“The Unforgiven”: Al-Ghufran families ‘arbitrarily stripped of Qatari citizenship,’ HRW says

Members of the Al-Ghufran clan are being deprived of key human rights by the Qatari government, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) statement released on Sunday. (A delegation from the Al-Ghufran tribe has taken their case to the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2018. (Supplied/File Photo)
Updated 07 October 2019

“The Unforgiven”: Al-Ghufran families ‘arbitrarily stripped of Qatari citizenship,’ HRW says

  • Some members of the clan remain stateless and are consistently denied their rights
  • UNHRC to conduct third review of Qatar's human rights record May 15

LONDON: Members of the Al-Ghufran clan are being deprived of key human rights by the Qatari government, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) statement released on Sunday.

Some members of the clan remain stateless and are consistently denied their rights to work, access to health care, education, marriage and starting a family, owning property, and freedom of movement, the HRW report said.

Having been stripped of valid idenity documentation by the Qatari authorities, they continue to face difficulties opening bank accounts and attaining driving licenses and find themselves at risk of arbitrary detention, it added.

For those Al-Ghufran clan members living in Qatar, they are denied a range of government benefits afforded to other Qatari citizens — including state jobs, subsidies for food and energy as well as free health care.

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

HRW interviewed nine members of three stateless Al-Ghufran families living in Qatar and one person from a fourth family who lives in Saudi Arabia — in total there are 28 stateless individuals in the four families. A further four people interviewed, two of whom live in Qatar, said they decided to become Saudi citizens a decade ago after Qatar stripped them of their citizenship.

The report cited a 56-year-old man whose citizenship — along with that of his five children — was stripped in 2004, and who said: “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 and hope for the best.”

The Al-Ghufran are a branch of the semi-nomadic Al-Murrah group who are among one of the largest tribes in Qatar. While citizenship has been restored to a number of Al-Ghufran who had their citizenship stripped in 1996, there are still some families still have no clear path to restore their citizenship.

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The group took their plight to the UN in September 2018 where they told the world how they were stripped of their nationality and were suffering torture, forced displacement and deportation in a 22-year campaign of systematic persecution by authorities in Qatar

According tot he HRW report, the Qatari government said those stripped of citizenship often hold a second nationality, especially in Saudi Arabia, because a large faction of the Al-Murrah settled in Saudi Arabia and gained Saudi citizenship. Dual citizenship is prohibited under Qatar’s nationality law, as in other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

None of the stateless members received official or written communication stating the reason behind the revocation of their citizenship or offered the chance to appeal, according to the report. All, including those who returned to Qatar in 2017, said they either fled, were deported, or were denied entry back into Qatar after their citizenship was revoked. They said they settled for several years in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, or Kuwait as stateless persons. All showed documentary evidence that they were Qatari nationals.

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.

“The Qatari government should create a timely and transparent system to review the citizenship claims of members of Ghufran clan,” Fakih said. “Qatar should follow the positive recent steps it’s taken in ratifying core human rights treaties and make sure the rights enshrined there are being respected.”

All the Al-Ghufran members that HRW interviewed said they relied on the generosity of people sympathetic to their cause to cover their basic needs.

“Anwar,” 40, whose Saudi citizenship has expired in Qatar, refuses to renew it for fear of losing the chance to one day regain his Qatari citizenship, saying: “Getting the Saudi citizenship was simply a matter of attempting to pursue a dignified life. No more, no less. I didn’t want to leave Qatar. I want to remain in this country, my country … my life in Qatar now is such a struggle. I wish to work. I wish to be married. But I don’t have any identification documents that are valid today. And everything requires connections.”

Many Al-Ghufran clan members said they ended up in exile as a result of being stripped of citizenship and have effectively been deprived of their property, including their homes, in Qatar.

According to the HRW report, Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of it.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Qatar ratified in April 1995, recognizes the right of the child to be registered immediately after birth and to acquire a nationality, “in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless” (article 7), and if the child has been “illegally deprived” of their nationality, to re-establish it “speedily” (article eight). The Convention prohibits discrimination (article 2), including in education, and obliges states to make higher education available to all on the basis of their capacity (article 28).

The rights to work, health, and education, are also enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which Qatar also ratified in May 2018.

Many of these rights and the right to property are protected in the revised Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Qatar ratified in 2013.

The Unforgiven
How thousands of members of Qatar’s Al-Ghufran tribe are still paying the price for a failed coup in which they played no part.

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In Egypt, 7 dead after chaotic day of heavy rains, flooding

Updated 22 min 39 sec ago

In Egypt, 7 dead after chaotic day of heavy rains, flooding

  • People captured images of Tuesday’s downpours and flooding on their mobile phones, posting footage on social media
  • Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said Wednesday’s school closures were limited to the greater Cairo area, including Giza and Qalioubia, as more rainfall was expected

CAIRO: At least seven people, including three children, were killed in Egypt’s Nile Delta and Sinai regions, authorities said Wednesday after heavy rains pummeled Cairo and other parts of the country the previous day, causing massive traffic jams and flooding many key roads.
People captured images of Tuesday’s downpours and flooding on their mobile phones, posting footage on social media, including scenes of cars submerged by flood waters.
In one dramatic video, a man on a bulldozer pulls the lifeless body of a little girl out of the water in a flooded area in the northern province of Sharqia as shouts and screams are heard in the background. Another video shows a policeman, steps away from the presidential palace in Cairo’s district of Heliopolis, wading into a flooded street to unclog a sewage drain.
Authorities closed schools and universities in the greater Cairo area Wednesday and companies saw only skeletal staff show up at work after Tuesday’s heavy rains.
The mayhem raised questions about Cairo’s ability to deal with heavy rainfall as the city’s infrastructure and sewage and drainage systems have suffered from years of poor maintenance.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said Wednesday’s school closures were limited to the greater Cairo area, including Giza and Qalioubia, as more rainfall was expected in the next couple of days, according to the country’s weather service.
Five deaths occurred in the Nile Delta provinces of Sharqia, Gharbia and Kafr el-Sheikh, according to the Interior Ministry. Three of the victims, including two children, were fatally electrocuted. The other two victims died falling from the rooftops of their flooded homes.
Local authorities in northern Sinai also reported two deaths. Moataz Taher, head of the el-Hassana municipality, said in a statement that a 47-year-old farmer and his 13-year-old daughter died early Wednesday in the flooding.
Cairo’s eastern suburb of Nasr City was hit the hardest, as well as Heliopolis, located near Cairo’s international airport. The government said the two suburbs had received at least 650,000 cubic meters of precipitation in just 90 minutes on Tuesday, overwhelming the city’s sewage and drain systems.
Trucks fanned out across Cairo to drain water from flooded areas. A key highway connecting Cairo to other provinces was closed, the state-run Al-Ahram daily reported.
EgyptAir said it had delayed some fights on Tuesday because passengers were stuck on the roads and unable to get to the airport. A part of the old Cairo airport terminal which has been under renovation was also flooded, with footage on social media showing rainwater pouring into the hallway.
The Civil Aviation Ministry said that terminal was only being used by a private carrier for one or two flights a day and shared photos of it after it was cleaned up.