Pressure on Qatar to release Bahrain-based fishermen

June 11, 2010

Bahrain university students are planning to stage a rally in front of the Qatari embassy in Manama to press for the release of their classmates. Their action plan was announced a few hours before 15 Bahraini and three Asian fishermen reached Bahrain after Qatari authorities allowed them to go home.

Seven university students have been detained after they allegedly strayed into Qatari waters when they were out in the sea on a fishing trip. Their families and classmates said that they were amateurs who sometimes took time out to go fishing.

“We have looking at several options to press for their release so that they can sit for their end of the semester exams,” Mohammad Al Morashda, the head of the university student council, said. “Our peaceful options include a rally in front of the Qatari embassy in Manama to show our displeasure and to call for the prompt return of our classmates,” he said.

Al Morashda said that the detained students were in a terrible moral state and that they needed critical support at a time when their friends and classmates are getting ready for their exams.

“We do not want their future to be negatively impacted in any way,” he said.

Former student council chair Salman Al Mahmood said that all students sympathized with their detained friends and wanted them back home.

“We are shocked by what is happening. We never thought that all the close fraternal and cordial ties between us and Qatar would be sidelined or ignored, resulting in the detention of students days before they are due to sit for their exams,” he said.

Ibrahim Janahi, the president of the University of Bahrain, said that he was working on solutions to help the students after their release.

“I have already consulted with their colleges and we agreed on a special exam schedule for them,” he said. “We also agreed to give them extra lectures and lessons to ensure that they can compensate for the classes they missed. This is a very exceptional case that requires exceptional measures,” he said.

The students are part of a group of Bahraini and Asian fishermen, all Bahrain-based, who were detained by Qatar coastguard patrols after allegedly straying into their waters.

Doha, wary of drug trafficking and concerned about its lucrative offshore gas reserves, has pursued a zero-tolerance policy towards foreign ships in its waters.

Last month, the coastguards shot a Bahraini fisherman, Adel Al Taweel, after allegedly ignoring their warnings to leave Qatari waters, unlike the five other ships in the off-limit area.

Adel, 37, was taken to a hospital in Doha where he was treated. Attempts by a medical team and a human rights delegation from Bahrain to repatriate him failed after Doha said that he would face trial.

The shooting incident and Doha’s insistence on putting Al Taweel on trial exacerbated a simmering tension between the two neighbors over the nomination of Mohammad Al Mutawa, a former information minister, as the next secretary general of the six-member state Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The other four members publicly supported Al Mutawa, but Qatar objected.

No explanation was given for the Qatari rejection, but observers link it with Al Mutawa’s stance and statements during the border standoff between the two neighbours before the International Court of Justice issued a verdict in March 2001 and the two countries accepting it. Doha and Manama agreed to start a new chapter in their relations and agreed on the construction of a 40-kilometre causeway to link them. However, work on the project has not started amid reports that it could be put on hold.

Qatari snub over Adel’s release prompted the Bahraini government on May 23 to call for the release of 107 Bahrain-based fishermen and the foreign minister to urge the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Manama and Doha are members, to adopt a series of measures and standards that would avoid incidents involving Gulf-based fishermen and boat users.

Doha has gradually allowed fishermen to go home and on Thursday afternoon, Sadiq and Mohammad Ahmad Khalil, two brothers, were escorted to their families. They later said that they were in fact released on Wednesday, but their journey back to Bahrain was delayed because of bureaucratic measures in Doha.

In the evening, 15 Bahrainis and three Asians reached Bahrain to a rapturous welcome by eager relatives and friends, Bahrain daily Al Ayam reported.  

On Wednesday, Bahrain’s interior ministry said that Qatar was holding 16 Bahraini and 72 Asian fishermen.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

Random Image

13 visitors online now
2 guests, 11 bots, 0 members
Max visitors today: 19 at 01:44 am UTC
This month: 45 at 08-06-2017 06:47 am UTC
This year: 48 at 05-21-2017 10:47 am UTC
All time: 137 at 07-08-2013 12:50 pm UTC
Better Tag Cloud