Qatar ‘stronger, united’ one year after blockade

Residents of Qatar share how they have been affected by a year-long diplomatic crisis with Gulf neighbours and Egypt.

Qatar National Day 2017[Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Patriotic fervour has been on rise in the country amid the Gulf crisis [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

A months-long land, air and sea blockade imposed on Qatar by four Arab countries has made the Gulf state “independent”, “stronger” and “more united”, Qatar’s residents say, as a major diplomatic crisis drags on, entering a second year. 

On June 5, 2017, the four Arab states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting “terrorism” and destabilising the region – allegations Doha has consistently denied.

In the days and weeks following the dispute, cargo ships and hundreds of planes loaded with food from Turkey, Iran, Oman, Morocco and India entered Qatar to ensure there were no immediate shortages of supplies.

As the crisis continued, alternative trade links and flight routes were developed. The blockade also forced the Gulf state to boost its local dairy produce and manufacturing of food items.

Qatar Airways, the country’s national carrier, said it experienced a “substantial” loss in its last financial year, after losing access to 18 cities in the four blockading nations.

Many families were also affected after the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini governments told their citizens to return from Qatar.

Qatari nationals residing in those three Gulf nations were also given a two weeks’ notice to exit the country. 

Mediation efforts led by Gulf neighbour Kuwait, as well as apparent shuttle diplomacy by the United States have so far failed to end the year-long dispute.

However, patriotic fervour among Qatar’s nearly 2.7 million residents has been on the rise this past year, with Qatari flags and stylised portraits of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani displayed on skyscrapers across the capital, Doha.

With no political solution in sight, Qatar’s residents – nationals and expatriates – look back at the last 12 months and weigh in on how their lives were affected. 

Mohamed Alsherawi, Qatari engineer, 35

Last year was a unique year. The beauty of it is the unity between the nationals and the expatriates.

I never thought that everybody would be side by side, speaking as one, which was really beautiful. And also the government has done exceptional work to overcome all the obstacles in no time. 

The thing that affected me personally was my communication with family, elders, cousins and grandparents, who live in those countries that I can’t visit. This really touched my heart.

Romeo Ezekiel Ocfemia, Filipino student, 15

Romeo Ezekiel Ocfemia
Romeo Ezekiel Ocfemia

I would like to commend and congratulate the Qatari government because they have managed to pull through in times of crisis.

They were able to find a new market to temporarily provide the countries’ food source and they were able to think of a long-term solution by creating and establishing a dairy farm to compensate for the lack of dairy products in Qatar.

Qatar also proved to the world that they don’t need Saudi Arabia to be a successful and developed country.

The government stood for what they believed in and fought for their sovereignty.

Shahna Abdul Karim, Indian housewife, 26

The blockade on Qatar shows that it is not just the size, resources or riches of a country that determines its fate, it is also how it is prepared to handle chaos thrown its way and Qatar has proved to be a survivor.

Shahna Abdul Karim
Shahna Abdul Karim

The price hike, in the beginning, was a bit alarming considering our household income. Our monthly budget certainly had to be adjusted and shopping lists had to be altered.

But as time went by, the prices went down and sometimes, even cheaper than what they were before. 

Being born and brought up in Qatar, I certainly feel a sense of patriotism every time I see the growing self-sustainability of the country. I did make a conscious effort to switch to Qatari products when it didn’t make a major dent in our budget. 

The Gulf crisis certainly brought out the better side of Qatar’s potential. Qatar after June 5, 2017, is certainly much stronger.

Across Doha, billboards have been erected for people to write messages of support for the emir [Cajsa Wikstrom/Al Jazeera]

Across Doha, billboards have been erected for people to write messages of support for the emir [Cajsa Wikstrom/Al Jazeera]
Across Doha, billboards have been erected for people to write messages of support for the emir [Cajsa Wikstrom/Al Jazeera]

Across Doha, billboards have been erected for people to write messages of support for the emir [Cajsa Wikstrom/Al Jazeera]

Jaber al-Marri, Qatari student, 23

Jaber al-Marri
Jaber al-Marri

We thought that after the blockade, we will get less food supplies; turns out that we were wrong.

On the other hand, I felt sad with the way of some Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini citizens have been treating us on the social media with a lack of respect.

I personally think that this crisis will end as long as citizens keep their hands off this subject and focus on something else.

Marcela Daza, Colombian image consultant, 40

It’s crazy thinking that it has been a year and it seems it (the Gulf crisis) will not be resolved any time soon.

Marcela Daza
Marcela Daza

I can see how businesses have been affected, travelling is more expensive and difficult. Even expatriates sometimes are not allowed to enter the blockading countries.

But on the bright side, I can see new products from the more unexpected countries in our supermarkets and a higher sense to build opportunities in the country by locals and foreigners.

Chabbi Houssem, Algerian call centre agent, 28

As someone who has lived in Doha for years, I would say the blockade has definitely changed my life here.

Chabbi Houssem
Chabbi Houssem

The cost of living is definitely higher – groceries, gas, etc, all cost more.

Going home takes so much time and way more money than before due to the flights being blocked from certain airspace areas.

Also, I can no longer travel to neighbouring countries based on my resident permit here in Qatar.

All of these things are challenges for me and my family. It has changed how we spend money and how we live our lives on a daily basis.

Qatar proved to the world that they don't need Saudi Arabia to be a successful and developed country.

by Romeo Ezekiel Ocfemia, Filipino student, 15

Sarah Harrison, British nursery owner, 54

Nearly four years ago, I opened a nursery school. The blockade has affected our business. Parents are hesitant to join the nursery because of the financial implications.

Sarah Harrison
Sarah Harrison

Prices of everyday goods have increased dramatically and many essential items are no longer available in Qatar.

We are supporting parents by reducing our fees to help with the financial crisis.

Dehbi Fares, Moroccan student, 18

In the beginning of the blockade, I thought that everything will change in Qatar.

Dehbi Fares
Dehbi Fares

It was unusual for me, but seeing every person who lives in this country – whether they are Qataris or not – I can see unity and people standing together to prove what is the real Qatar.

Now, it has been one year and I totally forgot that there is any blockade.

There is no shortage on anything. It turned the other way around where I see this country growing even more and more.

Akkash Ahmed, Pakistani procurement manager , 30 

Akkash Ahmed
Akkash Ahmed

Qatar’s economy has been shivered for the last one year because as we know Qatar is a big importer and a hefty buyer, rather than manufacturer, in the Middle East. 

However, this blockade has given Qatar’s manufacturing industry a great opportunity to build a major role in Qatar’s economy and not depend on other countries like China, Iran and India.

Mahmoud Ibrahim, Egyptian technician, 34

Mahmoud Ibrahim
Mahmoud Ibrahim

After one year of blockade, I can say it has now just a psychological effect rather than any other effect on me.

It’s like being the black sheep in the area. Some airports, I cannot go directly to and air tickets are expensive. 

On the work side, only some materials are more expensive and it takes a longer time for them to be available.

Follow Saba Aziz on Twitter: @saba_aziz

Source: Al Jazeera