‘Half Qataris’ attempt to have their voices heard; Speak of discrimination
National identity is often built on exclusion. Especially in countries such as the GCC, where before national identity comes tribal affiliation. However, exclusion becomes more contentious as mixed marriages become more common, and the identity of the offspring becomes a cause for concern.
Last week, an article in the Arabic daily Al Raya (see image above) said the increasing number of marriages between Qataris and non-Qataris was due to the exorbitant demand for mahr (dowry). The accompanying illustration which propagates the stereotype of why Qatari men marry non-Qataris was not received well by all. Qatari author and director of Translation and Interpreting Institute Dr Amal Al Malki, being one of them.
Dr Amal decided to turn the negatively perceived ‘half-Qatari’ phrase to engage in a discussion on the status of those born of mixed parentage, and the issues they face.
Speaking to JustHere, she says she felt obliged on both personal and professional fronts to join existing voices that raise this issue from time to time. Hence the twitter discussion under the hashtag #ImHalfQatari.
The author herself is of mixed parentage – Qatari father and Lebanese mother.
Good morning! #ImHalfQatari & I’m proud of it! The different cultural components of who I am make me diverse, rich, & tolerant toward others
— Dr. Amal Al-Malki (@aalmalki) June 22, 2014
“What I have done here is group half Qataris with non-Qatari mothers as well as non-Qatari fathers underneath the same definition, which was rarely done. Both groups weren’t perceived as the same. On the one hand those with Qatari fathers get the citizenship by default, and their struggles are mostly cultural and some linguistic depending on where the mother is originally from. On the other hand we have a group of half Qataris who are denied citizenship because their Qatari mother cannot pass her nationality to her children!”
JustHere columnist Nofe Al Suwaidi had written earlier about how Qatari women were denied the right to pass on citizenship to their children.
“The laws set in place controlling the citizenship process are outdated, non-representative of views and values of the public and they shamefully do not reflect the reality. Fortunately, Qatar is continuously making changes and advancements for the better. Hopefully, this is one of the areas where we see a significant change in the legal framework.”
Dr Amal points out that though constitutionally men and women have the same public rights and responsibilities, in reality injustices and inequalities exist based on gender, which is “highly problematic and puts women as second-class citizens”.
At a recent CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) review in the UN, main amongst the many issues raised was that of citizenship.
Qatar stated that it is currently ‘studying’ the Citizenship law in regards to how a mother can transfer her citizenship to her children, in the case that the father is non-Qatari. However, reasons stated for such a law not being in place is that citizenship is determined by ‘blood ties’ (Law No. 38 of 2005).
Although, a law does in fact exist and a ‘specialised committee’ is set in place for such cases (Qatari mother and non-Qatari father), however, the process lacks much-needed standardisation. (Read the full CEDAW hearing review here.)
The recent discussion on social media, draws attention to this discriminatory practice.
Dr Amal explains: “Firstly, I wanted to turn what was used in some cases as a degrading term into an empowering one. We should embrace our diversity and richness, and respect all of the cultural forces that make up who we are! I am a Half Qatari and proud to be so.
“Secondly, I wanted to bring into the conversation the voices of half-Qataris whose fathers aren’t Qatari, as they have been previously marginalised. I situated them within a bigger picture, building on what is common between us! You relate to them but still give them the space to talk about their own challenges! I, as a half Qatari, think we are the same and should be treated equally and be given equal rights. As small as this step is, it targets their self-perception and shapes how society perceives them on the long run. And hopefully by raising awareness about what they face, the community as a whole would start accepting both groups equally, and as a community request equal rights for both.”
Meanwhile, a twitter account @ImHalfQatari attempts to highlight problems faced by those of mixed parentage.