Posted on September 03, 2017
The siege imposed on Qatar by three Gulf countries is completing 90 days today leaving behind a tragic trail of flagrant human rights violations committed by the Saudi-led bloc and a heroic tale of Qatar’s resilience, unity and the capability of its leadership and people to thwart conspiracies hatched against their homeland with prudent decisions.
 
For the first time in history, Qataris could not perform Haj this year due to unjust blockade of Qatar’s land, sea and air routes and as many as 620 families are celebrating Eid facing forced separations; if a man is marking Eid Al Adha in Qatar, his wife and kids are stuck in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or the UAE.
 
Barring Qataris from performing Haj
 
All appeals made by Qatar and global human rights organisations to not politicise Haj fell on deaf ears and Saudi authorities did not restore severed contacts with authorities concerned in Qatar to facilitate Qatari pilgrims resultantly all intending pilgrims from Qatar were denied of their basic human right to practice religion. According to statistics of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, there were 24,000 applicants for Haj this year out of which 2,400 had been approved. Had there been no siege of Qatar, these 2400 Qataris would have performed Haj along other Muslims converged in Makkah from across the world.
 
Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) has also revealed in its latest report that eight Haj companies reported to the committee to have suffered over QR30m losses because of the Saudi restrictions imposed against Qatari pilgrims.
 
Swiss Organisation for Protection of Human Rights (SPH) urged the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, to take necessary measures to ensure that Qatari pilgrims have the right to practice their religious rites without discrimination or restriction. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor also urged the European Union Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion outside the Union Jan Figel to “intervene to ensure that religious rituals are not used to achieve political goals.” But Saudi government overlooked all these requests and created a new dark chapter in the history by not lifting restrictions barring Qataris from performing their religious duty.
 
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Other flagrant violations of human rights
 
According to a recent report released by Qatar National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), as many as 3,446 human rights violations were committed by the siege countries since the blockade imposed on Qatar on June 5. The complaints varied between violations related to residency, properties, religious practices, health, family, travel movements, education and the right to work. Saudi Arabia topped the three blockading Gulf countries with total number of violations; 2,045 out of 3,446 complaints received by the NHRC so far, which makes the 60 percent of total human rights violations committed. Not only did the blockading countries violate human rights, they also broke centuries-old regional traditions based on mutual respect by launching smear campaigns against Qatar based on fabrications.
 
Siege countries earned nothing but bad name
 
What the siege countries achieved in the last 90 days is tearing families apart, deporting Qatari citizens from their countries, leaving camels to die in deserts, blocking their airspace to Qatar Airways but they miserably failed to justify their acts and allegations leveled against Qatar before the international community. They have also failed to disrupt normal life in Qatar, shatter people’s trust in their leadership, create differences in the nation and damage Qatar’s economy and its image in the world.
 
World stands by Qatar
 
The first and foremost achievement of Qatar is its success on the diplomatic front. The whole world stands with Qatar; from the East to the West. The blockading countries’ only so-called success on the diplomatic front is to win support of some African countries by employing financial blackmailing tactics.
 
The foreign ministers of the UK, Germany, Italy and Turkey have visited Qatar during the siege. Also, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US Secretary of State Tillerson paid visits to Qatar and other GCC countries and all of them supported Qatar’s principled stance of resolving crisis through dialogue without compromising on State’s sovereignty and independent foreign policy. No world power or international organization endorsed the Saudi-led quartet’s 13-point list of demands either.
 
Life goes on as normal
 
Ninety days after the siege, normal life goes on in Qatar with no scarcity of food items. Rather, the siege has proved a blessing in disguise with Qatar ensuring speedy completion of its projects to ensure self-sufficiency. Immediately after the imposition of the blockade on June 5 by the three Gulf countries, all imports from those countries were halted. To address the temporary shortage of dairy and poultry products in markets, Turkish and Iranian food products hit the shelves of retail outlets. Turkish exports to Qatar increased 51.5% in June compared to the previous month (May 2017) and reached $53.5m.
 
No food shortage
 
Apart from imports from Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan and other countries, many national products like Baladna, Dandy and Ghadeer are available in the local markets to serve the daily needs of the residents. Hassad Food has recently announced the launch of ‘Iktefa’ initiative that aims to turn unproductive local farms into productive ones and increase production. Qatar is also building strategic food security facilities and warehouses at Hamad Port with the capacity to provide a stockpile of processed and stored food for three million people for two years as well as exporting food stuff to regional countries.
 
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New ventures, new partners
 
Qatari companies are also set to start joint ventures with foreign companies to boost local production. Last month, 88 Qatari and 200 Turkish companies met in İzmir to develop commercial relations. The first result was an agreement to launch trade between Kocaeli and Doha. To counter the effects of blockade, Doha and Tehran are also willing to discuss land trade routes.
 
Hamad Port defeats the siege
 
Hamad Port has successfully broken the siege imposed on Qatar since June 5 with the opening of many new shipping lines. The role of Mwani and Hamad Port has been pivotal in knocking out the challenges posed by the blockading countries and siege. Hamad Port’s new lines connect directly to several ports in the region and beyond such as Sohar and Salalah in Oman, Mundra and Nhava Sheva in India, Izmir in Turkey, Karachi in Pakistan and other ports served by these international companies from all over the world.
 
Tourists arriving, hotels occupied
 
Despite the ongoing siege of Qatar, hotel occupancy rate in the country increased in July this year by six percent compared with July last year. The hotel occupancy rate (in all categories), which was 53 percent in July 2016, increased to 59 percent in July 2017.
 
Real losers are the siege countries
 
Qatari investors, who have put huge money in Dubai’s real estate sector, believe that Dubai is paying its price for the flawed blockading decision and it is fast losing its reputation as a “safe-haven investment destination” after it failed to respect international investment laws.
 
A top Dubai-based property advisor recently told The Peninsula that an estimated 770 Qatari investors had made investments in Dubai’s real estate sector in 2016. According to him, the combined value of deals was estimated at QR1.98bn. Citing figures released by Dubai Land Department, Abu Dhabi-based local dailies have estimated Qatari investors’ combined value of investments during the previous year at (UAE) Dh2.8bn. Currently, over 1,000 Qatari investors are prevented from selling their properties worth more than (UAE) Dh2bn.
 
Qatar resisting sanctions effectively
 
After leading an IMF team on a week-long visit to Doha, Mohammed El Qorchi, an official of IMF, has recently said that Qatar’s government has acted effectively in protecting the economy against sanctions imposed by other Arab countries. “The impact on banks’ balance sheets was mitigated by liquidity injections by the Qatar central bank and increased public sector deposits. These reactions reflected effective coordination and collaboration among key government agencies,” Mohammed El Qorchi said in a statement, adding that the initial concern that trade disruptions could impact the implementation of key infrastructure projects had also been mitigated by the availability of an inventory of construction materials and of alternative sources of imports.
 
Smooth sailing for Qatar 2022 projects
 
On August 20, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) revealed the design for Al Thumama Stadium – the sixth proposed 2022 FIFA World Cup venue. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary - General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), recently said that the siege had not affected tournament-related construction projects. “Our projects are on track and on schedule. The projects are delivered on time. This is one of the milestones (Al Thumama Stadium). Recently, we finished another milestone with the opening of the Khalifa International Stadium,” Thawadi said.
 
Like SC, Asghal is delivering various projects on time and in some cases before stipulated completion schedule which clearly indicates that the development of Qatar’s infrastructure is not affected by the blockade imposed by three neighbouring countries.
 
source: The Peninsula

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