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The revolution in Qatar 7, March 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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No, not that sort of revolution. Not at all. The vast majority of Qataris are a happy bunch. They have one of the most forward-thinking elites in the region, a comfortable life and after Qatar’s recent triumphs and on-going conflict resolution adventures, quite a sense of pride in their country.

So there will be no masses on the streets calling for revolution. Sure, a handful of people have been making all sorts of curious demands on Facebook, but, as I noted before, every country has their share of people on the lunatic fringe (and who is to say that those starting or ‘liking’ the Facebook pages are even Qatari?).

Instead, Qatar’s (mini; micro?) revolution will be played out as a struggle for greater freedom of expression. True, Qatar is the host of Al Jazeera and has no Ministry of Information stifling domestic press. But one needn’t be a Gulf expert to note that Al Jazeera is frequently criticised for not covering stories within Qatar while Qatar’s domestic press is tame to say the least.

But things are changing.

First, Al Jazeera ran a story criticising the Qatari government for holding a Qatari blogger. They quoted an (incendiary as ever) spokesperson for Amnesty International as saying that he is at risk of ‘being tortured’ while in Qatari custody. I personally doubt this very much, but this is not the point; it is the fact that they overtly and explicitly ran a story that criticised Qatari authorities. Though this has happened before, such events are few and far between.

Secondly, there was a surprising editorial in The Peninsula, a Qatari daily newspaper, openly criticising the self-censorship that Qatari journalists employ. It also noted that editors tend to ask for or demand uncritical pieces from their journalists, essentially, for an easy life. Kudos to The Peninsula for running this article.

This, it seems to me, will be how the Spring Revolutions play out in Qatar: as a (minor) battle or simply an argument for greater freedom of the press domestically.

The Qatari authorities have little to fear. As I said at the beginning, it is my honest opinion that the vast majority of Qataris are more then content with how things are currently going in Qatar. If a nation’s press reflects its readership at all, then although there will no doubt be one or two articles disagreeing with official policy here and there, overall, frankly I wouldn’t expect much to change.

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Comments»

1. CKCH - 7, March 2011

Although it is great that Al Jazeera covered the story of the detained Qatari blogger, it came several days after the event. At that point, the story had already been wide spread on twitter. Would they have reported it otherwise? They certainly weren’t breaking a news story with that one. If they really wanted to prove their independence, they would do their own investigations on Qatar.

2. Politico - 8, March 2011

Please note that most editorials and news stories ran in the English-speaking press, not the local Arabic outlets.

This is an old trick used by Arab governments to convince the famously idiotic, rotten “Western” governments that, yes, there is a push for reform.

thegulfblog.com - 8, March 2011

Duly noted.

3. Lex Icon - 16, March 2011

A decent post spoilt for me by some unnecessary pejoratives and assumptions.
1)Those against the Qatari rulers are “lunatic fringe”? Why so? Not every Qatari is happy just because they have wealth and comfort – some value other things beside. Some have a more “traditional” (or “accurate” if I were to also use the pejorative) view of Islam and want to see that at the forefront of their society. Are they lunatics just because they hold a different view/interpretation to yours?

2. Forward-thinking? Again, depends on your world view. Those protesting (or not, as it actually turned out) are unhappy precisely because they have a different interpretation of what constitutes progress, so to apply your version of it upon them to make your case seems a bit unfair.

3. Moving on from semantics, what’s the relevance of the nationality of those liking the FB page? Can only Qataris support change in Qatar? Did only nationals support the seismic changes in Tunisia, Egypt etc? Did only natioanls support the fall of Eastern Europe’s communist regimes? Come on, surely we can do better than that…

Thanks

thegulfblog.com - 16, March 2011

Thanks for posting.
1) Certainly it’s a bit cheeky of me. I wholly agree that money is not the be all and end all of it. I’ve been talking for some time now to people about the importance of ‘dignity’ in these revolutions and I think that most Qataris have that in spades here. Another key reason as to why they’re not on the streets. Lunatic fringe is also not as bad as it sounds (i.e. it’s a phrase that, to my mind at least and it while may not ‘translate’ that well, does not have as bad connotations as just calling someone a ‘lunatic’). Though point taken.

2) But I’m right…?

3) Sure, others can want change. But my point is that Qataris don’t. Surely they are the key arbiters!

4. abdelkader - 27, May 2011

la famille royale quatarienne est à la solde des états unis et israel et leur chaine el djazeera avec


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