Understanding Socio-Economic and Political Mobility of Naturalized Kurds in Lebanon

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2012

293 Pages







1. Theoretical Framework
1.1 Acquisition of Citizenship/Naturalization
1.2 Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Subjective Social Status
1.3 Political Participation
1.4 Research Questions

1. Naturalizing Foreigners into Nationals
1.1 The Basis of the Lebanese Nationality Law
1.2 The First Lebanese Nationality Law
1.3 Statelessness in Lebanon
1.4 The Naturalization Decree # 5247
2. The Kurds’ Migration to Lebanon
2.1 Lebanon’s Historical Context
2.2 Who are the Kurds?
2.3 The Kurds’ Population and Settlement in Lebanon
2.4 Composition of the Kurds of Lebanon

1. Introduction
2. Methods
2.1 Sampling through Snowball Technique
2.2 Questionnaire
2.3 Interviews
3. Data Management
3.1 Quantitative
3.2 Qualitative
3.3 Limitations
4. Data Processing, Analysis and Researching
5. Operational Field Measures

1. Introduction
2. Immigration History
2.1 Reasons for Acquiring Lebanese Nationality
2.2 Year of Immigration
2.3 Reasons for Immigrating
3. Legal Status at Naturalization
3.1 Dual Citizenship
3.2 Qayd al-Dars Identification Card
4. Socio-Demographic Data
4.1 Country of Birth
4.2 Age in 1994
4.3 Gender
4.4 Marital Status
4.5 Religious Affiliation
4.6 Spoken Language
4.7 Identity
5. Socioeconomic Situation of the Respondents at the Time of Naturalization and 15 Years After
5.1 Educational Profile
5.2 Economic Profile at the Time of Naturalization and After
5.2.1 Occupation
5.2.2 Source of Income
5.2.3 Aid from Family, Friends, and Organizations
5.2.4 Level of Income in US Dollars
5.2.5 Residence Ownership Rate
5.2.6 Having a Bank Account
5.2.7 Subjective Social Status
5.2.8 Subjective Perception of Economic Improvement
5.2.9 Factors Affecting Individuals
5.2.10 Children’s Future Economic Status
5.3 Discrimination Post-Naturalization: How Lebanese Treat Kurds Post Naturalization

1. Introduction
2. The Lebanese Electoral System
3. Voting in the Elections (1996-2010)
4. Reasons for Voting and Voting Influence
5. Kurds Represented in the Parliament
6. Political Party and Labor Union Association


1. The Argument
2. Rationale for the Case
3. Major Findings


APPENDIX I: Treaty Of Peace With Turkey Signed At Lausanne
APPENDIX II: The French High Commissioner Of Syria And Lebanon
APPENDIX III: The French High Commissioner Of Syria And Lebanon
APPENDIX IV: Lebanon’s Constitution
APPENDIX V: Decision Of The Consultive Council In Regard To The 1994 Naturalization Decree
APPENDIX VI: Map Showing Geographical Concentration Of Naturalized
APPENDIX VII: Macarthur’s Subjective Social Status (Sss) Ladder
APPENDIX VIII: Flyer In Arabic And Kurmanj Distributed To The Kurds Of Beirut During The Newroz Feast In March,2010
APPENDIX IX: Questionnaire In Arabic Administered To The Kurds Of Beirut In 2010
APPENDIX XI: The Social And Political Life Of Kurds In Lebanon


This dissertation, which is based on my Ph.D. dissertation (2012), would not have been possible without the assistance and support of many people who cannot all be mentioned here but will have my gratitude forever.

I am deeply indebted to my late father Georges Philippe Hourani and my mother Therese Maroun Maroun, my sister Madona Hourani-Porcher and her husband Claude Rene-Guy Porcher, and my bothers Machhour and Rodrigue and their families for their love and encouragement. I am profoundly grateful to Professor Hidemitsu Kuroki of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), Tokyo, Japan, for his guidance, unwavering support, and generosity as my Ph.D. advisor and head of my doctoral committee. I am also very thankful to my Ph.D. dissertation committee members, Professors Tetsuya Sahara, Keiko Sakai, Yuko Mio, and Hiroyuki Aoyama.

My field research would not have been possible without the munificence of a donor agency that wishes to remain anonymous. My gratitude goes to Dr. Ibrahim Sirkeci (author of The Environment of Insecurity in Turkey and the Emigration of Turkish Kurds to Germany), for directing me to the anonymous donor.

By awarding me the Civic Education and Leadership Fellowship (CELF) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University in New York, USA, the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) gave me an opportunity for which I will remain infinitely obliged, especially as this allowed me to discuss my research with a number of professors who were generous with their time and insights, including Drs. Kristi Andersen, Jamie Winders, Robin Harper, and Julia Ganson. Credit is due to professors, researchers, and institutions in many countries around the world for their proffered advice or shared information, in particular Dr. Jordi Tejel (author of Syria’s Kurds: History, Politics and Society), Mr. Urs Watter, and the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C. I am grateful to many of my friends and colleagues for their moral support especially Dr. Edward Alam, Dr. George Abdelnour, Dr. Kamal Abouchedid, Dr. Doumit Salame, Dr. Eugene Sensenig, the late Dr. Rita Sabat, and Mr. Amin Nehme.

Thanks are due to Dr. Thomas Scheffler, Dr. Deniz Gökalp, Dr. Mona Rahme, and Dr. Shadi Rhame, for commenting on earlier versions of the manuscript, and to Mr. Roger Gathman for editing and Mr. Kenneth Mortimer for copy-editing the text. Credit goes to Ms. Basma Abdul Khalek, Dr. Suzanne Menhem, Ms. Liliane Haddad, Mr. Elie Nabhan, Mr. Elias Sfeir, and the surveyors whose assistance in the fieldwork was irreplaceable. I am obliged to Ms. Jasmin Lilian Diab for convincing me to publish my manuscript, for finding a publisher, and for putting the text in the proper format for publication.

Finally, my deepest appreciation goes to the respondents and the interviewees for their cooperation, without which this research would not have been possible. I thank them for sharing their lives, trials, insights, and aspirations with me. I hope that my research findings will point the way towards improvement in their lives.


Dr. Guita G. Hourani is the Director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law and Political Science and Co-Founder, Secretary General, Forum Director, and Director of the International Campaign of “Lebanon Land of Dialogue among Civilizations and Cultures” (LDI) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU), Advisory Board Member of Beirut Economic Congress at the Lebanese International University (LIU), Lebanon. She has a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Global Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), Tokyo, Japan. She is presently expert member of the Lebanese National Diaspora Direct Investment Strategy Committee of Lebanon, Country of Origin Information Expert on Lebanon for the Fahamu Refugee Programme Oxford, England; Board Member of the Beirut Economics Congress (BEC)- Research Center, Lebanon; Senior Research Affiliate at the Department of Christian Oriental and Byzantine Studies of the Orient Institute, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany; Joint Researcher with the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa at TUFS; Expert on Citizenship with the European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship, Italy; Network Member and Country Expert with the Consortium for Applied Research on International Migration, Italy; Editorial Board Member Maronite Patriarchal Journal, Lebanon; Member of the Editorial Board of the Eastern Mediterranean Texts and Contexts Series at Abelian Academics, a Division of the Abelian Publishing Group, USA; Director of Research at Carthage Center for Research and Information, Lebanon; and Senior Consultant with the Lebanese Development Network in Lebanon. She is currently teaching a course on the role of diasporas in conflict, and peace-building, a course on the history of Lebanon and the Middle East, a project management course, and a course on governments and institutions of Lebanon.



Map 1: Number of Respondents by Neighborhood in Beirut


Graph 1: Percentage Respondents by Neighborhood in Beirut (%)

Graph 2: Number of Items by Variable Type

Graph 3: Reasons for Family Immigration (%)

Graph 4: Age in 1994 (%)

Graph 5: Spoken Language (%)

Graph 6: Identity of Respondents

Graph 7: Education of the Respondents (%)

Graph 8: Occupation (Pre- and Post Naturalization)

Graph 9: Source of Income

Graph 10: Aid

Graph 11: Pre-Naturalization Income in % (in 1994 Exchange Rate)

Graph 12: Post-Naturalization Income in % (in 2010 Exchange Rate)

Graph 13: Subjective Social Status: MacArthur’s Social Ladder

Graph 14: Subjective Perception of Economic Improvement after Naturalization

Graph 15: Factors Affecting Individuals Moving Up and Down the Socioeconomic Ladder

Graph 16: Children’s Future Economic Status

Graph 17: Percentage of the Kurds on How Lebanese Treat Them

Graph 18: Whether One’s Own Vote Influence Results of the Elections

Graph 19: Why Kurds Consider Themselves not represented in the Parliament Percentage

Graph 20: Why the Kurds Who Consider Themselves Represented in Parliament Percentage..


