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, 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!

Honor Crimes, will the law change anytime soon?

As a Jordanian man, I know exactly what “honor” defined by the Jordanian cultural heritage means. In my teen age, I had to pass through different emotional dilemmas regarding my relationship with my younger sister. On one hand I needed to assert my masculinity and “fit” in the Jordanian male macho sub culture which entails embracing “honor” as being the most important value that defines a man, and as being a characteristic that is attached to females and associated with their relationship with the opposite sex. One the other hand, I had a deep respect for my sister, her emotions, and her choices in life.

Coming from a middle class family with easy going non conservative parents, and as I grew out of my teen years, I was fortunate to break off the “honor” mentality, end my dilemma, and decide that my sister is more important to me than any social or cultural obligation. Sadly, not all Jordanian men are lucky as I am. Some do grow in much harsher conditions where social pressure on “honor” is much stronger and serious; strong enough to define aspects of their behavior through their life time.

The seriousness of the “honor” issue found a perfect match in Article 98 of the Jordanian Penal Code. The Article stipulates a minimum of three months and a maximum of two years in prison for a murder that is committed in a fit of fury caused by an unlawful act on the part of the victim. A fit of fury is exactly what many Jordanians expects from a man who just found out that a woman relative has disgraced his family “honor”. Somehow this matching opened the doors to the murder of many Jordanian women.

“Murder In The Name Of Honor” is a recent book by Rana Al Husseni – a Jordanian Journalist and women rights activist – where she highlights her 16 years of reporting honor crimes in Jordan. Through the years, Rana was able to bring the attention of the Jordanian local community and the outer world to the horrible stories behind those murders. She succeeded in creating a strong movement of women non-governmental organizations which got backed by international pressure and support from the Jordanian Royal family to push the Jordanian government to do something about the current law.

It was only recently that we have started hearing about stronger stands from government officials against honor crimes. A week or so ago the Minister of Justice Ayman Odeh stated to the Jordan Times that “A crime is a crime. There is no such thing as honor crimes. All people are equal before the law”. His statement was accompanied by another one from a well known Muslim cleric, Abdul Rahman Ibdah, who said “Islam absolutely rejects the killing of others by individuals. There is nothing called ‘honor crimes’ in Islam”.

Jordan bloggers have also been covering honor crimes and showing dismay of the government for not being able to abolish the Article 98 of the penal code. They have also recently started a facebook group called “La sharaf fel Jareemeh” (No honor in crime). The group has over 900 members so far and is gaining popularity.

Any observer can see that there is a substantial shift in the Jordanian public opinion regarding the matter. The pressure of civil organizations, local and international community may lead to change in laws, but would that solve the problem? It may, only if accompanied with a change in some social values.

No honor in killing – "Online initiative"

Some Jordanian women are starting an online initiative for a public campaign to stop the so called honor crimes. Deema put it down on Roba’s blog as following:

“To answer your question, a few of us have been trying to do something about so-called honour crimes. The initiative is still in it’s early phases, but we are brainstorming the different ways and approaches to tackle the issue. I added the link to the googledoc we have been working on as my url (although we are changing the name of the initiative from la sharaf fil qatil to la sharaf fil jareemah). As it is meant to be a public initiative, anyone with ideas and suggestions is welcome to join in on our brainstorming session (although i think you will have to email one of us first to gain access).

We can’t just wait around for someone with a magic wand to wisk it all away. we will have to do something about this ourselves, out of our personal time and effort. because ‘wearing makeup’ should not be an excuse for murder. Not in Jordan

Check out the google document linked in the comment above.

Thank you Kinzi for giving me the idea of sharing this.