Feature: Lebanese women give children all love but citizenship under nationality law

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-07 20:33:16|Editor: zh
Video PlayerClose

by Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- Safa's dream of becoming an architect evaporated when she discovered that she cannot work in this field in Lebanon because she does not have the Lebanese citizenship.

Although Safa grew up in Lebanon and her mother is a Lebanese, she cannot obtain the nationality as her father is a foreign national.

According to 2016 statistics by the World Bank, Lebanon is one of 22 countries where discriminatory nationality laws ban women from passing citizenship to their children, depriving them of rights and opportunities and leaving many stateless.

"My daughter had to forget about her dream and study fashion design instead, so she can avoid going through the headache of finding a proper job after graduation," said Dania Faour, a Lebanese woman who married a Palestinian, mother of Safa and two other children.

"Also, all jobs in fields such as medicine, engineering, architecture and pharmacy are reserved primarily for Lebanese nationals," she said.

A study published by Fahmiyya Sharafeddine, a university professor, reveals that there were roughly 18,000 marriages between Lebanese women and foreign nationals in the 14 years between 1995 and 2010.

According to Sharafeddine, the total number of individuals concerned with this issue was 77,400. This figure was reckoned based on the fertility rate in Lebanon that stands at 2.3 percent.

The inability of Lebanese mothers to pass their nationality to their spouses and children has a negative impact on the entire family.

Spouses and children must constantly renew residency and work permits and pay related fees in order to live and work legally in Lebanon.

Their children are considered residents but not citizens and they are denied the rights enjoyed by Lebanese nationals to public education, healthcare, employment and membership of professional bodies.

Karima Chebbo, nationality campaign coordinator at the Collective for Research and Training on Development (CRTDA) explains that children of Lebanese women who married foreigners cannot be covered by the National Social Security Fund or by the health ministry in Lebanon unlike the Lebanese.

"They can have private insurance or pay for their health services which many cannot afford," she said.

A very serious issue also, according to Chebbo, is that Lebanese spouses of foreigners cannot pass their properties to their children.

"Children cannot inherit," she said.

This is a problem faced by many including Faour who said that she owns two houses and two shops but cannot register them in the name of her children and they will not inherit them after she dies.

Lebanon's ban on mothers conferring their nationality on their children can even break up families, something Faour fears is a very real prospect.

"My son is studying electrical engineering, but unfortunately he will not live and work in Lebanon," she said.

"He may not even find a job because the labor ministry in Lebanon requires that all local companies employ Lebanese instead of foreigners. Otherwise, companies will have to pay fees to the labor ministry which many avoid to do," she added.

CRTDA launched several campaigns over the year and it succeeded in mobilizing women across the Arab region to ask for their right to pass nationality to their children.

Many Arab countries have overhauled discriminatory citizenship laws in the last decade including Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Palestine, Yemen and Tunisia, but Lebanon has resisted calls for reform.

Chebbo said that Lebanese officials attribute not approving a law allowing Lebanese women to pass the nationality to their children to their fear of geographic imbalance.

"These are only excuses because Lebanese men are allowed to marry foreign women and they automatically pass the nationality to their wives," added Chebbo.

Chebbo said that one of the worst scenarios that took place in Lebanon is a controversial naturalization decree signed by President Michel Aoun in June 2018 to grant Lebanese citizenship to over 400 foreign nationals.

Some reports stated that the naturalization was given to people who paid large sums of money or had ties to the Syrian government.

This move sparked outrage across the country prompting protesters to take to the streets of Beirut calling for Lebanese women to be able to pass their nationality onto their children.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil proposed allowing Lebanese women to pass on their nationality, except in cases where their husbands are from "neighboring countries."

"This statement is vague and ambiguous and it could be extended to all Arab countries," said Chebbo.

One recent serious move, however, was taken by lawmaker Hadi Abul Hassan who prepared a draft law in which Lebanese women can automatically pass the nationality to their newborns.

"We sent the law to the parliament. When committees meet, it will be discussed by the committee of administration and justice, then it will be transferred to the joint committee prior to the public committee, which approves it before it becomes a law," Abul Hassan told Xinhua.

"The process is not easy because some people will consider that this law causes geographic imbalance. But we will work seriously on it," he said.