Table 1: Reasons for Acquiring Lebanese Citizenship

Table 2: Three General Types of Social Mobility

Table 3: Categories of Citizenship Norms among the Naturalized Kurds

Table 4: Lebanon’s electoral system has five basic elements

Table 5: Beirut’s Kurds Voters by Districts for 2009 Parliamentary Elections

Table 6: Beirut’s 2009 Electoral Districts

Table 7: Participation in the Elections

Table 8: Comparing Non-Citizen’s, Denizens and Native-Citizens Major Rights in Lebanon


Citizenship is broadly defined as “A status of full and equal membership in a self-governing political community that entails rights and obligations and is supported by certain virtues.” Bauböck gives also a narrower definition stating that “citizenship boils down to ‘nationality’, i.e. a formal affiliation of persons to states” (Bauböck 2002: 4). Granting a citizenship is considered to be a sovereign function; thus becoming a citizen of a polity is a double act, one side of which is the willing applicant, and on the other side the recognition by the state. The latter ultimately holds the administrative power to endow the naturalized with the civil, political, and social rights held by any native-born member of the nation-state. Citizenship, therefore “performs an allocative function within the politically constructed boundaries of the nation-state in that it controls access to scarce resources and provides legitimacy to social hierarchies between different groups within the society” (Bachmann & Staerklé 2003: 17). Naturalization thus becomes a highly controversial issue, at the center of which is the question of whom to admit or include and whom not to admit or include. The decision will determine, in some small way, the sharing of economic and political resources among the entire population of the citizenry. It will provide legitimacy to those who are admitted, thus securing their status within the nation, and it will make ambiguous those who aren’t admitted, making their existential status within the nation perpetually challengeable.

In Lebanon, as in many other countries, naturalization is a contentious political issue. Moreover, it is an issue determined partly by the country’s makeup. Lebanon nobly tries to accommodate and protect the 18 or so diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic groups in a system of consocietal democracy which depends on a constitutionally determined system of sectarian equilibrium and quotas. Lebanese had thousands of non-citizens/stateless who were without citizenship for one reason or another. However, the Lebanese government regulated the status of so many of them by issuing the Naturalization Decree No. 5247 dated June 1994. The Kurds, who immigrated to Lebanon from Turkey in the 1920s and who, in their majority, were holders of residence permits called Qayd el Dars Identification Card (Citizenship Under Study Identification Card) were naturalized. Before naturalization, the Kurds blamed their lack of social mobility on their lack of citizenship, a reasonable enough claim in a society in which employment in the public sector (which requires citizenship) is so large a factor in securing the middle-class lifestyle, and in which accessing education, land ownership, qualifying for loans, and asserting rights to public services all are determined by citizen status.

In this thesis, I examine and compare the Socioeconomic Status and the Subjective Social Status of the naturalized at the time of naturalization and 15 years after in order to explore how, notwithstanding other factors, the naturalized perceive their situation pre and post-naturalization. I analyze the strength of the association between citizenship acquisition/naturalization and socioeconomic mobility and political participation through Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Subjective Social Status (SSS) among 164 Kurds who were naturalized Lebanese by the Presidential Decree 5247/1994 of June 20, 1994. I also examine their political participation through voting and political partisanship in order to test the theory whether their political engagement at the beginning of the process shifted downward to a state of political apathy in the years since their naturalization, and whether there is a significant gap between them and the native-born in voting turnout.

The data of this research were drawn from a survey concerned with documenting the socio-demographic characteristics, socioeconomic mobility, and political participation of the Kurds residing in Beirut at the time of naturalization and fifteen years after naturalization. I surveyed 164 subjects who lived in various neighborhoods of the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, which is where the majority of the Kurds reside. Rather than rely overwhelmingly on descriptive statistics which often conflate analytical categories, this research construed statistical interrelationships between variables that were verified by qualitative data generated from biographical and experts’ interviews. These interviews sought to elicit a clear picture of the participants’ perspectives on the research topic. This research used mixed methodologies by employing qualitative with quantitative analysis; in other words, I mixed survey data with interviews, seeing this as the most profound form of triangulation of research methods, which would allow us to enhance the validity and reliability of the research findings and discover broader generalizations.

In preparation for the study, regular research was conducted including a literature review in Arabic, English, and French. After this, I garnered ‘pre-field’ familiarity with the community by making contact with and holding several informational meetings with the heads of Kurdish organizations and selected Kurdish journalists, as well as with socio-cultural scholars, political personalities, and people who are acknowledged to have familiarity with the situation of the Kurds in Lebanon. These meetings were coupled with visits to the neighborhoods in Beirut where the Kurds reside. Neighborhoods were identified by Kurdish key informants and Kurdish organizations. Furthermore, a flyer written in both Arabic and Kurmanji explaining the aim of the study and showing how people could participate was distributed during the Newroz Feast (the Persian New Year March 21, 2010), which is the Kurds’ most important celebration in Lebanon.

Once the sourcing was done, the contacts were made, and the questionnaire was finalized, I set out to pilot it. The piloting of the questionnaire yielded positive outcomes and increased my confidence that my research plan and the wide range of topics included in the study would permit an in-depth understanding of the social forces I targeted and help me attain the objectives of the research.

This survey was the basic source that provided most of my findings. The field survey was launched on 4 September and finished on 20 October 2010. In the course of it, the questionnaire was administered face-to-face with 164 subjects. In order to make sure that the survey targeted only those who were naturalized in 1994, respondents were selected while being controlled for the following variables: year of naturalization, age at naturalization, and voting registration in Beirut. The selection of the respondents was done using snowball sampling technique, which is applied mainly in two research situations. On one hand, it is considered the only technique suitable for sampling populations for which there is no official information or which represent less than 2% of the population or “hidden” populations, “hard to reach populations”, and “very rare human populations” (Paspalanova 2006: 7). In other words, because of their legal status, social stigma, and the consequent lack of visibility of the members of those populations, it is difficult to identify them. Research shows that snowball sampling is applicable in a situation when the target group can only be discovered by chain referral method (Welch 1975: 239-241). In the case of identifying the Kurds in Beirut without the opportunity to use demographic data or explicit household data, we followed Welch’s procedure of snowball sampling to discover the Kurdish households from the larger population households. This technique was the most appropriate to use in the case of the Kurds because a) Lebanon has not had a national census since 1932; b) there is no data available on the population of Lebanon including the Kurds; c) the Kurds are a marginalized group in the country because of their legal status and social stigma. The technique is based on asking individuals from an organization or group to identify and to provide contact with their friends, associates, family members, or people with whom they share a common characteristic required by the study.

During the fieldwork, I faced several challenges of which a) the lack of cooperation of the respondents due either to a combination of lack of experience in being surveyed, lack of trust due to their experience in Lebanon; and b) the general tension in Beirut between the Shiite and Sunnites which turned into an armed conflict during the administering of the survey.

The quantitative and qualitative information obtained through the survey was instrumental in producing interesting conclusions. My research construe that a) Citizenship has more instrumental value than intrinsic when the naturalized are ‘stateless’; b) The naturalized live in fear when their naturalization is legally threatened; c) Notwithstanding other factors, naturalization improves the socioeconomic mobility and positively impacts Subjective Social Status of the naturalized; d) Naturalization of non-citizens/denizens can have positive socioeconomic outcomes for the descendants of the naturalized persons; e) Naturalization may accentuate ethnic self-identification of the naturalized; f) The patron-client system/clientelism affects the newly naturalized to the same degree as it affects the native-born; g) Naturalized citizens’ votes can no longer be ignored; h) When the naturalized vote in higher number than the native-born, an inverse ‘nativity gap’ occurs; and i) Government integration policy matters to reduce the marginalization of the naturalized and to incrementally incorporate them into the social, economic and political life of the host society.


