Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Nidal Darwish

Married couples got to pay the clergy institutions

Not happy about having to travel to Cyprus to get a civil marriage?

Last year, Lebanese couples applied an ancient law, from the French mandated period, which remained on the Books, in order to carry out civil marriage.

All they had to do is to demand that their religion be scraped from their civil records.

Lebanon’s justice minister may have an answer for modern couples to marry civilly and keep their religion on the civil records.

On Jan. 29, 2014, Shakib Qortbawi introduced a draft law that would allow couples in Lebanon to marry under a civil law, without leaving the country, or having to cross out their religion on their civil records.

With the obligation to pay about $350 for the clergy institutions in order to recoup the lost profit.

Paying the clergy is not the way to go. And it is too late, Mr. minister

Nadim Houry published in The daily Sta this feb. 7, 2014:


The draft law would not introduce a Lebanese civil code.

Rather, it would allow couples to choose any foreign civil law by which to marry, as long as the law does not contradict “public order and general morals.”

But there’s a catch: Each couple would have to pay the state the equivalent of $333 to be disbursed to the religious courts of the husband’s religion.

Is this draft law a step forward for supporters of civil marriage in Lebanon?

Should advocates of civil marriage go along with the payment of such a fee to religious courts to get the religious official bodies to agree to the proposal?

It is important to first understand how civil marriage currently works in Lebanon.

The law currently recognizes such marriages even though the country does not have a civil code.

Until recently, this has meant that anyone who wished to have a civil marriage would have to travel abroad to marry and get their foreign-enacted civil marriage recognized in Lebanon.

Lebanese have resorted to such foreign civil marriages in large numbers, with data from the Cypriot Embassy in Lebanon indicating that more than 800 Lebanese couples married in Cyprus in 2011.

When I got married in Cyprus in 2009, the couples that were married before and after us in the office of the Cypriot public official were Lebanese.

Despite the increasing popularity of civil marriages enacted abroad, this approach has limitations.

Traveling abroad is inconvenient and some couples cannot afford the trip. And many people are unaware that if both spouses are Muslim, Lebanese Islamic courts may not recognize the civil marriage and may apply their own rules in divorce or child custody cases based on a 1939 official decree.

In a breakthrough for civil marriage in Lebanon in February 2013, the Lebanese authorities approved the registration of a civil marriage contracted in Lebanon between Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish after the couple removed their religious affiliation from their civil records.

This couple, acting on the advice of a longtime activist for civil marriage, argued that by removing their religious affiliations from their civil records, they had the right under Lebanese law to a civil marriage and that Lebanon’s failure to enact such a law did not revoke that right.

The couple notarized their marriage before a Lebanese public notary and chose to have it governed by French civil law. The Lebanese authorities recognized the validity of their legal reasoning and registered the marriage.

More couples have now removed their religious affiliations from their civil records and filed to have their locally enacted marriage contract recognized in Lebanon.

Qortbawi’s draft law seeks to allow couples to marry in Lebanon using a foreign civil code of their choice without removing their religious affiliations from their civil records, as Succariyeh and Darwish had to. The draft law would also repeal the 1939 decree that limits the ability of two Muslims to have a civil marriage in Lebanon.

The draft’s main shortcoming is that it fails to introduce an optional civil personal status code for Lebanon that would cover marriage, divorce, custody and other family law provisions.

Activists and civil society organizations have long demanded this, in part because of the systematic discrimination against women in all of Lebanon’s religious personal-status laws.

In fact, a draft code proposed by local civil society groups has been sitting in parliament since March 2011.

In statements to the media, Qortbawi recognized the inherent limitations of his proposal, but argued that in the “current atmosphere in the country, it was not possible to put forward a complete package for civil marriage.”

The minister’s remark raises a question relevant to reform attempts from electoral law to women’s rights.

Given the dysfunctional nature of politics in the country today, should reformists restrict their ambitions to partial and imperfect advances that appear feasible?

There is no evident answer to that question and reasonable people can disagree in their assessments.

My own view is that when it comes to civil marriage in Lebanon – a recurring idea since at least 1951, when the Beirut Bar Association went on strike to demand an optional civil marriage law – the time has come for a concerted push to adopt an optional Lebanese civil personal status code.

If anything, there is an urgent need to counter the country’s sectarianism by enacting laws such as the civil code that would treat all Lebanese equally.

