One year after the unjustified siege on Qatar

Published June 4, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola


By Ali Bin Ibrahim Al-Malki

Ambassador of the State of Qatar


On the morning of June 5, 2017, Qatar News Agency was hacked. Fabricated statements, falsely and maliciously attributed to the Emir of Qatar, His Highness, Sheikh/ Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani — “May Allah protect him!” — followed.

Qatar immediately denounced the false news, denied having anything to do with the malicious statements, and called on the media to ignore them. In spite of this, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt, declared a land, air, and sea blockade on Qatar, cut off diplomatic ties with it, and accused it of financing terrorism, an accusation which Qatar has denied.

Events later confirmed that the purpose of the blockade was to impose guardianship on Qatar and intervene in its internal affairs, and undermine its sovereignty and independence.

During the crisis, Doha maintained its good-neighborly-based foreign policy, which included non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and peaceful settlement of disputes. Qatar never wavered in its adherence to dialogue as a way to resolve the crisis, without relinquishing its sovereignty.

Through its sustained diplomatic initiatives around the world, based on trust, friendship, cooperation, clarity of vision, and discourse, it has been able to overcome the intended effects of the blockade.

In the past two decades, Qatar has accumulated a number of strategic tools that have enabled it to acquire various elements of soft power, served as a protective shield in the face of the crisis against the blockade countries. Qatar also managed to prudently employ regional and international balances to weaken the repercussions of the blockade.

Contrary to the misrepresentations of the blockade countries in regional and international forums, Doha has relied on concrete facts and figures, balanced and convincing discourse, to present its case. The blockade countries have failed to achieve any international breakthrough in condemning Qatar because of their false claims. World leaders found the terms of their demands on Qatar ridiculous and absurd.

At the forefront of their accusations is the claim that Qatar has been supporting terrorism. This has been rejected by all major countries, beginning with the United States, whose president and other high officials have declared that Qatar is America’s biggest partner in the fight against terrorism.

Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the region, which hosts nearly 11,000 US troops and provides a platform for the leadership of international operations against terrorism. Relations between Qatar and the US were recently strengthened by the signing of the Convention on Combating the Financing of Terrorism in July, 2017.

The blockade countries had also demanded that Qatar close the Al-Jazeera news channel. This was rejected by all countries of the world even before Qatar itself did. The United Nations considered it an unacceptable attack on the rights of freedom of opinion and expression. It pointed out that the blockade countries had the right to disagree with the contents of the television broadcasts and to publicly criticize them, but demanding that the news channel should be shut down is completely absurd and unacceptable.

The blockade countries have failed to provide any real evidence based on solid grounds that Qatar supports terrorism, just as they have failed to provide the justifications and legal arguments for the coercive measures imposed on Qatar, which the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights considered an illegal collective punishment.

Qatar, in contrast, found more international acceptance and understanding of its position and just cause. Thus the blockade countries were unable to impose their fabricated visions, even on countries that were traditionally allied to them. They were even unable to convince other “small” countries to join the anti-Qatar camp.

On the other hand, Qatar’s diplomatic moves, based on the principles and customs of international law and with emphasis on good-neighborliness and openness to dialogue, have borne their own fruits. As a result, most international organizations, international actors, and the international media have ruled that Qatar vision was right, while putting the credibility of the blockade countries and their claims in doubt.

Thus, the blockade countries fell into a moral crisis and embarrassed themselves. International civil society – with all its human rights groups in Europe and North America — sympathized with Qatar’s position. Especially after the world saw how serenely the Qataris responded to the cruel dispersal of many of their families, and Qatari students were prevented from continuing their studies within their territories, and, worst of all, how Qatari Haj pilgrims were humiliated, their human rights violated, as reported by the UN Human Rights Council.

The head of the Canadian delegation, former Ambassador Ferry de Kerckhove,  who visited Qatar last February, said: “It’s a humanitarian and social disaster that has plagued Qatar and the Gulf region after June 5th because of the blockade.”

The human rights violations under the unjust siege on Qatar have long affected all Gulf citizens and left them with wounds and tragedies they have not been known before. The countries besieging Qatar have the impression that the Qataris are the only victims of their blockade. They are wrong.

In spite of the enormity of the challenge imposed on Qatar, because of the wisdom of its leaders and the solidarity of its people, Qatar has been able to successfully address the unjust siege conditions and thwart its objectives. Through innovative and creative policies, Qatari citizens were able to build on their native strengths and mobilize their energies to compensate for potential losses to the Qatari market arising from the closure of the only land route to Saudi Arabia.

A few days after the siege began, steps were immediately taken to support the industrial sector and move quickly towards self-sufficiency. Qatar’s self-sufficiency in food production is in full stream; dairy production now stands at 40 per cent, and will reach 90 percent next year, together with meat and fish farming.

Qatar also has succeeded in opening new air routes with many countries, and in negotiating new shipping lines with many Arab and international ports, to address the closure of air and sea routes imposed by the blockade. Qatar has managed to open two shipping lines with Sohar port and port of Salalah in the Sultanate of Oman.

There are now 23 shipping lines between Hamad Sea port and the ports of most countries that have trade relations with Qatar. More shipping lines will be opened in the future, until the maximum capacity of 7.5 million containers is reached, the first phase being 2 million containers. As of March 21, 2018, Qatar has managed to attract 1 million containers since the siege began. The port will reach its peak in two years.

At the same time, Qatar, with great resolve, continued its full implementation of all its major projects, notably the World Cup projects. The 2022 World Cup remains the biggest and most important challenge in the Qatari sport journey. A large number of facilities have been inaugurated in recent years, including the Khalifa International Stadium, in its new image, followed by the unveiling of the Al-Thamamah Stadium in September last year, and the unveiling of the design of Ras Abu Aboud Stadium in November, 2017. It is now under construction, and many projects are expected to be completed ahead of schedule.

This fabricated diplomatic crisis has proved that a country with the status and reputation of Qatar, with all its facilities and giant projects, cannot be isolated. Qatar has the best sea port in the region, the best airport in the world, the best airline, and a prosperous economy supervised by a group of Qatari bright minds, who have risen to the challenge of the siege. In response to the crisis, the public and private sectors have worked together to provide the best possible services to the utmost satisfaction o f consumers. This is what the world has seen.

In spite of all the unfair measures imposed on Qatar and its citizens and residents, Qatar has repeatedly stressed its openness to dialogue at the highest level. This was stated in the declaration of His Highness, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani — May Allah protect him! — in a number of speeches, in which he reiterated support for unconditional dialogue based on mutual respect for sovereignty.

Qatar has shown utmost appreciation and respect for the sincere mediation effort of His Highness, Sheikh/ Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, emir of the State of Kuwait, while the blockading countries have spurned it altogether. His Highness, Sheikh/ Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani attended the GCC summit held in Kuwait, but the leaders of the siege states boycotted the meeting.