The modern concept of citizenship emerged in tandem with, and as a driver of, the development of the nation-state. The latter separated itself from the city-state and, in the modern era, from the classical monarchical model of governance. The citizen was forged through a process of revolution and reform in which governance became a constitutionally or legally legitimated process by which the interests of the people were represented, rather than the interest of the sovereign. This did not necessarily entail elections – nation-states could well do without elections - but it did entail that the purpose of the state was theoretically the good of the people. Even monarchs in the nation-state system governed in the name of the people. On the other side of the governance equation, those individuals born within the geopolitical boundaries of the state or naturalized within the state were endowed by law with certain rights or prerogatives and responsibilities or obligations. The rights of the citizen were of a particularistic order, setting them apart from the universal claims of human rights from which, in the trans-Atlantic revolutions (of U.S., France, and Haiti) they were derived. Nation states were pre-eminently law-making and law-bound entities – it was in this way that the rulers controlled the population that they claimed to represent, and were, in turn, limited as to what they could require. The state and citizenship became the theoretical pillars of government, which would be the institution that would create and administer laws, while citizenship became an inclusive relationship that connected the citizen not only to the state but also to other citizens. Unlike older state forms, such as feudal empire or monarchy, “nationhood” was not founded on some mythical act of conquest and its formal continuation in feudal ties, but rather fashioned to delineate the collective identity and internal ties of the group on the basis of historic, territorial, religious, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural commonalities among its members. Consequently, “nationhood” came to embody the values, myths, and symbols that glued the people of the nation together as individuals who partook of a common public identity. The complex and bloody development of nationhood did not follow a single consistent logic but rather produced a number of trajectories that were traveled by different nation states. But these states resembled each other in one respect: they all granted particular status to their citizens, which endowed them with a privileged relationship to the state that other people from outside the state did not enjoy. Thus, when ‘strangers’ to the nation-state came to it and applied for naturalization, the application was subject to specific, initiatory rituals, and not given lightly or freely. The naturalization process reflects the historical complexity of “nationhood,” including the often controversial decisions about who is part of the group and who is not (Bachmann & Staerklé 2003: 17). Inclusion, historically, was a matter of degrees. Women, for example, in Western nations were citizens of a second-class type until fairly recently; ethnic minorities, like blacks in the United States, were originally slaves, and even when they were granted full citizenship, in theory, were subjected to a complex legal system of discrimination that only began to crumble in the 1960s .

Becoming a citizen of a polity is a double act, on one side of which is the willing applicant, and on the other side recognition by the state. That recognition must be legally mediated. However that mediation occurs, the state ultimately holds the administrative power to endow the naturalized with the civil, political, and social rights held by any native-born member of the nation-state. Citizenship, therefore “performs an allocative function within the politically constructed boundaries of the nation-state in that it controls access to scarce resources and provides legitimacy to social hierarchies between different groups within the society” (Bachmann & Staerklé 2003: 17). Lebanese Women married to foreigners have been engaged in a campaign to amend the Lebanese citizenship laws to allow them to transmit their Lebanese nationality to their husbands and children.[1] The inclusion/exclusion binary is a key notion in contemporary theories of citizenship, and correlates civil rights movements within the pool of ‘second-class’ citizens whether these ‘second class’ are women, or persons with “Veiled Nationality”, or immigrants, or even descendants of emigrants who lost access to their ancestors’ citizenship.

Given the fact that naturalization opens up fundamental questions concerning the relationship of the citizens to each other and to the state, it has become a highly controversial issue in contemporary states, at the center of which is the question of whom to admit or include and whom not to admit or whom to exclude. The decision will determine, in some small way, the sharing of economic and political resources among the entire population of the citizenry. It will provide a new status to those who are admitted, thus securing their legal rights within the nation, while those who aren’t admitted but reside in the nation’s territory must defend themselves constantly against challenges to their existential status as residents. In Lebanon, as in many other countries, naturalization is a contentious political issue; it is compounded in Lebanon by the ethnosectarian political structure of the country. From its inception as an independent entity, Lebanon has nobly striven to accommodate and protect the officially recognized 18 ethnic and religious groups in a system of consocietal democracy that is founded upon a constitutionally determined system of sectarian equilibrium and quotas. It is for this reason that the citizens of Lebanon “are still grouped in millets” (Traboulsi 2007: 103). In this context, Naturalization Decree No. 5247 dated June 1994 sparked a political debate in parliament and the media that highlighted the effect it might have on the sectarian balance of power, and whether it created a demographic disequilibrium by leaning towards one group or the other. The ostensible cause of the law, which was the recognition of a group that had resided for generations within the Lebanon polity in order to integrate them within Lebanese culture and civil society, was mostly overlooked in the outcry about the decree. The participants of policy debates, for the most part, were and continue to be politicians and intellectuals/civil society activists, mainly from the Christian community, advocating for sectarian equilibrium, pitted against non-citizens/denizens advocating for the acquisition of Lebanese citizenship and the ending of the ‘statelessness’ status. The latter group was joined by women’s rights groups advocating for their rights to transmit their citizenship to their children.

The issue of non-citizens/denizens or the ‘stateless’ has been a divisive issue since the birth of the Lebanese entity out of the demise of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, when by the terms of the Lausanne Treaty, Lebanon’s borders and independence were established, under a French protectorate. The mix of confessions and ethnicities on Lebanese territory required special political compromises, which locked into place a system that correlated different peoples with different systems of family law, and different rankings in the state. This system would be strained by any demographic surge by one or another group – or by a completely different group. This, in turn, gave a special acrimony to the question of naturalizing non-citizens. While in other nations a non-formal defense of majority ethnics may influence decisions about naturalization, in Lebanon the question of tipping the balance goes to the heart of the nature of the state. Many members of excluded groups (Arab Wadi Khaled, Kurds, Bedouins, Syriacs, and others) blamed their lack of social mobility on their lack of citizenship, a reasonable enough claim in a society in which employment in the public sector (which requires citizenship) is so large a factor in securing the middle-class lifestyle. Besides which, accessing education, land ownership, qualifying for loans, and asserting rights to public services are all determined by citizen status. The Naturalization Decree of 1994 finally endowed many members of these groups with Lebanese citizenship.

Yet, though we know in theory that naturalization must have systematic effects on the ordinary lives of those for undergoing it in Lebanese society, “there is still a lack of research on the implications for the socio-economic integration of immigrants and their families” (Liebig 2011: 15). The research gap is gradually being filled with studies in developing countries that address the impact of naturalization on the labor market, as well as on the demographic and cultural composition of the host society (Bevelander & Veenman 2008; Steindardt 2010; Aleinikoff 2001; Ong 1998; Yang 1994; DeVoretz and Pivnenko and 2004). Other studies have been undertaken to measure how naturalization has influenced the children in the economic, social, educational and cultural domains, in comparison with their parents (i.e. intergenerational). However, the research paradigm so far has been mostly silent about the broader quality of life questions that are entailed when migrants are given citizenship, especially from an intragenerational perspective – that is, over the course of the life of the individuals in the naturalized cohort.

The fact that naturalization has “potentially important consequences for immigrants’ integration in many domains such as the labour market, housing, language, civic participation” (Liebig 2011: 15) orients my research, which I hope will contribute to the body of knowledge on the important changes wrought in the lives of the naturalized (intragenerational) over the course of the period in which they become citizens of the nation with civil rights and obligations and raise the next generation who are born with these rights. It is within this framework that I decided to study the fate of the Kurds of Beirut, who were a major group among the cohort naturalized in 1994. The Kurds all belong to the Sunni Muslim sect, and they are registered in the electorate boundaries of Beirut; prior to their naturalization, they held Qayd el Dars Status (Citizenship Under Study Status). These factors connect with central themes in the political struggles that have shaped contemporary Lebanon.

My research addresses the problem of whether naturalization matters in the ordinary life of the naturalized. It poses the question of the degree to which naturalization has a causal effect, that is, whether acquiring citizenship has a profound impact on the socioeconomic mobility and political participation of the naturalized citizen. The results of my research indicate that naturalization has a statistically positive effect on the upward mobility of the naturalized, on their sense of opportunity, and on their political engagement. Furthermore, their voting turnout is the reverse of that predicted by the theory of the ‘nativity gap theory’ or the ‘apathy concept’, especially when machine politics is at play.

In my research, I compared the Socioeconomic Status and the Subjective Social Status of the naturalized at the time of naturalization and 15 years after in order to explore how, ceteris paribus, the naturalized perceive their situation pre- and post-naturalization. I also examined their political participation through questions concerning their voting record and their political partisanship in order to test the theory that their political engagement at the beginning of the process would shift downwards to a state of political apathy from the high point of naturalization itself, and whether a significant gap in voting turnout would open up between the naturalized and the native-born.

These questions were generated by a preliminary exploration of the literature and then developed by fieldwork, using a questionnaire to produce self-reporting in response to questions ranging over the quality of life, employment, education, and political engagement. The population of my study is composed of a group of Kurds who were naturalized in 1994 in Lebanon. The population size was 164 respondents, all inhabitants of Beirut, whose data, collected from my survey, constitutes the core of my research findings.

In order to contextualize the theory informing my research questions, I present a review of my theoretical framework of the issue of acquisition of citizenship/naturalization literature in Chapter II. As an outgrowth of my overview of the literature, I chose to use Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Subjective Social Status (SSS) questions, combined with questions concerning political participation pre- and post-naturalization, to create a picture of the quality of life of naturalized citizens.

