Lebanon: Mount Lebanon Appeals Court convenes to deliberate nationality case

Daily Star – Wednesday, April 14, 2010 – Local News – Youssef Diab

BEIRUT: Dozens of activists gathered Tuesday in front of the Mount Lebanon Appeals Court in Jdeideh as the court convened to decide whether or not a Lebanese woman could pass her nationality to her children.

The appeals court fixed May 18 as the date to issue its verdict in the case of Samira Soueidan and her contested right to pass her Lebanese nationality to her children.

Soueidan, married to an Egyptian, successfully obtained citizenship for her children in June 2009 based on a decision by Jdeideh Judge Jean al-Qazzi. However, the Lebanese Public Prosecutor’s Office lodged an appeal, claiming that according to Lebanese law, women can’t pass their nationalities to their children.

The Mount Lebanon Appeal Court was presided over by Judge Marie Denise al-Maoushi and included judges Sahnajan Hatoum and Yola Slilati.

According to the Nationality Law of 1925, Lebanese women married to foreign husbands can’t pass their nationality to their children. Soueidan’s attorney, Soha Ismail, argued that Lebanese women were not treated equally in their country despite the fact that the Constitution and international treaties guaranteed their rights.

She added that Lebanon preferred foreign women over its own citizens since the law allowed foreign women married to Lebanese men to obtain Lebanese nationality within a year, while Lebanese women lacked such a right.

Ismail rejected the appeals request by the prosecutor’s office, saying the initial verdict was in accordance with the Constitution’s Preamble and Article 7.

She also demanded that the state pay for the fees of the trial.

During the hearing, dozens of women from the women’s rights campaign My Nationality: a Right for Me and My Family showed up to support Soueidan.

The women held banners demanding their right to pass on their nationality.

“Lebanese women give life but not their nationality,” “How can foreign women obtain Lebanese nationality from their husbands, while Lebanese women cannot pass their nationality to their children,” some of them read.

Soueidan appeared to be very optimistic about the case and anticipated that the appeals court would eventually rule in her favor.

“My nationality is a right for my children who were born and raised in Lebanon. They don’t know any other country,” she said. Soueidan explained that her deceased Egyptian husband had been buried in Lebanon. Her children have never been to Egypt and have no relatives there.

He daughter Faten Ahmad hoped Judge Maouchi would deliver a fair ruling and would put herself in the mother’s shoes.

“We’ll fight for our nationality till our last breath because we need it. I still believe Lebanon is my country and my identity is Lebanese,” Ahmad said.

She said her two brothers faced difficulties in their everyday lives, and were unable to find employment. “I might marry a Lebanese man and solve my problem but my brothers’ only hope is to obtain a Lebanese nationality,” she said.

Mohammad agreed with his sister, and said he could not enroll in university because as a foreigner he had to pay a fee of LL2 million while Lebanese students only paid LL100,000.

Campaign coordinator for My Nationality: a Right for Me and My Family Rola al-Masri urged the judiciary to consider the case an opportunity to show its independence and to guarantee its protection of the people’s human rights, especially on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the civil war.

The protesters supported Soueidan in her struggle and also demanded the amendment of the current personal status law.

“If Soueidan succeeds it means we have all taken a huge step toward amending the Nationality Law,” said activist Rita Shemali.

Amnesty International has demanded that Lebanese authorities immediately withdraw the appeal because if approved, the appeal could “shatter hopes of thousands of children born to Lebanese mothers and foreign national fathers.”

Amnesty said certain provisions of the law were discriminatory and asked concerned authorities to “take immediate steps to review existing legislations containing discriminatory provisions against women.”

Over 18,000 Lebanese women are married to non-Lebanese living in Lebanon and their children are considered residents, not citizens, and they are consequently denied access to education and employment. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=1&article_id=113757#axzz0l3j8ZQuq

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