Qatari government revokes citizenships in crackdown on dissent

October 08, 2017
Free spirit. Qatari poet Mohammad bin Futais al-Marri recites a poem at the Million’s Poet show in Abu Dhabi. (The Cultural Programs and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi)

London- The Qatari government has continued its crackdown on the Al Murrah tribe, this time targeting renowned Qatari poet Mohammad bin Futais al-Marri and stripping him of his citizenship in what rights groups labelled a flagrant violation of human rights.
Marri’s citizenship was revoked after he opposed Doha’s views on Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in June over its alleged support for radical groups, many with ties to Iran.
Al Arabiya news channel report­ed that Marri spoke out about four months into the dispute, saying he rejected the politicisation of the haj and the insulting of Gulf symbols and labelling those that do such things “mobs.”
“If insulting homelands is a red line, then insulting sanctities and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and scholars is a line of fire and we will not allow anyone to cross it or violate it,” Marri said in an audio re­cording played on the network.
Many social media comments were critical of Doha, accusing it of supporting and protecting the Mus­lim Brotherhood and its leader at the expense of its own people. The Ara­bic hashtag “Qatar naturalises agents and expels citizens” trended in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) re­gion.
Revocation of citizenship is fre­quently used as a weapon by Doha to deal with domestic dissent and the Al Murrah tribe has been a particular target. Thousands of members of the tribe have been displaced and are stateless.
The group, which has branches in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has re­portedly been harassed by Qatari authorities since the 1990s. Au­thorities revoked the citizenship of Al Murrah tribal leader Sheikh Talib bin Lahoum bin Shraim and 55 members of his family over alleged links to Saudi Arabia.
During a unified Qatari opposition meeting in London in September, Sheikh Talib said the incident oc­curred after he and other tribal lead­ers met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Ab­dulaziz.
Qatari officials recently revoked the citizenship of another tribal chief, Sheikh Shafi Nasser Hamoud al-Hajri, head of Shaml al-Hawajer tribe, after the sheikh criticised the Qatari government’s actions to­wards its Gulf neighbours.
The Qatari government’s crack­down is by no means exclusive to regular citizens. Reports emerged that members of the Al-Thani royal family have also suffered Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al- Thani’s wrath.
Sheikh Tamim also jailed mem­bers of the Al-Thani family, French magazine Le Point reported. The publication, quoting an incarcerated French businessman in Doha, said 20 members of the bin Ali branch of the royal family had recently been arrested on charges ranging from issuing bad cheques to drug use. Many, however, said the arrests were because the royal family branch was at odds with Sheikh Tamim.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdul­lah bin Jassem al-Thani, who lives in Riyadh, met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during the haj season seeking help for Qatar’s pil­grims. He was then considered an alternative to Tamim and his branch of the family to rule Qatar.
The Geneva-based Arab Federa­tion for Human Rights (AFHR) has condemned the moves by the Qatari government.
“The AFHR affirms that one’s rights to a nationality or citizenship is an ‘absolute’ human right under international law and human rights instruments that cannot be con­tested or denied by anyone except through genuine legal restrictions not just on the basis of political dif­ferences,” an AFHR statement said.
“Thus, the act of revoking a per­son’s nationality on the grounds of differences in political opinions is a flagrant violation by the Qatari au­thorities against the poet Moham­mad bin Futais al-Marri.”
The group urged the UN Human Rights Council to intervene in the situation.