Though Qatar is under tremendous pressure thanks to the blockade by its neighbours in the region, the crisis can be an opportunity for the tiny nation.
Qatar can start to grant citizenship automatically to the children of Qatari mothers and non-Qatari fathers. Like many of the countries in the Middle East, Qatar does not allow women automatically to pass nationality to their children, in violation of its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and in insult to the at least 100,000 Qatari women who are deprived of this basic right.
Adult children of Qatari women can apply for citizenship, but the criteria is very strict, which includes residency in Qatar for 25 years and the process can take years. Qatari families are facing the heat of the ongoing crisis as children and fathers in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE are not allowed from rejoining their families in Qatar.
A 36-year-old man revealed that in spite of being born in Qatar to a Qatari mother and having lived his entire life there, he had to wait in vain for years just to get a response to his citizenship application.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani said that it would be difficult to amend the nationality law, as it requires the same majority vote and procedures by the Advisory Council, Qatar’s legislative body, to change the constitution.
However, the Prime Minister has the right to issue a decree stating that the government will automatically approve an application of a person born to a Qatari woman for citizenship, without the need to change the law.
Such a move will solve the crisis of many families in Qataris and it will allow the nation to emerge as a better model among the GCC states.
Moving on, Qatar can also ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and establish procedures for those in Qatar who have fled political persecution to apply for asylum. Some neighbours have targeted Qatar for providing shelter to political exiles from other countries like Egypt and Libya, it is actually a brave tradition.
Many of these refugees are grateful to Qatar for allowing them to stay, but they did express security concerns, as they are subject to deportation at any time, and in many cases unable to travel due to expired passports from their home states.
Though, Qatari officials were concerned that such a step would open Qatar to a flood of refugees from around the world, the geographic location of the country makes it highly impractical.
By doing this, Qatar can once again lead the progress in the Arab world, where many states have failed to ratify the Refugee Convention and establish asylum procedures.
Finally, Qatar should act accede to the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court (ICC), along with the Convention of Cluster Munitions. Joining these treaties is not just the morally sound thing to do. The protections they offer at this critical juncture are not hypothetical. They could provide an important shield of deterrence against Qatar’s neighbours, specifically Saudi Arabia and the UAE, should they ever consider mimicking the unlawful military tactics they have carried out in Yemen.
This act would make the Saudis and the Emiratis to think twice before attacking Qatar, if at all they have such intentions. The reason for thinking on those lines comes from example of repeated bombing on Yemeni schools, hospitals, markets and homes. Such unlawful coalition attacks comes under ICC’s prosecutor’s scrutiny, which can act as shield to Qatar.
These are not just policies that will benefit the reputation of Qatar as a state committed to upholding its human rights obligations and a leader in the Arab world. They are policies that will resound to the benefit of all of humanity, and pave a path for a more peaceful, rights-respecting region.