In 1994 my mother who is an Omani citizen returned with her siblings from Tanzania to Oman in search of a better life for us. Then I joined her with the rest of my siblings in 1996. We were still young and were seeking a good education. My father did not hold Omani citizenship, but we did not expect the matter to take very long until he obtained it, after he submitted all the applications in Oman, as his origins are Omani. Especially since his brother had obtained Omani citizenship before him. Consequently, at this stage my father had no choice but to stay in Tanzania in order to pursue his own business for he did not have an Omani residence permit while we moved to live with our mother in Oman. My siblings and I also did not have the Omani nationality, we couldn’t receive it under Omani law even though my mother is Omani, we were only allowed to stay in Oman as minors and children of my Omani mother.
But the matter lasted a very long time and remained the same for many years. However, my father did not give up hope and was constantly following up at the Ministry of Interior, to no avail. And when there is something new from the ministry, it was always a refusal. He then started all over again and submitted new applications. We stayed like this for years until I was about to finish my high school diploma.
Throughout the school years, despite my high sense of belonging to this country, I used to feel that I was from a minority, especially when I was asked at school to submit documents to update my students’ records. The strange thing is that I and others like me from the minority of people that are of Omani descent but did not have citizenship looked like the majority. We did not notice differences between us in the educational environment in terms of physical features and the name of the tribe, except for the nationality.
Perhaps this is why the school administration registered us as Omanis, even though we did not have all the supporting documents. Of course, for me as a child and a teenager, I felt great joy and peace of mind because of this mistake, which I do not know if it was intended or not, because I will not have to explain to my schoolmates about my different situation.
Sadly at the end of 2007, when I reached my final year at school, during the exam period for the first semester, we got news of the death of my father in Tanzania, who was the closest person to my heart. But because of the long distance between us and the separation of our family due to the complicated Omani laws which kept us apart as a family, we were prevented from living together until the last days of his life.
I remember now my mother’s words after his death: “I have nothing to give you except education, for I sacrificed to live apart from your father for long years in order to get you an education, and this is your only weapon in this life.”
Our plan, after completing my high school studies, was for my father to take care of the expenses of my university studies abroad. I wanted to study medicine or engineering, therefore we began to look for countries where I could study these disciplines with a limited budget. Despite the traumatised conditions that I went through, I was able to maintain an advanced level in my studies until I finished high school with good results.
The unified admission center system to apply for university was still new, and out of curiosity I said to myself, what will I have to lose if I try to apply to colleges and universities and register my options for the majors that I aspired to study, even though I was almost certain of the rejection and the words of my uncle who always reminded me that I have no right to overseas studies as a non-Omani in order to protect me from having hope and be disappointment. But I was surprised when the system accepted me and it opened the doors for me to register all my options for overseas scholarships, as I later discovered that there was a technical error in the system.
I registered all my 15 options in the system, and I started with the overseas scholarships, such as medicine and engineering, etc. When the time came to announce the results, I found my name published in the local newspapers and that I had obtained an overseas scholarship. It was a moment of joy, filled with uncertainty, because according to current Omani laws, I doubted that I would be granted an overseas scholarship.
Indeed, I was correct with my instinct, when I noticed the extent of shock when I submitted my registration papers to the Ministry of Higher Education. They were insisting that I submit proof of my Omani citizenship, after I submitted my Tanzanian document. My response to them was that these are my only recorded documents at school and I never submit others. I saw their surprise and confusion about how this mistake occurred, being registered in school over the years as an Omani! While I looked at it as a good thing for us, I requested a suspension of the scholarship, justifying that I could get citizenship very soon. At that moment, I decided to set a goal, I decided to fight the whole world in order to obtain this scholarship and overcome this obstacle of not holding the Omani nationality in order to not lose this opportunity and achieve my goals in this life.
In the following months, I intensely followed up with the Ministry of the Interior, often floundering, left and right. Every time the committee met, it rejected my application for citizenship, even though all this happened after my father’s death.
The last resort was to approach some family individuals in Oman with connections to seek help, hoping that they could explain my case to the officials from the humanitarian point of view, given that I am a daughter of an Omani woman, a widow who can’t work. And she is totally dependent on her children in taking care of her and helping themselves.
It is impossible to forget that day in January 2009 when I called, as usual, the Ministry of Interior to follow up and spoke with the person who knows my case. His usual response was: Sorry, your request was rejected again. I sadly thanked him, but later he came back and said to me in a cheerful voice: Wait, congratulations on your nationality and you deserve it.
In fact, I do not have words to describe that moment! I was with my mother and all my siblings standing at the public phone next to the court in Al Khuwair area, finishing the procedures to issue my father’s death certificate. I immediately started following up with the Ministry of Higher Education to complete the registration procedures for my overseas scholarship and travel to study abroad. Thanks God, after that my siblings did not have to suffer as I did.
Translated from Arabic by: Habiba Al Hinai