Sunday, 27 October 2013

First Lebanese child to be born without a sect

The Lebanese newspaper Annahar has reported on the country’s first ever citizen to be born ‘without a sect’. The parents of the child, Khouloud and Nidal Sukkariyeh, had previously become the first Lebanese couple to successfully hold their civil marriage in the country by exploiting loopholes in Lebanese law from the French mandate period (1936 Decree, Number 60 LR). Activists have labelled their son Ghadi as a ‘historic achievement’.

On their child’s registration document the space next to ‘Sect’ is crossed out.

Interfaith marriage is strictly forbidden in lebanon, and members of the 18 officially recognized sects must travel to Cyprus to enact their vows should they wise to have a civil marriage. This is because each sect maintains jurisdiction over issues of personal Status Law 
احوال شخصية (i.e. marriage, divorce, birth registration, child custody and burial). There can be severe consequences for people who cross the marriage divide- earlier this year a Sunni man who married a Druze women was attacked by his new wife’s family who cut off his penis

One thing is for sure- Lebanon’s entrenched sectarianism ensures a debilitatingly permanent state of fragility and communal suspicion. People are asked their religious affiliation at job interviews even if they are not particularly religious in daily life. There is a lack of a coherent Lebanese national identity and seats in government are allotted along confessional lines. It is no surprise therefore that the political parties are merely manifestations of each sect, and that people invariably vote for their sectarian leader for fear of their sect losing influence. With laws that shape a person’s life so categorically along sectarian lines, it would be a sad irony Ghadi grows up to suffer alienation simply for not being pigeon-holed into one corner of society.


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