How Lebanon’s antiquated citizenship laws deny stateless people and their children basic rights and welfare

How Lebanon’s antiquated citizenship laws deny stateless people and their children basic rights and welfare
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Updated 14 January 2022

How Lebanon’s antiquated citizenship laws deny stateless people and their children basic rights and welfare

How Lebanon’s antiquated citizenship laws deny stateless people and their children basic rights and welfare
  • Under Lebanese law, if a father is deemed stateless, his children inherit his legal status, even if their mother is a citizen
  • At least 27,000 people are classified as stateless in Lebanon, denying them access to work, travel and public services

DUBAI: Speaking in the ramshackle hut he calls a home in the southwest of Beirut, Khodar Khalaf, 58, described his life in four words: “I do not exist.”

Khalaf was born in Lebanon to poor parents who died at a young age. That meant his birth was not registered and he was raised in an orphanage. He should be a Lebanese citizen but he is instead stateless. “I cannot travel, I am not qualified for healthcare and I cannot work. I have no identification papers,” he said.

Khalaf’s case is similar to those of at least 27,000 other people who have fallen through the cracks during a decades-long maelstrom of war, confusion and bureaucratic inertia.

In a country that is fast losing its capacity to look after even its documented citizens, being stateless in Lebanon has become an unbearable curse. With no recourse to state funds or aid, Khalaf is forced to scrounge around to survive.

In addition to the poverty, discrimination and lack of access to the legal avenues or powerful people who could help, the country’s stateless are forced to do whatever they can to scrape by amid an unprecedented economic meltdown that threatens to create a permanent underclass.

According to Siren Associates, a non-governmental organization that advises public-sector clients on governance-reform initiatives, the number of stateless people in the northern city of Tripoli alone stands at around 2,200 — a figure it expects to double over the next 15 years.

In a report titled “The Plight of the Rightless: Mapping and Understanding Statelessness in Tripoli,” originally published in 2019, Siren Associates said some 67 percent of stateless people in the city have Lebanese mothers and 70 percent have Lebanese fathers, yet somehow they still manage to slip through the cracks of a system that ought to protect them.

The report found that in many cases stateless individuals lack basic documentation, such as a birth certificate, that is needed to prove their status, or the financial means or connections to acquire it.




Syrian refugee Rima Jassem holds her newborn girl as she sits with her boys in a small room on the roof of a building overlooking the ravaged port in Lebanese capital Beirut. (AFP/File Photo)

Even in cases where a stateless person marries a documented citizen, their status and that of their children is not always resolved. Under Lebanese law, if a father is stateless his children inherit his legal status, even if their mother is a citizen.

“All my life, I was made to feel less than because my father is Palestinian,” 38-year-old Ahmad, whose mother is Lebanese, told Arab News. “There are so many opportunities I am not afforded, so many job sectors I am not allowed to enter; I cannot even be a taxi driver. I cannot own my own house. I have a four-year-old daughter and she inherited my curse.”

Palestinians in Lebanon have long been deprived of state protections. To prevent them from falling into destitution, the UN Relief and Works Agency offers basic services.

But Ahmad says the UN support is not enough to get by on, especially since the economic collapse in Lebanon began in 2019. Many Palestinians were already confined to camps, denied opportunities to travel and barred from several forms of employment. Now they face even harsher conditions.




People exchange Lebanese pound and US dollar notes on the black market in Lebanon's capital Beirut. (AFP/File Photo)

One partial solution to the problem would be to change the law so that Lebanese women are allowed to pass on their nationality to their children and spouse.

Such a move has been staunchly opposed by successive governments, however, who view the granting of citizenship as a valuable political tool.

The country’s leaders are often given quotas for dispensing citizenship as a kind of political favor. Under Lebanon’s rigidly sectarian system, this is always done along confessional lines and almost always rewards powerful patrons such as businessmen, not the dispossessed.

In 2018, President Michel Aoun granted Lebanese citizenship to more than 300 people in a process that drew criticism for its lack of transparency and accusations of bribery.

