“The Unforgiven”: Qatar’s Al-Ghufran tribe members tell of loss and deportation

(Illustration: Alex Green for Arab News)
Updated 09 October 2019

“The Unforgiven”: Qatar’s Al-Ghufran tribe members tell of loss and deportation

  • Tribe members say they have been targeted by a 'vengeful' Doha leadership for over two decades
  • Al-Ghufran say they were blamed for an act committed by 121 people from 17 different tribes

JEDDAH: How painful it must be for someone to find themselves barred overnight from entering their homeland, to find themselves stateless and homeless in a foreign country, or to be thrown into jail simply because they belong to a certain tribe. And how painful it must be to find out that their citizenship has been revoked because of political events they had nothing to do with.

Yet this is exactly what happened to 6,000 members of the Al-Ghufran tribe during more than two decades of persecution by the Qatari regime.

Jaber Al-Kahla, an Al-Ghufran tribe member who served in the Emiri Guard on the night of the failed 1996 counter-coup, saw his career derailed by the attempted uprising.

“I was suspended from work for eight or nine months and received my salary at home,” he told Arab News. “Afterwards, they investigated me, asking me about my whereabouts.

“I told them that I was in the headquarters of my units, and my colleagues can corroborate this. They kept me in detention for several days before releasing me. I stayed home for about eight months receiving my monthly salary.

“After my suspension, I applied for a formal leave for six days because I wanted to attend the marriage of one of my relatives in Saudi Arabia. I traveled to the Kingdom with my wife and two children.

“When I wanted to return to Qatar at the end of my leave, I was told that my citizenship was withdrawn and that I was not allowed to return. My vacation extended to 23 years. Now I am 46 and I have 12 children, all of whom are deprived of their country.”

Al-Kahla said: “I was just a military man doing his job, defending my ruler. If I went back in time, I would do the same thing. I have nothing to do with the ruling family differences. You cannot blame all Al-Thani family members for a mistake that (Sheikh) Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani committed. They always treated their people in the best of ways.

“Our conflict is with an unjust ruler who violated the rights of Al-Ghufran tribe, which then had 6,000 members. Now this number is much bigger. By revoking their citizenship, they were deprived of their most basic right. If you are a member of Al-Ghufran tribe, you cannot get a mobile chip card because you do not have citizenship; you cannot even object to this. You do not have recourse to law to protect your rights.”

Rashed Al-Amrah, another Al-Ghufran tribe member and former Qatari police officer (pictured with his sister when he was younger, right), said that 6,000 people were stripped of their citizenship before 2003.


WHAT THE AL-GHUFRAN TRIBE WANTS

  • Formal apology for 23 years of oppression, persecution, displacement and confiscation of property and money.

  • Return of all property and funds confiscated by Qatar, including real estate and bank accounts.

  • Compensation for mental, physical and material damages inflicted on tribe members.

  • Restoration of citizenship rights to those born in Qatar to Qatari parents.


“Many Al-Ghufran tribe members returned to Qatar, and some have been granted Qatari citizenship only after changing their place of birth. If you were born in Qatar, your birthplace was changed to Saudi Arabia and you were granted citizenship by naturalization in order to prove to the world that these are naturalized and not true Qataris,” Al-Amrah said.

“Some have returned to Qatar after obtaining Saudi nationality. The Qatari authorities allowed them to return with Saudi nationality to prove the claim that their nationality was withdrawn because they have Saudi nationality and not because of accusations that the tribe is responsible for the so-called coup against Sheikh Hamad.”

Al-Amrah said others from the Al-Ghufran tribe who did not take part in the coup had been stripped of citizenship. They included children, women and the elderly who were innocent, while those who took part in the coup are now living in Qatar and have Qatari citizenship.

“The authorities’ excuse is that these Al-Ghufran tribe members have Qatari citizenship, which is not true,” he said. “If this was the reason, how come the authorities naturalized some foreigners?”

Saleh Jaber Al-Humran is another Al-Ghufran tribe member and guardsman who was deported from Qatar in the wake of the failed 1996 counter-coup.

“I was detained at the headquarters of the Emiri Guard headquarters because of my absence from work for a whole month,” he told Arab News.

“One day before the coup, I left work to visit my mother. A friend told me after the coup that an arrest warrant has been issued against me. I called a friend at the airport and who confirmed that my name was, indeed, listed, so I decided to travel to Kuwait until things calmed down. Since then I have been banned from returning to my country.