In Chapter III, I shift from political science theory to the political context of Lebanese history. To understand those factors that made the naturalizations of 1994 controversial at the time, and continue to make them controversial today, it is important to understand the Lebanese political arrangement. In this chapter, I present two historical trajectories; one is the development of Lebanon’s citizenship laws, which has been characterized by anxiety about the effects of naturalization; the other is the trajectory of the Kurds in Lebanon, their settlement and social composition, in as much as these are part of the public record. Both trajectories must be borne in mind as we try to understand the consciousness of the naturalized as they went about their ordinary life in the last fifteen years.

Chapter IV details my research methodology, sampling and data management. Here I discuss the selection of snowballing as my sampling strategy, as well as the practical obstacles I faced during the preparation and implementation phases of the survey.

Chapter V is the first findings chapter. In this chapter, I use the data acquired from asking my population sample about their decision to naturalize to understand the intrinsic vs. the instrumentality value of citizenship as they perceived it. In this chapter the data speaks for itself: it shows the statistically significant improvement that naturalization brings about due to the elimination of legal, economic and social barriers. It is in the analysis of this chapter that my first hypothesis is strongly supported: it is clear, from this sample, that naturalization matters in the intragenerational mobility.

Chapter VI is the second findings chapter. In this chapter, the data also speaks for itself, as I document the degree of political participation through voting turnout, as well as partisanship. In this chapter I embed the discussion of political engagement in the context of the prevailing patron-client system that prevails in Lebanon, shaping the behaviors of the naturalized in the same way it affects the native-born. I also present the level of voting participation of my population sample in every election since their naturalization. Against these responses, I test the ‘nativity gap theory’ and the ‘apathy concept regarding the lack of participation of the naturalized in elections to test my second hypothesis – the naturalized participate in voting at a higher rate when machine politics is at work. I find that an inverse ‘nativity gap’ is observed in these situations: the naturalized vote at a higher rate than non-naturalized citizens.

Chapter VII, I discuss the degree to which non-citizens in Lebanon enjoy rights and privileges, and how non-citizenship affects their socioeconomic and political status. Next, I discuss what value is conferred on the naturalized by means of their citizenship.

Chapter VIII, my conclusion, presents a synoptic view of my research and findings. I also draw out the policy implications of my findings.



This thesis, which looks at the effects of naturalization in Lebanon, covers a broad area at the intersection of politics and the social construction of everyday life. It takes on social, economic and political issues. As I stated above, the two intended contributions of this research are conceptual, by which I mean that the findings give us reason to reshape the standard understanding of the quality of life consequences of naturalization, as well as opening up the discussion of the motives behind a high naturalized voter turnout, for it is here that the role of machine politics in the mobilization and voting behavior of the naturalized is key. To address the related questions of whether (1) naturalization positively impacts intragenerational socioeconomic mobility, and whether (2) naturalization increases political participation, I maintain a dialogue with different strands of research. This section presents the theoretical framework in which I conducted this research. I organized the material in this literature review into three parts: part one is concerned with the acquisition of citizenship/naturalization; part two examines Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Subjective Social Status (SSS), and part three deals with political participation of the naturalized.

1.1 Acquisition Of Citizenship/Naturalization

Naturalization is a legal process through which a foreign-born individual may be granted citizenship. From the beginning of the early modern era in which the nation-state took form, the knotty problem of deciding who was and who was not a citizen has been resolved by policymakers in various ways. The most common method has been to transpose the principle of lineage, which determined status – royal, aristocratic, bourgeois - to the new system of the state by making citizenship a right by descent: all who are born to citizens become citizens. Descent is not an unambiguous category: Lebanon, for instance, defines citizenship descent by the gender of the progenitor, so that being born to a male Lebanese father is its defining characteristic. However, descent does not dispose of the citizenship problem, since there remains a considerable population which, for one reason or another, may be residing in a country in which they were not born. Furthermore, this population may also reproduce within that country, thus producing a generation of non-citizens. Some framework is called for to organize “the principles and practices for incorporating aliens and strangers, immigrants and newcomers, refugees and asylum seekers, into the existing polities” (Benhabib 2004: I). Each nation-state has created a naturalization protocol, which spells out the qualifying conditions for applying for citizenship and the procedures that the applicant must follow in order to be granted citizenship. Once citizenship is granted the alien is invested with rights and privileges as well as obligations of a native or citizen. Each state of the world has established rules and regulations to administer the attribution of citizenship. Some countries are more rigid in the barrier to naturalization than others.

Citizenship, according to Bauböck (2002: 4), is broadly defined as “A status of full and equal membership in a self-governing political community that entails rights and obligations and is supported by certain virtues.” Bauböck gives also a narrower definition stating “citizenship boils down to ‘nationality’, i.e. a formal affiliation of persons to states” (Bauböck 2002: 4).

Bauböck’s “affiliation” entails rights and duties. The rights include the right to vote, the right to run for office, better employment opportunities, ability to travel without restrictions, legal protection in case of criminal charges, access to public services, access to credit, access to property ownership, family reunification, among others. The duties, on the other hand, involve mandatory voting (in some cases), military draft and renunciation of original citizenship (in some countries), taxation, and all things falling under the pledge of full allegiance to the new country.

There are two principles of citizenship acquisition: 1) ius sanguinis (i.e., by descent, blood, parentage); and 2) ius soli (i.e., by birthplace). Ius sanguinis implies that a child inherits citizenship from his parents independently of where he/she is born. Ius soli implies that a child obtains the citizenship of the country of his/her birth. Countries commonly apply the first or a mixed method of both principals (Honohan 2010: 3).

There exist no citizenship regime that is solely based on ius soli; however, all regimes always include ius sanguinis (Honohan 2010: 3). Many countries around the world, whose citizenship regimes were based principally on ius sanguinis have gradually introduced ius soli, especially those that are experiencing inward migration (Honohan 2010: 3). There are on the other hand many countries that exclude any mode of ius soli citizenship; Lebanon is a case in point.

Ius soli is used as a mechanism to “integrate long-term residents… to avoid the persistence of a large portion of non-citizens who may be at risk of being alienated from the society in which they live” (Honohan 2010: 5), and who thus may eventually form a risk to the host country.

Theoretically, there are two distinct but interrelated stances to the motivations driving the pursuit of naturalization. One side gives primacy to utilitarian, or economic motives, while the other gives primacy to political, or inclusive, motives. While Aleinikoff (2001: 268) views acquisition of citizenship as a drive to attain economic rights such as access to certain job opportunities and state services otherwise denied to non-citizens, Ong (1998: 136) emphasizes wanting to acquire citizenship as a desire to access political rights, such as the right to run for an office. Yang, on the other hand, assumes that immigrants weigh the benefits versus the costs and the advantages versus disadvantages of citizenship when considering naturalization (Yang 1994: 449). Whatever the motives or the decision-making procedure that leads to naturalization, the result is to confer upon the new-citizen all the rights and privileges of the old-citizen.

Bauböck differentiates between naturalization as intrinsic value versus naturalization as an instrumental one when considering the motives for naturalization, identifying the former as an entitlement and the latter as concerned with benefits (Bauböck 2002: 18). Naturalization can be “automatic, mandatory, discretionary or optional” (Bauböck 1994: 71). Since naturalization in Lebanon is neither automatic, nor mandatory, or optional, it is considered “as a discretionary decision [by the state] rather than a subjective entitlement of the applicant” (Bauböck 2002: 9). Thus the 1994 Naturalization Decree No. 5247 was a rare opportunity for the non-citizen population living in Lebanon to naturalize in accordance with the government policy at the time. In fact, the “governments consider[ed] naturalization as a gift by the State, not as a right” (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada 2007: n. p.).

On the one hand, going through naturalization to maximize one’s utility is validated when the benefit that comes with rights is greater than the cost of transitioning from non-citizens to citizens (Bauböck 1994: 115); while intrinsic value as a motive, on the other hand, takes a more inclusive approach to the naturalization decision, “express[ing] commitment to the political community beyond the instrumental value of citizenship rights” (Bauböck 1994: 89). It is certainly hard to disentangle the two “Of course the separation of utility from commitment and of instrumental from expressive rationality is only an analytic one “because “most immigrants will be sensitive to both kinds of motives” (Bauböck 1994: 112).

In a correspondence between Rainer Bauböck and me regarding the motives for the Kurds of Lebanon to naturalize, Bauböck wrote “For Kurds in Lebanon who would otherwise be stateless I would find it very difficult to distinguish between the instrumental and intrinsic value. Intrinsic value can only be isolated as a motive for naturalisation under conditions where naturalisation is an entitlement, where the pre-naturalisation position of resident aliens is not deprived of essential rights, and where a previous citizenship of origin does not have to be renounced; and whenever any of these conditions are not present, instrumental motives will be mixed” (Bauböck May 2012 personal email).

