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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to violate international human rights laws in its treatment of approximately a quarter million stateless persons (known as “Bidoon”). At the beginning of the country’s school semester in September 2019, Bidoon children had difficulty accessing their basic rights to education.
The family of Bidoon schoolgirl Nawar Khalid al-Enezi published a video clip of her crying after her expulsion from school on the first day of school based on her lack of identity papers. The clip, which circulated widely on social media, demonstrated the popular anger at how the Saudi government is handling the Bidoon issue and the impact on the children. In addition to Nawar al-Enezi’s story, Saudis are circulating other cases in which children were prevented from attending the first day of school because they were Bidoon, among them the hearing-impaired child of citizen Farhan al-Hantoushi.
Information indicated that the reason for the crisis is the nature of the procedures related to family identity papers. Stateless persons suffer many diverse problems in their legal status within Saudi Arabia, leading the schools to refuse the children entry to school or to expel them. The media uproar on Twitter caused the Ministry of Education to issue resolutions requiring that Nawar and other children facing the same situation be admitted to schools.
Despite the solution to the crisis at the beginning of the year, Saudi practices still deprive Bidoons of many of their rights, such as the right to work and higher education, among others, many of which have already been documented by the European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights in previous reports.
Furthermore, the Saudi government is intent on pressuring human rights activists and advocates who are defending Bidoon issues. These include the activist, Shaden al-Enezi, who was arrested in May 2018, while defending the rights of stateless persons in the country on Twitter.
The ESOHR stresses that Saudi Arabia is in violation of Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to a nationality,” and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Saudi Arabia in 1996, which states in Article 7, “The child shall have the right from birth to a name and the right to acquire a nationality.” The ESOHR affirms that Saudi Arabia must work to create serious, fundamental mechanisms for the Bidoon issue that are not merely temporary solutions, by granting them the right to citizenship, especially children born to mothers who are Saudi nationals.