British MPs demand UK intervention in Gulf dispute

 25 Oct 2017 - 18:00

British MPs want Foreign Minister Boris Johnson to intervene in the Gulf dispute over the ‘inhumane’ treatment of thousands of citizens.

The politicians are pushing for an Early Day Motion so the effects of the near five-month-long Saudi-led blockade of Qatar can be properly debated in the House of Commons.

Since June 5, the National Human Rights Committee has received 4,000 complaints from people affected by the siege, which has impacted on 13,000 Gulf citizens residing in Qatar.

When the boycott was announced all Qataris living in the blockading countries were ordered to return home, tearing families apart.

Similarly, Emiraties living in Doha were ordered home under threat of losing their citizenship.

Sick children being cared for in Saudi hospitals had their treatment abruptly halted as their families were ejected by Riyadh, while students were forced to abandon their courses.

Even the camels suffered: many died of starvation and thirst at the border after their owners were told to remove 10,000 animals at 36 hours notice.

One of the most shocking clampdowns involved free speech.

In United Arab Emirates anyone expressing sympathy with Qatar on social media faced up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to 500,000 dirhams.

This week eight British MPs and two House of Lords members were told by NHRC head Dr Ali bin Sumaikh Al Marri of the devastating ways that people’s lives had been torn apart by the Saudi-led boycott.

He set out violations of basic human rights such as the right to family reunification, the right to work, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, education, medical treatment, mobility, property and the exercise of the religious rites.

These were infringed when Qataris were prevented from doing haj, he said.

After his meeting Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, the party’s spokesman on international trade,  said he would press Boris Johnson to raise the human rights violations with the blockading countries to demonstrate the UK disapproval.

Mr Brake said: ‘I will be asking questions of the British Foreign Office in Parliament about the impact of the embargo on people in Qatar, especially on the humanitarian side.’

Lord Norman Warner, a member of the House of Lords Labour Party, said: ‘It is a clear violation of individual human rights and I express my concern about that.

‘I commit myself to considering any steps that could be taken at parliamentary level.’

MP Chris Williamson, Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, said: ‘I will raise the issue of the siege of Qatar and the resulting human suffering with parliament’.

The MPs who Dr Al Marri met were Tom Brake (Lib Dem), Chris Williamson (Labour), Alistair Carmichael (Lib Dem), Martyn Day (SNP), David Wayne (Labour), Tommy Shephard (SNP), Richard Burden (Labour), and Grahame Morris (Labour).

He also met Baroness Udin, the first Muslim woman to sit in the British Parliament, and Lord Warner.

Dr Al Marri said: ‘This blockade is affecting the social fabric of these countries, turning wife against husband. People are getting divorced because of pressure from relatives who tell them: ’Why are you married to a Qatari. They are terrorists’. Even children are being told that Qataris are terrorists.

‘People can remain neutral in a political conflict but you cannot remain neutral when there are human rights violations.’

He pointed out that in the 2014 dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia there was no move to punish citizens, but this was being done now to ‘exert pressure’ on the Doha government.

The writer is a former foreign editor at Daily Mail, ex-Head of News and US Editor at Daily Mirror.