A Baha’i deported in 2015 denied entry in the country to attend the Football World Cup in November 2022
European Times (09.12.2022) – https://bit.ly/3UJUW2b – During the conference organized on 6 December by Dutch MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen under the title “Qatar: Addressing the limitations of religious freedom for Bahá’ís and Christians,” a Baha’i (*) testified about his deportation from the country in 2015:
“My wife and I moved to Qatar from Kuwait in 1979. My wife, who was brought up in Qatar, wanted to be back where her family lived and had been serving the community since moving there in the early 50s.
I started teaching English language in a national oil and gas company. Later on, I moved to other jobs, all involved with training and development of Qatari nationals. I lived there very happily for 35 years until I was expelled in May 2015.
Our three children all went to government schools and are fluent in Arabic. Although they studied in British universities, they all chose to return to Qatar where they had been raised and where their friends were.
We were all well integrated but despite this, I was ordered to leave in May 2015. No official reason was ever presented to me for such a decision but I believe it was due to my activities as a Baha’i.
Freedom of expression and proselytism
Indeed, we, as Baha’is, do not hide or deny our religion and share with anyone interested, the principles and teachings of our faith. Our activities are mainly educational, aimed at a process of spiritual and moral education that builds capacity to serve the community and thus work for the betterment of the world. Our activities are very transparent and open to anyone, regardless of race, religion and nationality, who wants to benefit from them.
My understanding is that such activities have been misinterpreted by the authorities as proselytism, which is forbidden by law in Qatar.
In the Baha’i faith, imposing one’s belief on others, using any form of intimidation or offering material inducements to conversion is forbidden. However, everybody is welcome to join in Baha’i activities and the community if they wish.
When a Baha’i shares his or her belief with another person, the act is not an attempt to convince or otherwise prove a particular point. It is the expression of the sincere desire to engage in meaningful conversation about fundamental issues of existence, to seek the truth, to remove misconceptions and to foster unity. Baha’u’llah tells us that “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security are attainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”
How my deportation was planned behind the scenes
In September 2013, my employers applied for the renewal of my resident permit which was due to expire in November. I was told that they had been unable to complete the renewal due to “problems with the system.” My employers continued regular follow up but each time was told to “wait.”
In March 2014, my employers had to terminate my work contract as the administrative issue had been left without any solution. I contacted the British Embassy but they told they were unable to assist. I approached a lawyer who told me that law firms had been instructed not to take on cases related to security.
In April 2014, the Ministry of Interior told me that my departure was being treated as deportation under instruction from the State Security with no reason given. I appealed the decision and approached the National Human Rights Committee. I reported to the Immigration Department every week for several months as I was told.
In March 2015, The Immigration Department informed me that there would be no written response to my appeal and the security authorities had considered my presence was “not in the interest of the state.”
I was expelled on 24 May 2015. My wife remained in Qatar with our children to take care of her own elderly parents.
Banned from Qatar for life
It is important to mention that when I lived in Qatar, other Baha’is were expelled from the country and many of our youth were denied employment opportunities. These young people, many of whom were born and raised in Qatar and knew no other home, had no other choice but to leave. Some, who subsequently attempted to return, were denied entry and were blacklisted.
In December 2015 and August 2016, I applied for a visitor visa through Qatar Airways but both applications were rejected because they had not been approved by the security authorities.
On 17 November 2016, I was denied entry in the country when transiting at Hamad International Airport.
In September 2022, my daughter approached the British Embassy asking them to request, on compassionate grounds, a visit for me as my wife had been diagnosed with cancer. The application was denied.
In October 2022, as Qatar had openly declared that all were welcome to attend the World Cup, I applied for a Hayya card which required to enter the country and attend the football matches. My application was twice rejected.
(*) HRWF withholds his name for security reasons for his family.