Monthly Archives: May 2014

Women and Jordan don’t mix

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You’re PROBABLY thinking: What? How can you say that? How can a population even function with only one half, males? You are completely mistaken with your title, women in Jordan have reached authoritative positions like the Parliament, Judges in courts, Ministers, lawyers, doctors, business women, activists, and many many more. So please Badia, do not say that women in Jordan are outcasts or that they cannot mix with ‘Jordan’ (by the way ‘don’t mix’ title is inspired by the one and only Morsi)

I am here to tell you why and how, day by day, women are becoming strangers in their own homeland and are rejected as part of a complete healthy society. If they are accepted however, there are certain conditions that they must comply to.

The other day, my dad dragged me at 9 am in the morning to Kasr Al Adel (A local court in Jordan) to print out a copy of a document. I was really excited to go, you know, being a law student, I wanted to see how and where the magic of justice happens. We had to park the car somewhere which is a 5-minute walking distance to the place. As we walked, I felt I was an alien. I kept looking at myself, was there something wrong? Were my LONG pants torn or something? Did my 3/4 sleeve shirt send an offensive message? or did my hair which was in a very mess bun attract all those eyes? The staring didn’t stop of course, I wonder why though. Why in the hell would you leave the paper you are working on to stare like an animal at a normal human being walking down the street? I wonder why you almost crashed your car just because there was a FEmale in front of you and you had to look? I truly thought something was wrong with me, until it hit me, whatever I am wearing, no matter what style I do my hair or what t-shirt I choose to wear, they will stare. I am a female, and it seems that in this society, it is a phenomena.

A week ago, I took my little brother after a long day of studying, to Jabal Amman just to walk and have some fresh air in one of my favourite streets in the world. My brother is 6 years younger and I always felt that I was the one who had to protect him, but while we were walking past ‘men’ smoking hookah on the edge of the pavements and staring at ANY female, literally ANY female walking, I felt he had to protect me. We even couldn’t take a photo of us with the whole of Amman behind us because the area was so male dominated that we really felt discomfort. Veiled, unveiled, long pants, short pants, long sleeved, short sleeved, THEY STARED. WHATEVER YOU ARE WEARING, WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING THEY WILL STARE. And this disgusts me.

My friend the other day told me to be careful as some men are targeting women driving alone at night and cornering them with their cars in order to teach them a lesson to not drive at night again. WHAT?! They even may go to the police and claim you hit them.

Don’t get me started with the laws which discriminate against women and make it legally acceptable to rape, marry and kill a female (read a previous blogpost on this).

A woman, in Jordan at least, is someone who is expected to get married and raise a family and that is it. She is not expected to walk down the streets, go to a public authority, go to a ‘male dominated’ restaurant or street, enjoy a night walk or even a day one. It saddens me, I study in Edinburgh, UK, and I NEVER once thought about what would I wear here or there, what street should I take or even thought twice about passing some men down the street. I left the library during exam times at 12 and 1 am, and yes I was scared, it is still a scary world filled with bad people, but never have I, during my walk back home, thought that people will come scream at me or harass me for walking at night. Why do I feel safer and more COMFORTABLE walking in FOREIGN countries surrounded by strangers, than when I walk in my OWN COUNTRY around people from my homeland?

Yes women may have, statistically, reached high positions in Jordan, achieved the impossible, created businesses and lead initiatives, but in reality, women are still rejected, judged, harassed, stumped upon and neglected. And if we do not do something about it soon, we are going to lose half of our society.

Heaven gained a Bashar

How hasty is death? How cruel is the thing which comes faster than lightening and kidnaps the people who are closest to our hearts? How meaningless life seems when we cannot share it with those who care about us the most? Despite it all, it is the inevitable, and one day, maybe even tomorrow, it may take me. It is an event that will certainly happen, but when is the question that will never be answered, as our Creator is the only who has it. Some are taken too soon, and in this post I will tell you about a man, a father of a childhood friend, a husband of one of life’s rarest jewels, and most importantly a genuine heart that our world will deeply miss.

