JEDDAH, 11 June 2005 — Prince Talal, president of Arab Gulf Program for UN Development Organizations (AGFUND) and the Arab Open University, has called upon the Qatari government to revise its decision revoking citizenship of some 5,000 Qataris belonging to the Al-Murrah tribe.
“I request you to review the decision sympathetically considering the difficult situation of these thousands of Qataris, who found themselves suddenly in the desert after they were asked to leave the country,” he said in an appeal to Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad.
Prince Talal urged the Qatari ruler to address the issue with “a democratic spirit” considering the suffering of the people who lost their citizenship as a result of a decree issued by the government last April.
“I believe that the Qatari leadership has the wisdom to do justice to this group of people who remain without any shelter,” Al-Riyadh Arabic daily quoted Prince Talal as saying. The AGFUND chief made this comment while speaking to reporters in Manama.
A total of 5,266 people from the Al-Ghafran branch of the Al-Murrah tribe were affected by the decree. The men, women and children on the list are to lose their rights to state-provided employment, housing, education and health care.
Informed sources said the move was “a belated response to a failed coup attempt,” a reference to the 1996 attempt to unseat Sheikh Hamad. “The move also aims at keeping a balance in Qatari society, especially after the government’s plan to hold parliamentary elections next year,” the sources pointed out. “I request Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa Al-Thani, who is a personal friend of mine, to review the case of these Qatari citizens who are from a respectable tribe and have been living in Qatar for hundreds of years,” he said in the appeal. Prince Talal said he took this initiative after a well-known Qatari philanthropist informed him about the suffering of the affected Qataris.
He hoped that Sheikh Hamad would allow these citizens to return to their country. “If any one of them had committed any mistake or crime they should be tried in the ordinary court,” the prince said. “I request you again to take up this matter sympathetically and in the best manner as these people are from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and they are originally Bedouins who migrated to this country or that and settled there,” he explained.
Prince Talal indicated that some committees had been formed in the Kingdom to highlight the suffering of these Qataris and take up their case with international human rights organizations in order to protect their rights.
The Qataris, who have lost their citizenship, have described the government decision as “arbitrary” and said it violated international charters. Human rights activists in the country also called the move as a “dangerous violation of basic rights of those affected.”
According to Article 15 of the Qatari Citizenship Law, a Qatari will lose his citizenship if he commits a major crime. But the law applies only to the person or persons who commit the crime, not the entire family or tribe. Al-Murrah tribe, which settled in Qatar some 200 years ago, accounted for 43 percent of the emirate’s population.