Joker – a wake up call for social justice


The Joker is in the back of my head as I come today to office. I greet the security guard and the office boy with a smile, and with a part of me that feels sad, reflecting on the emotions of Joaquin Phoenix who knew exactly how to portray the feelings of someone enduring social injustice.


That’s the core message of this strong film. Social injustice that we grew to accept as a natural state of life, embracing the status quo and brushing off the harsh reality of the lives of many people living with us.


And while, enduring the daily struggle of living at the bottom of the social ladder, or the invisible side of it, is a valid reason for someone to develop contempt towards this society, the Joker has been lucky to combine that with a history of abuse and mental illness. A formula that built a character we grew to love and admire at the end.


The film doesn’t glorify villains as some critique claims. In the contrary, it raises an alarm. It is a strong wake up call. It is a call for every single one of us to pay more attention, to be nicer and look beyond our own needs and vanity. The Joker, hasn’t been a villain in this film, not to me, and not even towards the end when his character develops into enjoying killing other people. And to be honest, the minute he shots the first person is a turning point in the film. Not because he pulls the trigger, but the effect of it on him. The empowering look on his face, the liberating feeling and the healing from the psychological pain he endured for so long.


It is not right. I know. But I accept it because it is a film. There is a part of me that can’t handle the sight of psychological struggle of other people. I wish to help and I know that I fall short in many times. But that same part, played on by the film makers, made me cheer to the Joker as he took those lives. Yes, smile. I wanted to see him smiling and clapped when he did. Yes, dance. I loved how he danced and wanted to dance with him.


Be happy. I wanted to see him happy but that didn’t happen. And that is unreasonable to expect at the point he reached. He is broken beyond repair and his actions are no longer to seek justice or take revenge, but more of becoming mad to fit into the craziness of the world he found himself in.
And here, I can’t ignore the connection my mind made between the Joker and Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, triggering the Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring. One might find this film dark and heavy, but looking at our reality and the state of the region since Bouazizi burnt himself, shows us clearly that more than often, reality is darker than fiction.

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SI Leader Lab – Going back again after 11 years!


I am going back to Sweden in two weeks. This time participating as a coach in the Swedish Institute new leadership program “SI Leader Lab” which aims to connect gender equality advocates in South Asia, the MENA region and Sweden.

I can’t be more excited to be part of this after 11 years of my participation in the Young Leader Visitors Program, which started in 2008 with the aim of connecting young leaders for positive change. I was selected to be one of around 25 participants at the time from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Sweden. And that was mainly due to my writings on this blog. It was an amazing experience getting to travel to Stockholm, meeting all of those young change makers, who were leaders in their respective communities, getting trained on team building and social media, and build friendships that last for a lifetime.

The beauty of the program lied in the network it built and the connections it paved the ground to. It wasn’t limited to that year, as it continued every year since then, adding more change makers to the network. Some of which I already met and got inspired by their work, but many others whom I am yet to meet.

And this years, it even gets better. The YLVP has morphed into a program that focuses on what I am really passionate about – gender equality. It is also larger, reaching out to young gender advocates in more countries, hosting 60 participants this year from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen. And this time, I am going to give back to the program, co-facilitating a public narrative workshop to help these gender advocates develop their stories.

I actually can’t wait to get to know each and every one of the participants and learn about their work and challenges they are facing. It feels like an entirely different generation, but I understand the challenge. I understand how hard it is pushing the gender agenda in this region and around the globe, and I salute any effort that is put into building and strengthening such networks.

The movement is growing in breadth and strengths, and many laws have been changed in the past few years towards equality. Yet, we are no even close. The challenges are still huge, but we will work, each from his place, to make this world a better place to live for all of us.

I am going back this year with a feeling of pride, as I look back to 2008 and know that my passion hasn’t faded out. I am going back with an arsenal of books in my history log. Books that I wrote with the intention to push social boundaries towards more openness, tolerance and acceptance. And others that are yet to come. It makes me feel that I do belong to this network, and earned my spot here.

