NNA - Mrs. Claudine Aoun, President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, called: "to leave the issue of recognizing the right of Lebanese women to pass on their nationality to their children outside of the quarrels, and political strife to which those who have the right fall victim to."
She called on the decision-makers to "confront fears and concerns and to find a way out that removes the injustice faced by Lebanese women and their children on the one hand, and take the necessary measures that remove these fears on the other hand, provided that these measures are applied to all citizens, men,and women."
Mrs. Aoun's words came during an open discussion session called for at the Hilton Beirut Habtoor Grand Hotel - Sin El Fil, under the title "Nationality not naturalization", attended by the representative of the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, Minister of Tourism in the caretaker government, Mr. Walid Nassar, the representative of the caretaker prime minister Mr. Najib Mikati, Minister of State for Administrative Development in the caretaker government, Ambassador Najla Riachi, and the Deputy Prime Minister of the caretaker government, His Excellency Dr. Saadé Al-Shami, Member of Parliament Dr. Farid Al-Bustani, Member of Parliament Ms. Nada Al-Bustani, former Minister Ms. Wafaa Al-Dika Hamza, and former Minister Dr. GhadaShreim, representatives of ministers in the caretaker government: the Minister of National Defense, the Minister of Interior and Municipalities, the Minister of Education and Higher Education, the Minister of Youth and Sports, the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Industry, the Director General of Public Security, the Beirut Bar Association, and the Tripoli Bar Association, the President of the Educational Center for Research and Development, Dr. Hiam Ishaq, Ms. Rachel Dore-Weeks, Head of UN Women in Lebanon, Ms. Tania Christiansen, Head of the United Nations Habitat Programme in Lebanon, members of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, representatives of ministries, trade unions, academic institutions, NGOs, embassies and international organizations, female media professionals and media professionals from different media, audio-visual, written and electronic outlets.
The meeting opened with a speech by Mrs. Aoun, in which she said: “Some of you may have wondered about the background, timing,and purpose of the invitation to today's meeting under the title "Nationality not naturalization.” In my turn, I ask why, to this day, the recognition of the right of the Lebanese woman to pass her nationality to her children is still subject to delays and calculations and why, since before independence, inaction persists on this file by linking it often to regional conflicts and at times to demographic shifts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The right to nationality is one of the fundamental rights in international law, and it links nationality with the right to legal affiliation. As for the Lebanese woman, she is still deprived of her right to pass her nationality to her children. Legally, can you believe that the decree that applies to the nationality issue dates back to 1925 and stipulates that “every person born of a Lebanese father is considered Lebanese”? In other words, the decision granting Lebanese citizenship today is signed by the French High Commissioner, General Maurice Paul Sarrail.
However, the Constitution of 1926 recognized in article 7 the equality of all Lebanese before the law and the equal enjoyment of civil and political rights. This is to assert that the legislator at the time consecrated equal rights for women with men, making Lebanon a forerunner in spreading a culture of human rights. It is unsurprising that Dr. Charles Malek was involved in drafting and preparingthe Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Suppose the will exists, and the constitutional text has existed since 1926, before the successive political crises. Why did the legislative reform workshop not take place throughout all these years to reform all laws unfair to women, as it had happened when their right to vote and to run for office was established in 1953? And their right to do commerce in 1994.
The causes of prejudice against Lebanese women were not limited to patriarchal cultural considerations. Instead, the political crises that afflicted the country (including Palestinian and Syrian displacement) came to throw their burden on women and make them feel responsible for resettlement and naturalization if they obtained the right to pass their nationality to their children.
The infamous naturalization decree of 1994granted citizenship to those who did not deserve it randomly and constituted an imbalance in the sectarian balance, which affected the results of the parliamentary elections, increased fears among some, and had dire consequences on women's rights.
This is to draw the historical sequence of depriving women of the right to pass their nationality to their children and of the injustice that we keep discussing repeatedly.
They suggest that recognizing the right of the Lebanese woman to transfer her nationality to her children is a prelude to the settlement of Palestinians and the naturalization of Syrians, which will inevitably cause a sectarian demographic change:
- I address those who refuse to recognize this right for Lebanese women:
First, we reiterate that this right is not negotiable. A nation is above all. We are all citizens with equal rights and duties, just as stipulated in our constitution, or there will be no Nation.
Second: where did you get the numbers to confirm that the husbands of these women are mostly Palestinians and Syrians, as well as their children? (Here, I am using this language in response to your reasoning, although I am not convinced by your approach to the issue from the point of view of the husband's nationality, religion, or confessional affiliation). Do you have accurate numbers for Lebanese women married to Europeans, Americans, and other Arabs? Did you allow these women to register their marriages with the Lebanese state so that your position could be based on precise data? Have you thought about the human resources that the nation has lost over the years? Do you have the numberof Lebanese men married to foreign women? Do you know their nationalities? Is this not considered naturalization of the children of non-Lebanese mothers also different from the Lebanese culture that the mother usually grows in her daughters and sons?
