Yasmina and Myriam told me to post this….

Posted: December 21, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Women ‘punished’ for marrying non-Jordanians

Marrying non-Jordanian men has put Jordanian women and their children in dangerous and costly situations.

Last updated: 20 Dec 2014 07:26

Women demonstrate for their children’s rights regardless of their fathers’ nationality [Areej Abuqudairi/Al Jazeera]
Amman Khaled al-Maani sat neatly on one of the brown velvet mattresses lining his parents’ living room in southern Marka, Jordan, flipping through his schoolbooks.  

The 13-year-old told Al Jazeera he “hated” school five years ago, when his teacher asked him to return textbooks she gave to him by “mistake”. He was not entitled to them, she said, because he was Egyptian.

“But my mother is Jordanian,” Khaled explained. 

It was the first time he had encountered the reality that in his family of eight, only his mother was a Jordanian citizen, while he and his six siblings – despite being born and raised in Jordan – remained “second-class citizens”. While Jordan’s citizenship law states that “children of a Jordanian [man] are Jordanian regardless of where they were born”, Jordanian women cannot pass on their citizenship if married to non-Jordanian men.

Khaled’s mother, Laila al-Maani, and thousands of Jordanian women have staged more than 50 protests over the past decade at sites ranging from government offices to the Royal Court, demanding full rights for their children. Last month, the government finally responded to their campaign, rejecting their demands of full citizenship for their children and instead implementing a scheme of “benefits” to “ease” the children’s access to some services.


RELATED: Jordan protest turns violent


The benefits, which apply to children but not husbands, would provide improved access to primary education in public schools, health insurance and driver’s licenses, and an exemption from fees associated with residence permits and work permits.

The decision has sparked mixed reactions, with some touting it as a “step forward” and others maintaining that it has only reinforced gender discrimination in the country.

“We are not half citizens or refugees in our country to be granted benefits instead of full rights,” said activist and TV journalist Aroub Soubh, leader of the My Citizenship is a Right to My Family coalition.

Although activists described the outlined benefits as “insufficient” and “disappointing”, some said it was at least progress towards ending the plight of thousands of Jordanian women.

“It is a very small step towards achieving [for] women more than just basic human rights … in the future,” Nima Habashna, who established a grassroots campaign demanding full citizenship rights for the children of Jordanian women, told Al Jazeera.

The new government benefits aim to help 365,000 people living in Jordan, born to 82,000 Jordanian mothers married to foreigners, according to government figures. Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour has confirmed that the decision “is not a step towards granting full citizenship or conscription into the army” for these individuals.

“This is a humanitarian issue that impacts the children of Jordanian women living among us,” Mohammad Momani, Jordan’s media minister and government spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.

One woman, who spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, said her 20-year-old son was beaten by police for failing to present an ID at an Amman shopping centre. “Shouting ‘my mother is Jordanian’ saved him from death or prison,” she said. A few weeks later, she said, her son attempted suicide after being denied a driver’s licence.

In another case, to send her eldest son to university, Mashal al-Zoubi spent 10,000 dinars ($14,000) – three times the tuition for a Jordanian citizen. His annual work permit costs the family 400 dinars ($565), but he is still unable to work, as priority is given to Jordanians. Another of Zoubi’s sons works for a cleaning company that confiscated his passport, as they do with all “migrant workers”.

“We feel that our children are punished for us marrying non-Jordanians,” Zoubi, a mother of four who is married to an Egyptian, told Al Jazeera.

Women must have lived in Jordan for five consecutive years with their children to be entitled to the government benefits, a violation of “people’s right to move freely and pursue job offers and education opportunities abroad”, Soubh said.

Jordanian officials, meanwhile, cite their fear of having Jordan become an “alternative homeland” to Palestinians as the reason for not granting full citizenship rights to the children of Jordanian women. “We do not want to empty Palestine and achieve the goals of the occupiers,” Ensour told journalists at a recent news conference.  

According to official figures, 52,650 Jordanian women are married to Palestinians – the bulk of the 82,000 Jordanian women married to foreigners. Although King Abdullah II has publicly rejected the notion that Jordan could become an “alternative homeland” to the Palestinians, fears persist among East Bank Jordanians that the government’s new measures could lead to a demographic change.

“Absolutely, a fear of a demographic change in Jordan is there, whether it is by Palestinians, Iraqis, or even Syrians,” said Mohammad al-Khawaldeh, a retired general and a strong opponent to granting full citizenship rights. “In any society, granting full political rights to one group would be at the expense of other groups.”