INNUMBERS

* 27,000 - People estimated to be stateless in Lebanon.

* 63% - Proportion of non-registered individuals born to a Lebanese father.

* 76% - Proportion of non-registered individuals born to a Lebanese mother.

* 37% - Proportion of stateless who say they have access to healthcare.

* 58% - Higher unemployment rate over the non-stateless.

* 33% - Proportion of stateless who have received no schooling or other education.

Source: SIREN Associates 2019

Similar allegations were leveled against parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri and the prime minister at the time, Saad Hariri, when they too were given citizenship quotas to dispense. That year, a number of Syrian businessmen with connections to the regime of President Bashar Assad were granted Lebanese nationality.

“Anyone useful to the state, whether a businessman, investors or someone with a good reputation, and whose naturalization would be in Lebanon’s interest is welcome,” Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and son-in-law of the president, said at the time.

However, Bassil remains opposed to changing the law to allow Lebanese mothers to pass on their nationality to their children.

Tentative moves to change the system have met with strong resistance. Toward the end of 2021, Mustafa Bayram, a Hezbollah MP and Lebanon’s minister of labor, announced plans to remove work restrictions on undocumented Palestinians and Lebanese.

The political class was outraged by the announcement, forcing Bayram to make a statement saying his “words were taken out of context” and that “what has been forbidden by law until now will remain the same.”




A man wearing a cross necklace and clad in mask depicting the Lebanese flag stands next to flaming tires at a make-shift roadblock set-up by anti-government demonstrators in the area of Daoura. (AFP/File Photo)

Lina Abou-Habib, a prominent feminist and director of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut, has described the Lebanese government an “unapologetically patriarchal regime” as it effectively considers only men to be citizens.

“When you undermine a woman’s right to confer nationality, you undermine a generation’s rights to social services and political participation,” she told Arab News.

“Lebanon remains consistent in denying rights. This requires more than reform; it requires changing the whole system, the whole status quo.”

The country’s political dysfunction is compounded by its economic insolvency. Last week, the Lebanese pound was trading at 33,000 to the dollar, down from 1,500 just over a year ago.

Meanwhile, state subsidies on essential goods such as wheat, benzine and diesel have been chipped away, meaning a full tank of petrol now costs more than the average monthly salary, which inflation has reduced to just $21 in real terms.

Many Lebanese are now almost completely reliant on remittances sent from relatives living abroad. Dollars flowing in from the diaspora have long been a way to supplement an economy largely built on tourism. However, remittance dollars that were once a top up are now essential for many just to get by.




Only 37 percent of stateless people in Lebanon say they have access to healthcare. (Supplied/INSAN)

For the stateless with no access to money from overseas, the situation is growing increasingly desperate. Charitable organizations have been forced to step in where the government has been unable or unwilling to provide help.

“We offer hygiene kits, food distribution, education, legal advice and psychosocial support,” Hassan Bahani, programs manager at Insan Association, told Arab News. “Stateless children and their parents are often victimized and subjected to discrimination, and we offer counseling sessions to children and their parents.”

Charity can only be a short-term solution, however. Theodore Caponis, who led the research by Siren Associates on statelessness, said the denial of proper documentation is a human rights issue that must be urgently resolved.

“Left unaddressed, this issue will trap an ever-growing number of people in a human rights limbo and result in an even bigger challenge to the state,” he said.




Stateless children and their parents are often victimized and subjected to discrimination, Hassan Bahani, programs manager at Insan Association, tells Arab News. (Supplied/INSAN)

“There is an immediate need to simplify and accelerate the process for settling the status of non-registered individuals born to a Lebanese father, and to simultaneously start a nationwide mapping of the stateless population.”

For Khalaf, living in his improvised shelter near the airport, the roar of jets taking off and landing is a constant reminder of his inability to travel. To survive he has resorted to the informal labor market, at times selling boxes of tissues on the roadside.

“The situation is unbearable,” he said. “Five years ago you were able to get by. NGOs had more opportunities to help people like me, neighbors had more means to help as well. But now it seems everyone can barely make ends meet.

