Khaznah Bent Mohammed Al-Marri the daughter of Al-Ghufran tribe- Khazna's photo via Egypt Today
“My message to the world is to look at Al-Ghufran’s tribe kids, at the women, at elders, at the people with special needs and to support them attain their rights. We belong to Qatar, and we want to return to our homeland. We will keep demanding our rights until the last day of our lives; no matter how long will the Qatari government ignore us. We urge the United Nations to investigate Qatar for its actions against us,” Khaznah Bent Mohammed Al-Marri the daughter of Al-Ghufran tribe told Egypt Today.
Al-Marri was barely five years old, when her tribe, Al-Ghufran, was expelled and uprooted from Qatar in the 1990s. “The Qatari regime stripped our citizenship and I suddenly found myself stateless and growing up in the middle of the desert where I had to struggle to access my basic right to education as a child for the sole reason of belonging to Al-Ghufran tribe,” said Al Marri.
Among other thousands Qatari citizens who suffered from the injustice actions by the Qatari regime, Al-Marri is desperately asking for action to end Al-Ghufran’s family plight. “In 1996; a year after the successful coup by Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, father of the current emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, no more than 20 members of Al Ghufran tribe supported former emir Khalifa bin Hammad’s failed attempt to get back into power,” said Al-Marri. “Since that day, Hamad bin Khalifa decided to revenge against the whole tribe.
He expelled more than 6,000 person into the desert in the South of Saudi Arabia including children, women and the elders and revoked their passports. We were all left stateless,” she added. Now she estimates there are more than 20,000 members of the tribe unable to get on with their lives in Qatar.
“Many friends attempted to travel back to Qatar, but they were unable to prove their Qatari origins and therefore they were left in between Saudi Arabia and Qatar for many days and they were denied access to Qatar,” she said.
The Al-Marri family, including her father who was a successful petroleum engineer, was not involved in the political power struggle and the failed counter-coup as they were on vacation at that time. “Our friends warned us not to return and told us to stay for a few days in Saudi Arabia until things calm down. The few days turned into decades of struggle, injustice and hardship,” she added.
Recalling a tough upbringing in exile in Saudi Arabia comparing to living in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, Al-Marri explains that the small desert village “Al Taweila” became her home as she spent most of the past two decades there. “In Taweila, I spent three years travelling two hours every day just to reach the nearest high school. We lived in deteriorating houses with very harsh conditions including irregular electricity and clean water,” she said.
Despite her young age, Al-Marri has some memories of her five years in Qatar. “I remember my swimming pool outside my house, and my small cat," she told Egypt Today. "I remember the dining room where the family would sit and talk – everything was wonderful.” Despite her anger towards the current regime in Qatar, her father always reminds her that the people in Qatar are very nice and they have white hearts.
“My father is very sensitive about Qatar, when I am angry about being kicked out, he tries to show me the good side of Qatar – he still loves the country. He defends the people and say that maybe they did not hear our voices, but if they hear, they will help us,” she said. “He used to tell me that people only get displaced during wars, but here we are displaced from our country and homes and there is no war around us.”
Al-Marri is currently a mother of two children, one of them is diagnosed with autism which compounds her hardship as they still live under the same difficult conditions since the expulsion in 1996. “I’ve lived through enough instability, now I have a child who is sick, I don’t want him to live the same way I have lived. I cannot get him into a good school or a good hospital.”
This week, On the margins of the 39th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, representatives from the Qatari tribe Al-Ghufran held a sit-in and a number of demonstrations outside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva to denounce the Doha government crimes against the tribe including the mass expulsion of their people, revoking their citizenship and the torture of members of the tribes by the security forces.
The tribe also handed a petition into the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, detailing the tribe’s systemic discrimination at the hands of the Qatari government and requesting the United Nations Human Rights Council to hold the Qatar regime accountable for the crimes that it committed against the tribe’s members and other Qataris and the restoration of their rights including the right to return to their home country.
In reaction for Al-Ghufran tribe’s opposition to the Regime’s destabilizing policies in the region and its dispute with the neighboring Gulf States, Qatari authorities revoked the citizenship of Sheikh Taleb Bin Lahom Bin Shreim, senior tribal leader Sheikh Shafi Nasser Hamoud al-Hajri, the famous Qatari poet Mohammed Al-Marri and 54 members of his family in a step considered as an arbitrary act by various Human Rights organization. The Qatari authorities took further steps and confiscated the properties and belonging of the tribe’s members whose citizenship was revoked.
This was the second complaint filed by one of the biggest and most prominent tribes in Qatar to the United Nations Human Rights Councils to call on the international community to protect and secure their legitimate rights as Qatari citizens who have been denied and violated by Doha since 1996 .
For many years, the tribe has been calling for their rights. In September 2017, during the Qatar global security and stability conference organized by exiled Qataris in London the tribe revealed the crimes against humanity committed by Qatari authorities towards them including deprivation of healthcare or unfair detention. They called on the United Nations Commissioner’s office to help them regain their rights through his mandate.
Follow Egypt Today’s hashtag #Ghufran