separation from parents."

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch expressed similar concerns and accused the anti-Qatar bloc of committing serious human rights violations.

The rights watchdog said the blockade was infringing on the right to free expression, separating families, interrupting medical care and education, and stranding migrant workers without food or water.

The blockade has disrupted trade, split families and raised fears of military confrontation in the Gulf region.

The row with Qatar is "violating the rights of peaceful Gulf residents who were living their lives and caring for their families," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"Hundreds of Saudis, Bahrainis, and Emiratis have been forced into the impossible situation of either disregarding their countries' orders or leaving behind their families and jobs."

Agencies contributed to this report.