UN Report Accuses Egypt of Discriminating against Offspring of Foreign Fathers
A UN committee has said it is worried about Egypt's laws, which deny citizenship to the children of Egyptian mothers and foreign fathers.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) adopted Thursday morning its concluding observations and recommendations on the sixteenth periodic report of Egypt, expressing concern about a discriminatory law against children born to Egyptian women married to non-nationals.
In a press release, the committee expressed its concern about a nationality law which prevents an Egyptian mother married to a foreigner from passing on her nationality to her children. It was also concerned that children born to Egyptian mothers and foreign fathers were discriminated against in the field of education.
The committee recommended that the nationality law be revised so as to bring it into line with the provisions of international human rights conventions.
The committee considered, among other things, as very positive the significant role of the Supreme Constitutional Court in the judicial system of Egypt in upholding human rights and constitutional guarantees, particularly with regard to the protection of equal rights.
Egypt has fallen under media scrutiny for the practice of denying citizenship to children in this category, an especially harsh measure given widespread reports of Gulf Arab sex tourism under the guise of marriage.
According to an article by New York Times in May, children born to women who marry foreigners in Arab countries often “endure a painful awakening that they are not quite like other citizens.”
“In every country except for Tunisia, in fact, they are not considered citizens at all.”
The report cited the case of Joseph Aladdin Huber, who first discovered his vulnerability at the age of 12, when he was ousted from a tennis tournament because of his father’s Austrian citizenship.
There was also the case of Iman Ahmed Wahid, a Syrian girl who was dismissed from school at age 12 because her father was Syrian. “Her formal education effectively ended that day,” noted the report.
According to the New York Times, it is difficult to determine exactly how many women in any Arab country marry foreigners.
“In Egypt, the statistics range from the dubious official figure of 50,000 to 287,000 according to the Center for the Rights of Women,” says the article. “The number of Egyptian children believed affected ranges from 150,000 to nearly one million.”
Adding salt to the wound is the fact that, according to the daily, “Every summer hordes of older men descend on Egypt from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other rich Persian Gulf states, buy a young village girl as a bride for a few months, then abandon her pregnant.”
"There are brokers who the Saudi men go to and say, `I want a girl, I want her fat, I want her blond, I want her young,' " one source told the paper. "You end up with entire villages where many of the kids are not citizens."
“A number of regulations devised to thwart the practice, like requiring a bank deposit of more than $5,000 if the age difference between the two to be married is more than 25 years, are easily circumvented. Women's organizations say a whole network of sleazy lawyers prey on poor villages.”
Ironically, this type of temporary and opportunistic marriage is outlawed by the majority Sunni tradition of Muslims, which includes most Egyptians and Gulf Arabs.
“It is well established that temporary marriage does not agree with the interests of people because it causes loss to the offspring, uses women for fulfillment of the lusts of men, and belittles the value of a woman whom Allah has honored. So temporary marriage was forbidden,” reads a typical assessment of the practice by Nida’ul Islam magazine, a bilingual publication on intellectual thought.
”Opponents of extending citizenship to these children argue that Egypt, as a developing country with nearly 70 million people, cannot afford to suddenly add another million citizens, says the article.
So far, the opposition has thwarted efforts to change Egypt’s laws, although women’s groups are now submitting more legislation to Parliament – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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