The silent majority are no longer silent: Dr. Dala’een case


I have been observing the growth of a strong online network of voices in Jordan that champions individual freedoms and human rights. This is a positive indicator that shows a u-turn in public opinion and a stronger passion from what we used to call as “silent majority”. This “silent majority”, with the help of Facebook and social media,  seems to seize being silent anymore, they now stand firm against oppressing traditional voices that has always used the agency of religion and local traditions to hold us back.

We had a good win yesterday when Dr. Dala’een, an ex parliament member and opposition leader was pushed to issue a statement denying the misogynist comments he posted on his Facebook page a week ago attacking the new appointed Minister of Telecommunication, Majd Shawikha. On his page last week he posted a photo for her (most probably taken from her Facebook account) in a night dressing gown. He added a comment saying that in the past such profane scenes had a place in pornographic magazines for perverts to look at, but today these women are appointed to rule against us! He got a few supporter to his post and many likes, but then hours later, the tide change, and angry people started flocking to his page, attacking him for his sleazy comment, and standing up for the minister. A day later, someone started an online petition on change.org, a call for the public attorney to take actions against Dr. Dala’een. The petition gathered 2276 supporter so far. It has triggered some newspaper columnist to address the issue and stand up for Dr. Dala’een. It may also be what prompt him to issue a statement yesterday and claim that it wasn’t him who posted that on Facebook, but a hacker that took over his account.

Whether he is lying or not about the hacker is not the point, we could be nice and give him the benefit of the doubt and believe his story. The point is that Jordanians are forming an organic coalition online that will no longer stand silent for misogyny or discriminative discourse.

Few months ago, the same Jordanians stood up for Kharabeesh, a video content website, for posting a homophobic video for an immature standup comedian calling for burning gay people. The reaction was strong, fast, and organised. People showered Kharabeesh with emails and FB comments and messages, forcing them to issue and apology and delete the video carrying the hate speech from their youtube channel.

In the same line, Jordanians stood up before to both Amjad Qorsha, a religious leader, for his offensive posts against christians. And also Abdul Hadi Raji Al Majali, a popular columnist, for his hate speech against Iraqis in Jordan. Both of them seemed to be tamed these days after witnessing the hard reactions.

One could consider Dr. Dala’een retreat as a win for women and women rights. I see it more of a public statement and endorsement for individual freedoms and human rights at large. With all of the negative aspects that social media brings, this one is a positive welcomed social change that brings hope for a better future.

Happy women’s day!

Humanly Syrian Stories


Destruction in Syria

Destruction in Syria

During the madness of war, one can’t possibly weave story that tells it all. There is no story that would ever show the whole picture of the horrors happening in Syria. Media news channels may focus on numbers, numbers of bombs, chemical arms, casualties, refugees, migrants, etc. They may focus of the political divide, the power struggle, and the calculations of winning and losing. People from the outside, may take sides, ignoring the fact that the loss far exceeds whatever media channels could cover. It is the loss of an entire nation (not a country) because it is the loss of people that matters. The stories of each individual affected in this power play are the real stories that should be making the headlines.

Last week, during the follow-up of the YLVP13 (Young Leaders Visitors Program) in Amman, I met a young Syrian guy. Ibrahim Al-Assil introduced himself to me as one of the members of the Syrian non-violence movement. A movement that aims to bring back sanity to the country, calling for change via non-violent means. He, along with his fellow members of this movement are courageous admirable people. He was jailed and tortured before, released and moved to the UAE. Yet, he refuses to settle with the comfortable life in Dubai, and plan to go back to Syria in order to push for the non-violent movement agenda. He told, “Syria needs us, we can’t leave to mad people”. He believes that with communication, he, and his fellows, can help those people see the madness of their action and talk them back to their sane self.

Though part of me think he is mad himself, going back in a suicidal mission to convince armed fighters on the ground to drop their weapons and adhere to non-violent methods, yet looking at his passion towards this cause, I could only admire the amount of humanity he has in his heart. It is only because he is humanly beyond our imagination, that he sees the humanity in the hearts of those fighters and thinks that he could reason with them. It is beyond media coverage, beyond political leaders, beyond ignorance and madness. It is people like him that Syria needs right now, people like him that gives me hope.

