Interview with Shahram Mohammadzadeh about Iran’s Citizenship Laws
Etemaad, Daily Newspaper, Jun. 26th, 2002, Page 9
By : Hassan Shahrzad
Word Count : 1943
Iran’s Citizenship Law, which was ratified long time ago, seems not to accord with the prevailing conditions today. Extensive changes on the question of citizenship and migration worldwide, as well as Iran’s status as the first initiator in admission of refugees call for the need to revise the existing laws.
Shahram Mohammadzadeh, a lawyer and scholar elaborated on the background of Iran’s Citizenship Laws and its points of weakness and strength in the following interview.
Since the ratification of the citizenship laws, the global community in general and specially the Iranian community have gone through a lot of political, economic and social developments. In particular, the social and political developments in the Iranian community in the post-revolutionary era, disintegration of the ex-Soviet Union into independent states and the immigration of Afghan refugees to Iran might not be simply ignored. It should rather be admitted that Iran’s Citizenship Laws should be revised. In this interview, an Iranian lawyer, who is also a university professor, elaborates on citizenship in Iran’s law and the related issues.
Q: What is the definition of an Iranian citizen according to the prevailing laws and what are the criteria for it?
A: First of all, Iran’s Citizenship Laws need to be clarified. If the treaties that were signed between the Iranian and foreign states, such as the one signed between Iran and the Ottomans in 1159 AH by Nader Shah Afshar and Soltan Mahmoud Khan I, are ignored, the first citizenship law drawn up in Iran dates back to 1324 AH, which was ratified by the Majlis (Parliament) in 1929. The citizenship law was valid and complied with until 1934, when the 2nd volume of Iran’s Civil Code was ratified. Currently articles 976-991 of Iran’s Civil Code are related to the issue of citizenship. However, the related law just refers to the individuals who are considered Iranian citizens without presenting any definition on citizenship. I should point out, however, that the issue of citizenship is related to legal entities rather than individuals. Legal entities including enterprises and vessels are considered, according to the international law and based on special regulations, as the citizens of a country.According to Article 41 of Iran’s Constitution, every Iranian is definitely entitled to the right of Iranian citizenship. Meanwhile, the government isn’t in a position to deny the citizenship of any Iranian, unless the person either files a request for it or chooses to become a citizen of another country. A special criterion applies to granting citizenship, which ends up in two types of citizenship, namely an original citizenship and one that is acquired. The original type is imposed upon any individual upon birth, while it might be defined either by the rule of descent blood or by the country of birth.According to the rule of descent blood, citizenship is imposed upon any individual upon birth based upon the rule of blood and through relation. Otherwise, it is determined by the individual birth place and belonging to a land. Usually the countries with a small area and a big population follow the rule of descent blood, while in less populated and larger countries enjoying rich natural resources, various facilities and economic development, the rule of the country of birth is prevailing.Switzerland is a good example for the rule of descent blood, while the United States of America is characterized by the rule of the country of birth.According to Article 2 of Iran’s Civil Code, anyone born to an Iranian father, no matter if born in Iran or abroad is considered an Iranian citizen. No reference has, however, been made to the mother’s citizenship. Meanwhile, this is pointed out in Paragraph 6 of Article 976, according to which, once a woman of foreign citizenship gets married to an Iranian man, she will automatically be considered an Iranian citizen. Therefore, it won’t make much difference in Iran whether the mother is an Iranian or a foreigner. In either case the father’s citizenship serves as a decisive factor in the rule of descent blood.Q: The question brought up here is whether the date of citizenship is determined by the birth date or by the time the fetus was created.
A: You referred to a good point. In our Civil Code, which is based upon the jurisprudence of Imams, some regulations have been drawn up for the fetus and protection of its rights. Therefore, its citizenship is required to be clarified. For example, the application of Article 851 of the Civil Code concerning testaments to the fetus is quite justified, according to which if the fetus dies immediately after being born it will be a legatee. While in some countries such as Spain the fetus should at least be alive, 24 hours after birth in order to be subject to the inheritance law. On the other hand, once a child is born to an Iranian male citizen in Spain and the rule of the country of birth is applied, the exact date at which the citizenship is imposed is of great importance and bears its consequences. Therefore, it should be admitted that the date of creation of fetus is of significance in our country as well.Q: What should be done, if the Iranian father changes his citizenship between the creation of the fetus and the birth date?
A: It seems like the birth date is the reference for indicting the child’s citizenship.
Q: Would the Iranian citizenship of the newborn child change if the father changes his Iranian citizenship?
