Syrian student forced to promise not to marry a Lebanese woman

The document, being shared on social media, says it is the civil and criminal responsibility of the Syrian student to not have a relationship with a Lebanese woman.
Updated 21 February 2018
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Syrian student forced to promise not to marry a Lebanese woman

DAMASCUS: Social media users have been sharing a photo of an official document in which a Syrian student was made to promise not to marry any Lebanese woman in order to be given a student visa.
The document, dated Feb. 12, read: “I, the signatory, who holds Syrian nationality, declare it is my civil and criminal responsibility to not have a relationship or any kind of binding association with a Lebanese woman. I pledge to not marry a Lebanese woman while I study and reside in Lebanon.”
Social media commentators have slammed the Lebanese authorities, accusing them of “institutionalized racism” against Syrian refugees.
Several Syrian Facebook pages shared a photo of the document, spurring angry comments that accused the Lebanese authorities of being “racists with deeply rooted prejudices against Syrians.”
A tweet by Lebanese journalist Luna Safwan said: “A Syrian student pledged he would not fall in love or marry a Lebanese girl as a condition of getting a student visa. One of the most humiliating moves done in my country Lebanon. I feel ashamed.”
Kareem Chehayeb, another Lebanese journalist, wrote: “More vile institutionalized racism in Lebanon: Syrian student forced to sign a statement saying he won’t marry or fall in love with a Lebanese woman in order to get his visa from General Security. Shame on the authorities.”
Nader Ezzeddine, general manager of Isticharia for Strategic and Communication Studies in Beirut, confirmed that the General Security Directorate required all foreign students studying religion in Lebanon — whatever their nationality— to sign such documents. “This has been the case since 2003,” he said.
He explained that the practice aimed to protect Lebanese women as some students married local women to secure permanent residence and then divorced them.
“A student visa normally does not allow its holder to get married, so the pledge is a routine part of the student visa application process,” Ezzeddine said.
Mohammed Diab, a Syrian journalist based in Beirut, said that he had heard of two Syrian students made to sign the same pledge recently because, under current circumstances, some Syrian students in Lebanon were using marriage to gain permanent residence.
“A student visa allows a Syrian to stay in Lebanon only as long as required by the university in which he studies,” he said.
Diab believes people were quickly angered by the news “because the Lebanese authorities have recently announced many prejudiced regulations targeting Syrian refugees.”
He said that many young Syrian men were fleeing compulsory military service by moving to Lebanon or Sudan as these countries’ visa requirements were much easier compared with other countries.
“Life in Sudan is difficult and Lebanon is closer to Syria, therefore most of these young men prefer to stay in Lebanon,” he said.
Diab said that security services in Lebanon were cooperating with security services in Syria to ensure that no Daesh escapees entered Lebanon.
Ezzeddine believes the procedure is unnecessary “because if a student wished to marry a Lebanese woman, he can simply reapply for a different visa that allows him to marry her as soon as he’s done with his education and (can) consequently receive permanent residence.”
The two notaries who prepared the pledge, Maha Abou Najm and Nesrin Ayoub, told Legal Agenda, a Lebanese news website, that the General Security Directorate had not issued any statement or regulation about the issue.
A woman who works at Abou Najm’s legal office also told Legal Agenda that “such pledges are prepared at the request of the interested party.”
“The procedure is very recent and was first practiced two months ago,” she said.
However, Ayoub said that a young man had requested that she prepare the pledge for him, highlighting that this was the only such pledge she had prepared.
Lebanese lawyer Ghida Frangieh told the same website that the pledge had no legal value.
“It conflicts with the basic rights of foreign students and Lebanese women,” she said. “It constitutes arbitrary interference with personal matters and the right to marry and start a family.”


