While the Persian Gulf dispute drew widespread attention around the world, Qatar‘s Hamad International Airport remained busy as a beehive as planes arrived from and departed to all corners of the world.
Headed to Delhi, India, on July 3 to meet up for a 10-day business trip with Ani Agnihotri and Vir Nanda, leaders in Atlanta‘s Indian communities, Global Atlanta landed at the airport next to Doha, Qatar’s capital, to make the transfer to Delhi. In the three hour interim it was impossible not to notice the defense of the Al-Jaazera television network being broadcast throughout the spacious lobbies.
Interview upon interview with a wide array of the station’s supporters fiercely criticized the Saudi-led group of Arab states’ 13 demands including shutting down the media network as well as cutting ties with Islamist groups, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the small gas-rich monarchy.
The interviews were interspersed with features about how Qataris were coping with the crisis.
One feature explained that Qatari fishermen, who were boycotted from selling their catch in Saudi Arabia, had focused their sales on their own domestic markets. With an increased supply of fish in Qatari markets, the expected savings in the cost of fish were portrayed as a blessing in disguise for Qataris.
A similarly enhanced domestic focus by the dairy industry also was expected to help Qatari consumers.
In an equally positive report, a youthful Qatari who co-founded a company specializing in 3-D printing viewed favorably “the sudden rise to prominence” of local products as “a very logical result of the economic blockade.”
Meanwhile, the Qatari government repeatedly said that it has been able to develop new trading relationships with alternative markets for goods at similar prices and quality and has responded to the loss of companies due to the blockades by streamlining investor services under the theme of “own a factory within 72 hours.”
In the past, Qatar had imported perishable goods through its land link with Saudi Arabia, and millions of dollars of other goods and materials via the United Arab Emirates‘s Jebel Ali port which serves as a major re-export hub for the Gulf.
With the Saudi exports and imports as well as those of the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen, later joined by Libya and the Maldives, blocked off from Qatar, the Qataris have ramped up their nationalist pride while stocking up on goods and developing new trading relationships including new trade routes such as those just established with nearby Oman that is not involved in the boycott.
As the world’s richest country per capital, with just 2.7 million residents and income from the world’s biggest exports of liquefied natural gas, it remains resilient in the face of the blockades.
But given the close relations among the Persian Gulf states, often with relatives living in different countries, diplomatic tensions are high and the rhetoric among the different governments pretty acerbic. For instance, Al-Jazeera has been accused regularly of being a purveyor of “fake news” by Qatar’s neighbors.
Global Atlanta was reminded of the controversy surrounding the launch of Doha-based Al-Jazeera in the mid-1990s as it claimed to be independent- minded and not propagandistic in its news reporting especially in comparison to other Middle Eastern news outlets
It seemed pretty obvious that it’s model was based on that of CNN International, even hiring away some of CNN’s leading broadcasters. When Global Atlanta still was publishing the Global Fax news service, Sultan Mohammed Al-Naimi, information and research officer for Qatar Liquified Gas Co.(Qatargas), visited its office in Decatur to learn more about CNN’s resources for producing documentaries.
Over the years, Global Atlanta has reported on local ties with Al-Jazeera such as when the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia awarded its McGill Medal of Journalistic Courage to Dorothy Parvaz for her coverage of the Syrian conflict.
It also has reported on the launch of the Qatar Airways flights linking Atlanta to Doha, and large investments made by local companies into Qatar such as Total System Services (TSYS), GE Energy and Siemens Industry Inc.
When checking in for its return flight on July 11, the hum and buzz at the airport seemed pretty routine, but Global Atlanta did experience an unexpected development. Because its backpack was stuffed with camera equipment and wires, all of these items had to be taken out and closely inspected and then isolated in a clear plastic bag that was sealed.
Laptops were allowed, but also underwent the careful inspection and separate wrapping. Given that Qatar is to host the World Cup in 2022, it isn’t likely that security precautions will be diminished anytime soon.