The presence of Israeli teams at a youth handball tournament in Doha, starting on Thursday, has sparked calls on social media for Qataris to withdraw their children from the competition. AFP reports.
Israel sent a boys’ team and a girls’ team to the Handball World School Championships, a biannual international tournament for students aged 15 to 18, played since the early 1970s.
It is not the first time Israeli athletes have competed in Qatar, but their participation has brought renewed scrutiny to Doha’s foreign policy eight months into a diplomatic crisis with its Arab neighbours.
On Twitter, users claiming to be Qataris accused Doha of trying to normalise relations with Israel.
“I ask all parents to withdraw their children and prevent them from participating in this normalisation of relations,” one user wrote in Arabic.
“Now it is the time to speak to your children about Palestine.”
Another tweeted that the tournament was “recognition of an occupier”.
The Twitter account QAYON (Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalisation) for its part launched the hashtag, “Students of Qatar against normalisation”, gaining coverage from Doha’s own Al-Jazeera Arabic satellite network.
The campaign even garnered praise from a prominent Emirati professor tweeting from the rival United Arab Emirates – where expressions of sympathy toward Qatar can be a punishable offence.
It is not known whether the tweets critical of Doha actually originated from Qatar.