Lebanese Mothers rights In Child Custody

As a divorced Lebanese woman, I am blessed that I didn’t have kids with my ex-husband since child custody are still determined by authorities of our country’s 18 religious sects.

According to Lebanon’s Supreme Shiite Council, the custody rule is an interpretation of the hadith (words and practices of Prophet Mohammad) and the Quran which stipulate that fathers are responsible for childrearing.

I am not Shiite, but the same custody rule was once forced on the Sunni population by Dar El Fatwa, until a late widespread pushback, where clerics amended it. Nowadays, Sunni women divorcees are granted full custody until their children turned 12.

Still, all my divorced cousins suffered from discrimination. The funniest of all cases was that of my cousin Hanaa Tamim, as her daughter was kidnaped and smuggled out of Lebanon, while the custody was under the right of Hanaa. Later on, her child was sent back to Beirut to live with her father’s grandparents since she was over 12 years old! After Hanaa Tamim’s divorce, her ex-husband went so far in his accusations to win and deprive her from what is only her natural right. Yet after hearings, Lebanon Supreme Sunni Council found her rightfull of full custody.

Unfortunately, our Lebanese government couldn’t protect her daughter from being kidnaped when she was only 2 years old, nor sneaked out of Lebanon with a fake passport. Now that her daughter Sirine is old enough to be with her father, he sent her back to Lebanon to live with his folks (who for so long lived unbothered in Beirut) and he is demanding that she drops all legal cases filed against him in civil courts in return for granting her few visiting hours!

Another cousin of mine is currently facing a similar scenario! Kamela Cheikh Moussa, was given full right of her two kids Layla & Abdulrahman yet their father decided to forcefully kidnap them from school (both under 12 years old) and he is currently god knows where, while his parents are living peacefully in Lebanon unborthered by the police!

Law discrimination against woman is a trend in Lebanon. Nothing guarentees our basic rights.

My third cousin Suzan Al Lahham,-who divorced after a scandle of finding her husband in a shameful act with her neighbour-, lost the custody of her son Omar at a certain age and watched him sent by his father to an orphanage for school instead of living with his mother. Why? Because the ex-cheating husband became an Islamist overnight & chose to misuse his “shariaa" right on his own son.

Anyhow, after years of begging, she gave up all her and Omar rights in return of his full custody.

Today, I see my facebook friend Zeina Ibrahim fight for almost 4 years to change the laws of Shiite Supreme courts in vain.

I hate to break it to her, even if she could pressure the court into changing the laws (which I highly doubt, as they wait Al Najaf courts) and even if she succeeded in winning full custody on Ali, everything will remain administered by autonomous religious courts with little or no government oversight, and often issue rulings that violate women’s human rights. However, if they don’t, her ex-husband could easily kidnap her son until further notice as no one really cares.

It’s not breaking news that all Lebanese women are treated unequally under the law, and our rights and security often go unprotected.

Don’t only fight with the Shiite supreme court, let’s ALL SIGN A PETITION addressed to our parliament, human rights watch and UNWOMEN, that all children should be entitled to have their best interests be a primary consideration in all decisions made by official bodies concerning their welfare. There should be no justification to keep personal status laws under the exclusive realm of the religious authorities.

Now Hanaa’s daughter is over 12 years old yet no one really forcing her grandparents to give back the 10 years they stole from her. Kamela, Zeina and many other mothers have absolutely no voice! Let’s push our government to stop blocking attempts to adopt a civil code or ensure a greater oversight over Lebanon’s religious courts and laws. I don’t think such law amendments should be hard to implement, specially that many of parliament members wish to bring back Lebanese citizens. If so, let mothers feel safe to come back!

Ensure compliance with human rights obligations and bring them in compliance with Lebanon’s international human rights obligations, guaranteeing women and men equal rights in all personal status matters.

We don’t only want Zeina Ibrahim to have Ali back until he’s 12 again! Zeina, Hanaa, Kamela and all mothers should have a fair gender neutral civil trial and a government that protects their rights.