Lebanese women must have the right to pass on nationality to their children

Amnesty International has urged the Lebanese authorities not to take any step to overturn a landmark court ruling allowing a woman to pass on her nationality to her children.On Tuesday, a court of appeal in Jdeidit al-Metn in Mount Lebanon heard the case of Samira Soueidan, a Lebanese citizen who in June 2009 was granted the right to pass on her nationality to three of her Lebanon-born children. The hearing lasted 15 to 20 minutes and the judge, Mary Maoushi, said the verdict was expected on 18 May.Under Lebanese law, women, unlike men, cannot pass on their nationality to their spouses or children. The children of Lebanese women married to a foreign national can not obtain Lebanese nationality.Samira Soueidan started proceedings after her Egyptian national husband died in 1994.”If the decision is overturned, it will shatter the hopes of thousands of children born to Lebanese mothers and foreign national fathers, who are treated as foreigners in their own country and denied access to public education and other services,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty International.Women’s inability to pass their nationality to their spouses and children affects the entire family. Spouses and children must continuously secure residency and work permits that enable them to live and work legally in Lebanon.The children are considered residents, not citizens, and are denied access to free public education.Samira Soueidan told Amnesty International on Monday that her eldest daughter, Zeina 23, could not continue her education and study business because the Lebanese University requires foreign students to pay fees that her family could not afford. Lebanese students pay a much lower fee.Samira Soueidan’s other daughter, Faten, 22, told Amnesty International: “I am treated like a foreigner, but I feel 100 per cent Lebanese. Here is where my family is. Here is where I lived all my life… I don’t know Egypt.””It is very important for me to finally live in Lebanon as a Lebanese citizen. It would make my life much easier.”Samira Soueidan filed a lawsuit against the Lebanese state in 2005, challenging the law.On 16 June 2009, the Fifth Chamber of the Court of First Instance in Mount Lebanon’s Jdeidit al-Metn ruled in her favour.Judges John Qazzi, Rana Habaka, and Lamis Kazma argued that Lebanon’s Constitution asserts the principle of equality before the law for all citizens, men and women.However, this court decision was challenged by the public prosecution and a legal commission at the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the Lebanese state in July and September respectively. The case was heard at the Civil Chamber of the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.”By opposing the June court ruling only months before Lebanon’s human rights record is scheduled to come under scrutiny in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council sends a worrying message that the Lebanese state persists to undermine the cornerstone principle of non discrimination,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.”The Lebanese authorities must take immediate steps to review existing legislation containing discriminatory provisions against women and follow the steps taken by Algeria, Egypt and Morocco which have amended their nationality laws in recent years to grant women the right to give their nationality to their children and spouse.”