Qatar finds way round em­bargo

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS - ‘Night­mare’

Nearly a month since Qatar was iso­lated by its Gulf neigh­bors, res­i­dents of the emi­rate have learned to adapt to the daily re­al­i­ties of liv­ing with the em­bargo. They buy veg­eta­bles and milk that come from Iran and Turkey, com­plain about price in­creases for sta­ples while those trav­el­ling abroad face longer-than-usual flights as most neigh­bor­ing coun­tries have closed their airspace to Qatar Air­ways. “The gov­ern­ment has found al­ter­na­tives and there is no prob­lem (of short­ages)... de­spite a slight price in­crease we can cope,” says Mo­hammed Al-Chib, shop­ping at a Doha su­per­mar­ket.

But he ad­mits he and his fam­ily have had to make cut­backs. “We’ve learned a les­son and we con­sume less.” On June 5, Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplo­matic ties with Qatar and moved swiftly to iso­late Doha, ac­cus­ing Doha of sup­port­ing ex­trem­ism. Riyadh and its sup­port­ers sev­ered air and sea links with Qatar - which de­nied the al­le­ga­tions against it - and closed its only land bor­der, cut­ting off vi­tal routes for im­ports in­clud­ing food.

In the shock of the first days of the cri­sis, there was panic-buy­ing and a very real fear of food short­ages. Th­ese were dis­proved and Qatar has far proved more than able to cope with the cri­sis, the worst to hit the re­gion in decades. Su­per­mar­ket shelves are full again and no one is go­ing hun­gry just yet. “The shops are well-sup­plied but prices have in­creased a bit,” says Maya, a Le­banese ex­pat shop­ping in Doha.

Per­haps that is not sur­pris­ing. Qatar is af­ter all one of the world’s wealth­i­est coun­tries, trans­formed in re­cent years thanks to its much sought af­ter en­ergy riches, es­pe­cially gas. Doha’s de­fi­ance - and its abil­ity to adapt - has no doubt an­noyed some of its ri­vals. Though it may be largely a diplo­matic cri­sis, some im­pacts are fil­ter­ing their way through to life on the ground.

Some res­i­dents have grum­bled about short­ages, not only of their fa­vorite foods, but also less pre­dictable items such as re­place­ment car wind­screens. Prices are def­i­nitely a prob­lem. “The mar­ket is well-sup­plied but prices have in­creased a bit,” added Maya. One In­dian res­i­dent who runs a small stall, said: “Af­ter the bor­der clo­sures, prices have jumped es­pe­cially for rocket, pars­ley and chives.” Mi­grant la­bor­ers have told of their fears about food price in­creases and how it will af­fect how much money they can send home.

Al­though it can seem like a dis­tant cri­sis, the em­bargo does weigh on the daily lives of the coun­try’s 2.7 mil­lion, al­most 90 per­cent of them for­eign­ers. “The block­ade is a night­mare and we hope there will be a quick end,” added Maya. One very real con­se­quence, es­pe­cially dur­ing the sum­mer, has been the im­pact on those try­ing to fly out of the coun­try for hol­i­days. With the abo­li­tion of some routes by the Gulf coun­tries, trav­el­ling has be­come a headache. One Jor­da­nian na­tional com­plained he had “spent six hours in tran­sit” at Mus­cat air­port for a flight from Am­man to Doha, via Oman, be­cause of the flight re­stric­tions im­posed by the em­bargo.

And there has also been the hu­man cost. The de­ci­sion of other Gulf coun­tries to force home Qataris liv­ing on their ter­ri­tory and re­call­ing their own na­tion­als from Qatar has had a real im­pact. More than 13,300 peo­ple were “di­rectly af­fected”, says the Qatari Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mit­tee. In one re­ported case, a Qatari woman was forced to leave the United Arab Emi­rates where she lived with her hus­band and child. When she ar­rived at the air­port with her baby, she was told that he could not fly with her be­cause he is an Emi­rati na­tional.

And then there is the case of Zayed Al-Marri. Hu­man Rights Watch says he has been blocked on the Saudi side of the land bor­der it shares with Qatar since June 17, where tem­per­a­tures reach daily 45 de­grees Cel­sius. Saudi Ara­bia claims he is a Qatari, but Doha in­sists Marri was stripped of his cit­i­zen­ship in the 1990s. HRW has urged Qatar to let him in to the coun­try. — AFP

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