Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

To be or not to be an Egyptian

Mona El-Nahhas explains controversial amendments to the nationality law


To be or not to be an Egyptian
To be or not to be an Egyptian

On 20 September the cabinet approved amendments to Law 26/1975 regulating the acquisition and revoking of Egyptian nationality.

The law doubles the waiting period for the offsprings of an Egyptian mother and foreign father to acquire Egyptian nationality from one to two years following an initial application and limiting such applications to juveniles. Egyptian women married to non-Egyptian men first gained the right to pass their citizenship on to their children in 2004 after years of lobbying.

Besides this modification the draft law applies new conditions for revoking nationality.

Under the proposed amendments nationality can be withdrawn from anyone who provided false information in its acquisition. Citizens can also be stripped of their nationality if a court rules they belong to a group, organisation or entity, whether based in Egypt or abroad, that seeks to disrupt the state or undermine the social, economic or political security. Citizens found guilty by a court of threatening national security can also lose their nationality.

The amendments are scheduled to be discussed by the House of Representatives early next month.

Supporters of the changes say they are necessary to protect national security at a time when Egypt is facing an unprecedented terrorist threat. Opponents say they are an attempt by the government to contain opposition.

The amendments violate Article 6 of the constitution which guarantees Egyptian nationality “to whoever is born of an Egyptian father or an Egyptian mother,” Constitutional expert Nour Farahat told Al-Ahram Weekly. 

“The constitution gives legislators the authority to regulate the conditions necessary for acquiring the nationality,” says Farahat. For this reason, and because the proposed changes allow nationality to be withdrawn for what he called “vaguely defined reasons,” Farahat expects the amendments to be ruled as unconstitutional sooner or later.

“There is no pressing need for such amendments,” says lawyer Essam Al-Islamboli, adding that nationality laws are quite enough.

Joining the military of a foreign country without prior permission from the defence minister, working for a foreign government or a country that is in a state of war with Egypt, working for a foreign government or authority in violation of a cabinet decree or if the job constitutes a threat to state interests are all sufficient reasons for revoking nationality under the 1975 law.

National Council for Human Rights member George Ishak opposes the amendments.

“The charge of threatening national security is vague and difficult to prove. Egyptian nationality is not a gift granted by anybody. No one should deprive an Egyptian of his nationality just because he disrupts public order,” says Ishak.

It is not clear if nationality can be recovered once it is removed.

According to legal experts, a person with no nationality has the right to appeal to the United Nations and ask for political asylum. “However, it would take time to find a country ready to host someone with no nationality,” says Al-Islamboli.

“The draft does not target members of opposition forces,” MP Mohamed Aql said on BBC Arabic . “It targets whoever is involved in threatening Egyptian national security, which we consider a red line.”

The draft amendments need to pass through several stages that will guarantee they conform with the constitution before they can be endorsed, Aql noted.

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