Children of Jordanian women struggle for recognition | May S, Children of Jordanian, Nimat Habashneh, Jordanian mother
Children of Jordanian women struggle for recognition Print
May S   

Last October, a group of children, born to non-Jordanian fathers and Jordanian mothers, walked on stage and presented their dilemma before a large audience. The group consisted of people who were labelled in the street according to their father’s nationality, while they all shared a common desire to be recognized as “Jordanian”.

As they captured the audience with the details of their everyday life, they managed to take the issue out of the politicised context and bring the listeners back to the “humane aspect”. They shared their stories on what it means to be born, raised and educated in a country that you call “home”, while it considers you “inferior”.

Shedding the light on their dilemma, it becomes ironic to realize that the females among them are eager to get married to a Jordanian, as it is the only way they can acquire Jordanian citizenship, benefiting from the spouse’s national number. On the other hand, the males are left alone because no Jordanian woman can pass her citizenship to any of them.

On that day, when campaign entitled ‘my mother is Jordanian’ was launched, the attendees listened and sympathized with the group, representing a larger segment of the population, and even offered to push for a solution wherever possible.

However, these promises have failed to yield any results for years. Jordanian legislations automatically grant a foreign woman, married to a Jordanian, Jordanian citizenship after five years. An Arab woman, who marries a Jordanian, also becomes a national after three years. The law only excludes children and spouses of Jordanian women, leading thousands to live a miserable life in a country that they feel they belong to.


Children of Jordanian women struggle for recognition | May S, Children of Jordanian, Nimat Habashneh, Jordanian mother


Many attempts to amend the law and grant Jordanian nationality to this segment of society failed to stand up to an argument that perceives this step as “catastrophic” and “an implicit war against Jordanian identity”.

This argument touches on the sensitivities of a society that lives on “identity politics” and worries about “demographic bombs”, given the geopolitical location in the midst of a volatile region. Opponents of these amendments claim that the “majority of these women are married to Palestinians”, and therefore, any attempt to grant citizenship to their children and spouses harms the Palestinian cause by neglecting the right of return and eventually eliminates the “pure Jordanian identity”.

However, this argument seems to neglect three facts. Firstly, a Jordanian male can also marry a Palestinian lady and she is granted citizenship after three years. This type of marriage can also “help evacuate the Palestinian land”, so why does the “evacuation pretext” apply to women only?

Secondly, why are other non-Palestinian children deprived of this right because of the “Palestinian cause”? Can’t there be a “middle ground” where all rights are safeguarded, including the right to a decent life for all and the right of return for Palestinians as well?

Thirdly, the argument that opponents are supporting is based on inaccurate numbers. There are conflicting figures of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians and the differences are not marginal. While according to one source, the number is of 14,000 women, other sources claim the figure exceeds 60,000 women. This lack of reliable sources undoubtedly helps fuel a distorted debate and awakens fears from all parties.


Children of Jordanian women struggle for recognition | May S, Children of Jordanian, Nimat Habashneh, Jordanian mother


In a recent interview that she gave to a local media outlet, Nimat Habashneh, a prominent Jordanian activist, tried to seek an answer from those who exerted a tremendous effort to abort any amendment that could solve the problem thousands of Jordanian women faced. Addressing them, she wondered “what does a homeland mean to you? What is a homeland anyway? Isn’t it the place that shapes your memory? Isn’t it the place that you feel allegiance to? Isn’t it the place that you will defend till the last breath?”

If all of the aforementioned questions are answered positively, then why is a child, born to a Jordanian mother and a non-Jordanian mother, denied this right to call Jordan “home” with a reassured heart?

The injustice that this segment encounters makes many people question the morals of Jordanian legislation that grants an investor the nationality and deprives others who are yearning for an ID from this right. This ironic stance has made many wonder if “large sums of money deposited in a bank account” are more important than their “overwhelming sense of allegiance to Jordan”.

In fact, all of the stories highlight a painful dose of injustice, but the worst of all, probably, is that spontaneous question that many Jordanian women hear when they go to governmental entities for any transaction. Employees often greet the mothers with a sarcastic question: “who told you to marry a non-Jordanian?”

Apparently, it is not an issue of a “personal choice” or “fate and destiny”, as some people refer to issues of marriage. According to these employees, a woman should have consulted the state, the lawyers and the government employees before proceeding to tie the knot!

On the other hand, a Jordanian man can choose a partner from all continents of the world, without having a single employee scold him for his choice! Men are, apparently, free, but women alone bring the demographic balance to the verge of an explosion!


May S