Qatar’s troublesome path

Beneath the talk of “permanent residency status” for “those who have given service to Qatar” lies a sinister reality.

2017/10/08 Issue: 126 Page: 3

The Arab Weekly
Iman Zayat

Four months into the Gulf crisis, it has become increasingly obvious that the Doha regime is not only run­ning into trouble with its neighbours but also with its own people.

Indeed, as citizens hold out hope for a way out of the stand-off with Arab countries and the regime uses its power to silence dissent, a sense of mistrust is growing.

Findings of a survey released October 2 by the Washington Insti­tute for New East Policy indicated that 81% of Qatari nationals who were asked said they hope the dis­pute with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain would be settled in an amicable fashion.

The Doha regime, however, does not agree with its people and has been silencing them or perma­nently banishing them.

The crackdown on dissent has been particularly severe recently, with authorities systematically revoking the citizenship of those who oppose the policies of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

The latest victim of this punitive campaign was Mohammad bin Futais al-Marri, a celebrated poet who reportedly opposed his gov­ernment’s stance towards Saudi Arabia.

This comes after Sheikh Talib bin Mohammed bin Lahoum bin Shraim, the head of Qatar’s Al Mur­rah tribe, and 54 of his relatives, including women and children, had their citizenship revoked in September.

Oddly, Qatar’s campaign of citizenship revocation coincides with another strange policy — the granting of permanent residency status to foreigners deemed to have “given service to Qatar” or to have “skills that can benefit the country.”

Beneath this talk of “permanent residency status” for “those who have given service to Qatar,” how­ever, lies a sinister reality.

Gulf media reports state the “permanent residency status” will benefit thousands of terrorists and wanted criminals who were hosted by Doha to escape justice in their home countries.

Even more troubling, the new status will allow “permanent foreigners” to join the Ahmed bin Mohammed Military College and, eventually, enlist in a foreign divi­sion of Qatar’s national army. How can those with no sense of belong­ing to the country or its social and cultural fabric be entrusted with serving in the military?

This policy is not only a source of concern for the Qatari people but also a threat to their future and that of their neighbours. It is obvious that the boycotted re­gime, which has put its full weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, threatens to obliterate the country’s national identity and ruin its Arab features.

The strange policy of revoking Qatari nationals’ citizenship while granting permanent residency status to foreigners is disturbing on another level: It shows that the Qatari regime is willing to support opportunistic people as long as it is flattered.

Qatar’s true workers, those really contributing to the nation-building process, meanwhile, are left without assistance and subject to numerous rights violations, said reports by the United Nations’ International Labour Organisa­tion, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Sheikh Tamim is surely walk­ing in the footsteps of his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Hamad bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani, the former emir who also used citizenship revocation as a punitive measure and, at times, as collective punishment.

From October 2004-June 2005, as many as 6,000 members of the al-Ghufran branch of the Al Mur­rah tribe were deprived of their Qatari nationality on spurious grounds. Some were reportedly forced to leave Qatar and resettle in neighbouring countries. Others were detained before being forced to leave.

The modern and wealthy Qatar that Sheikh Tamim is trying to promote to the West is also the Qa­tar that turned its back on its own nationals. It is the Qatar that has deprived its citizens of essential rights, displaced its people and silenced its poets.

The Qatar of Sheikh Tamim is not the Qatar for which the majority of Qataris yearn.

Iman Zayat is the Managing Editor of The Arab Weekly.

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