Mean Girls

Fayes T Kantawala is siding with Qatar in the latest Middle Eastern fracas

Mean Girls
Be careful what you wish for, they say, for it may indeed come true. Many of you have no doubt wondered, as I have, how that could ever be a bad thing. Health, wealth, money, power and body fat in the single digits are nothing if not desirable goals. In my constant search for all these things, life has constantly taught me the same lesson: what you think about the most manifests itself to be true. It may not happen right away, it may not happen as you had planned it, and it sure as hell ain’t just the Good Things you thought about, but there will come a day when you look back on your life and recognise how events conspired to bring you what you asked for. If you’re lucky you’ll be thankful, but if you’re like the rest of us you’ll just try to use more precise language in the future.

You’ll probably call me silly (at least you’ll call me) but I began thinking about this causal relationship in the multiverse when news about the diplomatic embargo on the tiny nation of Qatar began to escalate to what is now a full-fledged high-mean-girls social coup. The first and only time I flew Qatar Airlines was last year where I had a return journey out of and into Pakistan. Best airline in the world, I was told. Most amazing experience ever, I was assured. Bollocks. Of the total five flights that I took on that ticket, only three actually took off and all of them were fairly grotty experiences. Understandably this left me in a very uncharitable mood at my last visit to Doha airport. I looked around at its soaring ceilings and pretentious displays of chocolates in the shape of the pyramids (they are not even your monuments!) and felt white hot undiluted rage. I curse you, I thought, real hard.
Truth be told I didn't know you could ostracise a country this quickly in today's wifi world

Now I feel really bad because as you know Qatar is going through a tough time. Self-centred as I am, even I don’t think my momentary spell of rage is why Qatar is in trouble. Believe me, if I had that kind of power LESCO would be on fire and the fast food chain Taco Bell would never have existed. Like all bad things recently, this war is on Trump. The President (*cringe*) went on his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel (a telling itinerary if ever there was one); and soon afterwards an emboldened bloc comprising Saudi Arabia and its Friends have decided to isolate Qatar for promoting terrorism. The irony of this is not lost on anyone. Saudi Arabia: home to the bin Ladens, Wahhabism, routine beheadings, the country from whence sprung all but four of the 9/11 attackers and where women’s rights are as real as Ch. Nisar’s hairpiece. That Saudi Arabia should start occupying the moral high ground when it comes to policing terrorism around the world would be laughable if it wasn’t so deeply depressing.

Truth be told I didn’t know you could ostracize a country this quickly in today’s wifi world. I mean the newsmen talk about sanctions and restrictions, but those always sound so vague and time-consuming. What happened to Qatar is full scale isolation over a weekend: borders closed, flights grounded, neighbors angered. Everyone around them has closed off their airspace and the big players like Abu Dhabi, Saudi and Egypt have been joined by small fries like Mauritius and Yemen. That said, I doubt even the beleaguered Qataris mourn not being allowed in Yemeni airspace (#YemeniAirMatters).

Mapping the airspace restrictions on Qatar

The news reports are saying that the Qataris were hacked a few weeks ago and that the evidence of their promoting terror is fabricated, which is a story I sort of buy. Other theories include a somewhat lazy take on Sunni/Shia divisions, proxy wars with Iran and a battle over the rebuilding and resources of post-war Syria. If it sounds like Game of Thrones it’s because the Middle East is made of up of literal thrones. Part of the reason politics in the Arab world tends to be so volatile and quick is because it is run by monarchs. Now the same is true of America so the world is in for some fun times. But doesn’t it make you angry that the world governments and even news agencies are OK talking about Saudi Arabia as if it isn’t the root cause of so much ill in our world?

In all of this we haven’t come out half bad actually. I’ve seen repeated mentions in op-eds and articles about how Pakistan ‘declined’ to send its army to fight for the Saudis in Yemen in large part because the Saudis only wanted Sunni soldiers. The refusal comes across as brave, just and considered at a time when everyone else is frothing for action. Or it may just be that I am grateful for any tangible evidence that anyone is standing up to the Saudis’ brand of exportable intolerance.

The running joke is that as retaliation for being ostracised, the Qataris are going to ban the Saudis and Emiratis from the Arab haunt abroad, Harrods. Though sadly untrue, I am legitimately worried when world events move this quickly and with this much ferocity. Mainly because I’m worried what the universe will throw my way once it finds the time.

Write to