Some families of the Ghufran community are suffering from identity crises with Qatar having stripped them of their citizenship, since 1996. The situation still remains the same and reiterates the onset 20 years ago, when they were stripped off any kind of human rights and left to fend for themselves. Having left stateless, the members of the Ghufran clan are now without access to work, basic amenities, health care, educational facilities etc.
Many are without valid documentation and thus restricted to open back accounts and a range of government benefits as well. Those suffering comprise four families with almost 28 members who are without a citizenship, a fact that seem to have been ignored by the Qatar Government.
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. While 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. Most of these families now have grown up children, who are suffering due to lack of valid papers and citizenship. They cannot secure admission in universities and their future is bleak. As most of these families cannot secure employment, for years together, their houses have functioned on donations from international NGOs or families and friends related.
While their plight has become an international sensation, little has helped to secure them identity of a state.
When spoken to, the Qatari government commented that they have stripped the families off citizenship as these people seems to have holding 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.
This assertion is however being refuted and what is coming to light is that these families feel they are being subjugated by the current government due 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.”
Currently, no official paperwork has been done to revoke the cancellation of the above mentioned families’ citizenship and their future hangs by loose strings, at the mercy of the intervention of non-governmental human rights bodies.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will now be conducting its third review of Qatar’s human rights record. The previous ones seemed to have fallen to deaf ears. This action falls under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure on May 15 in Geneva. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States.
Over the past two years, Ghufran activists have called on the UNHRC to help. The 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. But there was really no movement of this front, leaving these families’ future uncertain.