Access to rights associated with citizenship should theoretically benefit the successful applicant; his or her socio-economic life should improve, along with his or her capacity to participate in the political process, which should yield certain long-term benefits in itself. A literature review on studies of naturalized immigrants over many countries shows, however, that the reality of these benefits is variable, with downward mobility and political indifference being a very possible outcome (Portes and Rumbaut 2006: 122, 264-265). Bevelander and Veenman (2006: 346) established that naturalization of Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands was not positively related to employment integration. This finding stands in contrast to the Pivnenko and DeVoretz’s study (2003: 20) of Ukrainian immigrants, whose incomes rose following citizenship acquisition in the United States and Canada. Bratsberg et al. found “that naturalized immigrants earn higher wages and have a more favorable job distribution than immigrants who have not naturalized” (Bratsberg et al. 2002: 589). Furthermore, Fougère and Safi reported that in France “naturalization has a significant positive relationship with immigrants’ subsequent employability” and that this is particularly true of those who would otherwise fall into the category of the unemployable in the host country (Fougère and Safi 2006: 83). This seems to correlate with DeVoretz and Pivnenko’s study, which finds that in Canada both male and female immigrants experienced an increase in wages after citizenship acquisition (DeVoretz and Pivnenko 2004: 25). Yet, Mata, on the other hand, found that the acquisition of Canadian citizenship “does not seem to matter much in explaining the position in an occupational and economic hierarchy” (Mata 1999: 169). As this list shows, most of the research has concentrated on the correlation between citizenship acquisition and integration into the labor market, along with the wage-earning differential between the pre- and post-naturalization individuals. Very few if any studied the impact of naturalization on the socioeconomic mobility of the naturalized or posit that “instead of being the result of immigrants’ socioeconomic integration, naturalization might be the cause of it” (Bevelander and Veenman 2006: 7), and even scarcer are the studies about naturalization and its effects on the life of the naturalized themselves, i.e. intragenerational effects.

In terms of the correlation between immigrants’ naturalization and political participation, especially voting turnout, Bass and Casper (1999: n.p.) found “that naturalized citizens are less likely to register and to vote than native-born citizens, net of other effects.” Similarly, Ramakrishnan and Espenshade (2001: 895-894) assert that those with minority status are less likely to vote in American elections as compared to the native-born, although Cubans were found to have higher political socialization and voting turnout, especially of the first generation. Tuckel and Maisel, however, discovered that “little direct evidence exists that would confirm the existence of ... ‘immigrant apathy hypotheses” which is based on the perception that immigrants voting turnout “should be lower than their native-born counterparts...” (Tuckel and Maisel 1994: 410), a perception that overemphasizes studies made “in the first two decades of this century”. Furthermore, Pantoja and Gershon (2006: 1171) demonstrated a marked association between naturalization and political participation.

1.2 Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Subjective Social Status (SSS)

Since the civil rights movements of the sixties, a liberal consensus has formed around the idea that equal opportunity is a core value of democracies. The ability to shift one’s class position on the basis of individual achievement and merit, rather than on birth or privilege, is correlated to the degree of democracy incorporated into the political system. In other words, a democratic system in which governance represents the popular will is strengthened by a socioeconomic system in which all have the opportunity to move up the ladder. It is this vision of opportunity that is most attractive to immigrants.

This being so, it is necessary to be clear about what socioeconomic mobility entails. Sociological literature defines socioeconomic mobility in terms of movements between social classes or occupational groups (which involves prestige, a competition for cultural and educational capital, etc.), whereas the economic literature generally focuses on income and income mobility. I combine both approaches in this study.

Why does social mobility matter? It matters because “a) lack of social mobility implies inequality of opportunity, b) economic efficiency depends on making the best use of the talents of everyone; and c) social cohesion and inclusion may be more likely to be achieved where people believe they can improve the quality of life they and their children enjoy through their abilities, talents, and efforts” (Aldridge 2003: 189).

That there are socioeconomic implications of naturalization is a standard assumption of all researchers. Yet this assumption relies on very tenuous research. At a recent OECD conference, the state of research was summed up as follows: socio-economic mobility is “one area where there is still a lack of research, although this is now gradually changing, with new longitudinal data becoming available in some OECD countries. There are many different dimensions involved in naturalization, including access to employment, especially public sector employment or regulated professions, impact on wages, and occupational mobility. Consideration also has to be given to the implications for broader social integration (language, housing, participation in elections, etc.) and the role of naturalisation in the overall integration policy mix” (OECD 2010: 2).

Sociological literature defines socioeconomic mobility in terms of movement between social classes and/or occupational groups on a number of dimensions (for instance, education), whereas the economic literature generally focuses on income and income mobility. Socioeconomic mobility, which is shorthand in the literature for upward social mobility, is the larger category. Researchers have most commonly conceptualized immigrants’ mobility within a temporal framework as an intergenerational process, whereby the first-generation enter the society at the bottom tiers of the stratification ladder and the second-generation climb the ladder to reach socio-economic parity with the native population (Hirschman 1996: 56). The degree of openness of a society – the economic and social opportunities it presents to each participant – may be indicated by the degree of intergenerational mobility. The latter, in other words, serves as a proxy for the measurement of equal opportunity in a society. In the literature, this is often conceptualized by comparing father-to-son, or mother-to-daughter, mobility (Vallet 2001: 4). In the intergenerational mobility context, “the recipient unit is usually the family, and the analysis is based on more than one generation, focusing instead on dynasties by tracking social indicators of the parent and the child” (Azevedo and Bouillon 2009: 11). This approach, which dominates the research field, neglects the impact of naturalization on intragenerational mobility, or changes that occur in the status of the naturalized during their lifetimes.

Intergenerational and intragenerational socioeconomic mobility is dependent on such macro-variables as the degree of equality of opportunities in a country, on the stability of the political state of affairs, the quality of education and healthcare, the provision for retirement and other indispensable services, as well as the biases encoded in the laws governing the country. It is also dependent on micro- variables, such as the level of the individual’s skill, education, social capital, resilience, the degree of industriousness, and nature of his aspirations. Hence, there is a close association between the economic system, political conditions, the laws of a country, and individual attributes and socioeconomic mobility.

Mobility can be measured in absolute or relative terms. Absolute mobility “occurs because of economic growth, which normally ensures that each generation is better off, or has a higher standard of living, on average than the one before,” while relative mobility “can occur regardless of what is happening to the society as a whole. Individuals can change their position relative to others, moving up or down within the ranks as one would expect in a true meritocracy” (Sawhill and Morton 2007: 4-6). Sawhill and Morton stress that relative mobility characterizes a meritocratic society, i.e. in a society where “those who work the hardest and have the greatest talent, regardless of class, gender, race, or other characteristics, have the highest income.” However, they also identified two other types of societies: The “fortune cookie” or class-stratified society in which “where one ends up bears no relation to talent or energy, and is purely a matter of luck” governed by “forces beyond one’s control” and the class-stratified society where “family background is all-important – children end up in the same relative position as their parents” and where “mobility between classes is little to nonexistent” (Sawhill and Morton 2007: 4).

