A Qatari official accused Saudi Arabia and its allies today of imposing a “siege” on his country with sanctions he said were having a more devastating effect than the Berlin Wall. Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri, chairman of Qatar’s national human rights committee, said the measures amounted to collective punishment and cited one case of a mother being separated from her baby. The recent decision by several countries to cut ties with Qatar was trampling on the rights of citizens from the entire region, he said. “This siege and these measures have led to what is called collective punishment,” Marri told reporters in Geneva in Arabic through a translator, calling on the international community to intervene.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt announced earlier this month the suspension of all ties to Qatar. They accused it of state support for extremist groups and denounced its political proximity to Shiite Iran.
Qatar denies the allegations. Among other measures, the four states gave all Qatari citizens 14 days to leave their countries and ordered home their own citizens living in Qatar.
This had led to “gross violations of human rights”, Marri said, pointing out that every Qatari family had at least one member living in other countries in the region. These measures “are harsher than the Berlin Wall that separated families”, he added. His committee had so far received 1,064 complaints for a vast range of rights violations, from both Qataris and citizens of the other countries involved, he said. He pointed to new laws issued by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE threatening between five and 15 years in prison for any of their citizens “who shows sympathy to the state of Qatar”.
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In one case, he said, a Qatari woman was ordered to leave the UAE where she lived with her husband and infant. When she arrived at the airport however, she was told she could not take her baby, who had Emirati citizenship, with her. Thousands of students studying abroad had also been affected, he said. He cited the case of one woman from Qatar who was in her last year studying at a university in UAE who had been forced to leave.
“She has lost four years of study,” he said.
Merri said his committee was urging Saudi Arabia and its allies to lift their sanctions, and was calling on the international community to pressure them to do so. He called on UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who has already expressed alarm at the measures, to send a delegation to Qatar to see the impact of the sanctions firsthand. Merri also urged Qatar to “immediately move internationally to ensure the end of this siege, by going to the Security Council or other UN mechanisms.”