“Sometimes I wish I was never born.”


Iran shows off underground drone base, but not its location – state media

Iran shows off underground drone base, but not its location – state media
Updated 56 min 38 sec ago

Iran shows off underground drone base, but not its location – state media

Iran shows off underground drone base, but not its location – state media
  • State TV said 100 drones were being kept in the heart of the Zagros mountains, including Ababil-5

The Iranian army has given some details — but not the exact location — of an underground base for its military drones, state media reported on Saturday, amid simmering tensions in the Gulf.
State TV said 100 drones were being kept in the heart of the Zagros mountains, including Ababil-5, which it said were fitted with Qaem-9 missiles, an Iranian-made version of air-to-surface US Hellfire.
“No doubt the drones of Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces are the region’s most powerful,” army commander Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said. “Our capability to upgrade drones is unstoppable,” he added.
The Iranian state TV correspondent said he had made the 45-minute helicopter flight on Thursday from Kermanshah in western Iran to a secret underground drone site. He was allowed to take blindfolds off only upon arrival at the base, he said.
TV footage showed rows of drones fitted with missiles in a tunnel, which it said was several hundred meters underground.
The TV report came a day after Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf, in an apparent retaliation for the confiscation of Iranian oil by the United States from a tanker held off the Greek coast.
Greek authorities last month impounded the Iranian-flagged Pegas, with 19 Russian crew members on board, due to European Union sanctions. The United States later confiscated the Iranian oil cargo held onboard and plans to send it to the United States on another vessel.
The Pegas was later released, but the seizure inflamed tensions at a delicate time, with Iran and world powers seeking to revive a nuclear deal that former US President Donald Trump abandoned, reimposing sanctions on Tehran.


Iran police tear-gas protesters after building collapse – media

Iran police tear-gas protesters after building collapse – media
Updated 28 May 2022

Iran police tear-gas protesters after building collapse – media

Iran police tear-gas protesters after building collapse – media
  • A large section of the 10-story Metropol building that was under construction in Abadan, Khuzestan province crumbled on Monday

TEHRAN: Iranian police fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse protesters in the southwestern city of Abadan where a tower block collapse killed 28 people, local media reported on Saturday.
A large section of the 10-story Metropol building that was under construction in Abadan, Khuzestan province, crumbled on Monday in one of Iran’s deadliest such disasters in years.
It was the third night of protests in Abadan and other cities of the province which borders Iraq, local media reported.
Security forces in Abadan “used tear gas and shot in the air near the collapse site” on Friday night to disperse hundreds of protesters, who were mourning the lives lost and demanding justice for the perpetrators of the incident, Fars news agency said.
A number of people shouted “death to incompetent officials” and “incompetent officials must be executed,” similar to calls in protests on Wednesday and Thursday nights, it added.
Elsewhere in Khuzestan another protest, in the city of Bandar-e Mahshahr, saw people chanting while banging on traditional drums and hitting cymbals, images published by Fars showed.
People also took to the streets further afield including in the central Iranian cities of Isfahan, Yazd and Shahin Shahr on Friday to express sympathy with the victims of the tragedy, Fars news agency said.
On Thursday night, a shop in Abadan belonging to the family of the building’s owner “was set on fire and destroyed by unknown individuals,” Tasnim news agency reported earlier.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, who is in Abadan, said on Saturday that “two more bodies were recovered” and sent for identification, raising the death toll to 28, according to state news agency IRNA.
Officials, however, have not announced how many are people still trapped under the rubble.
The number of suspects has also risen.
Khuzestan’s provincial judiciary said on Saturday that 13 people have now been arrested in relation with the incident, including the mayor and two former mayors, IRNA said.
In a statement posted on his official website on Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for those responsible to be prosecuted and punished.
First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber told state television that “widespread corruption existed between the contractor, the builder, the supervisor and the licensing system.”
In January 2017, 22 people, including 16 firefighters, died in a blaze that engulfed the 15-story Plasco shopping center in Tehran.


