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Children With Iranian Mothers, Foreign Fathers To Receive Citizenship

A child without citizenship In Iran holds a placard saying "I don't have an ID". Undated

Vice President, Es'haq Jahangiri on Wednesday communicated a law to the relevant agencies that will allow granting Iranian citizenship to tens of thousands of children born to Iranian mothers and foreign fathers.

The implementation of the new law hugely matters to tens of thousands of children who are deprived of access to social and health care services.

Based on the new law, Iranian women married to non-Iranian men can apply for citizenship for their under-eighteen-year-old children. Over eighteen-year-olds may apply independently.

Until now Iranian law did not allow citizenship to the children of foreign men born to Iranian mothers. Based on Article 976 of the Iranian Civil Code, children of "mixed marriages" have until now only been eligible for citizenship if their fathers were Iranian citizens.

According to initial estimates, by 2015 about 150,000 Iranian women had married foreign citizens living in Iran, mainly citizens of Afghanistan.

According to Iranian officials, there are 1.5 million Afghan refugees in the country but hundreds of thousands more Afghans reside and work in Iran, most of them as wage laborers. Iran considers them illegal migrants but is tolerant about their stay because they form a cheap source of labor for construction projects and agriculture.

More than 500,000 children from these marriages have until now been deprived of Iranian citizenship and therefore deprived of the right to vote and have a passport or other identity documents. Without identity documents they also had no access to various public services and facilities such as education, health insurance, state subsidies, and other benefits.

Civil activists in Iran have been campaigning for more than a decade for an amendment to Article 976 to allow citizenship for these children.

Under the new law, children with non-Iranian fathers will be granted citizenship if they do not have a criminal record and there is no "security problem" about their Iranian citizenship. This means that the Ministry of Intelligence and the fearsome IRGC's Intelligence Organization should run background checks on applicants and endorse their eligibility.