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07 September 2012

A welcome long overdue

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By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

My article last week on the plight of expatriate families in the Kingdom facing forced separation from their children because of bureaucratic stipulations prompted a reader to send me her points on the subject. What set her apart from others who wrote back is that the writer is a Saudi female.

She writes: “I read your article ‘Children of the Soil’ and wondered about a few things that I really want to bring to your attention. You wrote about the uncertain future of kids born to expatriates. Have you ever thought about the children born to Saudi mothers and foreign dads? Do they have a future at all in our own country?

She continues, “Let’s put it this way; they are in a miserable state, and worse off than the expatriate kids. At least expatriates kids have a country that 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 visa for my kids to travel along with me.

“Whenever the issue of the kids comes along, every moment I am made to realize 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?

“You spoke about the children of foreigners; 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 itself. 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 the 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 that I am in the middle of a decision to take my kids away from here, because I know they will never be considered as 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 Arabia will be part of other nations? Saudi Arabia stands to lose so many future doctors, engineers, philosophers, scientists, teachers and Nobel Prize winners 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.Q.”

Well A.Q., I couldn’t have said it any better. Perhaps we should borrow a page from the Americans and overcome this bureaucratic dilemma. It was their unconditional message of welcome at the beginning of the last century, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…Send these, the homeless … to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” that soon transformed America into the great nation it has become.

Could our nation not benefit from such genuine hospitality as well; to welcome unconditionally the offspring of Saudi mothers into the national fold?

[Tariq A. Al-Maeena can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com and follwed at twitter.com/talmaeena]

(Courtesy: Saudi Gazette)

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