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DOHA ROW INTENSIFIES: Bahrain to enforce visa ban on Qataris

Bahrain News
Wed, 22 Aug 2018
By Raji Unnikrishnan


Manama: Qatar citizens will no longer be allowed into Bahrain.

However, a visa clamp announced yesterday will not affect Qatari students and Qataris currently holding valid visas.

The Interior Ministry said the visa clamp has been imposed with immediate effect.

The move follows Cabinet directives in response to “irresponsible and hostile acts of the Qatari authorities” towards Bahrain, it added.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt – known as the Arab Quartet – severed ties with Qatar in June last year, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and being too close to Iran.

Subsequently, Bahrain officially imposed entry visas on Qatari nationals and residents living in Qatar from November 10.

“Based on the statement of severing political ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017 and the implementation of related directives of the Cabinet for all concerned ministries and government organisations, the Interior Ministry announced on Monday the suspension of the issuance of entry visas for Qatari nationals,” said yesterday’s statement.

“Qatari students who study in Bahrain would be excluded, along with those with valid visas.

“It is worth mentioning that the decision wasn’t taken because of Qatari nationals who share brotherly ties with Bahrainis but as result of irresponsible and hostile acts of Qatari authorities that don’t consider the rights of neighbouring countries or the principles of international law.”

Collective action against Qatar saw land, air and sea borders closed, with the Arab Quartet also banning Qatar Airways flights.

Bahrain also ordered hotels and restaurants to cease broadcasts of Doha-based Al Jazeera, withdrew Bahraini diplomats from Doha, expelled Qatari diplomats and ordered Qataris to leave the country.

Six allies of the Arab Quartet also severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, while three downgraded their relationship.

Demands

The Arab Quartet presented 13 demands to Doha through Kuwait, which included closing a Turkish military base in Qatar and shutting the Al Jazeera television network, to lift the boycott – but the demands have still not been met.

Senior Bahraini MP Jamal Bu Hassan welcomed the decision which he said was “crucial” for the security of Bahrain.

“We have been silent despite having proof to the fact that Qatar has been engaging in activities that could harm the security of Bahrain,” the member of parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and national security committee told the GDN.

“With the threat of infiltrators growing, the risk of conspiracy against the country is high, which cannot be ignored and hence this move is crucial and timely.”

In November when Bahrain imposed visas for Qataris, Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa stressed that a decision wasn’t aimed at people – but at Qatar’s easy issuance of visas and residency to citizens of countries sponsoring terrorism.

The GDN reported last month that up to 9,000 fake Twitter accounts allegedly run by Qatar have been used to specifically target Bahrain, according to researchers from the British Middle East Centre for Studies and Research and other UK-based think tanks.

They found that the accounts, set up in the last year as part of a network of Twitter bots, posted fake news regarding Bahrain’s security to influence public opinion and compromise its relations with Saudi Arabia.

The Interior Ministry also highlighted that it discovered fake accounts run from Qatar which are posting erroneous news in an attempt to damage Bahrain’s economy, with fugitives from justice also involved in the defamatory campaign.

In May, subsequent to Qatar banning the sale of products from the Arab Quartet, Shaikh Khalid underlined the deterioration of relations with Qatar adding that there was “no glimmer of hope”.

He blamed Doha for rushing “to present its case around the world”, which he said, prolonged the crisis, in an interview with the London-based Alsharq Alawsat newspaper.

Manama centre for Human Rights welcomed the decision last night.

It also commended the humanitarian gesture exempting Qatari students in Bahrain from the decision.

raji@gdn.com.bh

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