Tunisia party leader banned from travel: court

Tunisia party leader banned from travel: court
Updated 28 May 2022

Tunisia party leader banned from travel: court

Tunisia party leader banned from travel: court
  • Rached Ghannouchi heads the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that has dominated Tunisia’s post-revolution politics

TUNIS: A Tunisian court has imposed a travel ban on the speaker of the country’s now-dissolved parliament, a court spokeswoman said.
The interdiction against Rached Ghannouchi is part of an inquiry into alleged obstruction of justice in connection with the assassination in 2013 of two left-wing figures, the court spokesman said on Friday.
The travel ban was imposed on “34 suspects in this case, including Rached Ghannouchi,” Fatima Bouqtaya, spokeswoman for the court in the Tunis suburb of Ariana, told AFP.
Ghannouchi heads the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that has dominated Tunisia’s post-revolution politics.
Ghannouchi, 81, is a fierce critic of President Kais Saied who in July 2021 suspended the Ennahdha-dominated parliament, sacked the prime minister and assumed executive powers.
Saied then dissolved parliament in March this year. His moves have stoked fears of a return to autocracy in a country where a revolution in 2011 triggered the pro-democracy Arab Spring movement in the wider region.
Tunisia’s judiciary in January opened an investigation against the suspects for allegedly “concealing information” linked to the killing nine years ago of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi.
The Daesh group claimed both killings but Ennahdha critics including a brother of one of the victims accused the party of having “manipulated and slowed down” the case.


US, Netherlands back UN aim to raise $144 million for Yemen’s Safer tanker emergency operation

US, Netherlands back UN aim to raise $144 million for Yemen’s Safer tanker emergency operation
Updated 28 May 2022

US, Netherlands back UN aim to raise $144 million for Yemen’s Safer tanker emergency operation

US, Netherlands back UN aim to raise $144 million for Yemen’s Safer tanker emergency operation
  • In the event of an oil spill, the cleanup alone is expected to cost $20 billion

The US and the Netherlands support UN efforts to address and avert the economic, environmental, and humanitarian threats posed by Yemen’s Safer oil tanker in the Red Sea region.

Dutch Ambassador to the US André Haspels hosted a meeting joined by US Special Envoy Lenderking, Yemeni Ambassador to the US Mohammed Al-Hadrami and representatives from the diplomatic community in Washington, on Friday.

They stressed the importance of raising $144 million to fund the UN’s operational plan, which includes $80 million for an emergency operation to offload the oil from the decaying tanker to a temporary vessel, an official joint statement said.

At a pledging event co-hosted by the UN and the Netherlands earlier this month, nearly half the funds required for the emergency operation were raised, but more was urgently needed to move forward.

Safer is a rapidly decaying and the unstable oil tanker that could leak, spill or explode at any time and could severely disrupt shipping routes in the Gulf region and other industries across the Red Sea, unleash an environmental disaster and worsen the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

By October, high winds and volatile currents will make the UN operation more dangerous and increase the risk of the ship breaking apart. In the event of a spill, the cleanup alone is expected to cost $20 billion.

“We urge public and private donors to consider generous contributions to help prevent a leak, spill, or explosion, whose effects would destroy livelihoods, tourism, and commerce in one of the world’s vital shipping lanes,” the statement read.

Last month, Lenderking and Dutch Ambassador to Yemen Peter Derrek Hof joined UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly on a trip in the Gulf to increase awareness of the imminent risks the Safer poses to the entire region.

“The international community, private sector included, must take action now to address the imminent threats posed by the Safer,” the statement said.


Turkey captures the new leader of Daesh in Istanbul raid

Turkey is keen to up the ante against its NATO allies in order to show its commitment to counterterrorism efforts. (AFP)
Turkey is keen to up the ante against its NATO allies in order to show its commitment to counterterrorism efforts. (AFP)
Updated 28 May 2022

Turkey captures the new leader of Daesh in Istanbul raid

Turkey is keen to up the ante against its NATO allies in order to show its commitment to counterterrorism efforts. (AFP)
  • Ankara aligning with Western security priorities to remind NATO allies of common terror threats, analyst tells Arab News

ANKARA: Turkey captured the new leader of the militant group Daesh in a raid in Istanbul, local media claimed on Thursday.

