Lebanese women demand nationality for children with foreign fathers

Many Lebanese fear that Palestinian and Syrian children of non-Lebanese men will never leave the country if they are given Lebanese nationalities, many others say that such concerns are racist.

March 18, 2018 15:51
1 minute read.
Lebanese women demand nationality for children with foreign fathers

Lebanon's government palace is seen illuminated purple to mark International Women's Day in downtown Beirut, Lebanon March 7, 2017. . (photo credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR / REUTERS)

Lebanese mother Dania Faour cannot pass on her nationality to her three children born to a Palestinian father, pushing her and other affected women to protest against the country's nationality law on Friday (March 16).

The protest comes as Lebanon braces for the first parliamentary elections since 2009. Participants held up banners showing the names and photos of parliamentary candidates and divided them between supporters and opponents of their calls to pass on the Lebanese nationality to their children.

Jamal Ajailo is a protester born to a Lebanese mother and Syrian father, but does not hold the nationality of the country he calls home.

"There are many people like me, but what can one do? We live on the residency. I am going to die, and my children will keep living on residencies," he said.

Under a 93-year-old law, Lebanese women who are married to foreigners, cannot pass their Lebanese nationality on to their husbands or children.

The law, issued under the French Mandate of Lebanon in 1925, states that a person is considered Lebanese if born to a Lebanese father.

The law affects more than 77,000 people, a 2009 study, Predicament of Lebanese Women Married to Non-Lebanese, found.

The protest comes one week after hundreds of people took to the streets of Beirut to mark the International Women's Day demanding an end to what they describe as gender-based discrimination.

This is not the first time the matter has been discussed in the Lebanese public-sphere.

In 2016, Lina Abou Habib, the executive director of the Collective for Research and Training on Development Action, said that: “They say if you reform the law then all Palestinian men will marry Lebanese women and they will never return to Palestine, thereby taking away the right of Palestinian refugees to return home.”

Other opponents to changing the existing law point to the Syrian refugees currently living in Lebanon and the delicate balance between Christian and Muslim Lebanese living in the country.

“There is no link between women’s nationality and the issue of Palestine or the country’s religious make-up or the Syrian crisis,” said Abou Habib.

“At the end of the day, what is true is that the state does not recognize women as citizens.”

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