Though born and raised in the UAE, Abdul Khaleq is one of many stateless who cannot get Emirati passports.
These are strange times. Last week, Guor Marial, a marathoner originating from South Sudan, was permitted to run as an independent athlete at the Olympics because he holds no passport. But just a few days before, Emirati activist Ahmed Abdul Khaleq was deported from the UAE (the only country he has ever lived in) because he spoke out for the rights of stateless people.
Abdul Khaleq was jailed without charge for two months and then given the privilege of choosing one of two punishments: being kept in indefinite detention, or "volunteering" to be permanently exiled from the UAE by accepting the citizenship of another country. Reviewing a list of countries provided by the Emirati government, he chose Comoros, an island nation off the coast of Mozambique, which apparently issued him a passport but then refused him entry. In the end, Thailand accepted him instead – even though he had never been to Thailand, has no family ties in Thailand, and does not speak the local language.
What kind of twilight zone are we living in when the world can celebrate the triumph of an Olympian without a passport while ignoring entirely the permanent banishment of another – a man who has struggled so that all stateless people can access the rights of citizenship, including the ability to represent their home country?
Nationality is the cornerstone of human rights, and to be arbitrarily denied or deprived of nationality is a violation with profound consequences, including the almost certain multi-generational marginalization of families.
Statelessness often occurs during the creation or break-up of a state, or due to ethnic, religious, or gender discrimination in nationality laws. But the UAE is creating a new and exceptionally dangerous path to statelessness: treating nationality as a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market between rich countries and those in desperate need of bilateral funding. While this business model may serve the interests of rich states that want to easily dispose of stateless people or citizen activists, it strikes a terrible blow to human rights and should be condemned by all nations – particularly those like the United States that are able to engage the UAE on equal terms.
U.S. foreign policy, as articulated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others, strongly reflects the country’s commitment to ending statelessness around the world. Just a few weeks ago, for example, the U.S. sponsored and pushed through the UN Human Rights Council a resolution calling for an end to gender discrimination in nationality laws. The U.S. was rightly proud of the resolution, and now has an opportunity to act on it. The U.S. should demonstrate its commitment to nationality rights by challenging the UAE to protect, rather than sell off, the human rights of its residents.
July 26, 2012
| Tagged as: Middle East, Statelessness