Despite being born and raised in Jordan, Mohammed Sharaf does not have the right to work in the country. “Every time I go to a place, they tell me we don’t employ Egyptians, knowing I was born and raised in Jordan.”
Sharaf is not a Jordanian citizen because his father is Egyptian and his Jordanian mother does not have the right to pass on her citizenship to him. Sharaf lives with his parents in the low-income neighborhood of Jabal al-Hussein in Amman. His family is depending on his income, but without citizenship he has few options. If he is not able to find a job soon, he says he is considering moving to Egypt.
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A new coalition hopes to change the legislation, which prohibits residents like Sharaf from obtaining his mother’s citizenship. It’s called My Citizenship Is the Right of My Family, and since its launch in February, talks have been initiated with politicians, including parliament members, to give women these equal citizenship rights. “You’re teaching our children that we are not worthy as citizens of the state to give our identity to our children. It’s a mind-set we must change,” says Narmeen Murad, one of the founding members of the coalition.
Since 2004 some Arab countries like Egypt have given women full citizenship rights, and others have given partial rights as Saudi Arabia decreed earlier this year. However, Lebanon and Jordan, countries that deal with a large number of refugees from surrounding nations, have not budged.
In Jordan, there have been previous movements to change these citizenship laws, but My Citizenship Is the Right of My Family is the largest to date. The coalition hopes that by granting Jordanian women these citizenship rights, it will trigger a change in other discriminatory legislation that affect women such as marriage laws and laws on honor crimes, and eventually give women full equality in Jordan.