By Faisal Abdulhameed al-Mudahka, Editor-in-Chief
What would a nation do if its neighbours suddenly close their borders one fine morning and level unfounded charges as a pretext to launch a land, air and sea blockade? And what would that nation do if these neighbours are also brothers, members of an extended Arab family, who have lived in harmony until that opprobrious day - June 5, 2017 ?
Last updated: February 26 2020 11:10 PM
It is now about 1,000 days since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and banned Qatari airplanes and ships from utilising their airspace and sea routes, along with Riyadh blocking the only land crossing. Travel between the countries was banned and Saudi, UAE and Bahraini nationals living in Qatar were asked to return, separating mothers and fathers from their children, spouses from each other and cutting ties between relatives of hundreds of “joint GCC families”.
That was the moment when Qatar, which is often described as a ‘tiny Arab Gulf country’, realised it has to prove its worth among the comity of nations and create a niche for itself that is noble and worthy to be proud of. The country’s government under the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and the people of Qatar rose to the occasion, and the rest is history. As HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah said recently, Qatar was able to overcome the challenges of the blockade in just 72 hours.
Some 1,000 days after the blockade was imposed, Qatar can look back and be proud of the stupendous achievements it has recorded in all fields, overcoming all the obstacles. From a point where more than 80% of its food needs were either coming from or through the blockading countries, Qatar has today reached self-sufficiency in many food products, including dairy and poultry. Baladna, the country’s leading dairy firm, is now looking to export its products to countries in the region and beyond.
While the blockading countries wanted to isolate Qatar, there has been an outpouring of support for Doha’s principled stance from all over the world. The "soft" power that Qatar wields was evident in its diplomatic feats that saw the country strengthening ties with nations around the world. Calling the bluff of the bullying nations, Qatar stood its legitimate ground, only to find wide backing for its policies globally and massive local development.
It will take too much space to list Qatar’s achievements during the past 1,000 days. On every front Qatar has scored, much to the dismay of its opponents. During the period Qatar has hosted scores of international conferences, dozens of international tournaments, implemented hundreds of development projects including a state-of-the-art Metro. The Hamad International Airport and the Hamad Port have won several global accolades and created records for passenger transport and cargo delivery. For every destination lost to the blockade, Qatar Airways has added many more to its ever-expanding global network. Multi-billion dollar developments like the Lusail City, Mshreib Downtown Doha, most modern roads, the Free Zones, the Logistics area, five-star hotels and modern amenities are among the notable achievements during the period.
Qatar can also be proud of a healthcare system, that is among the best in the world, and prestigious educational institutions. The people of the country enjoy a very high standard of living, freedom of speech and avenues for holistic growth. Qatar is one of the safest places on earth and the country ranks high in international rankings in the ease of doing business.
In the meantime, Qatar has emerged as a trustworthy mediator which can create a platform for dialogue that brings together opposing parties. The latest feather in its peacemaker cap would be the agreement that is expected to be signed between the United States and the Taliban movement in Doha on Saturday.
As Qatar marked on February 25 the 1,000-day countdown to the 22nd edition of the Football World Cup, which will kick off on 21 November 2022, FIFA has praised the significant progress of Qatar’s preparations. Since winning the hosting rights in 2010, Qatar has overseen significant infrastructure development, including the completion of two stadiums: Khalifa International and Al Janoub. Three more stadiums – Education City, Al Rayyan and Al Bayt – will be inaugurated during 2020, with the remaining three set to be launched well in advance of the tournament.
According to FIFA President Gianni Infantino “with 1,000 days to go, Qatar stands where no other host did before. Qatar wants to amaze the world and is on track to achieve it.”
Looking forward, it is more opportune to talk about the 1,000 days to Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup than the thousand days of the ignominious blockade.