Lebanese activists expressed anger Thursday after Parliament passed a bill allowing foreigners of Lebanese origin to get Lebanese nationality, while Lebanese women married to foreigners are not currently permitted to pass on their nationality to their husbands and children, a right they have demanded for years.
The activists aren’t against the provisions of the new law per se, but for them it is a question of primacy, Karima Chebbo, who runs the legal unit of the “My Nationality is A Right for Me and My Family” campaign, explained to The Daily Star
“We aren’t against each person taking back or restoring their right, but there are priorities – the Lebanese women are first,” Chebbo said.
In January 2013, campaigners proposed a draft law that would have extended this right to women, but it was rejected by Parliament.
Political parties have cited demographic and sectarian concerns to justify the restriction, claiming that overturning it could disrupt the country’s delicate sectarian makeup, particularly when it comes to passing nationality on to Palestinians, who are predominantly Muslim.
Speaker Nabih Berri announced last week his support for placing the citizenship draft law on the legislative session’s agenda. The Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, both Christian parties, said their participation in the session was contingent on the inclusion of the citizenship draft law and an electoral draft law. Berri backed the draft law as an incentive for the Christian lawmakers to attend the sessions.
“Any person that meets the following conditions has the right to ask for restoring Lebanese citizenship: If his name, or that of one of the male ancestors of his father, or male relatives of his father to the second degree, is listed on the statistics records made after the announcement of Greater Lebanon,” read Paragraph A of the law’s sole article. “This is the 1921-1924 [census] and immigration records, and the 1932 immigration records.”
The right to receive Lebanese nationality expires if those eligible do not present their applications and credentials within 10 years from the day the law is published, according to the legislation.
The law was also subject to criticism by Chebbo.
“We are also objecting to the law itself and its content,” she said. “The law ... is a patriarchal one ... they are terminating the origin of women in the diaspora of Lebanese origin. We are against anything that includes discrimination.”
But the group’s main focus remains the issue of granting Lebanese women the right to pass on their citizenship.
Chebbo said that they would not believe any more promises from politicians until they begin to materialize into something real.
“Before it was a battle that we were leading on the ground, but now [we] will be starting it face-to-face and in a very strong manner,” she said, when asked what steps would be taken now that the new law has been approved.
The campaign’s constitutive and coordinating committee will meet Friday in order to plan and announce future actions.
“We are against the idea of escalation, we are here, and we will continue so that our demands will be achieved,” Chebbo explained.
A number of activists held a protest in Martyrs’ Square Thursday, lamenting Parliament’s failure to address the situation.