It was an honor taking part of SEVEN yesterday, an international play that highlights that stories of seven women activists around the world. During the reading, I came across this story of a Nigerian woman whose family wanted to marry her off to an old Saudi man and whom escaped before her wedding dishonouring her family. The script goes on to describe how this Nigerian woman wanted to reconcile with her family and how after two years she seized the chance of a holy day and went back, apologising for her father, who welcomed her back into the family with open arms.
That is when it hit me how similar this story to the ending of Rana’s story in Aroos Amman. How Rana’s father forgave her after two years of her escaping the country and stood up for her against his family and social mandates.
Many have claimed that the ending of Rana’s story in the book is far fetched, they claimed that such fathers’ reaction doesn’t exist. In reality, I believe that it exists more often than we realize. Both of those stories are a reflection of real stories. Those men, who we fail to highlight their courageous stand in championing the love of their daughters and their freedom of choice against strong social values, are real. Men are not strong as we believe they are. We tend to tie manhood with strength and then translate that into giving men the role of imposing inherited social values that hurt our beloved ones. Men flexes their muscles to apply the social laws that they can’t stand up to. That’s not a real strength for me, that is not noble, and not manly. Real strength is standing up for the ones you love, respect their freedom of choice, and protect it.
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When a man protested social injustice with a suicidal move of burning his own body, he triggered a whole revolution that broke the boundaries of his own country to hit many other Arab countries. He was crowned as a hero, idolized a copied many other times!
Now comes a woman who protests social injustice by posting a nude pictures for herself on her own blog. She triggers much press and chat around her action. She gets attacked severely by the religious groups in her country and disowned by the so-called-liberal ones. She is faced with jail and death threats and depicted as a shallow stupid unstable person and even a devil!
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Last week Batir Wardam, a Jordanian famous writer, blogger and human rights activist, published a post on his blog about death sentence in Jordan. What he said mainly is that he is a strong supporter for the international declaration of human rights and the associated covenants with it except for one thing he doesn’t completely agree with, which is the call to abolish death sentence absolutely.
Batir goes on in his article and try to justify his stand by pointing out Jordan’s specific cultural heritage of tribal laws where tribes are known of taking justice by their hands and kill the murderer – or any member of his family – in order to take revenge. He claims that if the law can give the victim its right by sentencing the murderer to death, then tribes don’t have to enforce their own version of justice.
I, personally, have a deep respect for Batir, and I do usually agree with most of his ideas and stands, but I found myself completely against the notion that he presents. I didn’t intend to write about this subject back when I read his post, but today I was reading July’s issues of Living Well magazine which features a comprehensive report addressing death sentence in Jordan, and was surprised to read that the same notion has been talked out by a Jordanian famous lawyer.
It seems that there is some pushing towards abolishing death sentence in Jordan (no death sentence applied since 2006), but it also seems that there is some pushing against it. Building a case on the particularity of the local social structure and heritage is a quite common approach that has historically been used in different occasions to fight the pressures of the global community to push human rights amendments in the country.
While it is true that tribes tend to take revenge, I don’t think that it justifies keeping the death sentence penalty. You don’t fix a mistake with another one. If we have a problem with our social heritage then we should come up with laws that enforce fixing the problem instead of building on it and violate human rights recommendations. If a member of a family murdered someone in retaliation of a murdered happened in his family, then an investigation should take place in order to find out who in his family supported and helped him to take his revenge. In the eyes of the law, associates and supporters of a crime are criminals as well and should be punished. That is what should be enforced in order to stop tribes from applying the law by their hands instead of supporting death sentence with all what it entails of violations of human rights recommendations.