Regardless of one’s position about the best strategy to advance civil marriage in Lebanon, what to make of the proposal in the draft law that the state collect a $333 marriage fee and give it to the religious courts of the husband’s confession – unless the husband is not Lebanese, in which case the fee goes to the religious court of the wife’s confession?

The draft law does not explain the rationale for such a payment.

In a recent media interview, Qortbawi said, “It’s not our job to cut everything from them [the religious courts], because also, they need money. This is to tell them, ‘This is not against you.’

But we should reject payments to sweeten the deal for religious courts.

Religious courts in Lebanon already get a great deal of support from the state, with little or no oversight from the state’s judicial bodies.

For instance, Lebanese citizens already pay the budget of Islamic courts – a tradition going back to the Ottoman times – with no effective government supervision.

The reason many Lebanese say they support civil marriage is to reduce the influence of religious institutions on their lives, to promote equality among Lebanese citizens and to eliminate discrimination against women under the current religious personal status codes.

For many Lebanese couples, the choice to seek a civil marriage is a way to reject the imposition of religious laws and institutions by Lebanon’s confessional system.

So why would a law meant to facilitate civil marriage actually fund religious courts, instead of the civil courts that will oversee such civil marriages?

These civil courts are grossly underfunded, and their workload will presumably increase as a result of additional civil marriages.

The minister may be right that Lebanon needs to take gradual steps to enact a civil law. But these gradual steps should be guided by a clear strategy of building up civil institutions and promoting equality among Lebanese citizens.

To ask the Lebanese to pay religious courts for the right to a civil marriage will not bring us closer to those goals.

Nadim Houry is head of the Beirut office of Human Rights Watch and is its deputy Middle East and North Africa director. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 07, 2014, on page 7.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Can good events take place in Lebanon?

Alex  Rowell  posted this December 18, 2013 in NOW

10. Beirut ranked among world’s top 25 cities by Condé Nast
Residents of the city might find it hard to believe (including me, especially that Paris came next), what with the multiple car bombs, rocket attacks, manic traffic, and perennial power and water shortages…
But Condé Nast’s readers voted it the 20th best city in the world in 2013, citing its “tapestry of sects, religions, and lifestyles that provide a feast for the mind of the intellectual.” (If they ever meet and communicate face to face…)

9. 4G Internet

Both of Lebanon’s service providers launched 4G Internet for the first time in 2013, ostensibly alleviating the country’s notoriously sluggish connection speeds.

However, at present the service is limited to specific areas in and around Beirut, and experts say Lebanon’s infrastructure is inadequate to make fully efficient use of the technology. (The funding are available and the necessary equipment also are ready for the remote districts, but Ogero is dragging its feet for political reasons to tarnish the great image of Sahnawe, the Communication minister))

8. Public sector workers win pay increase after weeks of strikes and demonstrations, public sector workers – whose wages have only seen two minor increases since 1997 – persuaded the cabinet to refer a bill that would increase their pay to parliament.

However, parliament has yet to actually approve the bill, and many economists argue incurring the additional expenditure during the present economic downturn could have dire repercussions. (We have no Parliament who extended its tenure for another 2 years, and we have no government for the last 7 months…)

7. General price levels unchanged

According to an October 2013 report from the Ministry of Economy, prices increased by just 0.5% in the 12 months since September 2012, compared to increases of 10% and 5% in the previous two years.

However, this is about the only good news for Lebanon’s economy, which has otherwise taken a dramatic hit from the neighboring Syrian crisis and the associated refugee influx. (Visit the supermarkets and you won’t be able to believe the government statistics)

6. Culture continues to flourish

While security fears did prompt the unprecedented relocation of the Baalbek International Festival, cultural events continued to thrive across the country, with several new street fairs, exhibition spaces, and literary publications, inter alia, being added to the annual itinerary.

A Syrian Contemporary Art Fair showcased the talents of those forced to leave the war at home. And even Tripoli, now the site of almost weekly gun battles, successfully launched its first film festival

5. Secularists win big at AUB student elections It is often said that elections at the country’s preeminent university indicate the political sentiments prevailing in the wider nation at large. If so, then Lebanon’s sectarian order may be facing growing resentment, given that secular students made unprecedented advances at the polls in November.

As an added bonus, the two secular candidates who went on to fill the powerful Vice President and Treasurer seats are both women, as is the Amal candidate who will assume the role of Secretary.

