Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

Qatari families stripped of citizenship deprived of key human rights, rights group says

At least 28 members of the Ghufran tribe are continuing to call for their rights to be restored

A delegation from Al Ghufran Tribe, one of the biggest tribes in Qatar, staged a protest on in front of the United Nations in Geneva in September. WAM
A delegation from Al Ghufran Tribe, one of the biggest tribes in Qatar, staged a protest on in front of the United Nations in Geneva in September. WAM

Qatar’s decision to strip families from one of the country’s biggest tribes of their citizenship has left some members still stateless 20 years later and deprived of key human rights, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

Stateless members of the Ghufran clan are deprived of their rights to decent work, access to health care, education, marriage and starting a family, owning property, and freedom of movement.

The tribe has called on the international community to take a decisive stand against the ruling family of Qatar, who they claim violated a number of international conventions in stripping them of their citizenship.

Altogether, there are 28 stateless individuals in the four families. Four others interviewed, two of whom live in Qatar, said they became Saudi citizens 8 to 10 years after Qatar stripped them of their citizenship.

The Qatari government has asserted that those stripped of citizenship held a second nationality, for Saudi Arabia, presumably because a large faction of the Al-Murrah had long ago also settled in Saudi Arabia and gained Saudi citizenship. Dual citizenship is prohibited under Qatar’s nationality law, as in other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

But several clan representatives told Human Rights Watch that they believe the action was a form of collective punishment related to the participation of some members in a failed 1996 coup against then-Emir Hamad Al Thani, who had deposed his father, Khalifa Al Thani, the year before. In a 2006 US State Department report, “diplomats pointed out that many other dual nationals in Qatar have not been affected.”

Qatar has restored citizenship to many of the thousands of Ghufran clan members whose citizenships they arbitrarily stripped starting in 1996, some families still have no clear path to restore their citizenship.

Without valid identity documents, they face restrictions opening bank accounts and acquiring drivers’ licenses and are at risk of arbitrary detention.

Those living in Qatar are also denied a range of government benefits afforded to Qatari citizens, including state jobs, food and energy subsidies, and free health care.

“Many stateless members of the Ghufran clan are still denied redress today,” Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said.

“The Qatari government should immediately end the suffering of those left stateless and give them and those who have since acquired other nationalities a clear path towards regaining their Qatari citizenship.”

The Ghufran clan is a branch of the semi-nomadic Al Murrahs, who span the Gulf region and are among the largest tribes in Qatar.

Updated: May 12, 2019 12:55 PM

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