The recent short-term suspension of Al Jazeera Arabic’s Twitter account highlights the fact that a major part of the commentary, rumours and backlash surrounding the Gulf diplomatic crisis and the blockade on Qatar took place online.
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and a number of other countries in the region severed diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting “terrorism” and Iran. Qatar has continuously rejected the accusations.
Here’s a look back at the tweets, hashtags and Instagram drama that dominated the ongoing Gulf tensions.
Attempting to dispel rumours
Several Twitter users took on the role of good Samaritan, attempting to dispel rumours or fake news trickling onto social platforms.
They pointed out fake Twitter accounts spreading false news and sent out general warnings to stay aware of the propaganda.
— ناصر فهد الخاطر (@NasserFAlKhater) June 12, 2017
— محمد (@MoeFakhro) June 10, 2017
This tweet warned against a false account spreading news of the Emir’s father’s death.
الله يطول بعمر الامير الوالد و تاج راسنا الشيخ حمد
حساب الاخ عبدالله معرفي مخترق و المخترق يروج لأخبار كاذبة
" حسبنا الله ونعم الوكيل " pic.twitter.com/FFS6KQIPiN
— خالد جاسم (@khalidjassem74) June 11, 2017
Sharing stories of hardships
The consequences of the decision by Gulf and other Arab countries to cut ties with Qatar manifested on Twitter posts of Qataris stuck in Jeddah’s airport, Qatari students forced to leave the UAE during exams, and families separated by borders.
Qataris stranded @ Jedda airport, after Saudi authorities banning them from boarding
Qatar's consul is following up,providing private planes https://t.co/qir3yFu4YP
— Reem Al-Harmi ريم الحرمي (@Reem_AlHarmi) June 5, 2017
— Reem Al-Harmi ريم الحرمي (@Reem_AlHarmi) June 7, 2017
However, suddenly it was hard for them to allow us to take the exams because our presence in the UAE was "illegal". 2#قطع_العلاقات_مع_قطر
— د. هيا (@DrHaya) June 10, 2017
For some, the Gulf rift has seemed ludicrous, at best. The Twittersphere has provided comic relief throughout the rising tensions.
Is this GCC or a political spin-off of Mean Girls? #youcantsitwithus
— Abdallah (@Litheeth) June 5, 2017
The Maldives randomly cutting ties with Qatar is like their last shot in playing the political field before they sink in from global warming
— johara (@____aljohara) June 5, 2017
This week I ate more fresh food than what I had in my entire life. Please don't end this "crisis."
— Faisal Al Saai (@falsaai) June 9, 2017
Translation: We didn’t hear any of the boycotting nations say they would stop importing gas from Qatar. It’s like a child who pretends to be mad at his dad but still takes school money from him.
"We're a little upset right now so we're going to take you out of a war"
"Uhm, thank you?" https://t.co/0La65xRqg5
— Haya Al-Thani (@hayabntalwaleed) June 5, 2017
Infamously, Emirati academic Abdulkhaleq Abdulla decided to poll Twitter users on their thoughts regarding the situation.
He asked: “What are your thoughts on boycotting and embargoing Qatar?”
The options in the poll were: Strongly Agree, Strongly Disagree, and Neutral.
But the poll appears to have backfired. It showed that 64 percent of voters were against the diplomatic rift. Abdulla quickly removed the tweet after Nasser al-Shaikh, a former Emirati government official advised him to do so.
“With all due respect to your character and intellect, I do not see that the contents of this poll are suitable, in light of the law criminalizing opposition to the state,” al-Shaikh tweeted.
A Qatari Twitter user recorded the incident in an epigram. “Short story: The venerable professor uploaded an innocent survey, when out of nowhere he received guidance, so he listened, obeyed and deleted”
البروفسور العريق حط تصويت بريء ولكن أتاه التوجيه من غير أن يحتسب.. فلبى سمعا وطاعة..ومسحت ببساطة.. قصة قصيرة.. pic.twitter.com/02qB34m3ax
— رمزان راشد حصين النعيمي (@ramzan_alnaimi) June 10, 2017
There were also several hashtags touting support for either side of the conflict.
Hashtags in support of Qatar included phrases in Arabic such as, #قطر_تشفق_عليكم (Qatar feels sorry for you), #فيزا_عمرة_للقطريين (Umrah visa for Qataris) and #الشعب_الخليجى_يرفض_مقاطعة_قطر (people of the Gulf refuse to boycott Qatar).
There were also several in support of Saudi Arabia, such as #نعم_ياسادة_هذي_هي_السعودية (Yes gentlemen, this is Saudi)
A barrage of Instagram comments
The fight also extended to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed’s Instagram account.
Qatari Twitter users allegedly hounded his posts with comments, forcing him to remove the comments section from his account. It remains blocked to this day.
OMG this is too funny! 😂😂 When Qataris troll, they take it to new levels! pic.twitter.com/QibCdeQz0l