“My mother got sick in Qatar and I came to visit her along with my children through Hamad International Airport. When we got to the airport, I was detained and barred from entering. I told them that I had a heart condition and wanted to enter to visit my mother. They allowed my children to enter Qatar, but I was banned and deported to Kuwait.

“The airport authorities interrogated me for seven hours. When I got out, my health had deteriorated, and I asked to travel to Saudi Arabia, where I was transferred immediately to the Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz hospital in Al-Ahsa for open-heart surgery.

“It saddens me that my homeland denied my right and refused to carry out my operation close to my mother and my brothers, especially since my mother is old and cannot travel. I was not able to see her for four years except through visual communication.

“When one of my brothers died, the others were prevented from burying his body because there was no citizenship or any document proving his identity. His body stayed in the hospital for a day and after that a Qatari intervened to obtain a burial permit. I cannot mention his name or he will be sanctioned by the Qatari authorities.”

Al-Amrah recounts a similar story: “The Qatari Emiri Diwan issued a letter to all government departments in Qatar preventing them from dealing with Al-Ghufran tribe members. They were prevented from obtaining water and electricity subscription. They also banned charities from giving them aid, and the Ministry of Health was prevented from receiving any patient from the Al-Ghufran tribe.

“The brother of one of the suspects in the so-called coup fell sick and had a seizure. When he went to the hospital, they refused to receive him because he had no identity card or nationality. He stayed the whole day in the back of a pick-up truck until he died. After spending days outside the morgue, his family was able to bury him only when someone from Al-Thani intervened to release the body,” he said.

Al-Humran said: “Six thousand innocent people from the Al-Ghufran clan are being held responsible for a fault committed by a small group of no more than 21 people. Some of those blamed were studying in the US and others were receiving treatment in Germany. They are also holding a widow whose oldest child is six culpable for the coup.

“The Al-Ghufran tribe was blamed for an act committed by 121 people from 17 tribes. The Qatari government says that it withdrew our citizenship because of dual nationality, which is not true. You can find people with dual nationality in all tribes, so it is not a question of dual nationality. But to take such decision without corroboration and revoke the citizenship of a whole tribe, this is a violation of their rights.

“We know this is a malicious and vengeful act of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa against the Al-Ghufran tribe because 21 of its members took part in the attempted coup,” Al-Humran said.




Jaber bin Rashed Al-Amrah, then a Qatari citizen, carries his younger sister in their home in Qatar.

In August this year, Jaber bin Rashed Al-Amrah, son of Rashed Al-Amrah, turned 33, with 24 years of his life spent in the shadow of Qatar’s persecution. “I was born in Qatar and when the coup happened I was 11 years old and didn’t know what was happening,” he told Arab News.

“I traveled with my family to Saudi Arabia during the Eid holidays to visit relatives. Then I went with my father to the UAE and I could not go back to my home, my school and my friends in Qatar. I moved to a second country where I lived for four years and then left the UAE and headed to Saudi Arabia.

“I have a birth certificate proving that I was born in the maternity hospital in Doha, and my name was added to my mother’s Qatari passport as a Qatari citizen. After my father left Qatar, the citizenship of my mother, father, and all my brothers and sisters was withdrawn.

“I am not responsible for what happened then, and I did not even know who is the emir or the crown prince, or the meaning of a coup.

“I was a child when my citizenship was revoked, my rights violated and I was stopped from continuing my studies and normal life.

“The then ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, decided that I should live homeless, stateless and without rights,” he said.

“When I moved to Abu Dhabi, my father decided that I needed to continue my education in the UAE. I presented an application to the Emirati Ministry of Education and Youth. My brothers and I continued our studies in Abu Dhabi, but after four years we returned to our relatives in Saudi Arabia, where we settled down until the present day.

“I am (now) married with children and holding the Saudi nationality (that I got) after King Salman bin Abdul Aziz intervened when he was governor of Riyadh to get my father and many of our relatives Saudi nationality. I now work in a government job,” he said.

