Gulf diplo­matic cri­sis splits fam­i­lies, dashes dreams

Muscat Daily - - NATION -

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’.”

Fam­i­lies di­vided

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

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