September 24, 2006
Iran offers citizenship to children of foreign menBy Adrian Croft
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's parliament passed a law on Sunday allowing children with an Iranian mother and a foreign father to acquire Iranian nationality, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Iran, like many other countries in the Middle East, has traditionally based nationality on paternity alone and has been reluctant to grant citizenship to people seen as outsiders.
"The children born in Iran from a foreigner father and an Iranian mother can apply for citizenship after they reach 18," the new law says, according to IRNA.
People who meet certain conditions, such as giving up other nationalities they may have, can enjoy the law, IRNA said. Iran does not recognise dual nationality.
"If the marriage of their parents has been registered, those people who lack criminal records or a security violation background can apply for citizenship," it said.
Some lawmakers said the policy change was a step forward but called for the conditions to be removed.
"What about those children who are under 18? The age condition should be removed," said female lawmaker Rafat Bayat.
Other lawmakers were concerned about the status of the children of refugees living in Iran.
More than two million Afghans ended up living in Iran in the years following the Soviet invasion of their country in 1979. Ensuing conflicts deterred many from returning and about one million remain in Iran, where unemployment is a persistent problem. Tehran says they have created social, security and economic problems for the country.
Iran makes a distinction between legitimate refugees, who fled conflicts in Afghanistan over the last two decades, and those who crossed into Iran illegally in search of work.
"The children of those illegal refugees, married to Iranian women, face identity problems," said lawmaker Hasan Kamran. "Such children's problems should also be resolved."
More than an estimated 26,000 Iranian women have married illegal immigrants, mostly Afghans, and are therefore unable to register their marriages. The new law would not apply to their children.