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Breaking with Some Mideast Neighbors, Iran Now Lets Mothers Give Their Citizenship to their Children

A new policy allowing Iranian women to pass down their citizenship to their children marks a long-sought victory for activists and is raising hopes for an estimated 1 million undocumented children born to foreign fathers in the country.

Iranian authorities last month issued the first 100 birth certificates and national identification cards under legislation adopted in 2019 after years of activism by women’s and refugee rights advocates.

Worldwide, 25 countries bar women from passing citizenship to children, while more than 50 have other discriminatory nationality laws such as those that, for example, permit only men to pass on citizenship to a foreign spouse, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Gender discrimination in nationality laws undermines women’s equal citizenship and results in wide-ranging rights violations and hardships for affected families, including obstacles to accessing education, healthcare, employment, family unity, freedom of movement, inheritance and property rights,” said Catherine Harrington, manager of UNHCR’s Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, in a statement in September.

The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights is housed at the Women’s Refugee Commission.