4. Oil and gas sector launches Lebanon’s nascent oil and gas sector began to take firm shape in 2013, with the new Petroleum Administration granting approval to 46 local and international companies to bid for exploration rights.

However, owing to the present lack of a government, two decrees necessary to get the bidding process underway have yet to be signed, and so progress to date has chiefly been symbolic.

3. Return of kidnapped pilgrims

Very rare indeed is it for something to go right in Syria these days. Yet 2013 did bring one silver lining to the nine Lebanese pilgrims held captive in Azaz, near Aleppo, whose 17-month-long ordeal was finally brought to an end in October.

Unfortunately, a number of other Lebanese are still being held in Syria, among them several nuns and the journalist Samir Kassab.

(And the swap deal was not fulfilled by the Lebanese government who is prosecuting those who kidnapped the Turkish pilots…)

2. Progress on domestic violence law

Following the harrowing murder of a 31-year-old mother, Roula Yaacoub, by her abusive husband in July, a long-awaited draft law criminalizing domestic violence was approved by a parliamentary committee.

Much like the public sector wage bill, however, parliament itself has not yet voted on the law, and feminist activists have further concerns that the draft doesn’t go far enough (it does not, for example, clearly recognize marital rape as a form of assault or the abuses done on foreign maids).

1. First civil marriage and birth
On April 25th, 2013, Nidal Darwish and Kholoud Succariyeh made Lebanese history when the interior ministry officially registered their civil marriage, the first ever carried out inside the country.

The couple exploited an obscure law dating back to 1936 that circumvented the traditional sect-based marital system. They then made further history when they left the “sect” field blank on their newborn son’s birth certificate, thus giving birth to Lebanon’s first “civil baby.”

Earlier this month, the Justice Ministry announced it would prepare a draft law to replace the 1936 article and formally recognize the legality of civil marriage in the Lebanese legal code.

top 10 2013

Is history made this side of the Sea? First civil marriage in Lebanon, And

It is legal and constitutional

“We state of our own accord and without any coercion, as equals in and before the law according to the preamble of the constitution and its commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Article 16 of said declaration, that the man among us has taken the woman as his wife, and that the woman has taken the man as her husband …”

Arwa al Husseini posted in Arabic this story on Jan. 17, 2013 (translated to English by NOW)

The above contract is one expression in the marriage contract signed by Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish, who were married in Lebanon’s first civil ceremony.

The couple was supposed to travel to Cyprus, where civil marriage is permitted and validated in Lebanon.

Kholoud met by chance a civil society activist who proposed that the wedding be the first civil marriage held in Lebanon.

And Kholoud and Nidal’s journey began as first civil couple this side of the sea (east of the Mediterranean)

Kholoud told NOW: “I was attending a lecture about the art of photography, and while waiting for Nidal, I noticed this poster saying: Let us get to know civil marriage and secularism before they take us to sectarianism.  And a woman came to me and said, ‘Secularism is not against religion,’ and I answered, ‘I know. Just because I am veiled this doesn’t mean I’m against secularism.’

And in order to prove my point, I told her that we (Nidal and I) were getting ready to go to Cyprus to have a civil marriage.

“This civil activist told me about the attempt to celebrate the first civil marriage in Lebanon. I discussed the idea with Nidal, and we told her we agreed on condition of total anonymity, as we feared our parents would not accept it.

We met with [lawyer] Talal Husseini, who prepared the draft study, and we had several sessions with him: He wanted to make sure that we were ready for such a step.”

Preparations for the marriage began after Kholoud and her parents reached an agreement on “being spoken for” as per formal religious rules, without registering the marriage at a Muslim religious tribunal.

The first step was to strike out the mention of religious sects from the respective IDs of both Kholoud’s and Nidal’s in order to prove before the law that they are not affiliated with a sect that forces them to marry before a religious court. They thus acquired the right to hold a civil marriage as per Article 60 L.R.

They had to obtain a form signed by the mayor (mokhtar) proving that there are no objections to their marriage and put the marriage announcement up on a billboard 15 days before the wedding date to make sure that there were no objections to it. (Fair enough)

The announcement was supposed to be published in the Official Gazette or at least two newspapers, but in order to prevent any hindrances, Kholoud and Nidal just posted the announcement on the doors of their parents’ houses and on the door of their own house.

