Nadine Moussa, lawyer, activist, and Lebanon’s first woman presidential candidate, says that her daughter had been selected for the national Lebanese soccer team but was eventually told that she could not play because she was not technically Lebanese. The problem was a law dating from 1925 that prevents Lebanese women who marry foreigners from owning property or even passing down their citizenship onto their children. The law impacts more than 77,000 people in the country, according to a 2009 study. “I have always felt like a second-class citizen,” Moussa acknowledged.
Lebanese politicians have remained resolute over the issue of female citizenship, even as nearby countries such as Yemen, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have all modified their citizenship policies into more women-friendly iterations. “It was wonderful to see one country after another change their nationality laws … we are not as progressive as we claim,” said Lina Abou Habib, executive director of the Collective for Research and Training on Development Action.
Politicians such as Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, leader of the Christian party, The Free Patriotic Movement, have claimed that amending the law will allow Palestinian and Syrian men to marry Lebanese women and thereby attain citizenship. Others, explained Habib, say that granting women nationality rights would lead to Muslims further outnumbering Christians. None of that explains, however, why there are no laws that deny citizenship to the children of Lebanese men who marry foreign nationals. “At the end of the day,” said Habib, “what is true is that the state does not recognize women as citizens.”
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