× Stateless persons in the MENA

Regional and international standards

Displacement and statelessness

Arbitrary deprivation of nationality in the Gulf region

Gender discrimination in nationality laws

Country updates

Increased momentum on the issue

Table of Contents

Displacement and statelessness

Civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, causing hundreds of thousands of civilians to be killed, millions to be displaced, and significant areas of the country to have fallen under the control of armed non-State actors. In Iraq, ongoing turmoil has also led to destruction and the displacement for hundreds and thousands of families. Yemen has millions of internally displaced persons and hundreds and thousands of refugees that are escaping the crisis and conflict that has afflicted this country. These worsening crises have caused a massive humanitarian disaster in the region, impacting countries far beyond those in which conflict is taking place. 

The overwhelming majority of these refugees and internally displaced persons hold the nationality of their country of origin and face no immediate risk of statelessness. However, due to a number of factors—mainly the gender discriminatory nature of the law in all three of these countries and complex civil registry procedures in host countries—the risk of statelessness in the region has increased significantly with the rise of conflicts. Children born to Iraqi and Yemeni mothers outside their country do not automatically obtain nationality, but have to apply for it. Furthermore according to Syrian nationality law, those born outside of Syria to a Syrian mother can never obtain her nationality. In times of conflict there are varying scenarios in which a father may not be present or known, or may not be legally linked to the child, increasing the risk of statelessness and related vulnerabilities.  Statelessness is a driver of insecurity and injustice, particularly in situations of conflict and displacement. Being left both displaced and stateless is not only an impediment to accessing a variety of rights, but also may affect a family’s opportunity of returning to their country in the future. 

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