Enab Baladi – Aleppo
Omaima, 49, is trying to enroll her two sons Ayham (9) and Mahmoud (7) at the primary school in the al-Sukari neighborhood in Aleppo. Yet, apparently, all his efforts will be in vain.
Omaima’s children do not have access to education because they do not appear in their family record book. Moreover, their birth was not registered with the civil status service.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, Omaima said that her children do not have civil papers because the civil status service, and most of her papers and documents, were set on fire due to the “clashes that took place in Aleppo during the years 2012 and 2013 “.
The clashes caused extensive material damage to the department and its contents.
Neglecting the rehabilitation of the civil status service has had disastrous consequences. Many Aleppo residents have not been able to document or register their marriage and therefore the birth of their children.
This matter is further complicated by the fact that the people of Aleppo do not know how to solve this problem. In addition, government institutions do not even educate the public on issues relating to civil registration of births, marriages, deaths, etc.
Children deprived of their rights
Omaima said Enab Baladi that his children are non-existent in the eyes of Syrian law. In addition, Aleppo’s doctors do not agree to verify the living birth certificates of his sons.
Omaima must go to court to file a complaint with the Sharia or the spiritual tribunal to establish her marriage, and then officially register the births of her children in Syria. She fears that in the future her unregistered children will be denied their civil rights, and more importantly, access to education.
In 2012, Omaima had to give birth at home with the help of a midwife because the roads leading to the hospital were dangerous due to the clashes that were taking place at that time between the Syrian regime and the opposition factions. .
Omaima continued, “For two and a half years I have been trying to register the births of my children. I have visited the civil status office in the Baghdad train station area several times to obtain the birth certificates of my two beloved children. However, all my efforts were wasted. It is because I do not have enough money requested by the employees of the civil status service to return to the archives service which proves my marriage.
Omaima also cannot prove her marriage, as unfortunately her husband died in late 2012 due to an aerial bombardment on the al-Haidariya neighborhood.
She was asked to bring her two marriage registration witnesses, but she was only able to present one. As a result, she cannot prove her marriage or the birth of her children.
Therefore, Omaima is almost certain that her two children will not go to school this year.
According to Civil status law, promulgated under Legislative Decree No. 26 of 2007, a maktum is – any person whose father or both parents are registered with the Syrian civil status services or any person of Syrian origin – who has not been registered within the time limit set by the civil status services; that is, within 30 days of the date of birth.
Asmaa, 33, faces almost the same problem as Omaima. Asmaa’s religious wedding was celebrated in 2013 by a Muslim cleric, an imam. However, she did not complete the necessary procedures to register her marriage in the relevant official institutions.
After Asmaa gave birth to twins, her husband disappeared as he tried to flee the al-Sakhour neighborhood in northern Aleppo.
She tried to get a family record book, but couldn’t because she lost her Islamic marriage contract, Asamaa said. Enab Baladi.
Withholding her last name for security reasons, Asmaa said, “My husband has since disappeared. I looked for his relatives, but learned that they had left Aleppo for Turkey. Now there is no way to document my marriage.
Asmaa said, “Men don’t want to marry me because they don’t want to raise children, which are theirs. Therefore, I chose to remain single and raise my children on my own.
Asmaa’s number one goal is to register her marriage with the civil registry to register the births of her twins, who have just turned seven. That is, they reach compulsory school age.
“For over three years I have been trying to register my marriage. Still, there is no response from the Vital Statistics Department. I also went to the social affairs department, who in turn did not respond to my request.
Asmaa clarified, “I have two people who can testify that these two sons are mine. Nonetheless, they insist that there be witnesses from my husband’s side to document my marriage. But, you know, like I told you before, I don’t have any contact with them. I lost track of them.
This major challenge, encountered mainly by Syrians who got married outside areas controlled by the Syrian regime. Thus, the children born of these undocumented marriages are not registered with the competent services of the State because article 28 of the laws on civil status stipulates that the birth can only be registered if the marriage of the parents is registered. first.
Registering maktumeen with civil registry offices is the first step in preserving their civil rights, including their right to a decent life, education, health, and smooth government transactions.
Attempts to resolve the dilemma
Many Syrian clients go to the registry office in Aleppo to register the birth of their child in order to obtain a birth certificate and give it an official identity. However, in most cases only one of the parents shows up, without a family record book.
An employee of the civil status department at Baghdad station in Aleppo said Enab Baladi that several factors have prevented people from registering their marriages over the past ten years.
Parents failed to establish lineage or document births in the Syrian regime’s civil registration services, deterred by political, security, economic and even social reasons.
The employee added that many births and marriages were not registered with the Syrian civil registration services. At one point during the war, a significant number of couples who were married informally in religious ceremonies had children. However, they did not register them as they first had to produce valid documents and register their marriage.
Some couples have argued that they are unable or afraid to document their marriage and therefore their children because they are wanted for military service or by the security services.
The problem of undocumented marriages and births is exacerbated when one of the parents dies, gets lost or goes missing. Here the children legally become labeled maktumeen because the parents’ marriage is not registered.
Some women gave birth outside of a hospital setting, not obtaining birth certificates for their children.
“Hundreds of births go unregistered. The case of unregistered births is currently under study. Efforts are being made to register the births of unregistered children, but on one condition: parents should bring witnesses to the birth of their children and should take responsibility for bringing legal action to access the birth certificates of their children. their children, ”said employees of the Aleppo Civil Status Service.
However, these procedures take so long, not to mention the fine that should be paid for not registering their marriages and the births of their children.
“Over the past two years, hundreds of cases have been recorded; more than ten cases per day.
“Once the marriage is documented, three or two children can be registered and a birth certificate can then be issued. However, these civil proceedings take a long time. This therefore hinders children’s access to education. Children cannot go to primary school if they do not give the school administration a copy of the family record book which shows their parents, ”the employee explained.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) declared, in its report published in 2017, that 70 percent of Syrian refugees do not have basic identity documents (national identity cards).
The NRC interviewed 734 internally displaced families in areas administratively affiliated with the governorates of Daraa and Quneitra. Half of those polled said that “their marriage documents were lost, confiscated, destroyed or left behind when they were moved”.
Many Syrian families face major identity issues related to the lack of identity documents or property, which they lost and / or were unable to obtain because they did not register their civil events – births, marriages and deaths – with the official civil status services, prevented by circumstances of displacement, the fact that many areas are beyond the control of the Syrian regime, the destruction or closure of state services civilians, which remained operational, along with the courts, only in areas controlled by the regime.
Stateless children in Syria, who are deprived of Syrian nationality, not only face difficulties in accessing their basic human rights such as the right to a decent life, education, health and work, but they do not cannot own property either. Enab Baladi in a feature article titled “Awaiting Legal Birth: Maktumeen in Syria Deprived of Property Rights,” discussed with a group of Syrian legal professionals the mechanisms needed to protect the rights of Syrian maktumeen to own property and ‘heritage.
Enab Baladi withholds the last names of his interviewees for security reasons.