A detailed report on the risks facing Libyan women married to foreign nationals was issued by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
2. Legal consequences of female Libyans marriage to foreign nationals
2.1 Libyan women married to foreign nationals may lose their nationality, fail to pass it on to husbands and/or children
One of the most important legal effects of mixed marriages in Libya is the issue of losing or obtaining nationality. If a Libyan woman married a foreign national and acquired foreign nationality, she loses her Libyan nationality.
Article 5 of the Libyan Nationality Law No. 24 of 2010 states that: “A Libyan acquiring a foreign nationality may lose his/her Libyan nationality unless authorized by the Ministry of the Interior.”
For Libyan women wishing to acquire the nationality of their foreign husband by choice, or if the law of their husbands’ state grants them nationality, they immediately lose their Libyan nationality, pursuant to the provisions of the previous article.
With regard to the Nationality Law, citizenship is granted only to three categories:
– Individuals born in Libya to a Libyan father; or
– Individuals born abroad to a Libyan father; or
– Individuals born in Libya to a Libyan mother and a father whose nationality is unknown, or is stateless, or whose parents are unknown.
As it is clear, this law has deprived the foreign husband of a Libyan woman and her children of the Libyan nationality, as they are originally considered foreigners.
Although Article 11 of the law allows the Libyan Passport and Nationality Department in the Ministry of Interior to grant citizenship to children of Libyan women married to foreign nationals, this article is ineffective in practice for two reasons:
– This article does not have a legal force, leaving the competent authorities entirely in charge. Meanwhile, children of Libyan males married to a foreign national are considered Libyans and enjoy Libyan nationality by force of law, which is clearly discriminatory.
– The same article restricted the granting of nationality to Libyan children as stipulated in the executive regulations of the law. According to the provisions of Articles 6 and 7 of these regulations, there are many restrictions relating to the acquisition of nationality in this case.
The nationality of the Libyan children born to female Libyans married to foreigners may only be granted after they become adults, with the exception where the father is dead or missing.
If these children become adults, they may be granted the Libyan nationality after filling an application, with their parents’ consent, in addition to the consent of the competent authority in the Social Affairs Ministry to the marriage of the parents.
It also states that it is prohibited to grant Libyan citizenship to the children of Libyan females married to Palestinian citizens.
2.2 Rights to education, health, ownership
Children born to Libyan women married to foreign nationals are not entitled to free education and healthcare because they are considered non-Libyans, and thus are denied the full right to citizenship, civil as well as political rights.
Moreover, the Libyan legislation does not grant foreign nationals married to Libyan women the right to own real estate or buildings except for investment, provided that his investment be shared with Libyan capital or stakeholders, however they can still own movables such as cars.
In addition to the fact that a foreign man married to a Libyan woman cannot own a property in Libya, if his wife dies, inheritance becomes problematic in terms of the possibility of transferring property to him, since it is not permissible for him to own property in Libya in the first place.
Meanwhile, ownership of the property can be transferred to the children resulting from such marriage upon the mother’s death.
Although the right to education and health is guaranteed under international conventions and cannot be discriminated, the Ministry of Education of the Government of National Reconciliation in Libya issued a decree establishing and imposing a financial fee on every foreign individual wishing to attend public schools, when Libyans can study for free.
A. M., 45, is a Libyan woman from the Libyan city of Sabha and is married to a Sudanese husband. She explained that she had been subjected to a discriminatory situation after her daughter obtained a high secondary school diploma.
It was not possible for her to enroll in college at the Faculty of Human Medicine in Libya, since this specialization is limited to Libyans only.
Even though some universities do allow for non-Libyans to enroll in the program, they still ask for large and often un-affordable sums of money to be paid.
2.3 Restrictions on obtaining documents
Another problem facing Libyan women married to foreign nationals is the difficulty to obtain personal and identity documents, especially if the competent authority does not authorize or delay the marriage. The competent authorities may also delay or disapprove obtaining documents in cases where marriage occurs outside Libya, especially when there are procedures to be performed inside Libya.
M. Kh., 33, is a Libyan woman married to an Egyptian national for several years. She said she regretted her marriage whenever she thought of her fate and the fate of her son and husband, who was kidnapped by armed groups.
In her testimony to Euro-Med’s team, M. Kh. said: “If I married a Libyan national, I would have been able to obtain an identity card for my son. But because I am married to a foreign national, I cannot do so without the approval of the Ministry of Social Affairs.”