Turkish dissident news website Oda TV claimed Abu Al-Hasan Al-Hashimi Al-Qurayshi was caught in an operation directed by Istanbul’s police chief, Zafer Aktas, after days of surveillance and preparation, though no official statement has yet been made.
According to Turkish press reports, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to unveil details of the operation in the coming days.
The previous leader of Daesh, Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurayshi, was killed in northwestern Syria on Feb. 3 by US forces.
In recent months, Turkish police have systematically carried out raids against Daesh cells across the country. Earlier in May, a prospective suicide bomber allegedly linked to the group was arrested in Urfa on the Syrian border, while three more people were detained the same week in Bursa.
On Thursday, another Daesh member was shot dead by police while allegedly trying to blow himself up in front of the police department in the southeastern province of Gaziantep.
Experts note that this most recent operation could be used as leverage by Ankara to up the ante against its NATO allies in order to show its commitment to counterterrorism efforts.

It is not a coincidence that Ankara allegedly captured the top figure of Daesh amid ongoing debates about NATO enlargement and Turkey’s accusations against some Nordic countries about their alleged support of terror groups.

Soner Cagaptay, Analyst

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute, thinks that the timing of the operation in Istanbul is telling.
“It is not a coincidence that Ankara allegedly captured the top figure of Daesh amid ongoing debates about NATO enlargement and Turkey’s accusations against some Nordic countries about their alleged support of terror groups,” he told Arab News.
According to Cagaptay, Turkey is aligning with Western security priorities and trying to remind its NATO allies that it helps them against common terror threats.
Turkey is also part of the large international coalition of nations that has spent years fighting Daesh.
During the latest ministerial meeting of the coalition in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also brought up Turkey’s own concerns, saying the fight against Daesh cannot be won with the help of other terror groups.
This was widely interpreted as a reference to Kurdish groups such as the People’s Protection Forces, or YPG, which has received some support from Sweden, which is applying to join NATO — a move Turkey is, as a result, opposing.
“This latest operation in Istanbul is instrumental for Ankara to urge the Western alliance that it is now their turn to understand Turkey’s domestic terrorism concerns that cover not only Daesh but also other terror groups including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — PKK — and its Syrian offshoot YPG,” Cagaptay said.
The reported capture of Al-Qurayshi also coincided with the gathering of the National Security Council, chaired by Erdogan, on Thursday, where details of Turkey’s impending operation against YPG militants in northern Syria was discussed.   
“The operations currently carried out, or to be carried out, in order to clear our southern borders from the threat of terrorism, do not in any way target the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our neighbors and they pose a necessity for our national security needs,” the meeting’s final communique said.
Ankara believes it faces security threats from Manbij, Ain Al-Arab and the Tal Rifat district of Aleppo, which it considers bases for hostile groups.
Erdogan announced on Monday that he would launch the offensive into northern Syria to push back the YPG, and secure a 30 kilometer safe zone to settle Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.
However, a potential military operation — after three previous offensives — does not seem to have received approval from the US for the time being.
“We recognize Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on Turkey’s southern border, but any new offensive would further undermine regional stability and put at risk US forces and the coalition’s campaign against ISIS (Daesh),” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on May 24 in a press briefing.
Colin P. Clarke, director of research at The Soufan Group, thinks that anti-Daesh operations in Turkey can have a significant impact on the group’s presence in the region.
“Even when Daesh still held its territorial ‘caliphate,’ it was dispatching operatives to Turkey to lay the groundwork for financial and logistical support networks. Those networks have paid off for Daesh, as it’s allowed the leadership consistent access to money,” he told Arab News.
According to Clarke, the Turkish government should be incentivized to crack down even harder on Daesh, but there is some concern about a backlash, including terror attacks inside Turkey.
Daesh members have carried out a number of attacks across the country, including at least 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings, and four armed attacks, which have killed 315 people and injured hundreds of others to date.