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Online debate erupts over Qatar-Bahrain territorial dispute

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Map of Qatar and Bahrain

An online debate has erupted on social media over a historical territorial dispute between Bahrain and Qatar.

The decades-old territorial dispute between Qatar and Bahrain over Hawar Islands and Zubarah fort has resurfaced online over the past days triggering heated debates among users from the two countries on Twitter, according to Doha News.

In Qatar, Twitter hashtags asserting Doha’s claim over the Hawar Islands were met with a swift response from neighboring Bahrainis who quickly rushed to launch the hashtag “Hawar Is Bahraini".

The online debate comes as Bahrain’s al-Watan media outlet has recently produced a documentary series on Zubarah, claiming the area does not belong to Qatar.

Bahrain has sovereignty over Hawar, although it lies only 1.9 km away from Qatari mainland. The country also lays claim to Zubarah Fort, which is internationally recognized as Qatari land.

Brigadier General Shaheen al-Sulaiti, a former senior member of the Qatari intelligence service, took to twitter to comment on the issue, saying “It shall return, sooner or later #Hawar_Is_Qatari.”

Social media users in Qatar called for the return of the sovereignty of Hawar Island to Doha as well as the re-demarcation of borders between the two Persian Gulf Arab states.

Meanwhile, Bahraini Twitter users called for the return of the sovereignty of Zubarah to their country.

“We have 83 forged documents that claim what you want to claim, but the international court ruled that #Hawar_is_Bahraini. Al-Zubarah fort remains, because its people are Bahrainis, whether the claimants like it or not, and their rights (Bahrainis) will not be lost no matter how long it takes,” Khalid Al Khalifa, a diplomatic advisor to the king of Bahrain, tweeted.

The territorial dispute between Bahrain and Qatar began in the mid-1900s.

In 1990, the row was referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after the two sides slid towards war in 1986.

The Hague-based court in 2001 granted Qatar sovereignty over Zubara and Janan Islands, and ruled that Bahrain had a claim over Hawar Islands and Qit’at Jarada.

The latest developments come amid ongoing tensions between the two countries despite the recent reconciliation agreement signed between Qatar and the Arab quartet nations—Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, and Egypt.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar.

The Saudi-led quartet accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, presented it with a list of demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences.

Doha, however, denied terrorism charges and refused to meet the conditions laid out by the boycotting bloc, stressing that the country would not abandon its independent foreign policy.

The reconciliation deal was signed at a summit in Saudi Arabia’s city of al-Ula on January 5.

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