According to Jordanian law, women don’t have the right to transfer their Jordanian citizenship to their children. That means that if you’re born to a foreign father, you’re closed off from civil rights like state health care, the educational system and the right to vote. Nima Habashne decided to take the fight for her children.
”It started a couple of months after my Moroccon husband had passed away. My then 8-year-old daughter had a heart condition and I didn’t have the money to pay for her medical care. I went to the Prime Ministry to apply for her to recieve care in one of the state hospitals. But the person I talked to just through the papers in my face and said ’This is not Jordan’s responsibility, your children should apply for care in Morocco.’ On my way home I decided that I was going to fight for my rights and the rights of my children.”
Almost seven years have passed since Nima Habashne decided to start the campaign My mother is Jordanian and her Nationality is My Right. Nima and the other 450 mothers that are part of the campaign, fight for Jordanian women to have the same right as Jordanian men to transfer their citizenship to their children. Tens of thousands of mothers and many more children are affected by this discriminatory legislation, which is a result of Jordan making a reservation to Article 9 in the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW.
No rights without money
For children whose mother has a Jordanian citizenship and whose father has a citizenship from another country, the consequences are serious. Without a Jordanian citizenship they are deprived of several fundamental rights within Jordanian society. They are not allowed to vote and don’t have access to state health care or to the educational system. Unless they have a lot of money that is. It’s always possible to pay your way into a university or state hospital. However, most of these families are living on the margins and several of the mothers in the campaign network are widows or divorced.
Without a Jordanian citizenship you have to apply for a special permit from the state to do almost everything, like taking your driver’s license or getting married and there are no guarantees that your application will be granted. You can not even be sure that you will be allowed to stay in Jordan. As a child of a Jordanian mother and a foreign father, you’re a guest in your own country and the state reserves the right to deport anyone who it considers a liability to Jordanian society.
Started on the internet
Nima Habashne’s campaign started on the internet, in a time when the political climate in the Middle East was different from today.
”For several years I ran this campaign through my blog and on Facebook. But after the Arab Spring it felt like we could risk to take it outside, into the streets” she says.
Before she started organising protests herself, Nima Habashne participated in the big demonstrations taking place for general reforms and increased democracy – to learn how a demonstration works and to talk to the participants about the citizenship issue.
”The first time I organised a demonstration outside the Prime Ministry, it was only me and my two daughters. That was March 24th, 2011. Now I have between 20 and 60 other mothers with me each time. And I feel that I have the support of the Jordanian people. I believe that 80 percent of the people in the streets support my campaign.”
Hot political topic
Her biggest opposition can be found on the governmental level. The citizenship issue is a hot political topic in a country that has more refugees per capita than any other country in the world, and where this discriminatory legislation affects around 500 000 people.
However, after many years of continous campaigning, Nima Habashne has gotten a lot of allies. Last month, 11 parlamentarians put forward a proposed law to grant these children civil rights. Not citizenship, but access to basic rights like health care, education and the labour market.
”It’s a first step. You have to start somewhere. But I will not rest until our children enjoy full citizenships” says Nima Habashne.
Field Representative in Jordan for the Swedish women’s rights and peace organisation The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation