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Over the past few days, and in their attempt to reconnect the massive diaspora which has any relation to Lebanon back to their great-great-great grandfather’s home country, Lebanon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants launched a new website (and an app) that allows anyone with a Lebanese forefather anywhere around the world to reclaim the Lebanese nationality.
It’s estimated that the diaspora with Lebanese origins includes approximately 7 million people in Brazil, 1.5 million in Argentina, half a million people in the United States and Colombia, among other countries.
If you go to the website (click), you’ll be greeted with all the hopeful messages about the high worth that the Lebanese citizenship bestows upon someone whose grandfather to the nth degree was Lebanese. Some random person “[remembers their] grandfather’s stories about Lebanon in the summer – sunny days, warm nights family gatherings, singing, laughing…” because nothing says the right for nationality than to have someone enjoy a midsummer Lebanese night in Faraya.
The website is admittedly appealingly-built. You scroll down for 3 seconds and encounter a button to check whether you’re eligible or not. The eligibility criteria are as follows:
To the backdrop of a picture of a woman, you are told that you need to have a male relative be of Lebanese origins or be the wife of a Lebanese man.
In fact, to make it easier for foreigners to be tempted into trying out their luck, there’s a page which you can check to send in a request for the government to assess whether you’re eligible for the citizenship or not. In that page you’ll find requests for information going back to a great-great-great grandfather and some random uncle that you have. Grandfathers, not grandmothers. Uncles, not aunts. You’re also allowed to upload any data for further relations going way more back than that:
Of course, if you’re a woman of Lebanese heritage that doesn’t fit the patriarchal criteria, your best bet is to find a Lebanese man to marry. As you know, there are a ton of benefits involved in the Lebanese citizenship as detailed by that website.
I mean, they want to guarantee you your political rights, except you can’t vote because they won’t hold elections. They want you to be sure you can own as much land as possible, except you won’t be able to because of all the taxes they’ll throw your way. They want you to be sure you have the right for social security and benefits, except those barely work most of the time, and the list goes on.
To be honest, the only reason the Ministry wants you to become Lebanese again is to increase the number of Christians in the country and stabilize the demographic ratios again. They might as well just add a requirement for your religious background in there to stop fooling anyone.
It’s horrifying that a great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather is more relevant for someone’s nationality claim here than their actual Lebanese mother. Someone who’s a 10th generation Brazilian who has a grandfather from his father’s side who happened to be Lebanese has a claim to become a citizen, but not the children of any Lebanese woman if she marries a foreigner. Someone who has no idea where Lebanon is on a map but who happens to have a Lebanese great-great grandfather can now become a Lebanese citizen, but not the children of a woman who is an actual Lebanese woman.
I’m all for someone who has a rightful claim for the Lebanese citizenship to get it back. It is their constitutional right, after all. But what kind of rights are we talking about here when more half of our country can’t even be included in it? I didn’t know Lebanese nationalities were encoded in the genetic makeup of sperms but not ova.
This program isn’t a disgrace in itself. Our nationality laws are, and it’s high time they change – especially now that there’s a few million Brazilians, Columbians, Argentinians, and what have you, who have no clue what Lebanon is that can suddenly find themselves becoming Lebanese.