Mr. Haig Manjourian, a stateless man from Lebanon

Tragically, Lebanon lags behind both Saudi Arabia and Iran when it comes to women’s rights (what a shame ☹). Indeed, up until now, Lebanese women cannot pass their citizenship to their children; only Lebanese men can do so.

The discriminatory bill in question affects women married to “foreigners”, their children, and the spouses. Indeed, the bill affects crucial life aspects, including legal residency, access to health care, to education, and to work (e.g., professional associations, etc.). Most dramatically, it puts children at risk of stateless, as described in this video by “Human Rights Watch”:

To give a concrete example, one among many other tragedies, Bambi would like to share the following story:

When she recently visited Lebanon, she enjoyed watching TV with her parents. They once watched a very moving documentary on the MTV channel about a man, called Mr. Haig Manjourian (

Mr. Manjourian was born to a Lebanese mother and an Armenian father who held the Syrian citizenship.

Because Lebanese women cannot transmit their citizenship to their children, Mr. Manjourian became stateless.

Mr. Manjourian has three older siblings, two sisters and a brother.

After the death of his father when he was 12 years old, hid mom sent him to the Mekhitarist Armenian monastery to become a monk.

Following this stage of his life, he travelled to Rome, to study theology in order to become a priest. However, in order to able to travel, he used a fake passport. To do so, he used the name of “Tony Chehade Iskandar”.

Between the years 1984 and 1989, he lived in a monastery in Venice. He used to send letters to his mom on a regular basis.

After visiting his family in 1990, he  returned to Rome. He was never heard from to this day, that is for 30 years.

Many of his relatives suspected his death. Only his mom kept praying and hoping to see her son one day.

In their moments of hope of finding him alive after all these years, his family was literally paralyzed by the fear of asking the Italian authorities about him (as he was living under a fake identity).

They only had his last mailing address in a small suburb of Rome. They had the idea of reaching out to the MTV channel.

A small team from the MTV met with the whole family and travelled from Beirut to Italy. They tried to find this lost adult son through a good Italian priest who seemed to have protected him during his early years in the monastery in Venice. We later learned that he ended up leaving the monastery. He then lived not too far away from Rome. The priest kept checking on him from time to time and made sure he was safe and sound. He then lost his contact, if Bambi recalls the story well.

The MTV team then thought of reaching out to the (now former) Lebanon’s Ambassador in Rome. This diplomat seemed like a competent and compassionate lady. She could not provide any information for confidentiality reasons. However, she somehow kindly and indirectly guided them to a third party who successfully assisted them.

The MTV crew ended up finding him. The moving story is that one day upon returning from Beirut in 1990, he had a car accident… and lost his memory.

They met with him more than once. They even brought him items to facilitate the recovery of his long-term memory (pictures of his family, a backgammon game he liked to play with his grand-father, etc.).

They returned to his village in Lebanon with members of the Red cross to make sure his elderly mother (recovering from an open heart surgery), and everyone else, would be safe whilst watching the moving video featuring him.

The MTV even arranged a trip to Italy for his mom and siblings who finally managed to get passports from Armenia (minus his brother who could not travel because he was stateless too, ironically in his own country). They consulted with two physicians who both gave his mom the green light to travel.

The end of the documentary was SO moving beyond words. Indeed, what a beautiful moment to see him hugging his mom and siblings. Even the kind Italian priest also joined the family reunion. Everyone was grateful for all what he did.

Interestingly, the priest described this family saga as the “story of the prodigal son” (one of the parables of Jesus in the Bible).

Currently, it seems that Mr. Manjourian, has applied for the Italian citizenship, along with the Lebanese one. Will he get the Lebanese citizenship, knowing that the regressive discriminatory bill is still in effect?

Needless to say that Bambi cried liked a “human baby” whilst watching this documentary, especially the last happy scene of the mother finally united with her son, after three decades. What a LONG time.

To conclude this post, as the Lebanese Ambassador said in the documentary, no child should suffer like Mr. Manjourian did, along with his family. Indeed, it is Bambi’s hope that Lebanon will know how to respect and honour ALL his children and citizens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *