The Egyptian Interior Ministry yesterday began accepting citizenship applications from residents of Egypt with Egyptian mothers and Palestinian fathers. Interior Minister Mansour al-Isawi had announced the change in the citizenship law just two days earlier.
Hundreds of people waited for hours in a long line outside the Interior Ministry in Cairo's Tahrir Square in order to file the necessary documents - their parents' birth certificates, marriage certificates and character references from the police.
Until 2004, Egypt did not grant citizenship to any children of Egyptian mothers and foreign fathers. Only the children of mixed couples in which the father was Egyptian were recognized as citizens. But after many years of protest and a legal battle against this discrimination, the law was amended in 2004 to include most children of foreign fathers.
However, the law continued to exclude children with Palestinian fathers. The excuse given to justify this discrimination was the Arab League's stance that safeguarding the Palestinians' right of return to their homeland took precedence.
Two years ago, however, the Arab League announced that there was no connection between the right of return or Palestinian identity and the right to Egyptian citizenship.
The announcement of the change in the law was made only on Sunday, but rumors of it had begun circulating among Palestinian-Egyptians weeks ago. Members of the Fatah delegation that came to Cairo to sign the reconciliation agreement with Hamas also knew the change was coming, due to conversations they had with senior Egyptian officials.