x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Revisit the question of citizenship rights

Children born of an Emirati woman and a non-Emirati man face an uncertain future when they are denied citizenship.

Are Emiratis of mixed parentage, Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi asked in these pages last year, "Emirati enough"? Sheikh Al Qassemi's conclusion, of course, was that there was an overwhelming number of examples of Emiratis, both young and old, who have one parent from another country and have gone on to make invaluable contributions to society.

There is an undeniable and deep-seated commitment among citizens of the Emirates to the culture and to religion. As we have seen again and again, this is not only commitment born of blood, but of immersion in the society and love of country. And today, many Emiratis can proudly claim a patriotic citizenship while also upholding cross-cultural ties by right of a parent from another country.

Just this past month, The National ran a profile of Khalid Saeed, a 26-year-old Emirati-Irish man, whose life story drew many responses from readers who have had similar experiences.

For the most part, citizenship for children of mixed parentage is only extended if the father is Emirati. As we reported yesterday, the growing number of women who have married foreigners face an uncertain future whether their children will be extended citizenship rights. A similar case is the marriage fund, which is only provided to Emirati men.

The basic principle of equal civil rights for men and women is entrenched in Emirati society and tradition. And yet, when it comes to conferring citizenship to children born of a mixed background, Emirati women are left in an ambiguous position.

The trend of Emirati women marrying foreigners is rising for a number of reasons. The result is a generation of children who identify themselves as Emiratis, but are not citizens. "They grow up with our culture and speak our language," said Hala Kazim, an Emirati woman with a Scottish-Egyptian husband. "These children then feel lost because they feel like Emiratis, but officially they are not."

In a country where Emiratis are a minority - and the language, heritage and culture all must be preserved - these are complicated issues. There is no question about compromising the Emirati nature of the country, yet children of mixed parentage can often uphold that tradition as well as anyone else.