Habashna disagreed, calling the Palestinian issue “an excuse for officials to hang their lack of commitment to ending discrimination against women”.

“If that was a good, sound reason, why do they grant full citizenship rights to children of Jordanian men who marry Palestinian women?” she added.

In response to this, Khaled Kalaldeh, the minister of political development, noted that under Islamic law, men are responsible for Nafaqah (providing financial support for his wife and children during and after marriage). “Activists have to choose whether we apply Islamic law or not. If they drop their right to Nafaqah, then they can demand full citizenship rights to their children,” he told Al Jazeera.


RELATED: Inside Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp


The new measures, analysts say, are an attempt by the Jordanian government to reach a compromise, addressing the needs of Jordanian women while also taking regional politics into consideration.

“They must have been between a rock and a hard place in this issue,” said Abeer Dababneh, a professor with the University of Jordan’s women’s studies department. “They had to meet some of their obligations to human rights treaties by addressing basic human rights needs, while being very careful with the political question of Palestine.”

But as the “benefits” hinge upon the prime minister’s decision and are not codified in any law, women fear they could change anytime. “I am left with so many questions; will these benefits be interrupted if one of our children has a job offer abroad for a year or so?” Zoubi said. “Or will they end if we die?”

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Comments
  1. eunsoljun15 says:

    I think this proposes a question of the refugee issue that we dealt with last term. With the limited resources that Jordan has, is it Jordan’s responsibility to take in all these “foreigners” and give them the rights the same as those that have the Jordanian citizenship? Why is it that women are not allowed to pass on their Jordanian citizenship while the men have the full guarantee to? I am curious why is it that women who are responsible for producing generation after generation are the ones not allowed to pass on their citizenship to their children.

  2. Marah Tarawneh says:

    1. Saying it will be solved by giving “benefits” sounds kind of strange, because really if we are talking about “reaching a compromise” let’s at least call them rights (because that’s what they should be) not “benefits” as in something giving to shut us up by the generosity of the law.
    2. Mohammad al-Khawaldeh’s argument is invalid because having “a fear of demographic change” should be for both genders. Why is he considering the children of Jordanian men and non-Jordanian women a natural part of the country but the children of Jordanian women and non-Jordanian men an addition that will drastically change the demographics. If we are being equal here, then either both genders get the right to pass their citizenship or both genders don’t pass their citizenship, unless both the mother and the father are Jordanian. Otherwise, they are being treated unequally under the law.
    3. Khaled Kalaldeh’s argument does not make any sense. Saying “activists have to choose whether we apply Islamic law or not.” sounds as if the Islamic law states that women are not allowed to pass their citizenship, and I’m sure that it does not. On the contrary, Islamic law would suggest making life easier on everyone, and by the examples giving in the article, not passing the citizenship makes it way harder. Also, Nafaqa has nothing to do with citizenship! With this mindset, it’s like saying you either make the women useless part of the family and let the men be in charge of it all by Nafaqa, or the other way around, make the men useless and let the women in charge by passing citizenship. It shouldn’t be this way because both women and men have to be in charge, and both Nafaqa and women passing citizenship to their children are elements that help raise the children and provide them with resources.

  3. Juliana Kaldany says:

    This is totally unjust.A friend of mine’s dad is Palestinian but her mother is Jordanian. She was born in Jerusalem and she’s lived all her life in Jordan. Her American aunt was granted citizenship for marrying her uncle, yet she’s treated like a complete outsider.
    The reason for all of this is the existing gender discrimination both culturally and legally. Reasons provided in this article are complete BS. Ensour claims he will not create an “alternative homeland” for Palestinians and “We do not want to empty Palestine and achieve the goals of the occupiers”. Isn’t it a bit too late for that? The goals of the occupiers have been reached a few decades ago so you might as well make the generations produced out of it feel at home.
    All the excuses in this article were simply that, just excuses. The mindset of many women in this country is to accept this discrimination. It is all they’ve ever been exposed to so they believe that it’s what’s right. The excuses were pretty flimsy and pathetic and I hope more people can see that so our government can start taking steps in the right direction.

