A Look into the GCC Crisis One Year Later: Severing Familial Bonds

A Look into the GCC Crisis One Year Later: Severing Familial Bonds

In the summer of 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt declared sanctions against Qatar, severing both diplomatic and trade ties with the country. Land crossings, maritime ports and airports were shut down and Qatari citizens were forced to leave other GCC-member states and return to Qatar. Both Bahrain and Egypt have pulled their own diplomats out of Doha and forced the Qatari embassies in their countries to shut down and vacate within 48 hours. Similarly, the UAE and Saudi Arabia gave Qatari citizens approximately two weeks to leave and required that their own citizens residing in Qatar return.


On June 22, the four countries listed above gave Qatar a list of 13 demands that were to be met within 10 days of their issuance. Some of these demands included shutting down major MENA and global news outlet Al Jazeera as well as cutting Qatar’s otherwise close relations with Saudi rival Iran. Qatar then rejected this list of demands deeming them “unrealistic” and “not actionable.” This response was met by the unveiling of a “terrorist blacklist” that was comprised of 18 groups and individuals with supposed links to Qatar via funding and/or other relations. Over time, this blacklist grew to include over 90 different names of groups and individuals that were supposedly affiliated with Qatar. Not only has this ongoing crisis disrupted and slowed Qatar’s economy drastically, due to a decrease in food and supply imports due to the border closures, but it has also had a significant impact on families in Qatar, an aspect of the crisis that has remained relatively unaddressed.


The forced departures between Qatar and the other GCC countries  caused many mixed-citizenship couples and families to split. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein quickly identified this phenomenon as a violation of human rights, as prior to this crisis, GCC citizens were granted significant freedom to move between the six GCC states to live, work, and travel. This freedom led to the creation of thousands of intermarriages and mixed-citizenship families throughout the GCC. Saudi, UAE and Bahraini nationals residing in Qatar were threatened with losing their citizenship if they failed to comply, resulting in the separation of spouses from one another and the separation of parents from their children.


According to official governmental reports, prior to the crisis, there were approximately 6,474 families of which one spouse was a Qatari citizen. In addition, there were approximately 8,254 Saudi citizens, 784 Emirati, and 2,349 Bahraini residing in Qatar. Because of this, both mothers and fathers were forced to leave their children behind. A compelling example of the gravity of this issue is that of Nouf, a Qatari citizen residing in Saudi Arabia whose late husband was Saudi and whose children were also Saudi citizens. Following orders issued by the state, Nouf was forced to leave her children including her son who was so severely disabled and in need of 24-hour care. Because Nouf’s husband had passed away, this meant that her children were left in Saudi Arabia with no parental care. Unfortunately, cases like this are not uncommon. As deputy director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme James Lynch said: “for potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in … this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak, and fear.”

By Emily Fowler



Al Jazeera. “GCC Crisis at Deadlock One Year on.” Israeli–Palestinian Conflict | Al Jazeera.        June 05, 2018. Accessed June 05, 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/06/gcc-crisis-deadlock-year-180604151635341.html

Al Jazeera. “Saudi-led Blockade on Qatar ‘breaking up Families’.” Israeli–Palestinian Conflict | Al Jazeera. June 09, 2017. Accessed June 05, 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/06/saudi-led-blockade-qatar-breaking-families-170609131754141.html