They also had to obtain a legal document signed by a notary public after both parties chose the articles included in the marriage contract as well as a financial disclosure that guarantees the rights of each party to the marriage.

After a few snags in obtaining the necessary paperwork, Kholoud and Nidal signed their civil marriage contract on November 10, 2012, making them the first Lebanese couple to be wedded by civil marriage in Lebanon.

The request is now in the hands of the Consultations Committee at the Ministry of the Interior pending its official announcement.

On the legal level, Husseini, who authored the draft, explained that “The marriage was held based on Decree No. 60 L.R. – a numeration of decrees adopted by the High Commissioner [during the French Mandate in Lebanon] – of 1936, which organizes and recognizes sects and grants them rights.

The same decree also recognizes individuals, and we used this same law to strike out the reference to sect [on one’s ID].”

Applying Decree No. 60 L.R. for people who are not officially affiliated to any sect provides a solution for civil marriage. Husseini added: “Not being affiliated to a sect does not mean not being a believer; it is merely not making an administrative disclosure of one’s sect and subjecting [instead] to civil courts.”

Lebanese law imposes constraints on enjoying the right to marriage.

Husseini argues:

“Let us suppose that a person wants to marry and there’s no law. This means there are no constraints to enjoying the right to marriage unless the marriage one is about to enter into contravenes the constitution, genera order or good ethics. Civil marriage is the only [form] that fits the constitution, which includes provisions about freedom and equality; it is the constitution, rather than religious marriage, that provides freedom and equality,”

Good-natured attempts to ensure the right to civil marriage in Lebanon are often misdirected.

Husseini said: “Some people were calling for a law pertaining to civil marriage and propose incomplete drafts that are not the object of enough study or serious public debate. In so doing, they act as though they need to give [people] the right [to choose civil marriage] and as though there is no legislation. Yet this is not true: Legislation does exist, and there is no way to misinterpret the provisions of Decree No. 60 L.R., which includes a reference to a law. This is either a reference to a French law – and this is the most probable option – or to a civil law according to the person’s own choice, or to any ample provisions for the organization of marriages.”

“The law allows the two people who wish to marry the right to choose the provisions that suit them in the contract. In contrast, religious marriage – or some forms of it – is subjected to the Ottoman family law with regard to certain provisions. When we say that Decree No. 60 L.R. is a reference to French civil marriage, this makes it part of the Lebanese law.

Furthermore, the French law does not contravene the constitution or sectarian bylaws or public order, and is applicable in courts located in France, Turkey, Cyprus or Switzerland between Lebanese [couples] or [a couple formed by] a Lebanese person and a non-Lebanese person. In other words, it is applicable in Lebanese civil courts and this does not cause any problems.”

Kholoud and Nidal chose civil marriage because they believe it is the best expression of a relationship built on true partnership, equality and rejection of dependency. Will the Lebanese state adopt civil marriage as a gateway to break sectarian constraints and build a civil state?

This article was translated from the original Arabic

مُحجّبة تفتتح أوّل زواج مدني في لبنان طبقاً لـ”الدستور”

“نصرّح مختارين غير مكرهين، متساوين في القانون وأمامه طبقاً للدستور في مقدّمته والتزامه الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان، وخصوصاً في المادة 16 منه، نصرّح بأنّ الرّجل منّا قد قبل الإمرأة زوجةً له، كما قبلت الإمرأة الرجل زوجاً لها.

In summary:


Researchers and legal experts at the Civil Center for National Initiative said on Saturday that there are no obstacles in front of civil marriage in Lebanon for those who decide to remove their sects from their IDs, LBCI television reported.

“The 1936’s law is more advanced and open than the ones adopted nowadays,” Change and Reform bloc MP Ghassan Moukheiber expressed in an interview with LBCI.

He stated: “We demand the State of Lebanon to take into consideration those that are not affiliated with any religion or sect”.

“The biggest challenge today is building citizenship,” he added.

The discussion on this issue comes soon after reports broke out about a Lebanese couple that challenged the sectarian personal status code in Lebanon and tied the knot in a first of a kind civil marriage in the country on November 11, 2012.

Kholoud Sukkariyah and Nidal Darwish removed the reference of their sects from their respective IDs and based their marital contract on Decree No. 60 L.R.

The decree, which organizes and recognizes religious communities and grants them rights, says those who are not affiliated with a sect are subject to the civil law of personal status, as well as to the introduction of the Constitution which adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights




June 2023

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