  4. salehqadi says:

    I totally agree with what the government is doing, at least at this point. If we look at Jordan, only about half of it are Jordanians (including childs from a Jordanian dad and a foreigner mom) and the others are citizens of other countries if most these men married Jordanian women who were able to pass the Jordanian citizenship to their children, the population number will be HUGE. We, as Jordanians, are looking forward for the Syrians to go back to their countries after the problems are over, same for Palestinians who agree with us on rejecting the alternative homeland idea, as King Abdullah once stated: “The issue of the substitute country is being raised from time to time by different parties but Jordan will never be an alternative homeland to anybody” so we’re looking forward for the day we only have Jordanians in Jordan, and with small resources, the number of population better be as small as possible.

  5. Jude Hadadeen says:

    This is completely unfair. I really don’t understand why women can’t pass their Jordanian passport to their children. This further shows the sexism some Jordanian officials have and it is clearly reflected in this ignorant law. I agree with Marah, yes, a few of the arguments mentioned make no sense. It seems as if these Jordanians officials that this article quoted are only making random excuses to cover up the ugly truth behind women not passing their Jordanian passport. Jordan is denying generations from a tangible proof of their identity as half Jordanians.

  6. Daniel Leal says:

    It is not a government’s job to chose who is granted citizenship when one’s own parent belongs to the state ruled by said government.

    The Palestinian issue, while real in terms of numbers, is false in terms of identity. The children born into to a Palestinian father and Jordanian mother, hence half Jordanian, should not be tainted by a game of hegemony between Israel and Jordan, in regards to the West Bank, especially when kids born from a Jordanian father and Palestinian mother are granted Jordanian citizenship. Are women seen as being less than men?

    The West Bank itself will never be fully evacuated by the Palestinians by will. The argument for the changing demographic is valid, yet such a change is imminent. The demographic of a country will always change, specially Jordan which accepts many refugees. The difference is that this change one can see coming.

    It is understandable to be afraid as a Jordanian that someone may take advantage of your hospitality. One’s family is not of one’s choosing. Conforming to the status quo because it feels safe is not fair for the children who have to live their life discriminated, possibly even cultivating anger, solely so the Jordanian citizen may feel safe, specially when the rule only applies through the woman.

    We should send a letter to King Adbullah urging him to change this situation, at the very least opening up a conversation on the matter.

    • salehqadi says:

      In that case, it isn’t the Chinese government’s job to tell Chinese people to not have more than one kid right? But it does despite that!! Governments have to take steps in that direction so they wouldn’t be in a situation of an uncontrolled chaos.. The control in that case is having a bigger population in China, and in Jordan’s case, what I talked about above.

      • One thing I’m not quite understanding is the idea that what the Jordanian government is doing is helping keep the population growth under control, is China is attempting to do. But the issue isn’t the population itself, but rather the demographics of it. Whether or not this woman’s eight children are considered Jordanian or not, they are still eight children. No more, no less. So if this issue brings into question the scarcity of resources and how a larger population would be difficult to provide for, I’m afraid that isn’t very accurate. If it is the idea that Jordan may become a safe haven for many more immigrants, I don’t think that will happen either. In fact, considering Jordan’s scarce resources will, at some point, deter people from coming.

      • salehqadi says:

        Well yeah I agree with you, but the whole region knows about the scarcity of resources but they still choose to come to the second poorest country in terms of water. When you think about it from a different side you’ll know why they come. I mean think about it from a Gazawi or a Syrian or even a Libyan perspective when you see the army destroying everything and killing everyone on their way you would just choose to live in a country that has peace and not resources, you wouldn’t consider resources but you’ll only think about peace.

      • Yes, but those refugees are still going to come, and I’m pretty sure most of them aren’t going to marry Jordanian women, first of all. Second, wasn’t it His Majesty that said that we can’t just turn them away? Whether or not we decided to give these people citizenship, it doesn’t really make a difference.

    • As for the whole idea of Jordan becoming an alternate homeland, saying that is, in a way, demeaning the whole conflict. I don’t think Palestinians are willing to give up their homeland that easily. And this conflict isn’t going to be solved soon; I can see it taking decades. Considering that, I think the Palestinians are going to need a place that is just as welcoming to them as it is to its own people. I feel like the fact that they’re keeping citizenship away from these people is almost like treating them like a burden. That’s not cool.

      • salehqadi says:

        Of course it makes a difference. If some refugees chose to marry Jordanian women who will pass the citizenship to her husband, then that family will ‘grow’ in Jordan and stay there and probably the husband will stay there when he had opened a business or found a job to get money for him and his family. Not giving citizenship makes people want to go back to their ‘real’ homes and not just stick here, that is the point of the government, even if they keep coming they’ll go back some day.

