In their mother’s country, Lebanon protesters clamor for citizenship

Citizenship rights issue had gained new momentum in the ongoing protests. (AP)
Updated 13 November 2019

In their mother’s country, Lebanon protesters clamor for citizenship

BEIRUT: Draped in the Lebanese flag, 22-year-old Dana is bursting with pride at taking part in Lebanon’s “revolution” — even if her home country refuses to give her nationality.
Standing among other demonstrators in the capital, she explains she was born in Beirut to a Lebanese mother and has spent all her life in the country.
But like thousands of others in Lebanon, her father is a foreigner and, with Lebanese women unable to pass down their nationality, she has been deprived of citizenship.
“My parents divorced before I was even born. I grew up with my mother,” Dana told AFP.
“I see myself as Lebanese, but they don’t want to recognize my identity,” she added.
The politicians who do not want to change the century-old law, she says, are “patriarchal” and “racist.”
The right to citizenship is one of many long-standing demands to have found new life in the mass protests sweeping Lebanon since October 17.
The unprecedented show of cross-sectarian anger in the street brought down the government last month — but many other of the demonstrators’ demands remain unmet.
Outside the seat of government, 17-year-old Omar said he’d only ever been to Syria once, but was consistently suffering the consequences of his father’s nationality.
Each year, he has to make his way to General Security headquarters to renew his residency permit — like all other non-Lebanese.
“They treat us like foreigners. It’s humiliating,” he said, holding the Lebanese red-green-and-white flag.
Last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) strongly denounced the law, noting that Lebanon lags far behind some other countries in the region on the issue.
Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen all provide equal citizenship rights to the children of both women and men, while Iraq and Mauritania confer nationality to those born in the country, according to HRW.
At a Beirut protest, Samer stood in a small crowd, raising his fist and chanting against political leaders he sees as inept and corrupt, the majority of whom have been in power since the end of the country’s 15-year civil war in 1990.
“But we need it (citizenship) to work, to sign up our children at school and receive social security,” said the 33-year-old, whose father is Palestinian and who is himself the father of three.
Despite activists campaigning to amend the 1925 nationality law, Lebanese authorities have been reluctant to do so.
In this small multiconfessional country of around 4.5 million, the political system relies on a fragile balance of power between communities.
Authorities fear that changing the law would open the door — especially through marriages of convenience — to the naturalization of some of the majority-Sunni 1.5 million Syrians and around 174,000 Palestinians living in the country, according to official estimates.
Last year, then foreign minister Gibran Bassil suggested amending the law to allow for Lebanese mothers to pass on their nationality — but only if the father was neither Palestinian nor Syrian.
“It’s racism,” said Randa Kabbani, coordinator of the “My Nationality, My Dignity” campaign demanding citizenship for children of Lebanese women.
Of the 10,000 impacted households identified by the campaign, some 60 percent are Syrian, 10 percent Egyptian, and just seven percent Palestinian, Kabbani said.
Others are Jordanian, Iraqi, American or hold European nationalities, she added.
Around 80 percent are Muslim and 20 percent Christian.
Samer said those pushing for reform are not demanding the naturalization of all Palestinians living in Lebanon, “but only those born to a Lebanese mother. It’s a natural right.”
Kabbani said she was delighted the issue had gained new momentum in the ongoing protests.
“Before the movement, women were almost ashamed to speak up about it. But today they’re clamouring loud and clear,” she said.
On Sunday, hundreds of protesters took part in a march organized by “My Nationality, My Dignity” in the capital.
Volunteers with the campaign have erected a tent in the square by the office of the now deposed cabinet to discuss the issue.
When she is not protesting, Dana — the university student — helps spread the word among other protesters so they too can join in her fight.
But the young student says she is under no illusions.
Whether or not a new cabinet includes independent experts as demanded, the key to her finally obtaining her Lebanese citizenship will boil down to political will.
“The day decent leaders take power, the legal amendment will fly through,” she said.


Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia return to talks over disputed dam

Updated 03 August 2020

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia return to talks over disputed dam

  • Khartoum and Cairo have repeatedly rejected the filling of the massive reservoir
  • Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions

CAIRO: Three key Nile basin countries on Monday resumed their negotiations to resolve a years-long dispute over the operation and filling of a giant hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, officials said.
The talks came a day after tens of thousands of Ethiopians flooded the streets of their capital, Addis Ababa, in a government-backed rally to celebrate the first stage of the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam’s 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir.
Ethiopia’s announcement sparked fear and confusion downstream in Sudan and Egypt. Both Khartoum and Cairo have repeatedly rejected the filling of the massive reservoir without reaching a deal among the Nile basin countries.
Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions of its nearly 110 million citizens, help bring them out of poverty and also make the country a major power exporter.
Egypt, which depends on the Nile River to supply its booming population of 100 million people with fresh water, asserts the dam poses an existential threat.
Sudan, between the two countries, says the project could endanger its own dams — though it stands to benefit from the Ethiopian dam, including having access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding. The confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile near Khartoum forms the Nile River that then flows the length of Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.
Irrigation ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia took part in Monday’s talks, which were held online amid the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual meeting was also attended by officials from the African Union and South Africa, the current chairman of the regional block, said Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas. Officials from the US and the European Union were also in attendance, said Egypt’s irrigation ministry.
Technical and legal experts from the three countries would resume their negotiations based on reports presented by the AU and the three capitals following their talks in July, Abbas said. The three ministers would meet online again on Thursday, he added.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attributed the reservoir’s filling to the torrential rains flooding the Blue Nile — something that occurred naturally, “without bothering or hurting anyone else.”
However, Egypt’s Irrigation Minister Mohammed Abdel-Atty said the filling, without “consultations and coordination” with downstream countries, sent “negative indications that show Ethiopian unwillingness to reach a fair deal.”
Ethiopia’s irrigation ministry posted on its Facebook page that it would work to achieve a “fair and reasonable” use of the Blue Nile water.
Key sticking points remain, including how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes. Egypt and Sudan have pushed for a binding agreement, which Ethiopia rejects and insists on non-binding guidelines.