Lebanese Civil Marriage Couple Stress 'Our Children Will Choose What They Want'


When Kholoud Sukkariyah and Nidal Darwish married in defiance of Lebanon's ban on civil unions, they had no idea their initiative would attract so much support from fellow citizens -- and even the president.

The entire process took nearly a year and was done in secret to sidestep political obstacles.

The couple, from different Muslim sects, recited their vows in an intimate ceremony late last year at Sukkariyah's home with her brother as witness.

Civil unions still have no legal basis the Middle Eastern country, and their marriage has yet to gain the interior ministry's approval.

Lebanon is a multi-confessional country of some four million people where Muslims -- Sunnis and Shiites -- make up the majority but with a Christian minority of around 35 percent and a sprinkling of other religions.

Most faiths have their own regulations governing marriage, divorce and inheritance, and mixed Christian-Muslim weddings in Lebanon are discouraged unless one of the spouses converts.

So when Sukkariyah and Darwish publicly announced the historic step, the news took Lebanese social networks by storm.

Even President Michel Suleiman joined the public debate, saying via Twitter and Facebook that civil marriage would build unity in the multi-faith Arab country, his post garnering nearly 8,000 "likes".

"We need civil marriage to overcome the sectarianism that is destroying the country," read one respondent.

Lebanese authorities recognize civil marriages registered abroad, and it has become common for mixed-faith couples to marry in nearby Cyprus.

Rather than follow that route, however, Sukkariyah and Darwish decided to work with legal advisers attempting to create new jurisprudence, though there is no history of civil marriage in Lebanon.

Both had their sect, Shiite and Sunni Muslim, legally struck from their "sejel an-nufoos", or family register, to be wed as a secular couple under an article dating from the 1936 French mandate that makes reference to civil unions.

"Civil marriage for us is not only a marriage issue, it's actually a Lebanese issue because it lays the first stone of a non-sectarian regime," Sukkariyah told Agence France Presse.

"If we are a couple by civil marriage, this means we will have our rights as citizens and not as daughters and sons of the sects."

Former president Elias Hrawi in 1998 proposed a civil marriage law, which gained approval from the cabinet only to be halted amid widespread opposition from the country’s religious authorities.

-- Sectarian tensions --

And in a country rife with deep-rooted sectarian tensions, many still oppose such unions.

"Civil marriage is contrary to Islamic law," one opponent of the practice said in a post on the president's Facebook page. Another argued that such a law would "dissolve Christianity in the Middle East."

Prime Minister Najib Miqati too has joined the debate, being quoted Wednesday in newspapers as saying, "It is futile to research the issue of civil marriage. As long as I am president of the government, I will not raise this subject in the council of ministers."

The couple blamed the political system, not clergy members, for the obstacles they have faced.

"Politicians are trying to oppose this because civil marriage goes against any kind of sectarian regime. And these political people are deputies of a sectarian regime so it threatens their presence," said Sukkariyah.

"The idea is about humanity. That we all live on this earth. Just because I do not want to mention my religion does not mean I am not a believer," said Darwish.

Ogarit Younan, head of the Lebanese Association for Civil Rights who has presented a draft civil marriage law to parliament, said that "while the initiative of Nidal and Kholoud is truly courageous, it is not legally valid."

"We have a big campaign to push this law. For the first time, it is on the list of items parliament will discuss and vote on, so civil society has a big role to play.

"There are religious people and politicians with us. We have a real chance now," said Younan.

The campaign has picked up momentum.

After announcing their marriage, Sukkariyah said activists came up with the idea of holding a public ceremony in the heart of the Lebanese capital to advocate for the law.

"They offered the dress, the suit, the hair," she beamed.

Sukkariyah said that while she and Nidal would bring up their children according to their core values, "We are going to let them search and learn, and they are going to choose what they want."

Comments 18
Thumb jabalamel 24 January 2013, 12:26

someone should say to their kids (or future kids) that there is no god and problem solved

Thumb jabalamel 24 January 2013, 20:21

ther filthy zionist scum under 100 nicknames voted me down as they always do, like that will change something

Thumb Bandoul 24 January 2013, 22:17

Sure, there is no God for devil worshipers like you.

Missing samiam 24 January 2013, 23:51

it should be that there may be a god and the clergy shouldn't be paid for that belief.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 24 January 2013, 13:32

Ssnp supports civil marriage or are you out of touch.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 24 January 2013, 13:37

Whoever said "Civil marriage is contrary to Islamic law," knows little about islam. In islam, you only need two witnesses and having a sheik is not necessary. Some juriprudence even take issue with the need of the 2 witnesses - that the marrying man and woman can act as their own witnesses. The only restriction (also subject to disagreement in jurisprudence) is that a muslim woman may not marry a non-muslim man, except if he converts to islam.

Thumb geha 24 January 2013, 15:56

it seems to me most of you guys do not remember who voiced his disagreement first against civil marriage: it was Beshara al Rai before becoming our patriarch.
civil marriage is the first step to putting confessionalism away in Lebanon and should be supported by all Lebanese.
as for Dar el Fatwa, it looks like this Sheikh is not going to remain in his position.

Missing allouchi 24 January 2013, 17:23

The church and Mosque will lose a lot of money if civil marriage is implemented...what a shame when the clergy put their interests before their people...Separation of state and church/mosque NOW...we have enough politician thieves and I am sure that some the clergy can find other ways to rob us...

Missing peace 24 January 2013, 19:09

sure it is just a question of power and money! they don t care about the citizens! and how would sectarian leaders do to sell their soup? they base their policies on the fear of other religions! like aoun who is trying to make people believe that sunnis are all salafis! like hezbollah who brainwash its followers with religion to sell their propaganda! and so on....
they all pretend to want secularism to look civilized but always say it is never the right moment!!! lol!
not a single party to set an example!

this couple is worth a million hypocrit speeches on secularism from leaders because they set an example not empty talks.....

Thumb jabalamel 24 January 2013, 20:22

the filthy zionist scum pretend that he cares about lebanese citizens

Thumb Bandoul 24 January 2013, 22:19

filthy Irani jihadist scum thinks he fools us with his veiled humanity speeches.

Missing ssnp01 24 January 2013, 22:45

Hey rafehh I'm not out of touch dude ,However I don’t care how people get married it is up to them ,but at this point in time there is more important things to worry about than two love birds looking for some publicity .

Missing peace 24 January 2013, 23:58

of course an illeterate doesn t see the symbol behind this, blinded he is by sectarianism and stupid religions that is the main cause of lebanese problems...

Thumb shab 24 January 2013, 22:52

religion is poison

Thumb jabalamel 25 January 2013, 13:00

the filthy zionist scum re-activated one of his many accounts, this time under the name of bandoul.

and he now repeats my language against me and other patriotic lebanese.

what a pathetic scum

Thumb Bandoul 25 January 2013, 17:13

The filthy Irani jihadist scum has his head firmly planted up Hassouna's chimney causing him to be deprived of oxygen and accusing others of acting like him by creating as many accounts as he does. As if the rest of us are jobless like him and don't have anything better to do than sell pointless propaganda.

Default-user-icon ramy (Guest) 13 December 2013, 01:22

plz need a.help about civil.marriage"need more informations about it"
if there any plz contact me.on.facebook at ramy sarryeldine
or hotmail at romio_44@hotmail.com

Default-user-icon ramy (Guest) 13 December 2013, 01:30

plz guys i.need a more help in this idea"need more information about civil marriage" we have to.judge it to make it for all lebanese inorder to live more peacefully
plz any help just contact me on facebook at ramy sarryeldine or on hotmail.at romio_44@hotmail.com