Days after Saudi Arabia announced they would be cutting diplomatic ties with the tiny gulf nation of Qatar, Donald Trump tweeted and took credit for the move. The tweet was unnerving for a lot of diplomatic reasons, chief among them it houses America’s largest military base in the Middle East and arguably the most important in the world, definitely the most important in the fight against ISIS. For Donald Trump this was just a twitter driven foreign policy snafu, but for the people of Qatar it’s a pretty big deal that impacts everything flights, shipping goods and shopping, even the ability to store their camels is being disrupted by the diplomatic spat.
Tensions in the region have been particularly high thanks to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen against Iranian backed Houthi rebels. Qatar is fairly close to Iran which has long been a thorn in Saudi Arabia’s side, but as tensions have heightened that relationship has become even more problematic. Another point of contention is the negative coverage Al Jazeera has directed towards Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia blocked the station in May.
It didn’t end there though, just months later Saudi Arabia enacted a naval blockade and stopped all flights to and from the small nation. Qatar is small and incredibly wealthy, so they can still fly in much needed goods around the blockade, but that is not a long term solution to the shortages such blockades can cause. In the long term reestablished diplomatic ties are the real solution, but for many citizens of Qatar that might be too long as there are pressing concerns to be addressed, such as their camels.
Qatar is an incredibly small country and does not have very much spare land so many people in Qatar have taken to keeping their camels in Saudi Arabia. As many as 15,000 Qatari camels are stored in Saudi Arabia in any given time and to add to their blockade and travel restrictions the Saudi government decided to deport the camels. Which meant rounding them up and storing them near the border of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, a move that led to a massively inhumane camel camp that forced Qatari camel owners to hurry up and get their camels out of the country before they starved to death.
Although the Saudi government attempted to move the camels quickly, 15,000 camels is a lot to care for and emergency shipments of food were not enough. Camels were fighting in the heat, they were malnourished, and they had many Qatari citizens wondering how they got caught up in it all.
One Qatari camel owner told Reuters, “some camels were starving, the males were fighting, they were in very bad shape. My brother still has 10 or 11 camels in Saudi Arabia.” The camel herder went on to show disdain for the political situation in general. “We just want to live our lives in general,” he quipped, “to go back to Saudi Arabia and take care of our family and camels.”
Many Qatari’s have yet to get their camels and many probably won’t. The massive disruption in their lives the severing of diplomatic ties has brought will not end overnight and unfortunately for many there are more pressing concerns than their camels, like finding food or save travel for their family until the situation improves. Qatar has been disrupted and camels are simply one small piece of that disruption.