M. Kh. explained that it is difficult for her to obtain documents from the civil registry of the Libyan state, which refuses to deal with any Libyan woman married to a foreign national or with her children, especially if the marriage was concluded without the approval of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
3.Social consequences of marriage of female Libyans to foreign nationals
All the aforementioned legal restrictions, including the denial of nationality of children born to Libyan women married to foreign nationals and their husbands, except in limited and restricted cases, all reinforced the refusal of the community to marry Libyan women to non-Libyans, further reinforcing strict tribal attitudes.
The following is an overview of testimonies illustrating the inferiority of married women to foreign nationals in Libya.
3.1 Pejorative attitude and tribe influence
The marriage of Libyan women to foreign nationals is one of the most sensitive and complex issues in terms of community acceptance. As a tribal community, Libyan women married to non-Libyan are viewed negatively despite the rising number of such cases.
Women in this position are often called names, defamed, smeared, and spoken ill of and their families’ honor is defamed.
Sometimes, women involved in such marriages are assaulted and their families are pressured to have them live away. Under tribal norms, women should either marry Libyans or stay unmarried, describing the latter as “more honorable and better” than marrying a foreign national.
The influence of the tribe on granting nationality to children born to Libyan women married to foreigners cannot be denied. Women involved in a marriage relationship outside the tribe is considered an outcast, thus denying her the right to inheritance of lands and farms owned by the family or tribe.
The matter is more cultural than political or legal, especially that the majority of Libyans trust personal knowledge about marriage, and, in contrast, they do not often trust anyone who embraces another religion, speaks another language, belongs to another nationality, or who they meet for the first time.
However, it is the law that, through its codification and legalization of this social practice, discriminates against women and violates their rights. Instead, the law should address tribal concerns through legal procedures that protect women’s rights while at the same time changing the collective perception of foreign nationals.
3.2 Libyan wives married to foreign nationals recount their stories
Recounting her story to Euro-Med’s team, A. S., 29, and a Libyan woman from the town of Zawiya, west of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, said she had married Bassem, a 27-year-old Syrian national who has been living in Libya for over 11 years. He worked as an engineer in a private company.
A. S. said: “We married in early 2014, after we got engaged. But I was faced by my parents’ rejection for no reason except that he was a foreign national. After many attempts to convince my family to marry him, nothing changed, so we decided to marry without their consent.”
She explained that she and her husband moved to the area of Janzour, west of Tripoli, and then gave birth to two children, enjoying at first a stable life despite the difficulty of living away from parents and relatives.
However, the beginning of 2017 brought unexpected events.
“At the beginning of the year, two of my brothers attacked me in my house after they knew our location. They stabbed me with a sharp knife in my stomach, beat my husband really hard, and then fired at both his feet. They threatened to kill him if he did not divorce me. My older brother said to my husband, “you either divorce or die.”
She pointed out that she and her husband could not complain to the police for fear of being threatened again, especially since one of their brothers was a central security officer in the capital and, most importantly, that their marriage contract was not documented in the civil registry because they did not obtain approval from the Ministry of Social Affairs, which means that nobody in the state recognizes them as a married couple.
A. T., 35, is a Libyan woman living in Misrata. In 2014 she married Khaled, a 32-year-old Egyptian citizen, after she met him near her place of work. Her husband worked as a blacksmith.
Although her family consented to the marriage, she lost her job at the school where she worked, after the school principal dismissed her because she did not commit to return to work immediately after marriage and found that her dismissal was pressured by faculty members who considered her marriage from a foreign national a shame for the tribe and the region, according to some teachers.
A. T.’s husband quit his work at the shop as well. The shop owner informed him that he received threats of death and burning of the shop if he does not terminate the lease with him.
While studying at university in Turkey, M. S., 24, got to know Kassem, a Syrian who had fled to Turkey because of the war. She said: “After some time of secrecy, I expressed to my mother Kassem’s desire to marry me. She did not object, and said that the marriage should be legal, whereas my father initially rejected, until my mother was able to convince him. After that, he felt comfortable talking to Kassem.”
She pointed out that she and her husband applied for marriage at the Libyan embassy in Turkey in order to pass it on to the Ministry of Social Affairs, but their request was rejected on the grounds that her husband was a refugee. Yet, she married Kassem at the end of 2012 and lived since then in Turkey.
In mid-2016, she decided to return with her family to Libya to live there after she had completed her university studies. When she and her husband applied to the Ministry of Social Affairs to obtain the marriage papers, their application was refused, stating that it was illegal and was not recognized within the Libyan state. They have since lived without any Libyan papers proving their marriage or giving protection and civil rights to their children.
Next will resume with (4. Position of the Libyan Constitution, and international law)
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor is a youth-led independent, nonprofit organization that advocates for the human rights of all persons across Europe and the MENA region, particularly those who live under occupation, in the throes of war or political unrest and/ or have been displaced due to persecution or armed conflict.