  7. Zaid Khalaf says:

    I don’t understand why women can’t pass their Jordanian passport to their children, this shows the sexism some Jordanian officials have and it is shown in this law.The mindset of many women in this country is to accept this problem, It is all they’ve ever been exposed to so they believe that it’s what’s right and don’t know the rights they have to fight for.

  8. I’m very neutral when it comes to this case . I look at this issue from many different perspectives. I don’t believe that the government is not giving the Jordanian women the right to pass Jordanian passport to their children because they want to have discrimination against women. I Also disagree with Habashna because the Palestinian issue or what is known as the “alternative homeland” is threatening to Jordan and its limited resources,as well as I believe that the “alternative homeland” is what the occupier (Israel) wants as they maybe need more space for Israelis to live in and more space to build more settlements. My uncle has married a Canadian woman and they have now 3 children that have the Jordanian passport even though they have never been to Jordan for more than a month and they do not speak Arabic at all,while my mom’s friend is married to an Egyptian man and has 5 children whom lived for more than 10 years in Jordan and they speak Arabic with the Jordanian dialect but they are not granted the Jordanian citizenship.

  9. farah sinokrot says:

    This is one of the reasons for the west to blame this oppression or inequality on religion rather than on tradition and tribalism which Jordanian law is built on. However, I don’t think this can be easy changed because in Jordanian law if a woman is killed because she has dishonored the family even though the accusation is false or true the man doesn’t get punished even thought he killed a person, hence changing this law into letting Jordanian woman’s children get citizenship from her will be very hard to change.

    • salehqadi says:

      The law changed at the beggining of last year, now the man who killed that women in the name of ‘honor killing’ gets punished. In the past year and after that law was declared, the honor killing in Jordan decreased by 70% and two people were recently sentenced to death for killing their sisters in the name of honor killings.

    • Mallak Al Husban says:

      Well said^. This law is just another reason westerns can use to back up their outrageous assumption regarding the Arab world and Arabs in general. We’re just giving them one more excuse to disgustingly portray us as “endless, timeless” people. Not being able to pass down her citizenship is both a form of oppression and a sexist thing. Why can’t she do so? is she less than a man somehow? To get justice from the outside, we should be just from the inside.

  10. yasminemalas says:

    The problem with this is not only that of gender inequality but also that of identity. The deprivation of a Jordanian citizenship starts to puzzle the succeeding generations whose fathers were not Jordanian citizens but regardless made their living in the country to raise their children with their Jordanian wives. It begins not only leaving the children with a question of their nationalities, but further than that, who they are in general. What is their identity if they are both apart and alienated from the very same country?

    • eunsoljun15 says:

      I agree with Yasmine that this is a question of identity as well. How are the children going to identify themselves if the citizenship of one of their parents is not even guaranteed?

    • Mallak Al Husban says:

      I completely agree with Yasmine, and I think the most essential part of it would be demeaning women and not seeing them as citizens who are eligible to pass down such thing. It’s very sexist on so many levels.

  11. This is completely unfair in my opinion and since Jordan is a country that is modernizing rapidly in terms of infrastructure but more importantly containing a large feminist movement it should change. Other countries have this I believe, the first one to come to mind is Morocco in which only men can pass down citizenship. Personally I am against this and fundamentally it is implying that if women are married to a foreign man their kids are a product of the man and thus the man’s nationality which is extremely offensive and just flat out wrong. If I was a child and my citizenship was denied simply because my mother was of the nationality and not my father I would feel like my heritage is being discredited and invalidated. What Saleh is saying should also be taken into account but it prompts the question: If Jordan recognizes the inequality in society and will take action on some fronts why not others?

  12. Bridghid Sheffield says:

    It is totally unfair that woman can’t pass down citizenship but men can. It is sexism at it’s best and the fact that it is legal is ridiculous. I agree with Will and I believe that the women of this country should unite and step up to this unequal oppression with a feminist movement that will hopefully make a change.

  13. We live in a patriarchal society, very few people deny that. If you celebrate, like some in this class, you see patriarchy as something intertwined with our traditions and identity, and therefore, you see patriarchy as essential for our identity to continue to exist. I am now addressing that group of people, and read this carefully. It is completely logical that someone would denounce patriarchy, and not believe that it is intertwined with our identity, while still having the same identity as yours! It may be hard to believe that those kinds of Jordanians exist- a maternal Jordanian, an Palestinian-Jordanian, and-god-forbid- an athiest Jordanian. The government’s job is not to maintain and uphold the rights of the majority, but of all Jordanians.

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