A: According to Article 984 of the Civil Code, once a father with a non-Iranian citizenship becomes a citizen of Iran, his junior child will likewise be considered an Iranian citizen. However, once he becomes mature and chooses to acquit his Iranian citizenship at the age of 18 and become a citizen of his father’s former country of citizenship, a certificate of approval issued by that country to accept his citizenship should be presented. However, your question is just the opposite, i.e. if the father is an Iranian citizen when a child is born to him, but chooses to change his citizenship later on. In this case, the father’s abandonment of Iranian citizenship doesn’t end up in the child’s losing it as well and the child remains to be known as an Iranian citizen; unless the abandonment of citizenship by the father includes the child as well.Q: Is the rule of descent blood the only way to determine one’s citizenship? A: No. Actually the rule of the country of birth is also applicable under the following circumstances:1. Those, which are born in Iran with an unknown parentage, are considered Iranian citizens, according to Paragraph 3 of Article 976 of Iran’s Civil Code.2. Those, which are born to foreign parents, one of whom might be of Iranian birth, are considered Iranian citizens, as per Paragraph 4 of Article 976. This should, however, be amended; since there is no need for the children born to foreign parents to be regarded Iranian citizens merely due to the birth of either parent in Iran.3. According to Paragraph 5 of the Civil Code’s Article 976, those born in Iran to foreign fathers are entitled to Iranian citizenship if they continue to stay in Iran one year after they become 18 years old.4. According to the civil Code Article 978, the children born to parents who are citizens of the states where the children born to Iranian citizens are granted the citizenship of that country and their conversion to Iranian citizens depends upon obtaining a permit are treated likewise. Namely, the children born to the citizens of those states in Iran are considered Iranian citizens on the basis of the rule of country of birth.Q: What is the process for an alien wishing to gain Iranian citizenship?
A: According to Article 42 of Iran’s Constitution, foreigners might become Iranian citizens within the regulations. Their citizenship might, however, be denied once they are either accepted as citizens of another country or file an application for the citizenship of any state.On the other hand, according to Paragraph 7 of the Civil Code Article 976, any foreign citizen who is granted Iranian citizenship is considered an Iranian. Since obtaining Iranian citizenship might greatly affect the applicant’s political and social life on the one hand and the governing body on the other; some prerequisites have been set by the law for gaining Iranian citizenship, which are as follows:1. The applicant should be 18 years old.
2. Five years of consecutive or alternate residence in Iran is required.
3. The applicants should have served their military service.
4. The applicants should not be convicts of any major crime or non-political offense in any country. Of course, given the revision of the nation’s Penal Code and the elimination of such terms as offense and crime, Paragraph 4 of the Civil Code Article 979 should likewise be revised. It should be noted, however, that the government might refrain from granting Iranian citizenship to aliens either on account of political reasons or for the protection of national security. The admission of such applications might, therefore, require the Cabinet’s approval.Q: Would an individual who has acquired Iranian citizenship by following the above procedure be equal in rights to an Iranian citizen of descent blood?
A: A person who has acquired Iranian citizenship by following the above procedure, unlike those who are Iranian citizens either by the rule of descent blood or the country of birth will not enjoy all the rights to which Iranians are entitled. For instance, according to the Civil Code Article 982, such citizens might not practice law, become Majlis deputies or members of the Guardian Council, or provincial and urban councils as well as president.Q: Would the acquirement of Iranian citizenship affect an individual’s family?
A: The wife and the junior child of such a person will be considered Iranian citizens.
Q: What is your proposal for the revision of the citizenship laws?
A: It is quite obvious that the laws, which have been ratified within the past decades, fail to respond to the needs of today’s community. In particular, the regional developments and the unprecedented rush of the citizens of the neighboring countries due to war and unrests call for drawing up new regulations and revision of the old ones in order to limit granting Iranian citizenship and to promote the application of the rule of descent blood instead.Meanwhile, there is a contradiction in the regulations of the Civil Code Article 1002 and the Trade Law Article 590 concerning the definition of the citizenship of the legal entities, which should be revised. According to the Civil Code Article 1002, the residence of the legal entities is considered their center of activity. However, on the basis of the Trade Law Article 590, the residence of legal entities is the venue where their office is located. Given that according to the Trade Law Article 591, the citizenship of legal entities is determined on the basis of their residence, such a controversy should be corrected. Since according to the mentioned Article, legal entities are citizens of the states where they reside. This is while according to Iran’s Civil Code, the center of the legal entities activity is considered a determinant factor for their residence, while on the basis of the Trade Law the venue of legal entities office serves as a decisive factor for their residence.