They Are Saudi Citizens Too
By Tariq A. Al Maeena | Special to Gulf News
12 October 2013
Granting full citizenship to the children of Saudi women married to foreigners will not dilute national identity, but enrich its culture.
Last month, a fellow UAE columnist wrote a piece in this paper suggesting that expatriates should be considered for UAE citizenship. Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi presented his argument by acknowledging that one of the significant factors in the success of the UAE has been the contribution of expatriates, and because of that “it is time to consider a path to citizenship for them that will open the door to entrepreneurs, scientists, academics and other hardworking individuals who have come to support and care for the country as though it was their own”.
Some UAE citizens were not amused, dismissing such a recommendation as absurd and a sure path to the gradual dissolution of the Emirati identity. Jalal Bin Thaneya, a UAE writer on social affairs, while acknowledging the contribution of expatriates towards his country, countered with, “the UAE deserves a chance to develop its people citizens, not dissolve them”.
Even the marriage of UAE nationals to expatriates is a matter of some apprehension. Perhaps it is this very fear that has also kept Saudi authorities from relaxing their own citizenship laws. And there are many who are affected by this resistance and with legitimate reasons. And it is a block of Saudi women married to foreign men that suffers the most. A law was passed in February this year granting their children ‘citizenship rights’.That is not to mean a full citizenship as the children would still have to be retained on their foreign father’s passport. While the law appeases some Saudi women, others were not easily mollified.
A Saudi mother took pen to paper and sent me the following: “My children are in a miserable state, and worse off than expatriate kids. At least expatriate kids have a country, which will eventually take them in. What about the kids born to Saudi mothers? They have never left Saudi Arabia and always thought of Saudi Arabia as their own country. Where are they supposed to go? I am a Saudi female, who is married to a non-Saudi. When I go to Dubai, I have to get a visa for my kids to travel along with me.
“Whenever the issue of the kids comes up, every moment I am made to realise that I am married in a wrong place. I suffer each time just because I married a foreigner! I am being punished for something that I never thought would ever matter to me. People see my kids as foreigners; nobody is ready to take them in as Saudi. They don’t even carry the passport of their mom or have any national rights.
“I know a woman who is in an abusive relationship with her foreigner husband, but she doesn’t want to get out of the misery by divorcing him because she worries about the future of her kids. Is there any law that can help her by keeping her kids with her? Surely, they will not be given a Saudi passport once she divorces the husband who is abusing her all the time. So she chose to stay quiet and suffer just because she has nowhere to go to, and doesn’t want to lose her children. Ever thought of her misery?
“I worry about the future of the half-Saudi kids born to foreign dads. Everywhere in this world, they are accepted as half-Saudi, except in my own country. I am the daughter of this soil and I am punished for something that I thought would never affect my future. My kids are bright and gifted; they deserve the right to be called Saudi. But no one is doing anything about it.
“It’s unfair that Saudi men who marry non-Saudi women get their wives nationality after some years of marriage. Yet Saudi daughters of the soil who marry foreigners lose their own identity and that of their kids. I have now reached a point where I am thinking of taking my kids away from here, because I know they will never be considered Saudi.
“Why not take them where they are treated equally and respectfully? Has the government ever thought how many bright stars that were supposed to shine here in Saudi will be part of other nations? Saudi Arabia stands to lose so many future doctors, engineers, philosophers, scientists, teachers, Nobel prize winners, etc that should be part of this motherland.
“My nation, better wake up before it’s too late and look into the matter of giving the children the nationality they deserve. I am not asking to give the nationality to foreign fathers, as I can understand the issues of security, but what threats do these young children constitute to our nation? We need to develop a sense of attachment to the Saudi homeland in their young hearts before it’s too late. Sincerely, A Saudi mother.”
Citizenship rights are not the same as a full citizenship and can be easily revoked depending on who is passing judgement. Many of these children’s fathers come from underprivileged or beleaguered countries with no hope of returning to anything safe and prosperous for themselves or their children. Their children have been born and raised in this country, and are Saudi in every sense of demeanour and action.
The land of Makkah and Madina has always welcomed many who came seeking the new religion centuries ago with open arms. Many chose to make this their home, and have fostered countless generations of Saudis. Let us rekindle this hospitality by providing the same privileges to children of Saudi mothers. Granting them full citizenship will only enhance and enrich our culture.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/@talmaeena
Photo credit: Arabian Business