Mohamed Katir (24) has that point of unconscious courage that makes him not keep quiet about anything. Last weekend, as soon as he won his first official gold medal in a Spanish Championship by winning the 5,000 meters, the athlete took advantage of the presence of the cameras to once again denounce the long process he had to face until he achieved his nationalization. Katir, born in the Moroccan city of Alcazarquivir, came to the Murcian town of Mula as a child, where he began a prolific career in athletics. «I think I am the first athlete who has been winning crosses from juniors to promises. I won the national championship four years in a row but they didn’t give me the medal. I came home and my father congratulated me for having won, but they didn’t give me the medal and I felt terrible.
I was crying for hours, “he explained, still with adrenaline at its peak.
Katir requested in 2015, at the age of 17, the so-called express nationality, which is granted by naturalization letter, but his application remained in a drawer. While he continued to win races in Spain without being able to get on the podium, he also began the procedures to apply for nationality by residence, a much slower process in which most requests run into the immensity of bureaucracy. She was granted it by this second method at the end of 2019, four years later. “Honestly, that left me touched”, ends the current national record holder of 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 meters, all of them achieved in 2021, the first year that he was able to compete as a Spaniard after the stoppage forced by the pandemic.
Katir’s situation is usual, as confirmed by himself. “There are many athletes who are going through what I went through four years ago, they are very good but they do not have the nationality and cannot be in the big championships”, and it contrasts with the speed with which the Spanish passport is granted to others.
The most recent case in athletics is that of Jordan Diaz, the great promise of the triple jump and new national record holder with 17.87 meters. Díaz escaped from a concentration of the Cuban team in Valencia, last June 2021. He contacted Ana Peleteiro and with the group trained by Iván Pedroso in Guadalajara. From there, the procedures for his nationalization began, which became effective in February of this year, only eight months later.
“At the proposal of the Minister of Justice in response to the exceptional circumstances that occur in Mr. Jordan Alejandro Díaz Fortún, and after deliberation by the Council of Ministers at its meeting on February 1, 2022, I hereby grant Spanish nationality by letter of nature to Don Jordan Alejandro Díaz Fortún, with common law civil residence”, could be read in the Official State Gazette of February 1 accompanying the signature of Felipe VI.
And what is the difference? Why Jordan Díaz yes and Katir, no? It is impossible to know. The simple transcription of article 21.1 of the Civil Code, which regulates the acquisition of nationality in this way, leaves the criteria completely open and undefined: “Spanish nationality is acquired by naturalization letter, granted discretionally by Royal Decree, when in the interested party there are exceptional circumstances.
Fatten the medal table
According to data from the Civio.es portal, between 1994 and 2019, nationality was granted by naturalization certificate to more than 5,500 people, most of them Sephardim, the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs. Foreign victims of the 11-M attacks were also nationalized en masse by this means. On the sidelines, there are also several dozen individual concessions each year, including those for many athletes. In these cases the “exceptional circumstances” that occur have to do with the interest in fattening the list of winners and the national medal tables. By this means, well-known personalities such as the basketball players Serge Ibaka or Nikola Mirotic, the skier Johann Muhlegg, the swimmer Nina Zhivanevskaia or the handball player Talant Dujshebaev were nationalized. Also a large group of athletes, including Orlando Ortega, Glory Alozie, Ilias Fifa, Alemayehu Bezabeh, Ayad Lamdassem or Joan Lino, all Olympic, world or European medalists. Katir was not so lucky.
«There are many athletes in this process, I would like it to be faster, but deadlines are deadlines. We try to help them, Katir asked us for that help, but it is an administrative matter, “he justifies Raul Plated, president of the Spanish Athletics Federation. “Then there are the exceptional cases, people of interest to the State because they are world top.” However, among those hundred express nationalizations there are many that did not meet these criteria. They were neither top, nor were they later. The selection criteria of the chosen ones are once again a mystery.
Among the latest express nationalizations of athletes are those of Ansu Fati or Aymeric Laporte, both already international with the Spanish team or that of the Italian skater Marco Zandron, Olympic in Beijing 2022. Also that of young promises, such as the Georgian judoka Tristani Mosakhlishvili or the Brazilian soccer player Miguel Carvalho Vianna (17 years old, Espanyol).