The granting of Egyptian nationality to foreigners is an important issue which could have serious implications for the country’s national security especially at this critical juncture in Egypt’s history. The issue is now making newspaper headlines along with the issue of internal security and the bloody confrontations between the two factions of the Egyptian people.
The random, inexperienced and irrational policies of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood have divided the Egyptian people into two hostile groups who are not willing to agree on even the simplest priorities.
Historically, Egyptian nationality was only granted under a royal decree before the revolution of July 1952 and under a republican decree after that. As a result of these restrictions, the issue of granting nationality to the children of Egyptian women married to non-Egyptians arose. Although the woman was Egyptian, her children from a non-Egyptian husband were deprived of their right to citizenship. This complex issue was a real headache for successive Egyptian governments.
The government of the day in Egypt has granted nationality to 11,000 Palestinians out of 50,000 who applied for it at the Ministry of Interior. This has increased the anxiety of the Egyptian people, especially those concerned with the issue of the children of Egyptian women married to non-Egyptian husbands and other ordinary applicants for nationality.
The case of the children of Egyptian women was solved without any public protests after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed to grant them nationality. A law to this effect was issued and became effective in July 2004. It amended some articles of the Egyptian Law of Nationality issued in 1975.
However, this decision, which amended the law of nationality, exempted the children of Egyptian women who were married to Palestinians. Egyptian mothers objected to this ruling considering it a gross violation of their rights granted by the law. They said that the children of Palestinian men should not be deprived of their right to Egyptian nationality. Some people even went further and said that they considered the step to be an intentional attack on the Palestinian people, even thought Egypt, in fact, is the only Arab country whose sons have died for Palestine.
The UN Convention Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination against Women was approved by the UN General Assembly under resolution No. 180/34 dated 18 December 1979. The agreement entered into effect starting September 3, 1981. A number of Egyptian women married to Palestinians filed and won lawsuits against the government for depriving their children of Egyptian nationality.The exemption of the children of Palestinian fathers was not intentionally made against the Palestinians as some people may think. In fact it is an implementation of Arab League resolution No. 1547 issued in 1959 asking all Arab countries not to grant their nationality to the Palestinian people in order “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland”.
The revolutionary movements in Egypt today and the differences among the various political groups have increased worries about the situation in the Sinai Desert especially in light of the strong links between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. We should never forget that Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood outside Egypt. Nobody denies the existence of Palestinians in Sinai. However, we do not accept claims that the number of Palestinians granted Egyptian nationality has increased since President Mohamed Morsi has come to power.
Egyptian security agencies are not concerned with who is in power. Their main concern is Egyptian security which they are not willing to compromise.
The security agencies are extremely sensitive to the issue of granting Egyptian nationality to the children of Egyptian women married to Palestinians especially after the decision of the Minister of Defense prohibiting anyone other than Egyptians from owning land in Sinai. Under this decision, even Egyptians with dual nationality are not allowed to acquire land in Sinai.
The hosting of Palestinians for a limited period of time is okay but to allow them to colonize part of Egypt is not. Throughout history, no one has been able to colonize Egypt for long periods of time. The Egyptian people have always liberated their land from conquerors and colonizers. History is a witness to this.
Sinai is Egypt’s eastern gate. The Egyptians alone hold its keys. Large hostile armies have been buried under its sands. This fact has been a source of worry for Israel. This is the destiny of Egypt which has made it the “mother of the world.”
— Hassan Tahsin is an Egyptian writer and political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com.