New laws approved in late July 2021 to regulate Qatar’s first legislative elections will effectively disenfranchise thousands of Qataris from voting or running, Human Rights Watch said. The new laws highlight the country’s discriminatory citizenship system.
Under the new electoral regime, Qataris who are categorized under the country’s controversial 2005 nationality law as “naturalized” rather than “native,” are barred from running as candidates and largely prohibited from voting in the October elections for two-thirds of the seats in the Shura Council. The new laws provoked controversy and debate among Qataris on social media as well as small-scale demonstrations led by members of the semi-nomadic Al Murra, one of the largest “tribes” in Qatar and among those most affected by the discriminatory nationality law. Qatari authorities responded by arresting and detaining some of the more outspoken critics and at least two of the men leading the demonstrations.
“Qatar’s attempt to establish citizen participation in government could have been a moment to celebrate, but it has been tarnished by denying many Qataris their full citizenship rights and repressing critics of arbitrary voter disenfranchisement,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The new laws have only reminded Qataris that they are not all equal.”
Members of Al Murra outside Qatar told Human Rights Watch on August 23, 2021, that Qatari security forces had arrested at least 15 people over the previous two weeks, at least four of whom they said remain in detention, as well as 2 lawyers, a poet, and a news anchor for a Qatari TV news channel.