Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of this piece..
Or read the whole Ending Statelessness or Ending Statehood?
* UNHCR: Leal was born in Lebanon but is stateless. Her grandfather was Lebanese but did not register the birth of Leal’s father. As Leal’s father was not registered, he in turn could not register the birth of Leal and her six siblings.
Today, she is married to a Lebanese man but since she doesn’t have any nationality documents, the marriage could not be registered. Without a marriage certificate she could not register the birth of her children. They too are stateless.
“To be stateless is like you don’t exist, you simply don’t exist. You live in a parallel world with no proof of your identity” – Leal
G: This is a Kafkaesque tragedy, or perhaps a comedy, right? I really cannot think of a more sophisticated comedy scenario. If only it wasn't for real!
But wait!... The world is full of this type of absurd comedies.
Lebanon is only one of 27 countries where mothers cannot confer their nationality on their children in the same way as fathers:
Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman- So mostly Middle East countries. 11 of them.
Then there is Sudan, Libya, Burundi, Somalia, Madagascari, Swaziland, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mauritania. 10 African countries
Nepal, Malaysia, Brunei- 3 in Asia
Bahamas and Barbados in the Caribbean, and Kiribati in Oceania.
Then some people list Kenya, Monaco, Yemen and Senegal too. And say Suriname just recently changed its nationality laws to allow women to pass citizenship to spouses and children.
Some countries are “better” than the others as they have laws safeguarding against the creation of statelessness (for example making exceptions for mothers to confer nationality if the father is unknown or stateless). But this, still, is NOT acceptable.
This is not even about equality of the sexes, equality of women.
Women give birth, women carry the baby...
Isn't it ridiculous that there are laws preventing a mother from giving her child a nationality? How is it possible in this day and age? Are we living in the stone ages? It looks so...
Story from Nepal
This was a comment by Nescient S on the article “27 countries limit a woman’s ability to pass citizenship to her child or spouse”
Here is the Nepali woman's dilemma and cry:
* “Being a woman in Nepali is rather sad. I am a Nepali Citizen married to a foreign national. We have a child who was born in Nepal. Neither of us are stateless but our child (a minor) is. Why? Cause I am a woman.
Minor Identity Card (passport/citizenship for children under 16) has been rejected for our child cause the father is not Nepali and mothers cannot pass it to their children (unless father is unknown or the child reaches the age of 16 and meets few criterias), which means we cannot travel. If something were to happen to me, my husband will have to go back to his country and will not be able to take our child with him (My husband can stay in the country on a yearly visa only until I am alive and cannot get a Nepali citizenship).
BUT if I was a man married to a foreign national, my child would be first class Nepali citizen (no need to meet any conditions). He would be able to get minority card (citizen/passport for under 16). My wife could get permanent residency and she would be able to get a Nepali citizenship. How is this fair?
Why shouldn’t my child have the same right as any another half Nepali child, whose father is Nepali? Am I a second class citizen? Is Nepali government saying a man can marry whoever he wants but a Nepali woman has to marry a Nepali guy if the Nepali woman wants the child to be Nepali? Should I be thanking the Nepali government for “changing the law” where my child has to wait for 16 yrs to get a second class Nepali citizenship IF he meets few conditions and has provided nothing for minors? SIXTEEN YEARS not to hold a passport and not able to travel anywhere and be stateless.
I want to ask why is my child’s human rights being violated? I want to ask why is my right to have a family and choose my partner being violated? I cannot have another child cause my second child will be stateless again. So am I to leave my 2 year old child with others and move on with my life by leaving the country?”
I wanted to give answers to this woman's questions; I even started saying “Of course this is not fair! Let alone being unfair, it is ridiculously stupid! The mother of a child is always known. (I'm not talking about surrogacy) and a woman cannot give citizenship to her own child!!” ... Then, I was left without words. Not because it was a very grave situation where words end but because of the extremeness of “stupidity” of it all. Stupidity and ridiculuosity of the laws we are supposed to respect.
Perakati Pole- The Tumbleweed
* UNHCR: As Railya in France eloquently articulates, there is nothing quite as hopeful, or in some cases as elusive, as feeling at home. “In Russian, there is a plant with no roots, perakati pole (tumbleweed). It tumbles. It rolls away with the breeze. That is statelessness. And me, I want to put down my roots.”
G: Yes, feeling at home is so important. But Home is not a country. Home is not a “State” to belong to. Those who think it is are wrong; those who want to make us believe it is, are fooling us. I like the allegory of the tumbleweed. “Perakati pole” might be statelessness to a stateless person in the world we live today, but it doesn't have to be so. “Perakati pole” is, more correctly, homelessness. When you don't have anybody to belong to. Like me. Or like I was and like I would be without my husband and daughters.
* UNHCR: Maria Gandrabura, 74, was desperate. Suddenly she could not withdraw her meagre pension of 1000 Moldovan Lei (50 USD). The authorities refused to replace her old Soviet ID card. Without citizenship rights, she felt left behind in her humble farm house at the end of a dirt road where she grows grapes, cherries and vegetables. “I had nowhere else to go,” the widow said in tears. Today, she has a Moldovan ID card and her pension back – thanks to a UNHCR-supported campaign that helped prevent and address the statelessness of 212,000 people.
G: Thank you UNHCR for supporting the campaign and ending such people's misery. What about supporting a campaign to have a global welfare set in place so that people did not need to have a statehood to live a proper life?
* UNHCR: Until late 2012, 21 years after the break-up of the Soviet Union, over 220,000 people in the Republic of Moldova were holding expired Soviet ID cards. Iulian Popov, Head of the Statelessness and Information Unit at the Ministry of Interior, can understand why Soviet IDs had such a long life: “If you have a Moldovan ID card, you identify with Moldova, but with a Soviet ID you can identify with a huge power.”
G: True. I can understand it too. What if we identify with the world? Isn't that a greater power still?
To Be Continued...