Applying Sawhill’s three societal models to Lebanon, we find a mixture, with a strong leaning to class-stratified society. Haladjian-Henriksen claims that the Lebanese social structure “represents a typical example of how traditional social stratification nourishes all aspects of inequality and makes poverty generate poverty. Despite some efforts to secularize society, Lebanon is still fragmented across sectarian cleavages, where family-religious-tribal ties appear to be stronger” (2006: 316). For this reason, “many Lebanese citizens identify themselves more with their sect than with the country as a whole” (El-Khoury and Panizza 2005: 137). Furthermore, in Lebanese society, with its kinship system, clientelist politics and ‘grand’ families, ‘ wasta ’ (connection with powerful people) is regarded as one of the chief elements necessary to gaining jobs, high income, access to education in the sense of grants/scholarships, political power, etc. Sometimes ‘ wasta’ benefits the lower income individual, but more often it operates as a bar to entry that prevents people from rising higher than their existing social strata. For this reason, I cannot agree with Haladjian-Henriksen’s sweeping premise that “social mobility can be considered to be strongly connected to wasta gain or loss” and that “’losing wasta ’ would simply mean ‘impoverishment’” (Haladjian-Henriksen 2006: 316). Haladjian-Henriksen is ignoring deeper factors such as family background, education, economic status, and migration, as well as the impact of protracted conflicts. Wasta, in my view, is a surface phenomenon that reflects these deeper historical and social forces. In his study, Panizza found that “social mobility in Lebanon, it seems, is extremely low and family background is a key factor in determining social outcomes” (Panizza 2002: n.p.). Before the Civil Wars, Khuri found that “education and emigration have perhaps been the main drives for class mobility and change” in Lebanon (Khuri 1969: 31) – indicating that this has long been a Lebanese constant. We might also remark that Sawhill and Morton’s “class-stratified’ society uses the term class ambiguously. Safia Antoun Saadeh, in The Social Structure of Lebanon (1993), understood class to signify an open system where individuals are ranked as individuals performing certain tasks in the economy instead of communities. Class membership is thus based mostly on economic status, not ethnosectarian membership. Class position is inherently more variable, as accumulation and the reward for skill and education can change it, whereas ethnosectarian membership is a mostly a matter of descent. Thus, it is possible to transcend one’s social class origins in Lebanon. The Lebanese diaspora, which is a vector that allows Lebanese to insert themselves in foreign places where opportunities are good, and education, which pays a premium in economic success and social prestige, are drivers that create upward mobility in Lebanese society, as Suad Joseph observed (Joseph 1988: 31). Saadeh, in fact, saw immigration as the only conduit of ambitious young Lebanese to further their status given the boundaries of social mobility within the country (Saadeh 1993: 91-94), although this outlook may have been colored by the years of violence in which emigration spiked. Hamdan, in fact, claimed that prior to the Civil War of 1975-1990, Lebanon had a vibrant middle class (Hamdan 1994: 193). The foundations of the well-being and security of that class were put under attack during the war, and it became vulnerable in the post-war era (Delpal 12001: 75) as protracted conflicts continued to plague the country, and the national currency collapsed in 1985. In the post-war era, there was a new global economic regime that also buffeted a class that depended on a large public sector.

Although family connections, education, migration, occupation, structural changes, and the like are important determinants in social mobility, they cannot entirely explain differences between the trajectories of individuals as they rise upward, remain stationary, or fall. Macro-factors can explain aggregate outcomes, but individual characteristics play a vital role in determining the status one acquires in society on the level of particular life histories.

Looking for macro-factors to frame the aggregate trajectory of the Kurds in Lebanon, I drew on Meerman’s model of exclusionary social forces (Meerman 2005: 549), which seem pertinent to the Kurd experience. I found that the Kurds a) constituted a minority; b) have a recent history of trauma by being stateless; c) are stigmatized as illiterate and backward; d) are discriminated against, and e) are afflicted with slow economic progress. Inherent to this model is a causal connection between socioeconomic mobility and economic and social discrimination.

Social mobility comes in four ‘flavors: intergenerational, intragenerational, vertical (absolute) and horizontal (relative). Contingent upon the inherited and acquired abilities, intergenerational and intragenerational socioeconomic mobility is largely dependent on the degree of equality of opportunities in a country, on the stability of the political state of affairs, on the quality of education, and on the laws governing the country. Hence, there is a close association between the economic system, political conditions, and the laws of a country and its socioeconomic mobility system.

Most studies on socioeconomic mobility want to track it over a long time scale, in order to smooth out spikes and slumps. Thus, they concentrate on intergenerational analysis (children compared with parents). Intragenerational mobility, tracking social status between an earlier and a later date separated by a significant time interval, are often neglected. I chose to research intragenerational mobility in the context of naturalization because it presents an opportunity to draw a tighter causal association between the event of naturalization and its outcomes over a lesser amount of time, and on the agents who had undergone it.

We used both Socioeconomic Status and Subjective Social Status determinants as tools to draw a picture of the studied community before and after naturalization. While Socioeconomic Status provides us with information about income, education level, occupation, and social status in the community, Subjective Social Status mirrors relative social standing: it includes an individual’s perceptions of his/her current social circumstances, as well as educational and socioeconomic background, and future opportunities. SSS consists of a visual scale in the form of a ladder formed of ten rungs (see MacArthur SSS Ladder in Appendix II). The MacArthur SSS Ladder or Scale “was developed to capture the common sense of social status across the SES indicators” it “provides a summative measure of social status” (Adler and Stewart 2007: n. p.).

I will consider the naturalization of immigrants in Lebanon in terms of vertical structural mobility because its initial, framing moment brought about changes in the stratification hierarchy itself, as the Kurds were transformed from non-citizens to citizens.

Since this will be the first report to address the impact of naturalization on socioeconomic mobility of a naturalized group in Lebanon and because there have not been any published social mobility studies, to our knowledge, that might shed some light on the subject in the country, I chose to define socio-economic mobility in terms of changes in the life of the naturalized who responded to our survey. Consequently, this report is particularly concerned with relative mobility.

Since social status is a matter of social position and subjective perception, the question of whether social mobility matters has to answer on the basis of both social benefits and subjective perceptions and motivations. Social mobility objectively reflects the movement or opportunities for movement between different social statuses, as modified by individual trajectories of employment, security, income, and opportunities for improvement, and aggregate trajectories of national economic growth, labor market integration and the like. If, as I argue, socioeconomic mobility matters for the newly naturalized, it is partly due to a negative: the cost of lack of social mobility. These costs:

- Affect the whole society, because economic effectiveness depends on making the best use of all the talents of a country.
- Result in social disintegration and exclusion.
- Affect people’s beliefs in the possibility of improving the quality of their lives and their children’s.

The experience of immigrants and residents in the Lebanese labor market in the Civil war 1975-1990 and the unstable and insecure post-war era has been rough, regardless of their education, work experience, and language skills, due to its instability. Lebanese citizens have to cope with that instability, too, but it is worse for immigrants and residents, due to their position in the economic pecking order: they face precarious employment, income deterioration, and a lower expectation of occupational mobility in the long run in Lebanon. Experts point to the economic disadvantages faced by those who are entering a labor market buffeted by globalization and regional instabilities, and dependent on exogenous factors in larger economies that have large-scale effects on smaller economies like Lebanon. In this model, Lebanese instability weighs on job creation in addition to creating mismatches between the education and skills and available jobs. While these trends are evident at aggregate levels, there is relatively little research on sub-populations defined by origin, arrival date, or language group.

Traditionally, social mobility has been measured by correlating earnings of fathers and sons.[2] This research approach, however, requires longitudinal data and studies on social mobility, which developing countries, including Lebanon, lack. According to El-Khoury and Panizza “most Lebanese believe that the country is characterized by low social mobility”, however, “there are no data on the extent to which family background affects an individual’s future” (2001: 9).

The sub-populations of Lebanon are themselves divided by hierarchical disparities between groups and individuals. It is common to hear that someone who has experienced upward mobility owes it to his or her “family background”, or to “belonging to a certain religious sect”, or to having “connections,” or sometimes simply to “luck.” El-Khoury and Panizza contend, however, that to the extent that Lebanon is a mix of class-based and merit-based social patterns, inequality may be due to a) “differences in individual characteristics that do not depend on family backgrounds” and b) the lack of means or motivation to obtain education: “large segments of the population lack the opportunity of acquiring the skills that are necessary to compete in the labor market” due to their family backgrounds (El-Khoury and Panizza 2001: 2). This observation should remind us not to be too absolute in our approach to Lebanese society, which harbors a dynamic that is both anchored in kin-based social patterns (which are vehicles through which ethnosectarian traditions are socially reproduced) and is oriented towards the global economy, with a large educational infrastructure and an increasing rate of literacy (which produces pressure for individual autonomy and fairer systems of advancement).

1.3 Political Participation

In Lebanon, the naturalized and their offspring are considered an important set of voters and are expected to be politically active, at least during parliamentary elections. Political mobilization and participation of the naturalized are high on the political agenda of the Lebanese political class. In this section, I aim to provide an overall picture of the role of the naturalized in elections in Lebanon, with specific reference to the Kurds who are the subject of this research. I use the nativity gap theory to show that the naturalized voter turnout is higher than native-born citizens because a) the process of naturalization has made them familiar with the functioning of the Lebanese political system and b) because machine politics appeals to their self-interest in political participation. Despite the fact that I lack statistical data on the voting behavior of the naturalized, my fieldwork sample is a reasonably good representation of the level of participation, although it still retains a large margin of error.

I am not going to engage in the various discussions about concepts and definitions of political participation, but rather to opt for a concept or a definition that is more applicable to this research.

For the purposes of this research, I use Martiniello’s notion that political participation “is understood as the active dimension of citizenship” with conventional activities (e.g. voting or running for election) or less conventional activities (e.g. protesting, demonstrating, striking, boycotting, etc.) (2005: 3). Political participation “largely and primarily depends on the structure of political opportunities present at any given time and in any given society, which is the result of inclusion-exclusion mechanisms developed by the states” (Martiniello 2005: 6).

