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Lebanon: Citizenship Denied to Children of Lebanese Mothers

(May 24, 2010) On June 16, 2009, a Lebanese court of first instance issued a landmark decision granting Lebanese citizenship to the children of a Lebanese mother married to a non-Lebanese father. Samira Soueidan filed the lawsuit on behalf of her four children, two boys and two girls, after the death of her Egyptian husband about five years ago.

The Lebanese government, which did not take a clear stand during the trial, decided later to appeal the decision. On May 18, 2010, the appellate court decided to overturn the decision of the trial court and dismiss the case.

The appellate ruling, as reported in the media, relied on a 1925 statute enacted under the French mandate that created the present Lebanese Republic. The statute gives Lebanese citizenship to the descendants of Lebanese fathers. The court of appeal conceded that the statute is silent on the issue of whether Lebanese citizenship is transmitted to children through their mother and agreed that the statute is not in line with Lebanon's Constitution or constitutional and international norms. However, the court justified its ruling by finding it lacked jurisdiction to decide on the constitutionality of the law or its compatibility with international constitutional norms recognized by Lebanon.

Plaintiff Soueidan said upon leaving the courthouse that she “lost the battle but not the fight” and promised to take the case to the highest court of the land, the Cassation Court.

According to a 2009 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) field study covering a period of 14 years, from1995 to 2008, there are about 18,000 Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese men and about 42,000 children who are unable to obtain Lebanese citizenship. (FAHIMA CHARAFEDDINE, PREDICAMENT OF LEBANESE WOMEN MARRIED TO NON-LEBANESE (Dec. 2009), available at; Next Round Before the Cassation [in Arabic], AS-SAFIR, May 19, 2010, available at; The Court Takes Away Samira Soueidan's Right [in Arabic], AL AKHBAR, May 19, 2010, available at