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Qatar arbitrarily strips families of citizenship

Wednesday 15/May/2019 - 07:15 PM
The Reference

Qatar’s decision to arbitrarily strip families from the Ghufran clan 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.

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,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“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 toward regaining their Qatari citizenship.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed nine members of three stateless families of the Ghufran clan living in Qatar and one person from a fourth family who lives in Saudi Arabia.

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.

A 56-year-old man whose citizenship along with that of his five children was stripped in 2004 described the impact: “I have no property in my name, no house, no income, no health card, I can’t even open a bank account, it’s like I don’t even exist. When I get sick [instead of going to a doctor or hospital] I take Panadol [a non-prescription painkiller] and hope for the best.”

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.

Human Rights Watch wrote to the Qatari Ministry of Interior on April 29, 2019 to raise concerns about the Ghufran clans’ situation. The letter did not receive a response at the time of this writing.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will conduct its third review of Qatar's human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure on May 15 in Geneva. Over the past two years, Ghufran activists have called on the UNHRC to help restore their clan’s lost rights. A joint submission to the UPR in October 2018 by the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, and the Rights Realization Center also addressed the issue.