Third: The solution to your fears and apprehensions is to confront them and find a way to overcome them, not by using them to intimidate others. You hold women responsible for the danger of resettlement and naturalization while the state has failed to find a solution to the crises of displacement and asylum. Furthermore, our children emigrate (from all sects and confessions), and we lose them due to the failure to manage the crises.
Hence, the National Commission for Lebanese Women's Affairs submitted a bill to amend the Nationality Law recognizing the right ofLebanese women to pass their nationality. Various parties have also submitted proposals in this regard. Why did you not gather all these years and put these fears in mind, and discuss them to find a way out that would undo the injustice caused to Lebanese women and their children on the one hand, and take the necessary measures that remove these fears on the other hand, provided that these measures are applied to all citizens?
I also wish to address the applicants to the decree granting citizenship:
First: Proceeding from the injustice inflicted upon Lebanese women, and since this issue has not even been discussed in Parliament, we demanded a decree granting Lebanese citizenship in 2018 to lift the injustice, even for a small number of Lebanese women with their families, (and here I thank again His Excellency the President of the Republic for responding to our demand and taking this boldinitiative at the beginning of his mandate, despite being subjected to harsh criticism and systematic campaigns), and yes, we demand today a new decree before the end of his mandate, to give some justice for Lebanese women through the only way we have available - the decree. But we recall and repeat that the decree granting citizenship is signed jointly by the Minister of Interior and Municipalities, the Prime Minister, and the President of the Republic. From here, I make it clear to the citizenship applicants that the prerogative does not belong to the President of the Republic alone in this matter.
Second: The files submitted by the National Commission for Women's Affairs, the official reference for women's rights claims, are valid requests for Lebanese women married to foreigners and their families. Here, I warn you against anyone who suggests or asserts that this nationality has a price. Nationality is a right, and the right is neither sold nor bought. Please do not fall victim to the corrupt whom we hear about. The condition for obtaining citizenship through a decree is completing the file and being found eligible according to the competent departments, and nothing else.
Third: Fellow women, do not feel ashamed to demand this right and do not stop fighting for it. The injustice done to you in this issue has made some of you ashamed of revealing being married to a foreigner and hiding it for fear of prejudice. They demonized the case to the extent that some, including women, allowed themselves to say to me, "Did she not find anyone to marry her, so she married a foreigner?" I cannot find an answer to these racist accusations beyond logic, morals, and personal freedom.
I invite you to insist and strive to pass the most critical law recognizing your full citizenship, the Nationality Law.
I address the media and media professionals:
Your role is essential on this issue! You have also supported us in our struggle to pass a law criminalizing sexual harassment and to amend the law "Protecting women and other family members from domestic violence."
There are rumors about brokers and acts of corruption accompanying this file by some people. Here, I hope you will seek to bring proofproofexpose the brokers, if there are any, to hold them accountable and punish them. I also hope you look at this issue from all its aspects and showcase women’s lost right tofull citizenship.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Without any will to move forward, we came to say, "Let's go to the solution."
The logical and natural solution is adopting a just nationality law in which women have the same rights as men without derogation, difference, or discrimination. Therefore, I wish that the deputies open the door for a serious and constructive discussion to reach an agreement on a law that does justice to Lebanese women and stops the human resources bleeding that occurs as a result of withholding this right from the children of Lebanese women, and allows Lebanon to invest in its human resources spread around the world.
The interim solution is to issue decrees to grant citizenship regularly by adopting a precise mechanism, transparent criteria, and official reference for submitting requests for recognition of citizenship so that falsities and fallacies stop.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Our squares and streets are tired of the struggle and its hardships, and here I salute the civil society, human rights, and women's organizations for their work, efforts, and commitment. Our struggle is one, our quest is one, and our goal is one, no matter how different the ways, roads, and routes may be. And the struggle will continue, not for anything, but because justice can never be defeated.
There is no feeling more difficult than knowing that you have rights and there is no way to obtain them. They negotiate them with you and eventually deprive you of them.
Faithful citizenship is above calculations, above fear, above concerns, above prejudice, above politics, and above everything.
Let us, for once, for one moment, take a single, clear, and courageous stand... Let us abide by our constitution and its principles and work with our conscience to do justice to those we have let down for decades.
In conclusion, I express my special thanks and appreciation to everyone who attended our meeting today. Your presence is a token of commitment to women's issues and support for their rights.”
During the session, a video was launched on the mother's right to transfer her nationality to her children. Lawyer Brigitte Chalebianpresented the outlines of a study entitled "Nationality, not naturalization,” in which she explained the historical background and legal and statistical data on the reality of the rights of children of Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese. Then, notary public Randa Abboud, Treasurer of the National Commission, presented the amendment text to the Nationality Law that the National Commission had previously submitted to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers in 2019, which proposes recognizing the right of Lebanese women married to a foreigner to transfer her nationality to her minor children with the freedom of adults to request a green card that entitles them to enjoy Civil rights and then apply for citizenship after a period of five years.
During the meeting, many Lebanese mothers married to non-Lebanese gave vivid testimonies about the difficulties they suffered, the legal prejudice they suffered, and other members of their families.
The session concluded with an open discussion.
To view the study "Nationality, not naturalization,” please click on the following link:
To view the video", please click on the following link: