Episode 80 – Discriminatory citizenship laws

Mariam is considering emigrating from Lebanon not because of the economic crisis in the country but rather to spare her foreign husband and potential future children from Lebanon’s discriminatory citizenship laws. Lebanese men can pass on Lebanese citizenship to their spouses and children. However, this right is not extended to Lebanese women. In this episode, Mariam discusses the origins and implications of these unfair laws and the challenges they create for her family and future plans.

Lebanese Arabic Transcript and English Contextual Translation

 حسين: خالتو، كأني سمعت من ماما إنك عم تفكري تهاجري من لبنان. معقول تبعدي عننا هيك؟

Hussein: Aunt, I think I heard from mom that you are considering emigration from Lebanon. Is it possible that you part us like this?

مريم: حبيبي، ما في شي جدي بعد، بس عم ادرس الخيارات.

Mariam: My dear. Nothing is serious yet. I am just studying the choices.

حسين: طيب هاتي خبريني. يعني اللي بعرفو إنو إنت ومحمد زوجك أموركن منيحة وعم تشتغلو تنيناتكن، ما حابين أشغالكن؟ أو لإنكن خايفين الأوضاع الاقتصادية تصير بعد أصعب أو تخسرو الشغل؟

Hussein: Talk to me about it. I mean what I know is that you and your husband Mohammad are doing well, and you are both working. You do not like your jobs? Or is it because you are afraid that the economic situation becomes harder or that you lose your jobs?

مريم: لا أبداً. بالعكس، مبسوطين بشغلنا برغم الضغط اللي بصير مرات. أكيد الأوضاع الاقتصادية صعبة، وعالأرجح رح تصير أصعب. بس سبب الهجرة مش اقتصادي. لو اقتصادي بضل في أمل يسعى الواحد بشغل ويزبط وضعو، لأن البعد عن الأهل والأحباب شي كتير صعب، والهجرة قاسية عالإنسان. السبب بصراحة معنوياً أصعب بكتير علي. يعني أنا صرلي سنين بشتغل وأسست منيح هون، بس المشكلة إنو يوم اللي رح يصير عندي فيه ولاد رح يصير كل شي أصعب. لأن متل ما بتعرف محمد مش لبناني، فأنا بالقانون اللبناني، ما بحقلي أعطي جنسيتي لا لولادي، ولا لزوجي.

Mariam: Not at all. On the contrary, we are happy in our work despite the stress that takes place sometimes. The economic situation is certainly difficult, and most probably it will become harder, but the reason for emigration is not economic. If it was economic, there would still be hope that one seeks work and improves his situation because being away from family and loved ones is something very hard, and emigration is harsh on people. To be honest, the reason is much harder for me emotionally. I mean, I have been working for years, and I established well here. But the problem is that the day on which I will have kids, everything will become harder because as you know, Mohammad is not Lebanese. Thus, in Lebanese law, I do not have the right to pass my citizenship neither to my children, nor to my husband.

حسين: طيب وشو بأثر؟ يعني عادي فين يعيشو محمد وولادك هون بدون جنسية. وين المشكلة؟

Hussein: Okay, so what? I mean it is normal. Mohammad and your children can live here without a citizenship. Where is the problem?

مريم: مش عادي أبدا، لأن رح يضل فيه تمييز ضدن بكتير جوانب مهمة بالحياة، ورح تضل صفتن هون أجانب. الموضوع بأثر علين بكل مراحل الحياة. مثلا، كل تلات سنين بصير لازم نروح نجددلن إقامة، بتسمح إنو يضلو عايشين على الأراضي اللبنانية بشكل قانوني. وهاي بيترتب عليا تكاليف رغم إنا بالمبدأ صارت مجانية. بسموا إقامة مجاملة. وإذا تأخرنا بتجديدا عن التاريخ المحدد، بصير لازم ندفع غرامات! بالمدارس الرسمية ما إلن أولوية، وبالجامعة اللبنانية في عدد محدود كتير بينقبل من الطلاب الأجانب وكل شي تكاليف بتكون أعلى علين، وغيرا من مواضيع حرمانن من الخدمات الاجتماعية والرعاية الصحية.