I am sure that each and every Syrian has a similar story to tell. Wars may have the capabilities of bringing out the worst in us, but they are very well capable of bringing out the best in us as well. I met Dana Dajani, the Director of Madrasati initiation at the Chevening Regional Conference. She was telling me that she wishes she could capture the amount of stories she hears because of her work. One of the touching stories is for a Syrian little girl in 2nd grade who lost both of her parents for the war. She came to Jordan with her grandmother. One day she headed to a nearby school and wanted to get in to study. Sadly, they didn’t allow her in because the school was full and there is no space from more students. The little girl tried to argue with the school principal, telling her how good she is in languages, that she knows how to read and write, and that she even memories poems! They refused her entry, only to see her next day bringing a carpet, placing it on the floor at the gate of the school, and telling them that she will do that everyday till she gets her right for education.

Another story comes from a school in Karak. A little Jordanian girl gives her daily allowance of 30 pence to her Syrian friend. After few days, her teacher got worried, she thought that maybe the Jordanian girl is bullied to do that. She asked her, why are you giving your allowance to your Syrian friend. The girl answered “I would spend my allowance on buying chips, but my friend would spend it on buying bread, she needs it more”.

There are only 3 stories among millions of stories that we fail to capture. I just wish that the media focuses more on the human side of this struggle rather than echoing the loud voice of the political powers.

Salzburg Global Seminar: Advancing sexual expression and gender identity freedoms


Sex and the Citadel

Sex and the Citadel

I had a wonderful time in the past few days here at Salzburg Global Seminar, not just because of the lovely scenery of the Alps mountains or the beauty of the city of Salsburg but also because of the amount of people I got to know closely and connect with. People who came from all over the world (around 33 countries) to participate in a session that aims to set up a blue print for a more risiliant and healthy socieites of the future, societies that integrate within people with different forms of gender and sexual expressions without any prejudice, hatred, or violence.

The forum was pretty diverse and I am not talking here in terms of gender identities or sexual orientations only, but more about the diversity of the expertise and capacities of the participants; a large amount of successful professionals, political leaders, academics, activists, artists and media experts. One of the most impressive participants whom I grew to love and admire is the Egyptian author Shereen Al Feki. She presented her book “Sex and The Citadel” that sums up her five years of research about the contemporary sexuality of the Arab world. I realize that what she means by the “Citadel” is the institution of marriage and from what I heard about the book, it seems to carry the underline research to back up my observations of the Arab societies that I talk about in my book Aroos Amman (Amman’s Bride). It is all about the social obsession in marriage and how this institution is becoing harder and harder to achieve. Describing it as a “Citadel” is very smart and accurate indeed! I look forward to reading the book especially that she told me that she is interested in mentioning my novel in a potential update of her book (fingers crossed).

During the sessions, there been always this questions of identities and cultures and the validity of the acronym of LGBT in addressing the issues of sexual expressions and gender identities. I personally believe that such acronym is problematic  It is culturally biased in a way and restrictive and dividing in another. Those issues should go under the sexual expression and gender identities freedoms umbrella that is more inclusive in my opinion. For instance, I find no reason not to include the “W” in the Arab world, and here I am talking about women at large for they are more and more becoming to face a stronger aggression and hostility towards limiting and redefining their natural sexual expressions.

I would like to thank all of the staff at Salzburge Global Seminar for putting great efforts into organization such an important forum. The network built here is priceless and hopefully would help advancing human rights all over the world towards better societies for all of us. Thank you Klaus Muller (the chair organiser of the event)!

Last year, I participated in Stockholm Water Week and helped developing a young professional vision for the global food and water security and now I am helped coming up with a global statement to advance sexual expression and gender identity rights. It seems I am doing pretty well on the global front! Not bad at all. I guess that when you love the world, it loves you back 🙂

Damn me! demanding my child right for my citizenship!


Oh damn me!

How selfish am I asking for the right to pass my citizenship to my husband and children.

