Gulf diplomatic crisis splits families, dashes dreams
Doha, Qatar - For Qataris affected by the diplomatic crisis rocking the Gulf, the reality of politics is stark: Families divided, assets frozen and dreams put on hold.
Sara, a 29 year old Qatari, had been poised to start her senior year in business school in Dubai when on June 5, a bloc of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia abruptly cut ties with her country.
“We were suddenly told that we were no longer permitted to attend classes and had to go back to Doha,” she said.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain accused the Gulf emirate of supporting extremists and being too close to Riyadh’s regional archrival Iran.
They ordered all Qataris to leave their territories within two weeks, recalled their ambassadors and citizens from the emirate and banned Qatari carriers from their ports and airspace.
Qatar denied the allegations and denounced what it called a ‘blockade’ aimed at bringing the wealthy emirate to its knees.
Qatari authorities have com- mitted schools and universities to enrolling repatriated students.
But for Sara and many like her, the crisis was personal.
“When someone prevents you from studying, it destroys your dreams,” she said.
“One day, overnight, with no warning - suddenly you’re told ‘you have to stay home, no school for you’.”
As the standoff drags into its third month, the uncertainty is causing agony, particularly for families of mixed nationality.
Sara, who did not want her surname revealed because she feared the consequences for her relatives elsewhere in the region, has an Emirati mother and a Qatari father.
That is nothing unusual in a region where cross-border marriages are commonplace.
The diplomatic spat has thrown such families into their own crises.
“Half my family is in Dubai, in the UAE. I also have family in Bahrain,” Sara said, choking back tears.
When her grandmother fell ill in Dubai, her mother was reluctant to travel to the UAE for fear she would not be allowed to return to her children in Qatar.
States in the Saudi-led bloc have demanded that their citizens leave Qatar, but many have hesitated to do so - especially those with families in the tiny gas-rich emirate.
Some say they fear punishment by their own governments.
One Saudi mother, who has been based in Qatar for years and asked to remain anonymous, said she was terrified.
She and her two adult daughters are caught between fear of their own government and uncertainty about their future in Qatar.
“We feel trapped,” she told AFP by phone. “We will have to renew our visas in a year. It’s frightening - we don’t know what will happen.”
She said she does not want to go back to Saudi Arabia, but fears that if she does not she will be blocked from accessing her late husband’s Saudi pension, her only source of income.
This file photo shows staff at the office of the Compensation Claims Committee accepting papers from people affected by the diplomatic crisis, in Doha on July 27