Nationality for mixed families

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Rules and regulations are meant to make our life more smooth and orderly. Yet, they do have a way of rendering it more complex. Since laws are not meant to fit every person and particular case, some of us are doomed to be outcasts.

Systems are manmade. Since they are not perfect, exceptions, regular reviews and occasional changes are among the ways to accommodate irregularities and compensate for imperfections. The Saudi Shoura Council and other government, judicial and regulatory departments routinely review and improve the laws of the land.

The Citizenship Law has been changed from time to time to reflect new realities and to accommodate reviewers’ findings and recommendations. According to media reports, it is once more under comprehensive study. Expectations are high that good news is coming the way of groups, such as the children of Saudi mothers and non-Saudi fathers, as well as the brothers and sisters of Saudi nationals.

It’s about time! Cases are piling up of families divided by nationality lines. Changes in the rules gave some the right to citizenship and denied others the same right. The children of Saudi mothers are hoping to be granted the same privileges as their peers from Saudi fathers.

“I am a Saudi citizen, who acquired citizenship from my mother when I became 18, in 2006,” a PhD student at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) emailed me.

He explained, “Before 2007, it was possible for sons (boys only) to apply for Saudi citizenship after an extensive background check of 24 months. This was based on Article 8 of the citizenship constitution.

“Today, I have a brother and a sister who were not nationalized. Article 8 still exists, but after 2007, stricter rules were applied, including that the grandfather of the mother be Saudi, too. Even that rule was changed around 2010. No known Saudi son has been nationalized, since 2011. Citizenship after that date was granted in rare circumstances by royal decrees.

“Life is so different for my brother than it is for me. While I am a Saudi doctoral student at a distinguished university, enjoying all the privileges of citizenship, he has to renew his residency under the sponsorship of our mother. He cannot find a job easily, even though he was ranked top second in the Engineering College of King Abdulaziz University. It is not easy for him to propose marriage to a woman because of his citizenship status. Understandably, no one wishes for their grandchildren to suffer like him. My brother is a true patriot, a real Saudi ... but, unfortunately, officially, he is a foreigner.

“My little sister got into a shouting match with her teacher who told her that she was not Saudi. The poor kid learned about her identity the hard way! I told her that although she was not Saudi on paper, she would always be Saudi at heart ... and she certainly is. The Saudi flag and pictures of the King and the Crown Prince are all over her notebook and bedroom walls.

“Our worst nightmare is if my mother died and her non-Saudi children would then have to find another sponsor or leave the country within 90 days. Mom told me a story about another Saudi mother who feared so much for her son’s future after her demise, that she had a nervous breakdown, followed by a stroke.”

Another dear reader commented, “I can identify with the challenging issues of mixed marriages in your article. I am a professional, British male citizen married to a professional Saudi. We had to jump through many cultural barriers before we were happily married in Riyadh, six years ago. Our two children were born there but were not allowed to have Saudi citizenship. It made life tougher for them to comprehend. Moreover, part of the reason we relocated back to the UK was because of all the required documentation and procedures, as well as the way we were treated by some parts of society. Many wouldn’t understand, accept or even believe that a white English man would marry a typical Saudi woman. We had, in many embarrassing situations, to provide evidence that we were officially married.

“Having mixed marriages can only be positive and constructive for any society. They help in breaking down cultural and racial barriers. Tolerance is a byproduct of understanding the different other. Saudi society is on the right path of being more open to and respectful of other cultures and societies, thanks to the open-minded Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and his enlightened and enlightening Saudi Vision 2030. Therefore, it is about time our society rids itself of the traits of the narrow non-Islamic cultural intolerance that seems to still permeate some groups, laws and institutions.” Ameen!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kbatarfi


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