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Giving birth out of wedlock, Arab motherhood in Europe outside conventional family structures

Life Women’s Rights Arab Migrants

Thursday 11 May 202303:15 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

"أنجبت ابني دون زواج من شاب ألماني"... أمومة خارج قوالب الأسرة التقليدية


Has the era of male dominance come to an end? A secret inscription written in European ink catches the eye of some Arab immigrant women standing alone at the gates of Europe, whether they arrived by land or had come via treacherous sea journeys. It declares the breaking of the chains of subservience to fathers, brothers, or husbands, marking the first European steps that they can make in Europe.

They gained an advantage during times of peace as well as in the midst of conflicts, specifically referring to the gender battles that women have gotten used to fighting. In times of peace, independence asserts itself within families who have chosen European land, drawing inspiration from the approach of European society based on the financial and moral independence of each family member. But in times of conflict, that subservience had been shattered under the weight of laws capable of guaranteeing rights that were previously deeply rooted in lineage and blood, such as the rights of motherhood, custody, and justice.

In this vast space of freedom, women decided to prioritize their motherhood above all else and even set aside all other considerations and traditional stereotypes that previously surrounded motherhood. They made the decision to give birth to children and raise them on their own, following the path of some single mothers in Europe.

There are women who decided to prioritize their motherhood above all else and set aside all other considerations and traditional stereotypes that previously surrounded motherhood. They made the decision to give birth to children and raise them on their own

Mothers who have separated from their partners or husbands struggle for a dignified life for themselves and their children. They turn away from anyone who labels them as bad or corrupt and strive to become both the mother and father, sometimes even becoming the entire family.

"I can't stand men!"

"Despite the great advancement and openness in France, the traditional structure of the family still has its own sanctity, and any family outside the ideal structure consisting of a father, mother and child is seen as a broken family. But I didn't care about that and decided to live alone with my daughter," says Leen Mohammad (pseudonym), a 33-year-old law graduate from Beirut University, while speaking to Raseef22. "After two years in my relationship with Mathew, I felt that we would reach a dead end, and I was convinced that the problem was within myself because I have always felt that I am incapable of living with a man, and I have never met a man in my life whom I felt I wanted to spend my life with."

Leen realized at that time that she was on the verge of separating from Mathew, while at the same time, a fire ignited within her out of her desire for motherhood. She decided to end this relationship with child. She said, "I made the decision to get pregnant and carried it out despite Mathew's opposition, on the pretext that our relationship wasn't stable. But I went ahead with my decision and gave birth to my daughter, Sibylle, who is now 3 years old. After she turned 6 months old, Mathew and I separated for good."

The absence of the father... Peace and tranquility?

Leen raises her daughter alone, while Mathew visits once a month to see the child. She leads a financially and socially independent life, as French law guarantees her rights. Despite the difficulties caused by the absence of the father, which Leen describes as "a heavy burden that drains all my energy, I am capable of surviving. Sometimes I feel that this life is better than my daughter growing up in a toxic environment filled with conflicts and disputes. I live her life normally here, as long as I am far from the traditional Arab community. I have met several single mothers who lead normal lives and form independent families with their children."

"The absence of the father is a heavy burden that drains all my energy, but I am capable of surviving. Sometimes I feel that this life is better than my daughter growing up in a toxic environment" — Leen, a single Arab mother living in France

France leads European countries in the number of children born outside of wedlock, according to studies by the EuroStat office, with a rate of 60%. This is followed by 56% in Sweden and 30% in five other European countries. In Greece, the rate reaches 8%, while in Hungary, it does not exceed 5%.

Arab disapproval

While European law guarantees the safety, freedom, and independence of single women, some segments of society reject anything that deviates from the ideal and traditional family structure and treat them unjustly at times.

"I was in a relationship with a German guy and got pregnant by accident. I absolutely refused to have an abortion, but he only ran away and distanced himself from the child and the family" — Batoul, a single Arab mother living in Germany

"Things reached a point where I had to change my place of residence twice because of the harassment that my son and I experienced from some of the more 'traditional' Arab residents in our area. As for foreigners, their harassment is limited to avoidance and some strange looks," says Batoul M., a 33-year-old who gave birth to Adam from a German man out of wedlock. She lives alone with her 5-year-old son in Berlin. The Syrian-born woman tells her story to Raseef22: "I was in a relationship with a German guy and got pregnant by accident. I absolutely refused to have an abortion, but he only ran away and distanced himself from the child and the family".

Batoul refused to sacrifice her son and decided to become a single mother, ready to fight against her Arab environment and her family, that lives near her in Berlin, and that rejects this behavior in any way or form.

She adds, as a civil engineering graduate, "I initially lived near Berlin's Arab Street in the Neukölln neighborhood, and my brother and uncle would visit me from time to time, leading to arguments because of the 'shame' that, according to them, I brought upon the family. The neighbors would hear our yelling, and as a result, I started being subjected to harassments from a few Arab neighbors. That's why I changed my residence and moved to another neighborhood in Berlin to face a new challenge amidst a community where people strongly cling to their Christianity and do not welcome this type of family."

Even though having children outside of marriage is legally and socially acceptable in Germany, there are still environments that do not approve of this family structure. According to German law, there is no law obligating unmarried fathers to acknowledge their children. However, a single mother or a child who has reached the age of 18 can request the court to order the father to acknowledge the child and provide child support.

Batoul refused to sacrifice her son and decided to become a single mother, ready to fight against her Arab environment. She left the mostly-Arab neighborhood she was in to a Christian neighborhood, but found herself subjected to harassment there as well

She continues, "After a while living in the new house, I started getting strange looks from the residents, and suddenly the children in the neighborhood avoided playing with Adam after their parents told them not to. This situation caused significant psychological distress to my child. Now, I live on the outskirts of Berlin and work in a software company, trying to keep my family situation secret for fear of unexpected reactions. However, my family and relatives continue to harass me and label me as an adulterer on every occasion they can, while disowning my child."

Breaking the stereotypical image of family

Family structures have diversified in the modern era, breaking away from conventional norms through the margins of sexual and gender freedom. While they may not entirely dismantle the dominance of the traditional family structure in social ideals, these experiences have created unconventional families that deviate from the classic institution. Remarkably, they have managed to become successful models in the course of life, disregarding religious and social traditions that prioritize the appearance of the family at the expense of its quality.


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The Arab world has been a world stage for conflict, displacement, and war. Raseef22 has been covering the stories of various refugee and diaspora communities within and without the MENA region; whether it’s the story of those who left willingly or unwillingly, in search of a better future and brighter opportunities. Feel like sharing your's? Don't wait! we would love to hear it!

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