GENEVA: Members of a tribe persecuted for more than 20 years by authorities in Qatar appealed for help on Friday from the special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
It was the latest stage in a campaign for justice by the Al-Ghufran tribe, whose members have been stripped of their nationality and suffered torture, forced displacement and deportation.
A delegation from the tribe has taken their case to the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. They said they sought international assistance only after years of being ignored by the government of Qatar, and when they realized that the Qatari Human Rights Council was in league with the regime in Doha to deny them their rights as Qatari citizens.
A member of the tribe, Gaber Saleh Al-Ghufrani, also appealed to the people of Qatar for help. “We call on the elders of the honorable Al-Thani family and to the generous and righteous people of Qatar and to the Al Murrah tribe, known for their nobility and chivalry,” he said.
“We call on you as your brothers, young and old, elders and children, men and women, inside and outside Qatar, and we appeal to your proud Arab origin because the Qatari government has let us down, made untrue claims about us and stripped us of our rights.
“We have been subjected to much injustice and humiliation in our homeland from those who, unfortunately, we thought to be virtuous. We have been discriminated against in the most painful of ways; they have stripped us of our dignity.
“We chose to go to the United Nations and to the international human rights organizations only after the government of our own country closed all ways of appeal, and did not engage or listen to our demands.”
The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, the Qatari emir deposed the previous year by his son Hamad, father of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim.
About 800 Al-Ghufran families, more than 6,000 people, were stripped of their citizenship and had their property confiscated. Many remain stateless, both in Qatar and in neighboring Gulf countries.
“They have taken away our social, political and economic rights,” said
Jabir bin Saleh Al-Ghufrani, a tribal elder, at a press conference on Thursday. “The Al-Ghufran tribe has been subjected to unjust treatment.
“I left on a vacation in 1996, and now I can never go back to my country. I can go to any place on this earth, but not my home, not Qatar.”
Members of the delegation produced passports, certificates and other documents to show that their right to Qatari citizenship was being denied.
“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,” said Hamad Khaled Al-Araq.
Another member of the tribe, Hamad Khaled Al-Marri, said on Friday:
“Our issue with the Qatar regime is purely humanitarian and not political, this is why we came here to present our case and our demands to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Our demands are clear: The Qatar regime should be held accountable for the crimes that it has committed against us and other Qataris, and the restoration of our rights.”