Yousef E. has lived in Qatar his whole life, and so has his father. His family has been here for decades, since his grandfather moved to the country in 1953.
But he’s not a Qatari citizen.
He would like to be, but said he understands that naturalization in the Gulf, especially in countries like the UAE and Qatar, where expats vastly outnumber locals, is a sensitive subject.
In the Emirates, the citizenship debate was reignited last month after prominent Emirati columnist Sultan Al Qassemi urged the UAE to establish a process by which expats can apply to be naturalized citizens.
His piece spurred a great deal of pushback, with many Emiratis expressing concerns about the threat that naturalization could pose on their national identities, as well as the economic and political stability of the country.
In a few blog posts about the subject this week, Yousef opened up the citizenship debate here in Qatar.
The 24-year-old of Palestinian heritage, who said he wrote his posts in English to help other expats understand his perspective, acknowledged many of the concerns felt among locals, saying:
“Naturalization, whether you like it or not, is a risk to national security. It is an even bigger risk when the country’s local-to-expat gap is huge, and I believe I have read reports that highlight Qatar’s gap being the largest in the world. By giving individuals full citizenship rights, these individuals are, by law, an integral part of Qatari society.
So, what happens when down the line, these individuals (and/or their descendants) call for change based on ideas that go against Qatar’s political stability? What happens when these individuals will divide the Qatari populace by promoting sub-cultures? This has happened before in other states within region.”
But not all lifers agree that this fear should keep Qatar from establishing a wider and more transparent naturalization process.
In a comment on Yousef’s post, an expat who has lived in Qatar since she was two years old said:
“Its assumed that foreign workers would inherently want to destabalise Qatar when in fact most would want a decent job, a fair pay and live with their families in peace. If they wanted to create trouble, trust me they would have done it by now.
I realise that naturalisation for Qatar is a matter of national security, and I don’t necessarily advocate it. I for one think that even if expats were offered citizenship, they will not be able to change their identities of an Egyptian/ Indian/ Pakistani etc. However, for someone who has lived in a country for 30 odd years, they should be able to criticize everything and anything they want. Do you think all Qataris trust the Qatari leadership? No, they don’t. And even if they criticise something its because they want the best for their people.”
Meanwhile, some are saying Al Qassemi didn’t go far enough when he argued that the UAE should consider offering citizenship to the best and brightest expats – doctors, scientists, academics and others who very tangibly contribute to the country.
If a knowledge economy is the goal, and countries like Qatar and the UAE want to continue to grow, they must consider how the current system detracts from those efforts, argued MidEast Posts in a recent op-ed:
“All expatriates think about leaving, and what they will ‘take’ with them. Expatriates send money home, because that’s where they ‘build their future.’ They look for the next opportunity in the next country because they are discouraged from planting roots in the UAE.
Taking the steps to allow residents to choose the UAE as their future home will require the country to take a hard look at what it wants, where it wants to go, and how quickly.”
And while that introspection is taking place, people like Yousef will be waiting with hearts that bleed maroon and white.
Credit: Photo by Xavier Bouchevreau
Ugh! What’s with this new format? I thought that the industry was getting better at user-friendly interfaces?
I actually like it more…
Mmmm, after working with it a bit I am less negative than before, but I would still like to see the recent comments quickly and easily shown rather than hunting for them. Harder to keep a conversation going in this new format.
it took me effin 20 minutes just to load this page in IE. DohaNews you have idiot IT webdesigners.it’s buggy and unresponsive.
try using google chrome or mozilla firefox… its way faster than IE…
Ms. Shabina, this is important topic, thank you.
All previous comments are gone.
Don’t worry, I’ll tell the secret police to restore them from their records 😉
The NSA has more detailed records…
But do they share, or do they want to keep all of the toys for themselves?
Best comment ever on Doha News…..
P.S. I love the secret police but I’m disappointed Captain Mohd Al Marri hasn’t called me yet to tell me my ID number…
Lol. Could you also ask them where my ID card is. I can’t find it.
Serious issues with the new format…I believe there was not good integration with the old one…many links dont work also…
Anyway…keep on the good work guys…we can wait…
Oh dear the new upgrade didn’t work and all the previous comments have been lost.
All the comments on this and other stories are :'(
I’m 35, living in Qatar for the past 34 years. I’m an Indian. I’ve been here my whole life. Qatar has been more a home to me than India.
Still, I do not crave for a citizenship in Qatar. If we think of the vast majority of people in Qatar like me, who have been here all their life, it is just impractical for the government to give citizenship to all these 2nd generation ‘gulfies’. As the government fears, it would be a threat to the country’s traditional and cultural values.
But still, as much as I do not want a citizenship here, I am and have been a part of the Qatari society all my life, as I’ve lived here all throughout. I and many others like me would definitely like to settle down here as this life here has been our way of life.
What I suggest is the Qatari government gives these long term residents not citizenship status, but atleast a better status quo for their long term commitment towards Qatar. For example, I’d love to have my own house here, anywhere in Doha and not just the high end areas like the Pearl, etc. Things like that, smaller facilities for their larger contributions. 😉
Just my thoughts…….. 🙂
just to weigh in by the way, could you imagine if Qatar nationalized many expats? There would be no ‘Qatari’ identity anymore.
There are some people who have been nationalized and don’t know a single thing about Qatari culture, don’t speak Qatari and although they hold the passport, when asked where they’re from, guess what?, they DON’T say Qatar.
Now there are some people that deserve it. People who in their hearts are Qatari. Who want to be Qatari. Who want to benefit the country (and not simply take the country’s benefits).
First of all, I have never came across a single person whose naturalized and doesn’t take pride in calling himself a Qatari (can’t say about the naturalized women though, as I never happen to meet anyone as such).
Secondly, there is no language by the name of ‘Qatari’, it’s Arabic and once anyone is naturalized, even if he or she doesn’t know the language previously, they make the effort to learn it. I personally know a family whose naturalized and if you go and meet them now, you won’t recognize them as not original Qataris.
The point to make, Qatari identity is very strong and is certainly, not threatened by naturalization.
Did I say that “Qatari” was a language? No I didn’t. Qatari is a dialect.
You may have not met someone like I’m describing but I’ve met 4.
You say there is no threat but of course most people want to be naturalized would say so too.
This isn’t a simple issue. This is a serious issue that affects the nation.
I am not sure whether you are aware of it or not, but more than One-fourth of Qatar’s current population already comprise of naturalized citizens, who are either first, or second generation Qataris; does that change the Qatari identity so far? If that’s not the case then it won’t be in the future as well. Because even if they decide to grant citizenship to long-serving residents, it’ll be an extremely selective process where the Government will pick and choose, hence, the cultural impact will be minimal.