The choice: A letter to my mother, and everyone else


A dear brave gay friend of mine came out to his mother two months ago. He wrote this touching letter and asked me to published it on my blog:

The choice: A letter to my mother, and everyone else.

You choose to be gay, and you can “unchoose” it.

Do we choose to cast disappointment on those we love the most?

Do we choose to rob ourselves from the look of love and pride our parents reserve for our siblings who marry their opposite sex?

Do we choose to worry about what the next door neighbours will think and if they’ll report us to the police?

Do we choose to uproot ourselves from everything we know and lived with, every single time a government cracks down on us and we seek refuge somewhere else, amongst foreigners who never saw us battle through our lives since our childhood?

Do we choose to not get married right now because the country we live in doesn’t recognize our union, and one of us has a passport that doesn’t allow us to rest our tired souls on its soil, unless we get married somewhere else, away from everyone that have witnessed our birth and childhood?

Do we choose to worry about, if one of us gets sick and needs rushing to the hospital, what story we’d come up with about the nature of our relationship to the nurse and doctors?

Do we choose to worry about the people who always see us together, grocery shopping, going to the gym, checking in at hotels and ordering a king size bed?

Do we choose to have to delete any of our endearing messages and photographs on our phone should we detained at the airport security offices, in fear that we’d be put in hal and deported?

Do we choose to turn our backs on those we thought love us without any boundaries, because all they us to be is like the rest?

Do we choose to run to every single grave we know, asking their inhabitants if indeed Hell is reserved for us?

We choose to live through it all, because at the end of the day, our love for each other, and for our own selves, is worth it. This is the choice we make. Every single second of every single day.

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Starting off as a Jordanian blogger, I never dreamt of the day I will be launching my book in UK. And It just happened!


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With Brian Whitaker in Waterstones Brighton

On my way back to Dubai after a week of touring UK to launch “The Bride of Amman”. I have to admit, when I first wrote the novel, this hasn’t been in my wildest dreams. Getting published in Arabic is a hassle, having a successful book is a feat, getting it translated into English is a dream, and running book signing events in 5 different cities in the UK is something else. On top of all of that, I was honored to have the chance to speak at The Middle East Center of St. Anthony College in Oxford University and also in one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the UK, Eton College, and and and, I was joined in the last two events (in London and Brighton) with a writer I have admired and read his book few years ago, a guardian journalist and author of “Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East” and “Arabs Without Gods: Atheism and Freedom of Belief in the Arab WorldBrian Whitaker.

me and Ruth talking at Oxford University

me and Ruth talking at Oxford University

Of course, nothing of that would have happened without Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. She is such a lovely person, full of energy and kindness. She hosted me in her beautiful house. Ruth has been organizing this trip for a while now, setting up book signings and talks in 5 different UK cities: Cheltenham, Bristol, Oxford, Brighton and London. She didn’t stop there, but also squeezed in a lovely visit to the British Library where Dan Lowe (it was a pleasure meeting you Dan) showed us old Arabic manuscripts that addresses sexuality. And also Eton’s college visit where we met Haroon Shirwani head of Arabic departmen who also showed us their own priceless collection of Arabic manuscripts (thank you Haroon). Ruth has also succeeded in setting us up for a radio interview in ShoutOut radio station in Bristol (thank you Evan).

with Eton's students

with Eton’s students

When Ruth contacting me via Twitter in 2013 after getting a hold on “Arous Amman” (the Arabic version of The Bride of Amman) while visiting Jordan, I didn’t realize how lucky I am that she popped up in my life. At the time she wanted to translate an except from the book and submit to “Words Without Borders” Literary Magazine, and I was happy to accept. Few months down the line, when I signed a contract with Signal8Press to get the book in English, I knew who I should ask. Gladly, she was on board. But even then, I never anticipated that such tour would be in my horizon. Looking back 10 years ago, when I published my first blog, I’d say that I am more than happy to reach where I am today. It wasn’t only the joy of writing every word and sentence, on my blog, and in my books, but also the wonderful journey of debating my ideas and getting to meet successful and wonderful people all around. I have to admit that I do enjoy doing all of the public relations activities: running interviews, being in book discussions and debates around my writings, getting readers’ feedback and building relations with people in the field. It is such a joy!