Mariam: It is not normal at all because there will always be discrimination against them in many important aspects of life, and there status will remain here as foreigners. This issue affects them throughout all phases of life. For example, every three years we will have to renew their residence permit which allows that they remain living in Lebanese territories legally. This entails costs although in principle, it has become free. They call it courtesy residence. And if we were late for renewing it past the designated date, we will then have to pay fines! In public schools they do not have priority, and in the Lebanese university there is a very limited number of foreign students that get accepted and all costs would be higher for them; in addition to other issues of depriving them of social services and medical care.

مريم: وأما الأصعب والأهم، فهو موضوع الشغل. لازم يطلعو إجازة عمل ليقدرو يشتغلو بشكل قانوني بلبنان، وكمان هيدي فيا تكاليف كتير، ولهيك كتير أصحاب عمل بفضلو ما يوظفوون، أريح لراسن. كأجانب، ما بيقدرو يتسجلو بنقابات العمال، يعني ما في نقابة تحمي حقوقن كعمال، ولهيك كمان بصير في كتير مهن ما بيقدرو يمارسوا أبداً متل الطب والصيدلي اللي ممارستن بتحتاج التسجل بالنقابة. والأصعب بعد، إنو فيه جنسيات معينة بلبنان ممنوع عليا تشتغل بأغلب الوظايف، متل السوريين والفلسطينيين، حتى لو كانو ولاد لبنانية. كل هيدول وغيرن كتير، هني نفس المعاناة اللي عم يعانيا محمد هلأ كمان. ولهيك عم فكر بالهجرة، لأن هي الحل الوحيد إني احمي عيلتي، زوجي وولادي من هالتمييز ضدن.

Mariam: As for the hardest and the most important, it is the issue of work. They have to obtain a work permit so they can work legally in Lebanon, and this also has lots of costs. Thus, many employers prefer not to hire them; better and easier for them. As foreigners, they cannot register in workers syndicates, which means there is no order to protect their rights as workers. Thus, there will also be many professions which they cannot practice at all, like medicine and pharmacy whose practice requires registration in a syndicate. What is even harder, is that there are certain nationalities in Lebanon that are prohibited from working in most jobs, like Syrians and Palestinians, even if they are the children of a Lebanese woman. All these and much more are the same suffering Mohammad is also going through currently. Thus, I am considering emigration because it is the only solution through which I can protect my family, my husband and children, from this discrimination against them.

حسين: بس فيه شي هلأ خطر ببالي وحاسس ما عم افهمو. مرة رفيقي بالمدرسة حكى قدامي إنو إمو بالأصل فنزويلية. بس على حد علمي هي معا الجنسية، وصديقي كمان لبناني هو وإخواتو. أو أنا فهمان غلط؟

Hussein: But there is something that has just occurred to me, and I feel I cannot understand it. Once, my friend in school mentioned to me that his mother is originally from Venezuela, but to the extent of my knowledge she has the citizenship, and my friend and his siblings are also Lebanese. Or did I get it wrong?

مريم: لا لا، مش فهمان غلط. القانون هيدا بالدستور اللبناني بس للمرا اللبنانية، أما الذكر أو الرجال اللبناني فإذا تزوج أجنبية، بينقلا الجنسية اللبنانية بعد سنة من الزواج، وبينقل الجنسية لولادو كمان أول ما يخلقو.

Mariam: No, No. You did not get it wrong. This law in the Lebanese constitution is only for the Lebanese woman. As for the Lebanese male or man, if he married a foreigner, he passes the Lebanese citizenship to her after one year of marriage, and he passes the citizenship to his children also once they are born.

حسين: شو هالتمييز. مع إني بتذكر إنو وحدة من أولى المواد بالدستور اللبناني بتنص على المساواة بين جميع المواطنين اللبنانيين بالحقوق والواجبات بدون تمييز.

Hussein: What a discrimination. Although I remember that one of the first articles of the Lebanese constitution states equality between all Lebanese citizens in rights and responsibilities without discrimination.

مريم: المزعج أكتر بالموضوع، إنو هيدا القانون هو فرنسي ومش لبناني. حطو الانتداب أو الاحتلال الفرنسي بدستورنا سنة 1925، ولهلأ كل محاولات تعديلو لمنح المرا اللبنانية حقا بتجنيس ولادا عالقليلة، إذا ما قلنا زوجا كمان، عم تفشل بحجج أغلبا طائفية ومحاصصات سياسية.

