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Malaysia Day marks continued struggle for mother in quest for daughter's citizenship

Aini, whose two children are both autistic, says she will not give up despite years of fruitless attempts.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Aini holds her children Rayyan and Hana close. Both of them have been diagnosed with autism, and require special care.
Aini holds her children Rayyan and Hana close. Both of them have been diagnosed with autism, and require special care.

In the living room of her small house in Batu Caves, Selangor, Aini sits with her two children, Rayyan and Hana. 

Rayyan is eight years old while Hana is just six. 

Both of them were diagnosed early on with autism, a neurodevelopmental condition with lifelong effects, and require special care and treatment.

But while Aini worries about their physical condition, she is also preoccupied with another, equally pressing, problem. 

Only one of her children is a Malaysian citizen. 

Aini married her husband, an Indian national who works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2013. 

Her son, Rayyan, is certified as a Malaysian as he was born in the country with all of the necessary documents. 

But after giving birth to him, Aini moved to Riyadh with her husband. Due to a number of problems, she could not return to Malaysia in time to give birth to Hana. 

Accordingly, her daughter is for all intents and purposes a citizen of India. 

Aini's attempts to obtain Malaysian citizenship for Hana were all rejected by the government. 

"It's hard for me to say this," she said in an interview with MalaysiaNow. 

"But I am still struggling to make sure that both of my children are Malaysians and that they belong to this country. 

"So it feels as though there is no freedom for me yet in these troubles. How am I supposed to face this challenge of having two children with different citizenships even though they both came from me, a Malaysian citizen?"

Aini initially applied for citizenship for Hana at the Malaysian embassy in Saudi Arabia, saying that her daughter had no documentation other than her birth certificate. 

After that, she tried to apply under Article 15 (2) of the Federal Constitution which deals with citizenship applications for those below the age of 21.  

"I made the application in 2018," Aini recalled. 

"I called Putrajaya from Riyadh nearly every day, asking if there were any developments in my application. 

"But I never got to speak with the officer who handled the application. Finally, in August 2019, I learnt the results.

"But the date on the letter rejecting the application was November 2018. They were very slow in informing me about the status." 

'Not from there'

Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Aini decided to return home to Malaysia. But even this was a difficult process as Hana did not have a passport. 

She and her husband worked to get Indian citizenship for the child so that she could return to Malaysia with her family using a passport from that country. 

But Hana herself has never been to India, where her grandparents still live. 

"She's not from there," Aini said. "Only her passport. She grew up here, in Malaysia. 

"As their mother, I brought both of them up with Malay values and traditions, as I myself was raised by my parents. 

"This is why I want them to have Malaysian citizenship." 

Aini herself cannot imagine settling down anywhere other than Malaysia, and she worries about how her children would adjust to living in a strange country. 

Because they have different citizenships, her children cannot attend the same school. Rayyan goes to a government school but it would be very difficult for Hana to do the same. 

Instead, Aini sends the child each day to a centre for special needs children so that she can get a basic education and learn how to socialise with others.

Every three months, Aini also takes her children for treatment and therapy at Hospital Tunku Azizah in Kuala Lumpur. 

As Hana is not a Malaysian citizen, this is very expensive. Her education alone costs about RM1,000 per month, while each hospital visit takes another RM160 – RM120 for registration and RM40 for treatment. 

This is not inclusive of other costs such as transportation. 

Yet, Aini is determined to continue her quest for citizenship for her daughter. 

She has submitted an application under Article 14 of the constitution, concerning the confirmation of an individual's citizenship status based on that of the mother or father. 

But the application was frozen after the High Court decision on Sept 9 last year, recognising the automatic right to citizenship for the children of Malaysian women born overseas. 

The Court of Appeal last month allowed the government's appeal against the ruling.

Nevertheless, Aini said she has no intention of giving up.

"I will do everything it takes to fight for my child's right to become a citizen of Malaysia," she said.