It’s A ‘Right’ Demand For Saudis With Foreign Dads
By Ghadah Saleh
Arab News | Abha
15 July 2011
More than 600 human rights and legal activists have joined a campaign launched by Saudi women on Facebook demanding full rights for their children. These Saudi women are married to foreigners.
The children of Saudi women married to foreigners are not automatically entitled to Saudi citizenship. The women are demanding that their sons and daughters be nationalized and treated as full-fledged citizens.
The internet campaign poses some serious questions. Why this disparity? Why is a Saudi woman punished for marrying a foreigner? Why do the children have to pay the price?
Fawziyah Saad, who launched the campaign, is a Saudi married to a Yemeni and has eight children. The children have not been given Saudi nationality. Following the death of her husband, Fawziyah is moving the Interior Ministry to get her children under her sponsorship.
“My predicament continued for 35 years. I married a Yemeni citizen who was my relative with the consent of the Interior Ministry. My sons are demanding nationality but my daughters cannot even dream of applying for it under the law,” she said.
Boys can apply for the nationality when they are 18, while girls can only get it if they marry Saudi men. The boys should be born in the Kingdom and lived here until they are 16 years of age.
Saudi men married to foreign women do not face such a problem. Their children are automatically entitled to citizenship at birth.
Fawziyyah said she launched the campaign to enlighten society about the discrimination such families face. “Why is a Saudi woman punished for marrying a foreigner while a foreign woman married to a Saudi man easily obtains citizenship for herself and her children?” she questioned.
Fawziyyah, who was helped by one of her daughters in launching the campaign, said: “A large number of people consisting of lawyers, human rights activists and media men have supported our campaign.”
One of her main demands is that the recommendations of a Human Rights Commission (HRC) study on the case of the children of Saudi women married to foreigners submitted to the department of personal affairs be implemented.
“We want the government to exempt us from iqama fees, give our children the right to study and be sent outside for higher studies on government scholarships, rescind the condition that only allows a Saudi girl to have the nationality if she is married to a Saudi man and put an end to disparity between boys and girls of a Saudi woman married to a foreigner,” she said.
Fawziyah said the current situation of her daughters is unbearable. She said, her daughters were given special identity cards for education and employment, but this card was not recognized either by the government or the private sector.
“My eldest daughter who topped her class at King Saud University was not accepted for a teaching position in the university because she was considered a foreigner. My second daughter who studied economics has not been able to find a job. After the death of my husband, I have been trying to take my daughters under my sponsorship to avoid complications but with no success so far,” she said.
The campaign lists other cases and issues. Dr. Najat Muhammad Al-Farsi, a doctor working in the Health Ministry for 25 years, was married to a foreigner and has four daughters. “All my daughters were born in the Kingdom and are now studying medicine at King Abdul Aziz University. They do not have the (Saudi) nationality and are still considered foreigners,” she said.
Najat, who is now a single parent and suffering from a fatal blood disease, said she is extremely worried about the future of her daughters. “What will happen to my daughters after my death? Will they be deported to the country of their father of whom they know nothing about?” she asked.
Amani Ashi, a school principal and educationalist, said she married an Egyptian engineer and has two sons and a daughter. “The two boys got the (Saudi) nationality while my daughter was deprived of this God-given right. She is feeling alienated,” she said, adding, “Every time we travel abroad, we have to make her exit-re-entry visa. She gets upset over this. She too wants to serve her country. Why is she being deprived of her dreams and ambitions?”
The Facebook campaign is just one of the many platforms where this issue is being raised. The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) too has called for a new system that would enable all such children to obtain citizenship. “We are closely monitoring these cases with a view to reaching a solution to this humanitarian problem,” Hussain Al-Sharif, supervisor of NSHR, said recently.
Though diverse views have been expressed over the issue on the internet, most people support the campaign. Blogger Rabie Al-Balbisi, a 22-year-old Saudi, wrote: “We are in the age of equality between men and women. It is simply not possible that Saudi men and women do not have the same rights.”
Government employee Osama Muhammad, 41, said the marriage of a Saudi woman to a foreigner has more cons than pros. “Regrettably the victims are the children who are not treated as Saudi citizens and can be deported to the country of their father if their mother dies. There should be severe restrictions on the marriage of a Saudi woman to a foreigner,” he said.
Psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Al-Hamid, while backing the drive, said: “A Saudi woman should be allowed to marry a foreigner under certain conditions: that she is old, divorced or a widow and needs a man in her life. In this case the government should ensure the full rights of citizens to her children. Nationality should be given to the children of this woman whether they are boys or girls.”
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Maabi, a Muslim scholar, said it was easy to get Saudi nationality in the past. There are reasons why restrictions have been laid down. “With the population explosion, restrictions had to be set for the good of the society. If all the children of a Saudi mother and a foreign father were given nationality, we would have to expand the universities and the hospitals which at present are unable to meet the demands of the innate Saudis,” he said.
Khaled Abdul Wahid, a legal consultant, said it is not the rules or regulations which are to blame but the mechanisms of their implementation. “The rules must change to give the sons and daughters of the same mother and father equal rights. The regulations of property must also be amended so that a brother who is not a Saudi should not register his properties in the name of his Saudi brother. The children of a foreigner should not be deported after the death of their Saudi mother,” he said.
He called for giving citizen rights to all the children of a Saudi mother and a foreign father including education, employment and medical treatment. He, however, said they should not be employed in defense and security.
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