Foreigners In Their Own Land | Jordanian Women & Hereditary Citizenship

There is an absurd law – the Citizenship law – in Jordan that women who marry foreigners cannot pass the Jordanian citizenship on to their children. Most reside in Jordan, these are Jordanian women, with, for all intents and purposes, Jordanian kids who were born on this soil and have probably lived here their entire lives. Yet, just like a foreigner, they need to renew their residency permits every year.

While many might think the Citizenship law affects mainly Jordanian women who have married, say, an American or European man, this stubborn law seems to be aimed mostly at Jordanian women who have married non-national Palestinian men. According to a Jordan Times piece by Rana Husseini…

In November 2002, the government announced that it was examining the possibility of amending articles in the Citizenship Law to grant Jordanian women the right to pass on their citizenship to their children. But five months later, then-interior minister Samir Habashneh announced that the government had no intention of granting citizenship to children of Jordanian women married to Palestinians until a settlement is reached in the Palestinian conflict.

“This issue is no longer possible because it means granting citizenship to around half-a-million Palestinians in Jordan,” the minister said.

Habashneh disclosed that there are about 60,000 Jordanian women married to Palestinians and the average number of children in each of these families is around 6.5. “This means giving the Jordanian citizenship to around 500,000 Palestinians,” he said.

It’s kind of strange to have a law that can target both women, children and Palestinians all at the same time. That’s one clever piece of legislation.

But the ex-Minister’s reasoning begs a few questions. Why are those half-a-million Palestinians not granted citizenship in the first place. At this point in time, most if not all, have been born and raised her for more than a generation.

Second of all, what is the difference between the offspring produced by a Palestinian man and a Jordanian woman, versus a Palestinian woman and a Jordanian man?

Third of all, isn’t this, on some level, a way for the state to cause divisions between Palestinians in Jordan and Jordanians, when on a social level they have been intermarrying for years? Most marriages in the country seem to be between Jordanians and Jordanians of Palestinian origin anyway.

Fourth, and more importantly, we are looking at (potentially) 500,000 people who are here illegally, thus making all their activities, such as working, getting an education, access to health care, all illegal activities. They simply do not exist. Making them citizens is likely to mean 500,000 more poor people and 500,000 more unemployed people in the country. This only means we already had 500,000 poor people and 500,000 unemployed people; we’re just calling them that now.

The reason for this post was that while reading the article today, I was reminded of the Syrian man in the Baqa’a refugee camp we visited almost 2 months ago. Married to a Jordanian, with several kids and even a grandson, none of them are considered Jordanian. I remember their sick child, shivering from the cold. And I remember that he had no access to health care. The Jordanian government wouldn’t treat them because they weren’t Jordanian, and the UNRWA and other camp-services wouldn’t treat them because they weren’t Palestinians.

What do you do with a law like that?

Where do you go from there?

The numbers will only continue to grow. What will the state do then? Will it have to revoke the Jordanian citizenship from Jordanian women who decide to marry foreigners?

21 Comments

  • I have been living this story for the past 5 years. My husband is Palestinian who had a Jordanian passport, The problem is it expired and he never renewed it, nor is the Jordanian goverment willing to renew it now. So everyyear we have to renew our temporary residence cards which take 2 months since they want to know who the father is and what is his nationality,(The only passport he carries is an American one). Everyyear they want proof(paper proof I dont understand why they have computer in the goverment offices since they dont use them and all my paper work gets thrown out and they ask for it again). My husbands greatest fear is one day they will tells us sorry we cant renew you permits and you have to leave.

  • Although not anywhere near as tragic as the plight of Palestinians, I have a friend who is married to an Egyptian. They lived here for several years, and on a recent trip back from Egypt he was returned back at the border and not allowed to return for four months. Without help from the royal family, who knows how long it would have been.

    There are several Egyptian pastors, all married to Jordanian women and long term residents of Jordan (one 15 years, one 28 years, the others I don’t know), who were deported in the last year as well. These families, in order to live together, were forced to move to Egypt. Even with fairly high level police wasta, there was no reversal of the decision. Others married to non-Jordanian Arabs are afraid to leave the country even for a visit.

    Do other countries in the region have this law?

  • It is simply called racism and the fear of the so called “baljeky” (Palestinians) descendants that one day,the government has to admit that overwhelming majority of people of Jordan are palestinian descendant ,and that fact by it’s self will send shiver to the spine of “our” government and reveal the hidden agenda behind this racist law……

  • very well nas written but you didn’t suggest any solution to the problem?
    Giving these people citizenship would solve part of their problems right?!
    What about the government?
    Can our state suddenly sign a law that would increase our official population by half a million consider the consquences? Medical care,Ma3ooneh Watanieh, Education,Demographics Etc…
    The other day i was reading an article that states Jordan is going to suffer what you might call a Human Bomb After 15 years in which our resources cant handle the load of people!!(we have one of the highest birth rates in the world)
    it is not racism its just simple that our state cant handle it!!
    I think one of the ways that would try to solve their problem is by considiring them as a special case and helping them in terms of medical care especially the poor families and try to ease their problems,maybe a by joint cooperation between our government and the unrwa for example!!!

  • I am one of those ‘offspring’ affected by this stupid law. Two summers ago, when I attempted fixing my passport problem at various Jordanian authorities, I was told again and again ‘ We can’t help you, your father is Palestinian’. ‘Your father is a criminal’ is what it seemed like they were really saying. I just couldn’t help feeling offended. Thanks for posting this Nas.

  • Surely a large number of the 500,000 Palestinians are studying or working in Jordan as they probably have legal residency so should these folks not be just given citizenship as it probably wouldn’t make much difference in their case

  • You make a good point, this law could be a future disaster in the making and is reminding me of the less severe but also disturbing illegal immigrant situation with hispanics in the US where they’re denied emergency medical treatment at the ER and work overtime for under minimum wage.

