To some extent, it is not surprising that the Syrian Government has taken the position articulated by Dr. Muhammad Habash, who said that the government has denied Syrian women their natural right to pass their citizenship to their children under the pretext of protecting the right of return to Palestinian refugees.

We have gotten used to this government, ever hostile to women’s issues, finding every possible means of maintaining the current state of violence and discrimination against women in the Syrian society. It entirely matches the male patriarchal mentality that dominates this government and is expressed by most of its members, men and women alike.

Yet it is truly strange that this government sees no shame in denying the rights of its citizens under the feeble pretexts of an Arab League resolution, a political decision that falls outside the scope of the “Syrian Women Observatory” and which we don’t care to discuss here. What does interest us, however, is that this and other political resolutions must not be used to deny Syrians their citizenship rights. And it goes without saying that the rights of the citizenry are paramount.

We reject unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms the amended bill about which Dr. Habash has spoken, which excepts Syrian women married to Palestinians from the right to pass on their nationality, since these women are Syrians first and foremost, and their rights are Syrian rights regardless of any other circumstance or political decision. It is their right, like any other Syrian women, to pass on their Syrian nationality to their children, simply by merit of having borne them.

And in fact, this notion in no way contradicts either the Arab League resolution or any other resolutions related to the right or return, since the child himself would retain the long-awaited Palestinian nationality that he inherits from his father. Because Syrian law prohibits dual citizenship, while Syrian women married to Palestinians are going to be “excepted” from passing on their citizenship in the interests of the right to return, it is better then to amend the “right of return” allowing dual citizenship holders and saving by this the right of return as well. After all, the Arab League resolution itself does not stipulate the means with which to “preserve the right of return”!

Furthermore, linking this resolution to the right of Syrian women to pass on their citizenship is a false one and of no legal force, as evidenced by a number of Arab countries which have granted women this right, the most recent being Algeria, and before that Morocco and Tunis and Egypt. And we don’t see these countries accused of renouncing the right to return just because they have reaffirmed this basic right of their female citizenry: that their children have the right to inherit their mothers’ citizenship.

In reality, we doubt the Syrian government’s excuse, and we don’t discount the possibility that the amended resolution will be also rejected for reasons related to Syrian women married to Kurds who are denied Syrian citizenship. Even if this matter is resolved, the government will find other reasons to express its patriarchal culture which already infringes the roots of the Syrian constitution, meant to be the lone standard of citizenship.

By failing to affirm their basic right to pass their nationality to their children, regardless of the nationality of the husband, the violation of the civil rights of Syrian women is contemptible and unacceptable, no matter the excuses or justifications. The Syrian government must abandon these fantasies once and for all and adopt the principles of civic equality, in terms of both rights and responsibilities, among all members of Syrian society, male and female alike.

By Bassam AlKadi, 20/2/2009, (The Syrian government must find a solution to the “right of return” that doesn’t infringe the rights of Syrian women!)
Translate by: Tyler Golson

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