’No place for a mother’: S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

(FILES) This photo taken on March 22, 2016 shows a child gesturing to a woman at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul. (AFP)
Updated 18 December 2018
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’No place for a mother’: S. Korea battles to raise birth rate

  • Now 27, she has been rejected at several job interviews as soon as she revealed she had a child, and has given up seeking employment, trying to set up her own trading business instead

SEOUL: When Ashley Park started her marketing job at a Seoul drugmaker she had a near-perfect college record, flawless English, and got on well with her colleagues — none of which mattered to her employer once she fell pregnant.
Nine months after she joined, Park said, “They said to my face that there is no place in the company for a woman with a child, so I needed to quit.”
All the women working at the firm were single or childless, she suddenly realized, and mostly below 40.
Park’s case exemplifies why so many South Korean women are put off marriage and childbirth, pushing the country’s birth rate — one of the world’s lowest — ever further down.
Earlier this month Seoul announced its latest set of measures to try to stem the decline, but critics say they will have little to no effect in the face of deep-seated underlying causes.
Many South Korean firms are reluctant to employ mothers, doubting their commitment to the company and fearing that they will not put in the long hours that are standard in the country — as well as to avoid paying for their legally-entitled birth leave.
When Park refused to quit, her boss relentlessly bullied her — banning her from attending business meetings and ignoring her at the office “like I was an invisible ghost” — and management threatened to fire her husband, who worked at the same company.
After fighting for about six months, she finally relented and offered her resignation, giving birth to a daughter a month later. Aside from a brief stint at an IT start-up that did not keep its promise of flexible working hours, she has been a stay-at-home mother ever since.
“I studied and worked so hard for years to get a job when youth unemployment was so high, and enjoyed my work so much... and look what happened to me,” Park told AFP.
Now 27, she has been rejected at several job interviews as soon as she revealed she had a child, and has given up seeking employment, trying to set up her own trading business instead.
“The government kept telling women to have more children... but how, in a country like this?” she asked.

The South’s fertility rate — the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime — fell to 0.95 in the third quarter of 2018, the first time it has dropped below 1 and far short of the 2.1 needed to maintain stability.
As a result of the trend, which has been dubbed a “birth strike” by women, the population of the world’s 11th largest economy, currently 51 million, is expected to start falling in 2028.
Many cite reasons ranging from the expense of child-rearing, high youth unemployment, long working hours and limited daycare to career setbacks for working mothers.
Even if women hold on to their jobs, they bear a double burden of carrying out the brunt of household chores.
Patriarchal values remain deeply ingrained in the South: nearly 85 percent of South Korean men back the idea of women working, according to a state survey, but that plummets to 47 percent when asked whether they would support their own wives having a job.
Employment rates for married men and women are dramatically different — 82 percent and 53 percent respectively.
Now nearly three-quarters of South Korean women aged 20-40 see marriage as unnecessary, an opinion poll by a financial magazine and a recruitment website showed. But almost all children in the South are born in wedlock.

Against that backdrop, the South’s government has spent a whopping 136 trillion won ($121 billion) since 2005 to try to boost the birth rate, mostly through campaigns to encourage more young people to wed and reproduce, without success.
Earlier this month it announced yet another round of measures.
They included expanding child subsidies of up to 300,000 won ($270) a month, and allowing parents with children younger than eight to work an hour less each day to take care of their offspring.
More daycare centers and kindergartens will be built, and men will be allowed — but not obliged — to take 10 days of paid birth leave, up from the current three.
But many measures were not legally binding and carried no punishment for firms that denied their workers the promised benefits, and the package met a disdainful response.
“The government policies are based on this simplistic assumption that ‘if we give more money, people would have more children’,” the Korea Women Workers Association said in a statement.
Seoul should first address “relentless sexual discrimination at work and the double burden of work and housechores” for women, it added.
The centrist Korea Times newspaper also questioned whether such “lacklustre” state policies would bring in real change unless the government tackled the real drivers of women shunning marriage and childbirth.
“Unless these harsh conditions for women change, no amount of government subsidies will convince women having children is a happy choice.”