Mariam: What is even more disturbing about this, is that this law is French and not Lebanese. The French mandate or occupation put it in our constitution in the year 1925, and up until now, all the attempts to amend it so that the Lebanese woman is granted her right in passing the citizenship to her children at least, if we did not say her husband also, is failing under pretexts that are mostly sectarian and related to political quotas.

حسين: يعني ما بعرف شو بدي قلك. أديش صعب إنو بلد المرا متل كأن عم يقلا إذا تزوجتي من غير جنسيتك ما عاد مرحب فيك ببلدك، أو إذا بدا تعيش مع عيلتا ببلدا رح تعاني من كل الصعوبات اللي ذكرتين وكأنا عقوبة إلا من بلدا.

Hussein: I really do not know what to say to you. How hard it is that as if the country of a woman is telling her if you marry someone with a different nationality, you are no longer welcome in your country. Or, if she chooses to live with her family in her country, she will suffer from all the hardships you have mentioned as if it is a punishment for her.

مريم: هيك شي. علماً إنو كتير دول عربية كان عندا هيك قانون وغيرتو وأنصفت المرا، متل تونس ومصر والجزائر واليمن. ونحنا بلبنان بعدنا من ضمن ال25 دولة حول العالم اللي حارمين المرا هالحق وبميزو ضدا.

Mariam: Almost. Note that many Arab countries used to have such a law, and they changed it and did justice to women; like Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, and Yemen, and we in Lebanon are still among the 25 countries around the world who still deprive the woman of this right and discriminate against her.

حسين: بتعرفي انزعجت هلأ بعد هالحديث. أنا بشكل عام ما بحب الناس تسافر من بلدا. بيتركو فراغ كبير وراهن عند كل أحبابن، وبلدن بيخسر طاقتن، وبيستفيد منا بلد تاني. بتمنى إنك ما تسافري أبداً. شو رأيك قوم أعمل بريق شاي حد هالكايك البجنن اللي عاملتلنا ياه لنروق حالنا.

Hussein: You know, I feel annoyed now after this conversation. I generally do not like that people leave their country. They leave a big gap behind them for all their loved one, and their country loses their energy while another country benefits from it. I wish you never leave. How about I get up and prepare a pot of tea beside this wonderful cake you have prepared for us so we would relax.

مريم: محمد المفروض كم دقيقة وبيوصل لعنا. يلا، حط إنت المي عالنار ومنشرب أحلى كباية شاي كلنا سوا.

Mariam: Mohammad is supposed to arrive in few minutes. Put the pot to boil, and we will drink the best cup of tea all together.


Comprehension Questions (try to answer the questions while speaking out loud to yourself and using full sentences in Lebanese-Arabic)

  1. Why is Mariam considering emigrating?
  2. What are some obstacles that Mariam’s children would face in residency and education since they will not be Lebanese?
  3. What are some hardships Mariam’s children would face regarding jobs in Lebanon since they will not be Lebanese?
  4. How did Mariam clarify the issue that her nephew Hussein raised regarding his friend’s Venezuelan mother?
  5. Have Arab countries overturned discriminatory citizenship laws in the past?

Vocabulary Table

# Lebanese Arabic English Transliteration English Translation
1 خالتو Khalto Aunt
2 خيارات Khayarat Choices/Options
3 تنيناتكن Tnaynetkon Both of you
4 بالعكس Bel‘akis On the contrary
5 يسعى Yes‘ah Pursuit/seek
6 إقامة Iqameh Residency
7 أولوية Awlawiyyeh Priority
8 حرمان Hirmen Deprivation
9 إجازة عمل Ijezit ‘amal Work permit
10 نقابة Na’abeh Syndicate/Order
11 مهن Mihan Prfessions
12 تمييز Timyeez Discrimination
13 بالأصل Bil’asel Originally
14 الدستور اللبناني Al-Dustoor Al-Libani Lebanese constitution
15 محاصصات سياسية Mohasasat Siyesiyyeh Political quotas

 

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