The link between naturalization and voter turnout has been studied in various national contexts for over half a century. From a US perspective, one of the aims of sociological research on the waves of immigration prior to WWI was to understand why immigrant participation in the electoral process seemed to be markedly lower than that of native-born Americans. At the same time, this election rules in this period severely constrained the political participation of certain American minorities (chiefly African Americans). Elsewhere in the world, the issue of suffrage went hand-in-hand with the overall struggle to extend the right to vote to lower income segments of the population, minorities, and women prior to the Great War. A new wave of mass migration in the second half of the 20th century that coincided with the global trend of decolonization once again highlighted the issue of the participatory patterns of newly enfranchized voters. In addition, civil rights movements in the U.S. and Europe extended the suffrage movements of the turn of the nineteenth century among many groups that suffered from second-class citizenship, which infused the act of voting with symbolic power. Today, the election laws in Europe and North America are equally inclusive and immigrants rarely experience exclusion from the voting process based on gender, class, sectarianism, or income status.

As defined by Bass and Casper, nativity status determines “whether an individual is a native-born citizen or a naturalized citizen.” Bass and Casper assume an overall nativity gap in the framework of political participation, i.e. the difference in registration and voting between the naturalized and the native-born: “we find that naturalized citizens are less likely to register and to vote than native-born citizens, net of other effects;” (Bass and Casper 1999: n.p.). Other studies concur and suggest that “immigrants – who are potentially less connected and invested – are less likely to participate” (Crissey and File 2008: 2).

Bass and Casper’s groundbreaking research and theoretical work on the nativity gap, as reported to the American Sociological Association in 1998, is predated by four years by Tuckel and Maisel’s 1994 publication on the voter turnout rates of European immigrants in the US during the decades immediately prior to and after WWI, which clearly contradicts the nativity gap premise (Tuckel and Maisel 1994: 430). In this article, as well as a follow-up study in 2008, the authors determine that naturalized voters do indeed tend to have lower levels of participation at the polls, a trend they refer to as ‘immigrant apathy’ (Tuckel and Maisel 1994: 407) Significantly, the immigrant apathy hypothesis, which was based on research done from the 1920s until the 1970s, was being overturned by the mid-1980s, and being replaced by countervailing theories that subjected previous data to rigorous empirical research documenting. The ensuing revision of the old nativity gap thesis showed that, historically, in many cases, voter participation among naturalized immigrants exceeded that of their native-born co-citizens (Tuckel and Maisel 1994: 410).

In his 2001 study on immigrant voters in the United States, Jones-Correa corroborated Tuckel and Maisel’s results and their theoretical assumption that in certain circumstances naturalized immigrant and minority populations out-vote their majority and/or native-born neighbors by significant margins.

A case can be made for an inverse nativity gap without having to include the political machine as a key determining factor. Studies were done by Pantoja, Ramirez, Segura (2001), by Barreto, Ramirez, and Woods (2005) and by Nicholson, Pantoja, and Sugura (2006) dealing with the Latino vote in the US in the last decade all document higher turnout rates for the naturalized under specific circumstances unrelated to machine politics. Barreto et al. attributes the sharp increase in voter participation among naturalized Latin-American voters in the US to the Latino community’s response to direct political attacks against them from xenophobic candidates and campaigns, on the one hand, and the attempt of both major political parties to attract their vote, on the other (Barreto et al 2005). Pantoja, Ramirez, and Segura (2006) claim that naturalized Latino voters have benefited from the controversy surrounding immigration and multiculturalism in the United States by becoming better informed, more motivated, and thus often easier to mobilize than the predominant native-born population. Surveys of naturalized Latin America voters show that there exists a high level of individual political sophistication within the community, leading to their ability to voluntarily collaborate on electoral political projects, pushing their issues and electing politicians who will advance them. This degree of political intelligence is not presupposed by machine politics: here, it is not a question of conceptualizing political options and voting accordingly. On the contrary, the voting behavior of naturalized Lebanese can be seen as the result of social and legal dependency, a corrupt system of limited goods and services allocation, and a continuation of the kind of patron-client, ethnically based machine politics common in urban areas in the US at the in the 1870-1930 period.

The example of the Latino voter in the U.S. presents a contrast to the naturalized voters in Lebanon, who, although they have experienced becoming citizens, are still among the most unprivileged and vulnerable segments of the population within the country as a whole, lacking the education and social capital to advance beyond the stage of development in which they generally find themselves. The only group of naturalized Lebanese that has not tended to remain marginalized after obtaining citizenship is the Armenians. There is a communal solidarity in this community that individual Armenians identify with; as well, they have an ethnic party to which the majority defers, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), known as the Tashnag Party, which provides them with political direction. As we will see below, naturalized voters are the most easily mobilized and have demonstrated the highest participation rates of any population segments in the elections from 1996 to date.

Thus, we confront a paradox: on the one hand, defining political mobilization by the rate of voting, it would seem that the naturalized are highly political. And yet, it also seems that they have accumulated little political capital: the naturalization experience has not empowered Lebanon’s new citizens by many quality of life criteria. It did not enable them to become more politically sophisticated and to voluntarily act collectively on an individual basis, as per the Latino model. Rather, the naturalized seem most unfree in the behavior that supposedly defines their emancipation: they are not ‘free’ in their voting behavior, but are instead imprisoned by the potential locked in being citizens. Because many believe that they owe their citizenship to one politician or another, or are made to believe that these politicians can protect their right to their citizenship despite any decisions made by the State Consultative Council, they remain dependent on the political patrons who initially facilitated their naturalization. This patron-client relationship has an aura of blackmail around it, whereby the naturalized, particularly the Bedouins and the Syrians, are in a vicious circle they keep them from being integrated into society to the extent that they can form their own political vision and chose their own political representatives, who could dispel their fear of losing their citizenship in Lebanon. This fear is not farfetched. Even those naturalized citizens who have political representatives and have a vision of their own socio-economic destiny, such as the Armenians, the Kurds, and the Arabs of Wadi Khaled, do indeed remain legally vulnerable. It is this sense of their vulnerability that obliges them to either enter into coalitions with existing Lebanese powerbrokers or be co-opted by existing coalitions in order to win representation in parliament and thus protect the very naturalization process to which they owe their right to vote.

Tuckel and Maisel posit that recently naturalized citizens are able to both maintain a high level of voter participation through the help of political machines and that they break out of the political machine system under specific circumstances. The key factor in enabling naturalized citizens to develop the ability to choose between the machines and competing parties was the fact that, despite its deficiencies, the American electoral system at the beginning of the 20th century was in essence democratic. Thus, wave upon wave of immigrant voters left the big city Democratic machines and opted for the competing mainstream Republican Party, as well as smaller protest parties, such as the Socialists and other leftist alternatives (Tuckel and Maisel 2008: 103-105). In this picture, political options and socioeconomic mobility converge: the naturalized cohort, under no threat of the revocation of their citizenship, has the ability to weigh their interests and values against their political choices. This does not mean that each individual voter felt completely free of the political choices common to their group and families. In fact, the further the migrant was from his or her group (the more outnumbered they were), the less they participated. When naturalized citizens moved out of the urban areas, their voting rate tended to drop. Evidently, voting was encouraged by the empowerment signified by being able to operate as a bloc and select sympathetic political leaders (Rotberg 2001: 15-16).

Applying the American model to Lebanon is, however, hazardous. In order to contextualize my study, I will give a brief description of the political system in Lebanon. Lebanese society is made up of a multitude of religious groupings of 18 diverse Christian and Muslim sects. Sectarianism in Lebanon was employed in order to create a compact of each group with the state. By dedicating a certain quota of representatives in the government apparatus, the parliament, as well as in the municipalities, to these sects, the state could theoretically block any irredentist tendencies that the groups might harbor. It is therefore customarily mandatory for groups who want to promote their interests to participate politically, which is how they access seats and positions in the government. The informal political tradition that has emerged in Lebanon, continuing a pattern that first appeared under the Ottomans, is to affiliate with a patron-leader, a ‘ Zaim ’, in the majority of cases of their own religious affiliation. The Zaim will promise to voice their demands and render them services of various kinds, in return for monopolizing power in the group’s niche. The tacit contract means that the groups must maintain these primeval and parochial ties in order to participate in politics, and especially in order to gain their share of limited socio-economic goods (from schooling to employment) from this participation. The ‘ Zaims ’ have “developed sophisticated machines to recruit and control their clienteles... These machines actively encouraged fragmentation and individualism, thereby contributing to the control and suppression of a potential class consciousness” (Johnson 1986: 5). In other words, the ‘ Zaims’ block any cross group organizing that would threaten their political monopoly, forcing groups back upon their ethnic, sectarian differences. It seems that in Lebanon, the ‘ Zaims ’ “are typical figures of the elite who had transformed feudal patronage” who were “able to perpetuate their political patronage in two ways: “families,” and the electoral system” (Firro 2003: 96).

