Civil rights granted to children of Jordanians and foreigners
Jordanian women married to foreigners achieved a limited victory on Sunday, when Prime Minister Abdallah Ensour announced an easing of restrictions faced by children in mixed-nationality marriages.
Jordan, however, will not ease its strict citizenship rules to allow female citizens to pass their nationality on to their children or partners.
Hundreds of thousands of children of Jordanian mothers and foreign fathers, including many who have lived in the kingdom their whole lives, will now enjoy basic civil rights. But the move falls short of the demands of campaigners to grant automatic citizenship.
Interior Minister Hussein Majali said that the law would benefit 355,923 children of 88,983 mothers.
Children of Jordanian mothers will now have free education in government schools until secondary level, free healthcare in state hospitals, and the right to work in jobs previously restricted to Jordanian citizens. They will also be able to invest in the kingdom and own property, obtain a private driver's licence, and be granted a special national ID card.
Mothers who want to claim these rights for their children must have been residents in the country for at least six months.
There are 52,660 Jordanian women married to Palestinian men - as well as 8,486 married to Egyptians, 7,731 to Syrians, 4,549 to Saudis, 2,822 to Iraqis, 2,516 to Americans and 2,048 to Lebanese, according to the latest official statistics.
Demographics appear to be the main motive for denying Jordanian women the same citizenship rights as men. The official justification is that any easing of the law would encourage an influx of Palestinians into the kingdom. Jordanian officials also say that it could lead to Israel expelling Palestinians to Jordan.
|[Changing nationality laws] could change the demographic balance and might lead to depopulating Palestine
- Prime Minister Abdallah Ensour
"[Changing nationality laws] could change the demographic balance and might lead to depopulating Palestine… the eases in restrictions will take into account meeting the needs of the children and not neglecting the rights of Palestinians," said Ensour.
"The eases to restrictions for the children of these women are a culmination of joint efforts between the government and the efforts of those pushing for a parliamentary initiative to ease restrictions, showing the continuous cooperation between the executive and the legislative branches."
Jordan tightened nationality restrictions for Palestinians after the first intifada in 1989, when it severed its residual administrative and financial ties to the West Bank, amid sweeping popular support for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
MP Mostafa Hamarneh, who has led the campaign for civil rights of children in parliament, told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "This was a landmark decision and is an important step towards equality between men and women."
Activists welcomed this as a first step in what they hoped would be changes that could eventually lead to granting full citizenship rights for their children.
"The decision is an important step forward to attaining rights for the children of Jordanian women," said campaigner Nima al-Habashneh. "The statements of officials are an explicit recognition of the rights of women and their children… the ease in restrictions is only the starting point to obtaining more rights that will hopefully culminate in granting nationality."
Habashneh's "My mother is Jordanian and her nationality is a right for me" campaign started in 2006 - though critics have argued that, if successful, it would turn Jordan into an alternative homeland for Palestinians.
Although Ensour stressed that the new move would not grant nationality, he did say officials will not deny the rights of those who have already applied for Jordanian citizenship.
This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.