Jordanian Women's Rights Activists Protest for Citizenship Rights
Activists demanding citizenship rights for their children pledged on Sunday to demonstrate every week in front of the Prime Ministry until they receive a response from the government.
Nimat Habashneh, who is heading a campaign to amend the Citizenship Law so that children of Jordanian women married to foreigners can receive citizenship at birth, yesterday said the government had been very slow in responding to their demands.
“Everyone was dismayed by the premier’s remarks in a local daily last week that now is not the right time to give citizenship to the children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians,” she said.
“Our slogan is: ‘Now is the right time to give the citizenship to our children.’ We really wonder why the government is doing this and who decides when is the right or wrong time for this,” the activist told The Jordan Times.
“To us it is always the right time for the government to grant us our civil rights,” added Habashneh, who has led 18 sit-ins since last March.
The main demand of the group of activists, who demonstrated at the Prime Ministry Sunday, is a new Citizenship Law that would consider a newborn Jordanian if either the father or the mother is Jordanian.
Habashneh said she met with a government official at the Prime Ministry during yesterday’s demonstration and pledged to hold weekly protests until “we receive an answer from the government regarding our legitimate demands”.
Um Shadi, a mother of five and one of dozens of women and activists who participated in the demonstration, said her family is suffering greatly because her children are not considered Jordanians.
“I have to pay JD40 for each of my children to go to a government school and when they graduate they will have to pay JD270 to get a work permit,” she told The Jordan Times.
Another woman, who declined to give her name, complained that in addition to the fees her children have to pay for work permits, “most of their requests to obtain driver’s licences are turned down by the authorities because they are not Jordanians”.
In January, activists said the Prime Ministry had informed them that it had sent a memo to the interior ministry to consider meeting their main demand.
“The officials informed me that they are still waiting for answers from the interior ministry,” Habashneh noted.
Also among the activists’ demands is including the word “gender” in Article 6 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “there shall be no discrimination between Jordanians as regards to their rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion”.
Women’s rights activists had received assurances from the Royal Committee on Constitutional Review panel members that the word “gender” would be included in Article 6, but the word was excluded from the final draft that was handed to His Majesty King Abdullah, for reasons observers say were “political”.
Activists have stressed the importance of having the word “gender” included, as “it will make all articles in the Constitution clear and nondiscriminatory, and ensure justice for Jordanian women”.
The exclusion of the word “gender” also means that Jordanian women cannot file lawsuits at the projected constitutional court to demand their full citizenship rights, they noted.
Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Rakan Majali was unavailable yesterday to comment on the issue.
The group also wants the government to lift Jordan’s reservations on Article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which calls on member countries to give women the same citizenship rights as men.
Jordan, like most Arab countries, links nationality to blood relation from the father’s side.
Tunisia had for a long time been the only country that gave men and women equal nationality rights with few other countries responding to continued campaigns for the regulation to be changed, Agence France-Presse reported.
But in 2005, Algeria amended its nationality law, giving women the right to pass citizenship to their foreign husbands and children, and in 2007, Morocco said the children of Moroccan women will automatically get the nationality, while foreign husbands can demand the citizenship after five years of marriage and residency in the country, AFP reported.
Egypt followed suit giving women the right to pass their citizenship to their children, while the campaign continues in many other Arab countries
Last week, the UAE president issued a decree granting citizenship to more than 1,000 children of Emirati women married to foreigners, AFP said, citing the official WAM news agency.
Citizenship was granted to 1,117 children of UAE women married to foreigners “who satisfied requirements for citizenship”, WAM reported, adding that the children will receive full citizenship when they reach the age of 18.
By Rana Husseini