BEIRUT: Thousands of Lebanese have taken to Facebook to celebrate their civil marriages, sharing pictures, memories and words of support as the battle to legalize non-religious marriages in Lebanon continues to escalate.
As of Thursday night, just two days after it was created, over 20,000 people had joined the group Tazawajna Madani ... w a’belkoun (we had a civil marriage ... may you as well). The page is filled with photos of smiling couples along with the date and location of their marriage.
Some have also posted pictures of their children, the product of civil unions, or their parents who were married in civil ceremonies but are not tech-savvy enough to upload the photographs themselves. Shot after shot, from the old yellowed images to the newer Instagram photos, show countless couples signing their names, smiling into the camera, or striking a pose. Taken together, the pictures are a powerful reminder that Lebanese have been building families based on civil marriages for years.
“What inspired us [to start the page] was the mufti’s declaration,” Lara Batlouni said, referring to Grand Mufti Sheikh Rashid Qabbani’s fatwa against civil marriage.
Batlouni, one of the page’s administrators, said it started when she and a few friends who had civil marriages shared their wedding and family photos on their personal Facebook pages. Before long, the trend caught on, and when they compiled them all onto one open group it went viral.
“The page shows that many people have had civil marriages and they lead a happy life and have beautiful families, just like anyone else,” she continued. “The group has a joyful spirit, the pictures full of love and happiness, and this encourages people to join, post and interact.”
“We are not fighting against anyone – we are fighting for our rights,” she said. “We want it as an option.”
But despite these assurances, many opposed to the law feel their values are being derided by an elite minority. Some have even joined the group just to express their disapproval.
“To those of you who have had a civil marriage, would you marry off your daughter or your sister in a civil ceremony? I doubt it because you are not convinced in the first place. You are throwing needy people into this fire and using it to warm yourselves!” Ahmad wrote under a picture of a card that says “I’m sorry.”
The reaction was swift and heated, revealing the depth of the rift that divides the two sides.
“Sorry but regarding civil marriage, we are 100 percent convinced and it is our identity and basic for our lifestyle, not like religious people whose acts are based on fear not understanding” Nabil wrote in response.
Proponents of civil marriage maintain they are being denied a basic right.
“We’re doing this not because we want to be defiant, but because the contract itself states that the responsibilities of the husbands and wives are equal,” Batlouni said. “We want it for equality between man and wife and equality among citizens.”