 

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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Russian forces deploy at Syrian border under new accord

Updated 18 min 16 sec ago

Russian forces deploy at Syrian border under new accord

  • Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement Tuesday that would transform the map of northeast Syria, installing their forces along the border
  • The Kurdish fighters were given a deadline of next Tuesday evening to pull back from border areas they have not already left

AKCAKALE, Turkey: Russian military police began patrols on part of the Syrian border Wednesday, quickly moving to implement an accord with Turkey that divvies up control of northeastern Syria. The Kremlin told Kurdish fighters to pull back from the entire frontier or else face being “steamrolled” by Turkish forces.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed those warnings, saying his military would resume its offensive against Kurdish fighters if the new arrangements are not carried out.
Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached an agreement Tuesday that would transform the map of northeast Syria, installing their forces along the border and filling the void left by the abrupt withdrawal of American troops. The Kurdish fighters, who once relied on the US forces as protection from Turkey, were given a deadline of next Tuesday evening to pull back from border areas they have not already left.

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday hailed the deal struck between Russia and Turkey to remove Kurdish fighters from the Syria-Turkey border, calling the agreement a "big success."

"Big success on the Turkey/Syria Border. Safe Zone created! Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended," the president tweeted. "Kurds are safe and have worked very nicely with us. Captured ISIS prisoners secured."

Iraq, meanwhile, closed the door on the US military’s attempt to keep the troops leaving Syria on its soil. Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari told The Associated Press that those troops were only “transiting” Iraq and would leave within four weeks, heading either to Kuwait, Qatar or the United States.
Al-Shammari spoke after meeting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who earlier this week had said the American forces from Syria would remain in Iraq to fight Daesh. Iraqi’s military quickly said they did not have permission to do so.
The clumsy reversal underscored the blow to US influence on the ground in the wake of President Donald Trump’s order for US troops to leave Syria. Those forces were allied to the Kurdish-led fighters for five years in the long and bloody campaign that brought down Daesh in Syria.
Now a significant swath of the territory they captured is being handed over to US rivals, and the Kurds have been stung at being abandoned by their allies to face the Turkish invasion launched on Oct. 9.
The Kremlin pointedly referred to that abandonment as it told the Kurds to abide by the Russian-Turkish accord.
“The United States was the closest ally of the Kurds during the last few years, and in the end the US ditched the Kurds and effectively betrayed them,” leaving them to fight the Turks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian newswires.
“It’s quite obvious that if the Kurdish units don’t withdraw with their weapons then Syrian border guards and Russian military police will have to step back. And the remaining Kurdish units will be steamrolled by the Turkish army,” he said.
Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters terrorists because of their links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey. It has demanded they retreat from the entire border region, creating a “safe zone” where Turkey could also settle some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil.
Ankara would gain that goal under the new accord with Moscow along with the agreement last week with the US that put a cease-fire in place.
Kurdish forces completed withdrawing on Tuesday from a stretch of territory 120 kilometers (75 miles) wide along the border and 30 kilometers (19 miles) deep between the towns of Ras Al-Ayn and Tal Abyad. That pullback, allowing Turkish-backed forces to take over, was required under the US-Turkish accord.
The new agreement with Russia allows Turkey to keep sole control over that area. For the rest of the northeastern border, Russian and Syrian government forces will move in to ensure the Kurdish fighters leave. Then after the deadline runs out Tuesday, Turkish and Russian forces will jointly patrol a strip 10-kilometers (6 miles) deep along the border.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a convoy of military police had crossed the Euphrates River and deployed in the Syrian border town of Kobani.
“The military police will help protect the population, maintain order, patrol the designated areas and assist in the withdrawal of Kurdish units and their weapons 30 kilometers away from the border,” it said.
The Turkish military said it would not resume its offensive “at this stage” after the US-brokered cease-fire expired Tuesday night. However, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu said that Turkish forces would “neutralize” any Syrian Kurdish fighters they come across in areas that Turkey now controls.
President Erdogan said the attack would start again if the Kurdish pullback does not take place.
“Whether its our agreement with the United States or with Russia, if the promises given are not carried out, there will be no change concerning the steps we need to take,” he told journalists, according to the newspaper Hurriyet.
Erdogan said he had also asked Putin what would happen if the Syrian Kurdish fighters donned Syrian army uniforms and remained in the border area. Putin responded by saying that he would not let that happen, Erdogan said.
Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said the deal with Russia would continue until a lasting political solution for Syria is reached. He also said that Turkey agreed not to conduct joint patrols in the city of Qamishli at the eastern end of the border, because of Russian concerns they could lead to a confrontation between Turkish troops and Syrian government forces in the area.