Bashar Abdulhadi, a man of his word. A charismatic character and an enthusiastic soul. I remember meeting him for the first time 10 years ago, I was in the fifth grade, and Laith his son was bullying me, in his very humorous way of course. I was that nerdy geek and Laith was the type who loved teasing me about it and just making everyone laugh. One day, Amo Bashar approached me and started apologising in a very funny way on behalf of his ‘idiotic’ son as he joked about the topic. He really made me smile, and because of him, a year later Laith was as close as a brother to me. Being the nerd I am and Laith well being Laith, we used to take lessons together, and I can still hear Amo Bashar’s distinct voice echoing from behind. He added an extremely hilarious vibe in the atmosphere and was always a man of his word. One day, Laith had a problem in school, and I remember him coming all the way from work just to defend his son and stand up for him. He was a proud father, he should be, he has 3 brilliant children, and as they say whoever brings offsprings into this world, never dies.

I can go on and on about the stories which I encountered with this amazing man throughout my years in school. As we grew up and time passed, I got to know him more, and my admiration increased to how much of a man he is. A hardship hit my family around 3 years ago, and as we came through it, Amo Bashar and his dear dear wife were one of the most helpful people, ever. I will never forget how much they offered us and how much they did to help us through, even in the tiniest details. The last time I saw him was in January when he came over for Christmas. If I knew, if I only knew it would be the last time I hear that voice and see that wide wide smile I would’ve paused time and enjoyed that moment. But that is the thing about death, we never know when it will strike. Do you know what was the last story which came out of his mouth in my presence? It was about religious coexistence. He narrated to me a story about how an Imam of a Mosque in Madaba fell ill and could not do the Ramadan prayers, hence the Church in Madaba rang its bells to alert people of the times of prayers. After that, the Mosque wanted to thank the Church for their help and so built a Mosque and named it: عيسى إبن مريم. He then told me, you see Badia, how important it is, how significant the religious co-exitance in Jordan and how it plays a part in the development of our heritage.

I am glad, I am glad this was the last story I heard from him, it showed his genuine loving heart and how he always believed in the essence of ALL religions; love. Through that story, he conveyed his message, a message of love and acceptance. He accepted and loved others, no matter who they were or what they believed in. If there were more Bashars, our world would be a better one.

He also told me he was so enthusiastic to watch the World Cup, and now whenever I see ads about it, I instantly remember him. His tremendous love for football and cheering. I guess he’ll have a first class ticket to watch it this year, from above.

I know Earth lost an angel, but Heaven gained a Bashar.

Rest in peace.

Title-less

I always loved titling my posts. It is usually my starting point, I think it through and try to make it as appealing to the eye as ever. An English Literature mentor once told me that your title summarises everything, one, two, three or four words can describe the entire text beneath. OK, so now that we have established I love writing titles, I have decided to make this blog post ‘title-less’. Not because I have nothing to write about, trust me I can ramble on till tomorrow, ask my closest friends they have always wondered if I can NOT have an opinion on something for a change. Title-less is this post, because I feel our world is becoming world-less, and human-less. You can congratulate me now, I have officially put second year behind me and can finally breath some freedom, sleep more than 4 hours, ditch caffeine and indulge in my favourite novels without a care in the world. Or that is what I thought.

When I started this year last September and saw the amount of work and courses I have to take, I just couldn’t wait till May the 15th. Which is today.  Yes today is the day I have longed for the past 9 months. When the clock hit 11 am in the exam hall today, my smile widened, my sleepless eyes opened, my face blossomed, and I felt a huge burden fall off my back. But now I wonder why did this feeling last for only an hour or two?

Maybe it is because I remembered those 276  Nigerian girls abducted from their school? maybe because I remembered Syria and the constant blood shedding its enduring? maybe because I remembered the 66th anniversary of the Nakba and the people who were forced to leave their houses? maybe because I remembered Iraq’s constant bomb shelling and suicidal attacks? maybe because I remembered that man who lost his son? maybe because I remembered that woman suffering from an incurable cancer?