Window view for the suffolks bookshop in Cheltenham

Window view for the suffolks bookshop in Cheltenham

Event announcement in Oxford Uni

Event announcement in Oxford Uni

Funny, things aren’t usually as rosy as it is when the book is out. The process of writing a book is long, and it is not easy. It requires discipline and commitment. And I can’t deny that like anyone else in the creative industry, it is always a worry to maintain and overdo previous success and assure that your future work is as good or even better than your previous one. I was too worried before my second book “Janna Ala Al Ard’ was released. It was the second step that would establish me as a writer. The topic itself was tricky, siding off gender and sexuality where I have all of the support and delving into speculative fiction of a story from the future. That has also happened at a time I was back to school for my MA. I remember when I was done with my degree and where back in Jordan looking for a job again. It was a tough period where I was too worried about the little savings that had left with me at the time, and not knowing what will come next. I focused on the book, and even after I secured a job (3 months later), I still was committed to the book till I completed it in April 2014. It was a tough period as well as a month later I was moving to a job in Ajman in a totally new environment. I remember my first few days in Ajman sitting in a cafe at the cornish with the whole text printed out, reviewing every word and doing my last edits. The work on Janna had just started, not finished, I needed to secure a publisher, and having a successful first book didn’t actually give me a passing card to get publishers interested in the second. I sent the text to couple of them and was hoping, really hoping, that Dar Al Adab would show interest. On their website, they say that they have a committee of avid readers who assess submitted books and write a report accordingly. They told that they need 2 months to review it, and it took them 3. When the report hit my email, I was flying with joy! I couldn’t believe my eyes, reading it over and over again, their acknowledgment of the book as worthy enough to be one of theirs.

The Arts Cafe in Bristol

The Arts Cafe in Bristol

We then set a launch date in November, and now, a year after, I am more than happy with the reactions. People has been loving it and acknowledging it as a quality work of speculative fiction that is rare in the arab world. I have also secured another publishing contract with Signal8Press to get the book out in English in early 2017. I hoped that Ruth will be with us on this project but she has a full plate of books to translate next year. She has thankfully introduced me to another brilliant translator Sawad Hussain whom I look forward to work with. (on a side note, I am loving the world of the translators community).

The Bride of Amman on display during the launch event at Gay's the word bookshop in London

The Bride of Amman on display during the launch event at Gay’s the word bookshop in London

The year has been good to me in terms of my writing career. Alef’s conference and launch of Janna in Amman was beyond my expectations. It is something that I will always remember. It was also wonderful to run some important TV interviews during the year on Roya TV, MBC, MTV Lebanon, and OSN (to be aired soon), as well as two magazine interviews in both Living Well and Layali Amman Magazines.

All of this is a reminder that I need to get back to the same discipline and commitment and continue working on my third book which I started early in the year. Hard work do pay off, and I look forward to seeing what the years are hiding ahead.

Cheers everyone!

The Bride of Amman – upcoming UK tour!


UK trip schedule is ready.. we are having events in London, Oxford, Bristol, Cheltenham and Brighton to launch “The Bride of Amman” Join me and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

The Bride of Amman: Sexual freedoms and body rights in the Middle East

Join Fadi Zaghmout as he discusses civil rights and gender politics in the Arab world and reads from his new novel, out now in English translation.

With Brian Whitaker, Guardian journalist and author of Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East (London and Brighton)

The Suffolk Anthology bookshop, Cheltenham – 7pm, Mon 9 November

The Middle East Centre, St. Anthony’s College, Oxford – 5pm, Tuesday 10 November

The Arts House Café, Bristol – 7pm, Wed 11 November

Gay’s the Word bookshop, London, with Brian Whitaker – 7pm, Thurs 12 November

Waterstones, Brighton, with Brian Whitaker – 7.30pm, Fri 13 November

Thank you to all our hosts, and thank you everyone for helping to spread the word!

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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!