BEIRUT: Activists slammed a leaked ministerial report advising against equal citizenship rights for women in favor of expanded services for the children of Lebanese women and foreign men, calling it “unscientific” and “unserious,” during a news conference at the WYCA in Ain Mreisseh Tuesday.
Facing growing frustration from activists and affected women, representatives from the Jinsiyati (My Nationality is a Right for Me and My Family) campaign urged supporters to take their grievances to the ballot box by demanding candidates clarify their stance on women’s issues, including the nationality law.
“We ruled out protests for the sake of protest because we have exhausted what can be said in these situations, so now we are moving to the next level which is street protests but targeting specific people,” Lina Abou Habib, one of the campaign coordinators, told The Daily Star following the conference. “We’re focusing on consistent mobilization at the grassroots level, naming and shaming candidates by supporting some and actively not supporting others.”
Abou Habib added that the movement would be holding protests in the coming weeks targeting the houses of the ministers who authored the report or have come out against amending the nationality law.
The report was prepared for Prime Minister Najib Mikati by the ministerial committee tasked with studying a proposed amendment to the citizenship law that would allow Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese men to pass their nationality on to their spouses and children. The report rejected any proposed changes to the current law on the grounds that it would upset the sectarian balance and conflict with Lebanon’s constitutional precept banning the naturalization of Palestinians.
Abou Habib accused the committee of playing on sectarian fears and exploiting sensitive topics like the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in order to block the amendment.
“We tried to find some logical thread [in the report’s reasoning], but we couldn’t find any,” she said.
The report bears the signatures of just five of the six committee members: Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel, Labor Minister Salim Jreissati, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi, and Information Minister Walid Daouk. Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour’s signature is conspicuously absent. The minister later told LBC TV that he had not been invited to the committee meetings and knew nothing about the report.
According to Abou Habib, Abu Faour, along with Mikati, State Minister Mohammad Fneish, Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, and State Minister Ali Qanso have all voiced support for amending the law to grant women full citizenship rights. She singled out Energy Minister Gebran Bassil as the primary voice against any changes to the current law.
Speaking at the conference, Iqbal Doughan of the League of Lebanese Women’s Rights said the ministers’ report showed disdain for women.
“We are not begging,” Doughan declared as the audience erupted in applause. “We are demanding our rights as granted to us by the Constitution.”
Randa Awada, 40, was among those cheering. Awada’s husband is Pakistani, and, according to Lebanese law, so are her four children, despite the fact that their mother is Lebanese and they have lived their whole lives here.
“If I said my children were conceived out of wedlock, they would get my nationality, but because I am a respectable person and I am married, they don’t have citizenship. Tomorrow if they wanted to go to Pakistan or work or study, they can’t, they don’t even speak Urdu,” she lamented.