You know where these maybes are coming from, and you can continue the pattern for me. Each one of us can name at least a few dozens of catastrophes which happen to people around us, our countries, or to our world. This is a very random post, so here is another random maybe unrelated story. As I was walking a couple of nights ago to get some food and nourish my brain before I continue studying, I saw a man a few metres away from me kneeling to his bike. As I came closer I saw his blood and he was really in pain. It was an extremely busy street at around 6 pm, hence everyone is leaving work and more than 11 people passed him before I did. No one stopped. Literally, no one stopped and asked the man who could barely stand with blood all around if he needed anything. When I looked him in the eye I saw tears, he was traumatised from the accident. Told me that he was riding his bike when a man hit him and he fell on his nose and head causing the bleeding. He told me if I can just stick around for a couple of seconds so he can just talk to someone  before the man who hit him comes back from getting some napkins. 5 minutes went by, and we both knew that the man is not coming back. I ran into the nearest coffee shop got him napkins and some water. He seemed fine and told me he will be around people in a few minutes, in case there is internal bleeding or something. As he left, I kept on thinking, are we that sucked into our own worlds and bubbles that we cannot stop and see the people around us? and when we do, are we that ‘oblivious’ to the fact that sometimes people need help? sometimes a complete stranger just needs someone to talk him through something, to ease the pain, to make him feel his presence, not that he is invisible. It’s either that the man was a ghost and I was the only one who could see him and the long track of blood surrounding the area, or that people are losing that thing which differentiated us from every living specie, humanity. We are losing empathy, losing sympathy and along the way we are losing ourselves.

I think that is why, today after I finished exams, I realised that I should not be happy only because I MYSELF finished something. I should be happy because someone else survived cancer. Or because a homeless man got a home. Or because I see Syrian children smiling. Or because Palestinians are still holding on. Or because Iraqis’ strong will is something we should all aspire to have. Or because, despite all our problems, we are ONE.

We are one, one in humanity. And we should act upon it. Stop the hatred, stop stealing freedom from others. Those Nigerian girls are still on my mind, and I hope that sooner than tonight we will all be happy for them because they’ll sleep in their parents’ arms.

Empathy people, empathy. Let us feel together. Be sad together. Be happy together. What’s the point if you’re the only one smiling in a world full of tears?

MEDIA, there are a lot of Amals out there

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Amal Alamuddin?

I accidentally, while procrastinating, googled her name and read her CV. Before that, I only knew her as the woman who charmed Mr. Clooney. It turns out that Clooney is the lucky one, and not the other way around.

She is a name that have popped on my Facebook homepage, twitter timeline, Daily mail front page and probably every online and hardcopy magazine/newspaper out there in the last few weeks. Alamuddin is a Lebanese woman living in London with a career profile that would blow anyone’s mind away. She is a barrister (an English way of saying ‘lawyer’) specialising in human rights, international law, and criminal law. She  has a BA from Oxford University and an LLM degree from New York University School of Law. As a barrister, she has advocated cases in domestic courts and all the way to the International Court of Justice. She is also an expert in criminal law and situations in the Middle East arena. I could really go on and on about this woman’s, like many many other women, extraordinary achievements and hardworking past and present.

Before this year, I have never read Amal Alamuddin’s name, nor have I heard about how an Arab woman is now a successful barrister in the United Kingdom representing cases in international courts. It may be lack of researching skills on my behalf? but it could also be the inefficiency of Middle East platforms which seem to lack focus on women and their achievements. Instead, they seem to enjoy highlighting ‘scandals’ which women are involved in, and ‘morality’ issues. I can count tens and hundreds of news pieces which I read this year only, that present women in a stereotypical and degrading way. Remember Jackie Chamoun? The lebanese participant in Sochi 2014 Olympics, who was harshly criticised when she was at Sochi by the Arab World’s media because someone found nude photos of her and decided to publish them? The media chose to focus only on that embarrassing part of her past, and not the fact that she was one of the only four Arabs participating in the 2014 Olympics.

I am sure there are a lot of Amal Alamuddin out there, women who have worked hard and have started from scratch in order to achieve their goals and accomplish better lives for themselves. Women who have fought and are still fighting tirelessly against stereotypes and taboos which surround them because of their gender. Just because Alamuddin was proposed to by one of the most eligible bachelors, that does not make it more important than her brilliant career. Who one decides to marry is a personal matter, and while I do agree that Clooney is a high profile celebrity with a lot of eager fans around the world who are willing to wait for hours just to see him or hear his voice, let us not make Alamuddin’s engagement to him HER greatest achievement.

Her success as an Arab woman in the international arena is what should make us proud of her, and our media, at least, should portray her academic and work accomplishments instead of her personal life.

There are a lot of Amals out there, who are working to make this world a better one, and one which accepts women in authoritative positions. To all of you great courageous women out there, even though the media won’t write about you unless you do something which is considered ‘immoral’ or ‘unacceptable’ or ‘scandalous’, you are still what gives the rest of us hope in reaching equality. THANK YOU.