Mohammed Ali Amer Al-Ghufrani Al-Marri giving his witness statement during the seminar - Egypt Today
GENEVA – 20 September 2018: The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) held Thursday a seminar titled, ‘Qatar: How to protect the Al-Ghufran tribe?’, in Clube suisse de la presse, on the margins of the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
During the seminar, which saw a number of witnesses coming forward and speaking of the violations they suffered at the hands of the Qatari regime, the EOHR stressed its support of the Al-Ghufran tribe. “EOHR is responsible for helping Al-Ghufran tribe in their just war towards peace,” stated the EOHR.
Giving the floor to the victims of these violations, the victims brought up a multitude of violations that they suffered from, including the consequences of the revocation of their Qatari citizenship, a move that caused them great psychological, physical, social and material pains and difficulties.
The first speaker was the respected Jabir bin Saleh Al-Ghufrani, a tribe elderly, and a much trusted man among tribe members. He started off by saying, “As a leading member of Al-Ghufran, I would like to speak a little but about what happened to us in Qatar. Al-Ghufran tribe was subject to injustice treatment by the Al-Ghufran tribe.”
They have taken away our social, political and economic rights, explained Al-Ghufrani in a sad tone. Shacking his head, he recalls tribe members leaving home, moving to different countries and being deprived of their basic human rights.
“Removed from their jobs, deprived of medical treatment and other social things like electricity, Ghufrani have suffered a lot. We, Al-Ghufran tribe, are subject to a very difficult life in Qatar from 1996 to the deportation in 2005,” Al-Ghufrani explained.
“This started because a group of soldiers wanted to bring back Sheikh Khalifa… they were about 118 officers, all of whom were captured by the existing government by Qatar. … Only 21 Ghufrani officers were selected to be jailed or sent to court, the others were released and after being in jail for only a year, they started deporting all Ghufranis.”
Some of them stayed away, he said, “they elected to stay in Qatar and hide themselves.” Most of them left, however, but a few could not leave their home; they could not imagine living anywhere else, he explained.
“Something is wrong with my government. They are doing something that no one has done before... It has never happened in the gulf states.”
“We came here to Geneva and to this place to try to explain and bring to light what happened to us. Myself, I left on a vacation in 1996, around the second of February, I left my home but I could not go back to my country. Never. I can go to any place on this earth but no my home, not Qatar,”
“They put the Al-Ghufran last name on the boarder so we could never come back,” sadly, Al-Ghufrani stated.
The second witness was Hamad Khaled Al-Araq, a younger member of the Al-Ghufran tribe, but one that had much to say about their current situation.
“Before I start, I would like to start with a tip that people say, “If you do not know the language, you can talk with people with the language of the hearts,” I will explain it with my heart and hopefully you will get it,” Al-Araq said hopefully, with a smile that suggests optimism and pride.
“When we go back to 1996, and at the time, this is my picture [he showed his picture], and this is a certificate from the United Arab of Emirates when my country, unfortunate, kicked me out. … They wrote my estimated age, I was about 10, and they say in Citizen: Qatari. This is my certificate when I was in elementary school, it has the Qatari stamp on it.”
Al-Arq then went on to demand his rights, he explained that all he wishes for is to have his rights as a citizen, stating that he will not stop until he has his rights back, and neither will his tribe.
“I ask for my rights. Our people have been asking for our rights for a very long time now and no one has even explained to us why this is happening to us.”
He then presented clear-cut evidence of his Qatari citizenship: A passport of his grandfather who was born in Doha, Qatar in 1922.
“It is a very complicated thing when you are trying to get your rights, and we have told this [our] story over and over again and we are still unable to reach our rights.”
With listeners already on the edge of their seats, Jaber Hamad Al-Araq, another member, spoke of the great injustices they have seen.
“My story is not much different from that of others; it is similar but a bit different. It happened in 1999, 2003 and the last one in 2005. I was born in Qatar in 1977 and here is my passport and my nationality is Qatari. This is the same passport for Mr Hamed and this is my father’s passport, this is my son’s passport and his birth certificate.”
“We left in 2005 but before that we faced many obstacles from the Qatari government…. I joined Qatar Petroleum two times, in 1995 and 2003, both of these jobs, I received a letter from criminal information after two months of enrolling as a trainee, I received a letter that you are terminated and there is no reason except that you are from Al-Ghufran tribe. And in my contract, the reason for termination, which you can see and zoom, [it is the same].”
The consequences of revoking our citizenship came in many waves, he explained, they took away healthcare, education and public services. They took away all the tools that would allow them to live in Qatar with dignity, as human beings, he explained.
Building on this, Jaber Mohamed Al-Ghufrani, yet another member of the tribe, explained the depression he went through as a result of being continuously rejected from jobs just because of being a ‘Ghufrani’.
“I was rejected many times from jobs because of the injustice that we face. They would reject me, the Criminal Information and Interior ministry office would reject me just from being from the tribe.”
“We are marginalised, without value and left on the sidelines in our country.”
“I am responsible for my family, consisting of my wife and children, we faced many injustices that led us to have psychological trauma.”
“We have suffered enough.”
Al-Ghufrani, whose children were expelled from school for being ‘Ghufranis’ have been dealing with emotional distress, due to the vile systematic discrimination they are facing.