To understand the political behavior of the naturalized, one key area is the participation rate in voting, taken over a period of as many years as possible. The length of time will correlate roughly to the strength of the tie to the ‘ Zaims ’: if the naturalized repeatedly vote over a period of time for Zaim recommended politicians, we can infer that the client-patron tie is strong. Emphasis must also be placed on the impact of the nativity factor on voting behavior, as those who vote under no threat to their citizenship form group comparison that will help us see whether that threat is a viable factor in organizing the naturalized voting pattern. Furthermore, it should be noted here that, as opposed to comparative studies in the US and elsewhere in the West, the naturalized in Lebanon are not recent immigrants, for the most part. They have, nevertheless, remained marginalized over many decades. Given the period of time in which my sample have lived in Lebanon as naturalized citizens, I can infer some of the conditions that have lead to their social and political isolation and whether those conditions will endure in the future.

Despite the fact that the naturalized of Arab Wadi Khaled and the Kurds in their majority have been born in Lebanon, it turns out that the length of time spent in Lebanon is not an important factor in liberating the naturalized from the patron-client relationship. Length of time in the host country should, according to assimilationist theory, lead to deeper political participation. Naturalized citizens, who have been naturalized longer, are generally more integrated into the society, are more receptive to the local customs, and maybe more knowledgeable of the importance of voting as a leverage to protecting their rights and access to public resources (Bass and Casper 1999: n.p.). However, if the group is isolated through the process of machine politics, the tacit knowledge that comes with assimilation might be contradicted by the result of the voting process: that is, the support for the political machine might create higher voter participation and lower political interest, measuring the latter by such things as militancy in political groups, engagement with civil society, party activism, etc.

The trends of the voting behavior of the naturalized of 1994 in Lebanon reveal that nativity status plays a major role in voting behavior. I will have to wait for more detailed analysis on the voting behavior of the naturalized in 2009, fifteen years after their naturalization, to test theories of naturalized voting participation, especially as some of the godfathers’/patrons’ political positions and alliances have changed, which most probably will affect the voting behavior of the naturalized and the outcome of the elections in certain parts of the country.

It has often been assumed that participating in elections shows that the naturalized are assimilating within a given country. According to this logic, voting is also a marker of an advanced level of acculturation and pride in belonging to the nation with which the new citizens identify by performing their civic duties. However, in the case of Lebanon, this process can prove difficult to substantiate, for the reasons stated above: the peculiar effect of machine politics in both creating larger voter turnout and greater group isolation. As mentioned at the outset of this study, a case can be made for the assumption that many of the naturalized voters were not independent at all; that their voting patterns were not an expression of their free will, but rather that they are driven by the Syrians on one hand and the political machines on the other to vote for a specific list of candidates without the knowledge and the political ability to decide on their own. This would place them in stark contrast to the naturalized citizens described by Tuckel and Maisel, who ostensibly supported machine politics as an expression of their individual free decision to act collectively to advance group interests. As stated before, the naturalization decree was distinguished by the fact that it gave citizenship to vulnerable groups of people in a clientelistic manner. The patron-client political machine relationship, which is prevalent in Lebanon among the native citizens, was even more prominent in the relations that were sealed between the ‘godfathers’ of the decree and their naturalized clients. These naturalized become even more vulnerable than before their naturalization, in one respect, because they were given citizenship to serve the power of the patrons. The fact that the decree was contested and a verdict halted its validity put these naturalized groups even more at the mercy of the patrons. In the case of the naturalized Syrians, they are in their majority under the power of the Syrian regime where freedom of choice is not allowed and all political activities are dictated by the Syrian authority. In the case of the Kurds, Arab Wadi Khaled, and the Armenians on the other hand, anecdotal evidence has shown that the naturalized feel that they owe their citizenship to their ‘godfathers’, and under that debt of gratitude, are expected to vote to benefit their patrons.

In Lebanon the traditional political loyalty of native-born Lebanese towards candidates belonging to their extended family or clan is augmented by party machine-based patron-client relationships, which are held together, as Hamzeh puts it, by a “network of transactional ties, where economic and other services are distributed to the clients in exchange for political loyalty – this political support usually takes the form of voting for the patron and his allies in parliamentary elections” (2001: 172). The patrons or ‘godfathers’ make sure to claim credit for the decree granting citizenship to the naturalized, using this to evoke a sense of indebtedness among the decree’s beneficiaries. That debt is paid back at the ballot box, with the naturalized voting for the political machine’s candidates regardless of whether they wanted to or not.

1.4 Research Questions

Despite the lack of longitudinal data and studies, I embarked on this study to establish a benchmark for the impact of naturalization on social mobility and political participation on the Kurds, which could be built upon in future studies.

Based on the above discussion, I set out to answer the following research questions:

- What were the reasons for naturalization (intrinsic versus instrumental)
- How did naturalization impact employment, earning and housing?
- How do the naturalized compare themselves to their children in terms of whether their children will be better off than them, or will remain on the same rung of the economic ladder?
- How do naturalized compare their socioeconomic status at the time of naturalization and now?
- Whether the naturalized and their children are discriminated against in jobs, housing, and schools?
- How do the naturalized describe their identity after naturalization?
- What are the determinants of upward or downward mobility from the perception of the naturalized?
- What are the key factors associated with naturalization and social and economic mobility (e.g. upward mobility, downward mobility)?
- In regard to the impact of naturalization on political participation and based on the above discussion, my next set of research questions was as follows:
- Did the naturalized vote and if so what was the turnout rate?
- What was the impact of the patron-client relationship on the voting behavior of the naturalized Kurds’?
- If Crissey and File, and Bass and Casper’s theory were to be applied to the Lebanese case, could one properly explain the voting behavior of the naturalized in Lebanon following the Civil War? Or might Tuckel and Maisel provide a more adequate approach to voting patterns in the country?

Finally, this thesis intends to contribute to existing theory on the impact of naturalization on socioeconomic status and upward mobility, with particular attention focused on the question of the political awareness and behavior of the naturalized, as signified by voting turnout. The findings should clarify whether the naturalized have a higher voting rate than their native-born counterparts or whether in Lebanon a nativity gap exists.

The thesis is thus divided into six chapters. Chapter one is concerned with the theoretical frameworks that chart the research territory and lead to the research questions. Chapter two is the context of the Kurdish settlement and of the development of citizenship laws in Lebanon.

Chapter three is the methodology used in the empirical work undertaken. In chapter four and I present the empirical survey findings in terms of naturalization and its impact on the socioeconomic mobility and political participation respectively. Chapter seven is my conclusion.



1.1 The Basis of the Lebanese Nationality Law

The history of Lebanese citizenship law has its roots in a number of founding moments. Although Lebanon did not achieve full independence until after World War II, its political composition was decided under the Ottomans and the French mandate. The first pertinent legislation is the Ottoman Nationality Law (ONL) of January 1869; the second is the Lausanne Treaty or the Treaty of Peace of July 24, 1923, which divided up the former Ottoman empire between mandates controlled by the French and the British; and the third is Regulation n°2825 of August 30, issued by the French High Commissioner in Lebanon and Syria (Davis 1997: 144-145). The Ottoman Nationality Law changed the status of those residing in the Ottoman dominion from subjects to citizens, while Articles 30-5 and the Regulation n°2825 regulating the Lebanese nationality of the Ottoman citizens, in effect projecting a prototype of the boundaries of Lebanon and its ethnosectarian composition.


[1] For further information see Mansour, M. and S. Abou Aad, “Women’s Citizenship Rights in Lebanon, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, Working Paper Series No. 8, May 2012.

[2] Behrman, J., and P. Taubman (1990). “The Intergenerational Correlation between Children’s Adult Earnings and Their Parents’ Income: Results from the Michigan Panel Survey of Income Dynamics.” Review of Income and Wealth 36: 115-27; Leigh, A. (2007) “Intergenerational Mobility in Australia”, The B. R. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 1-26; and Yuksel, M. (2009) “Intergenerational Mobility of Immigrants in Germany: Moving with Natives or Stuck in their Neighborhoods, IZA, Discussion Paper No. 4677.

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Understanding Socio-Economic and Political Mobility of Naturalized Kurds in Lebanon
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
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Politics, Kurds, Mobility, Lebanon, Naturalization, Immigrants, Statelessness, Voting Behavior, Sunni Islam, Socioeconomic Mobility, Political Participation
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Guita Hourani (Author), 2012, Understanding Socio-Economic and Political Mobility of Naturalized Kurds in Lebanon, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/389063


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