Is it selfishness? or is it insanity?

Insane enough to ask for an equal status with Man
Insane enough to think that the half genetic code that I pass to my kids are not that inferior to the second half provided by my husband

After all, he is the MAN!

His genes comes through his sperm, that comes out of his phallus!

That damn phallus!

Mine are hidden in my vagina, nearly as invisible as myself

Invisible genetic code vs a phallic genetic code, that explains it all, no?
It has all been set from long time ago; children carry the name of their fathers.
That is what religion tells us, what God wants, what our traditions entails, and what our habits are accustomed to.

Simple and easy.

and in a modern, civil country, where a citizen is suppose to be a ‘citizen’, old habits get translated into laws
So yes, the invisibility of my genetic code is naturally transferred into the penal code.. of my country
Children who used to carry the name of their fathers, can only carry the citizenship of their fathers as well

Simple and easy.

Why change that? for women are not really full citizens. You know?

They don’t really pay the same amount of taxes, do they?
They don’t really work as hard as men, do they?
They are less smart, less educated, and less worthy, aren’t they?
and guess what? They get pregnant! and become burdon to their employers and society.
but hey, once they pop their child out, it is no longer theirs

Well, how could it be when the woman herself becomes a property for her husband? when she, herself, abandons her family and claims his family name?
Sorry, forgot that this usually happens ‘out of love’
He loves her too, don’t get me wrong, but a Man’s love is different too.. it comes with privileges..
such as ‘a citizen can be different than another citizen’ (based on sex, country of origin, religion, race, color, sexual orientation, etc)
of course there will always be pigs who are more equal than other pigs.. this is life.. deal with it

and damn me

I opened the pandora box.. and whispered ‘Equality’

woooooww! hold on! Equality? me and Man? is it even possible?

Equality that risks to destroy the ‘Jordanian Identity’?
Equality that risks to destroy the ‘Palestinians Identity’?
Equality that would pull all of the Palestinians and destroy any hope for a Palestinian future (as if that is happening tomorrow).
Equality that would kill Jordan and turn it into a substitute land!

This is what Israel wants, isn’t it? what the devil wants? what the immoral civil world wants? Equality!

I know, I am just being selfish. I am just looking at my own selfish gain without looking at the broader picture and the best for my country.
My country? Can I even say that? while being a woman?
The best for the country is what is best for its men. Remember, I am invisible?

So Jordanian men can marry Palestinian women all they want. They can marry up to 4! They can pull them all out of Palestine, grant them their citizenship and get as many children out of them who would only be Jordanians.

That wouldn’t affect the Palestinian cause… neither the Jordanian identity!
You know, Israel is like us, they don’t count women. Even the UN, they don’t really count women, do they?
They don’t even acknowledge the linkage between a child and a mother..

Remember? Mother genetic code is invisible..

Maybe I am just choosing the wrong time? you know ‘the global conspiracy’ that is after us? I am just a tool, I know it!

It has always been.. my rights are equal to human disasters! alien invasions! armageddons!

That what happens when I step up.. when I stop being that invisible!

Isn’t it?

Sincerely,

Haya

One of the SEVEN: Don’t miss it!


SEVEN

I am honoured to be part of a play presented by Swedish Institute and embassy that highlights women rights around the world. The play called SEVEN will be shown in Amman for the first time this month on Saturday 20th, Oct and Sunday 21th, Oct. I will be taking a role in the Arabic version of the play alongside some amazing Jordanian women:

Nadine Toukan, maverick producer
Samar Dudin, director of RUWWAD
Rabiha Dabbas, previous minister of municipal affairs and previous governor
Nabila F. T. Abdel Masieh Managing Director EN-CAPS Consult
Lana Nasser, playwright, actress

That is quite an honor to be among these women and read a woman’s part.

If you can’t make it to the Arabic version on Saturday, make sure to make it on Sunday. The role I am playing in Arabic would be played by the beautiful Swedish Ambassador in Amman Charlotta Sparre.

DONT MISS IT!

Here is the event’s page on Facebook. Join in and invite your friends 🙂