Abdul Hadi Jaber Al-Ghufrani, a member, said, “All members of the Al-Ghufran tribe without exceptions suffered from the decision to revoke their nationality.”
“Those who remained. They are unable to work, travel, or act like normal human beings, they cannot trade, they cannot even give their identity.”
“Those who were expelled and forcibly displaced. They live in exile. They cannot apply or work in any job where they can get money for they rpasic needs, and most of them have no office identity papers. They can no longer see their families and loved ones.”
Some abuses were also acted against the Al-Ghufran tribe. They were humiliating and against the Qatari Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international conventions; these violations let to the dispersal of families because the men col not return and the women could not travel except if they turn over their papers, Al-Ghufrani explained.
“The children lost education years,” he said.
“We are here to demand our rights and we will not stop until we get our rights. From today to the next 20 years, we will not stop until we get our rights.”
Similarly, Mohamed Abdul Hadi Al-Ghufrani, a member, spoke of his feeling when he had his nationality dropped.
“My nationality was stripped before I turn 13. It was dropped and with it my psychological state declines.”
“I was expelled from school. They said that I have no identity, before the age of 13. I was only 12 when they told me I have no identity, I have no nationality. I went to hospitals too and they told me that they cannot give me medicine because I have no identity.”
“Was I not a child when they expelled me and said I have no identity.”
He then presented plenty of documents to support his case and his Qatari nationality.
“If it is expected that it is okay for a child to face this, then what kind of consequences do you expect. The consequences were psychological, physical, material and so much more.
In similar vein, Jaber Abdul Hadi Al Marri said, “My dad lost his job when I was young because they revoked our nationality.”
“I have three brothers and sisters who were born in UAE. When we went to the Qatari embassy, they would ask us to come back in a month and this went on for 7 years; they would kick us out.”
“We could not go to college or university… we have faced a bad time since we were kicked out of Qatar,” Al Marri said, explaining that had he been given the chance to go to school and have higher education, he would have been able to speak in much better English. Still, he ended by saying, “I hope my language is good and thank you so much.”
Saleh Bin Aamer Al-Araq, a member, urged the international community to understand the grave situation at hand.
“Without thinking of their humanitarian states, Ghufranis were treated badly, they had their nationality, healthcare, education and much more taken away from us. This simply happened because we from the Al-Ghufran tribe.”
“They lived in different parts of the Arabian Gulf, without a home, without a house, without proper jobs or proper lives.”
“Those who did bad things, who committed crimes against the tribe, should be held accountable,” he said.
Finally, the youngest member of the delegation that spoke at the seminar, Mohammed Ali Amer Al-Ghufrani Al-Marri, said a few words.
Al-Marri started off by thanking those present for being here and for listening to his rightful demands.
“My nationality was revoked when I was younger than a year,” he said, presenting his passport, along with that of his father and grandfather.
“I did not have the right to grow up in my country, I was not given the right to stay in my nation. I could not be in my country. I wish to return to my country and enjoy my right as a citizen.”
Earlier Thursday the EOHR released a memorandum on Qatari violation, it read:
EOHR’s memorandum on Qatari violations of International Human Rights law
The Ghofran tribe has been subjected to a series of horrendous violations by the Qatari State. A number of fundamental rights and international human rights instruments have been blatantly violated by the Qatari authorities contradicting their international obligations and moral responsibitly as a state. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) decided to adopt the case of Al Ghofran to publicize their just case and help them in reclaiming their stolen rights. EOHR in this report lists a number of the major violations of international human rights law that the Qatari state has committed against thousands of members of Al Ghofran tribe.
Right to nationality:
Article 15 of the Universal declaration of human rights (UDHR) states:
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
The UDHR is one of the most important human rights documents and is the founding element of international human rights law. UDHR is morally binding to all states including Qatar. The Qatari government since 1996 has exercised a form of collective punishment against Al Ghofran tribe due to the support some of its members have voiced to Emir Khalifa Al Thani when his son and successor Hammad bin Khalifa toppled him from the throne. The collective punishment entailed the revoking of the nationalities of 800 Ghofrani nuclear families (more than 6000 people). All of them were denied citizenship rights and their properties were confiscated. Such a form of arbitrary deprivation from nationality and citizenship rights cannot go unchecked as thousands of Ghofranis remain stateless within Qatar and in neighbouring states in the Gulf area.
Forced deportation or displacement of populations on a wide scale is considered a crime against humanity under article 7 of the Rome Statute. The Qatari state since 1996 has stripped the nationalities of at least 6000 Ghofranis and expelled them from the country after confiscating their property. Expelling 6000 Ghofranis out of around 8000 in Qatar can only be deemed as an act of systematic forced displacement. EOHR considers these policies as criminal actions that making the culprits eligible for legal accountability.
Violations of the Convention on the rights of the child
Article 8 of the Convention reads:
1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.
2. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity.
The state of Qatar who happens to be party to the convention has deprived thousands of Ghofrnai children from the rights to identity and nationality stipulated by article 8. Qatar’s revoking of the nationalities of Ghofrani children is a violation of their treaty obligation and his has to be reported and documented by Committee of the Convention so that action can be taken.