    On a different yet somewhat related note: My mom who is of palestinian origin was never granted jordanian citizenship although she is married to a full-blooded jordanian. We (the children) didn’t have a porblem getting it around 10 years ago (via my dad) but for some reason that she’s not sure of it didn’t work out for my mom.

  • I was aware of this issue and it’s a concern to me because I’m marrying a non-Jordanian. I want my children to be able to visit Jordan freely and without any obstacles, but I realize that will not happen any time soon. The issue raised here with concern to Palestinians is something I was completely unaware of. It must be addressed for the sake of those children, and the children of many other Jordanian women who will be deprived of this “privilege”.

  • Nas,
    You more than any one should know that this law applies in the entir Arab world, it was approved by the councel of the Arab interior ministers ( something like that ), so if a Jordanian get married to a Saudi or kuwaity woman, he and his children do not become Saudis or kuwaities or what have you, below is the link to Jordanian women citizenship laws.
    http://www.pogar.org/publications/gender/nationality/jordan-legal-a.pdf
    The fact is not only Jordan has this law but many other Arab countries, and it was solely designed by Arab governments for political reasons.

  • Ammar: I think what stephen said was more along the lines of what i was thinking.

    Masalha1: i’m not aware of the laws in every arab country but i know for a fact that egypt and morocco allow women to pass on citizenship to their children. moreover, our incessant need to compare ourselves to the rest of the “Arab world” will always keep us from progressing anywhere; satisfied with saying “they are worse than us” or “everyone else is doing it”.

  • It took me 5 years to become an American citizen. May be we need to to start comparing the Arabs to such “WORLD” and not other Arab States!

  • No one ever offers a solution to this problem. Nas you and others speak of this as a problem specific to Jordan which is not true, i have tons of stories about those married to Americans who were deported, left out for months or years until their visas and status issues are resolved.

    Remember when a few years ago, it was discussed to give Palestinians in Jordan citizenship, people screamed bloody murder accusing Jordan of wiping out the Palestinian identity, making everyone Jordanian so Palestinians lose the right to return blah blah blah ….i7tarna ya gar3a mnain nboosek

  • I think Jordan immigration laws are too leanant. We need to have stricter laws prohibiting immigrants to come into Jordan. Everyone of these immigrants complains about Jordan when in fact we treat them better from their orginal country. Jobs taken by the outsiders should be given and left for Jordanians. I live in the USA and I am sick of all these people not giving any appreciation for Jordan. When in jordan they say they are jordanian but once they are in the usa oh no i am not jordanian i am pali or from israel. I also feel jordan’s crime has went up due to the high population of immigrants. Everytime something goes wrong in a country we just have to bring them to Jordan and treat them better than Jordanians. I wish they would just show a little more gratitude toward Jordan. I traveled to many arab countries: Egypt,UAE,Lebanon,Syria,Egypt and of course Jordan. Each one theses countries I felt like an outisder because I am not Egyption,Leb, neither Syrian but I am Jordanian and for me to feel like I am a minority where my ancestorers established their life is total crap. I was born and raised and the USA and very grateful ! I just do not understand why these immigrants cannot do the same.

  • Salaam ‘Alaikum

    The law is racist, and it is sexist. Either men and women are equal under this constitution or they are not. And in today’s Jordan, women are not equal, period. When I can pass on my citizenship, and own a gun, and not have to worry that some joker who kills me in the name of honor will spend 2 days in jail, then I might feel differently.

    “Long Live Jordan,” if you were born and raised in the USA, why are you so concerned about a society you’re not living in or contributing to? I’m an immigrant here. I work and pay taxes to the Jordanian government. You don’t. (I am, btw, a Jordanian citizen). If you’re so concerned about what’s going on here, why don’t you come here and try to make a difference?

  • Umm zaid I think you are missing my point. You are correct I do not live in Jordan but I have relatives that do live there and pay taxes. By the way both my parents are Jordanian and I carry the passport as well. Although I was born and raised in the states I am very tied to JOrdan and my family have done great things for the country. I am upset at the fact that these people who live in Jordan show no apprection whatsoever for Jordan. I am also sick of being considered a minority when I go to Jordan. Jordanians are the minority in their own country. I want to know why don’t you people ever complain about how other arab countries treat you especially ones you evolved from . Umm zaid I have come to Jordan and tried to make a difference. Also all you people who say negative things about Jordan never forget the saying do not bite the hand that feeds you.

  • What a great Issue,
    I like your article very much, it is very informative, I was searching Jordanian Citizenship and came to your site.
    My comment is: I wish someone in the Jordanian government would respond to why, even though her majesty the queen’s decree, granted Jordanian mothers the right to pass their citizenship to their children was confirmed in majless alnuwab to become law, Jordanian mothers with (Jordanian Children) called by some government officials in the ministry of interior, can’t pursue giving their children their right under the granted decree.

  • This is a message to some people who are sensitive toward the Palestinians with double identities. I do not agree to condemn any country. The issue here is that Palestinians need to remain Palestinians in order for us as Arabs to be able to fight against our enemy.
    Being Palestinian does not mean that I am denying the country of residency favors, but it means that I am only strengthening my roots. In addition to this, not all Palestinians outside Jordan are saying that they are Palestinians. Do not expect from the current generation to be real Jordanians. A last word, Palestinians are normal people, they are neither prophets nor the chosen people. They are human beings, and therefore they have the right to do mistakes!
    Finally, thank you for being host for the refugees, and let me tell you that the most of the governments are not soft regarding refugees unless there are political gains to the country.
    By the way, the issue here was Jordanian women and not “Jordanian or Palestinian”.

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