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Saturday, March 6, 2021

‘Qarving’ an identity: how Qatar has flourished on the global stage despite the blockade

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By Sara Abadi

National Identity

“There is a phenomenon across the globe, especially in the modern world, when there is a crisis or threat, people get together,” Dr. Mahjoob Zweiri, Director of the Gulf Studies Centre at Qatar University told Doha News

Despite the attempt to demonise the leaders of Qatar by the blockading countries, citizens and residents from all walks of life came together to support the government and the country. Hashtags such as #QatarIsOurTribe and art such as the Tamim Al-Majd sketch came as a defiant response to the attempts at dividing Qatar’s society.

“The people themselves were leading in defending the reputation of the country….and this is a great achievement of the blockade,” says Zweiri.

The positive cohesion and rallying around the flag was the result of the “national trauma” in the hearts of the Qatar people caused by the unprovoked blockade, according to Dr. Andreas Krieg, author and fellow at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies at King’s College London.

Cows at the Baladna dairy farm in Qatar | Image: baladna.com

Political and economic diversification

“They [the blockading countries] wanted to separate Qatar from its network. You have to cut ties with Iran, and then cut ties with Turkey and then you leave Qatar alone under the sun. But that didn’t happen,” explains Zweiri.

Sports diplomacy

Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah and President of Qatar Olympic Committee Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani at the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup | Image: freepressjournal.in

Doha’s forward-thinking and progressive stance sets it apart from other countries in the region. Qatar has grown considerably into a society where pluralism, academic freedom and freedom of speech is cherished. With investments in global think-tanks and universities, Qatar has allowed academic freedom to flourish in the country, making it an attractive place to conduct research with a vibrant academic culture, unlike blockading countries where academics have been imprisoned or even killed, like the case of Mathew Hedges in the UAE and Guilio Regeni in Egypt.

“At King’s College, we don’t allow our students to go to the UAE. It’s a country similar to North Korea or Iran where academics are not safe. Same goes with Saudi Arabia,” says Krieg.

Unsuccessful mediation

“What is needed is an external mediator with credibility to hold countries to account, and such an actor doesn’t exist at the moment,” says Krieg.

Having turned into a protracted conflict that divides the gulf, it seems like every month the blockade continues, the gap between the people of Qatar and the blockading countries widens.

“The only thing I’m sure of is that the ties can’t go back to before June 5, 2017,” says Zweiri.

The unity of the gulf has been irreparably damaged; the idea of “Khaleejiness” having taken a big blow. The idea that a stable gulf in an unstable Middle East has potentially disintegrated forever, is a daunting thought for many.

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