July 31, 2008

Jordan's Gender Equality Campaign


Yesterday I got the chance to join Gender Equality campaigners in Al-Wakalat Street as they walked around talking to people on the street about the campaign, asking them questions about equality and handing out stickers, posters and pins. I even got to walk around with my very own writing board and talk to some people. This campaign was started by a group of young Jordanians to raise awareness about women's rights.


Here's what I noticed. Equality is such a broad subject, and the term itself has a different meaning for each person. For some it may mean having equal opportunities as to education and work, while for others it means women being able to do whatever they want without society pressing down on them. While most of the people I talked to agreed that we need to have equality in general, when you ask specific questions, like does your husband help you in household chores, or do you allow your wife to work late, they would say no.


So my thoughts would be to focus on one side of the argument, for example the injustice against women in the constitution itself, like the citizenship law or punishment for honor crimes. Because to change laws you need to change mentalities, and this is how we can start.


Bravo to all you campaigners for taking matters into your own hands and raising awareness about a very important subject! They saw something, didn't like it, and decided to do something about it. You have restored my faith in our youth. And special kudos to Dina Liddawi and Lulwa Kilani, organizers of the campaign. Join the facebook group for news and updates on upcoming events.


Preparations for the Announcement of Tawjihi Results

So Tawjihi results will be out tomorrow. For those of you unfamiliar with Tawjihi, it's the Jordanian general secondary examination that determines students' university and major options. And everyone, EVERYONE, will find out your mark if you're a Tawjihi student.

Firing guns and use of fireworks -since their discovery in Jordan a couple of years ago- have become traditional celebratory festivities. Not to mention the convoys of honking cars with people sticking out the windows, of course. Which is why you should make sure you have the following if you intend to go out at all tomorrow:
  • bulletproof vest
  • earmuffs
  • traffic police on speed dial

Good luck to Tawjihi students, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes. As for non-Tawjihi students, bil salameh.


P.S. Who knows, maybe they'll make use out of Friday's eclipse for some early fireworks ;)

July 28, 2008

Solar Eclipse This Friday


At 1.34 PM Amman time this Friday, August 1st, a total solar eclipse is expected be visible in Jordan, and a partial eclipse in other neighboring countries. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, blocking the Sun. Now eclipse or no eclipse, you shouldn't be looking directly at the Sun because it can cause blindness, but the reason we hear so many warnings about eclipses is because people are tempted to look and assume that since the light is dimmed it would be safe to look. So anyway, don't be stupid and look at the Sun. The whole thing will last less than two hours I believe.

Update
: Damn it, third update so far. Will newspapers stick to one story please? Turns out it's not a total solar eclipse, but a barely partial eclipse (no more than 1%), that won't be even visible. So go out and look at the Sun. Okay don't but just to let you know there isn't going to be anything to see.

July 27, 2008

July 22, 2008

The Growth of Extremism in Jordan

Jordanian security officials say nine militants have been arrested in connection with a shooting attack near the capital's Roman amphitheater.


One of those arrested is the father of the teenage Palestinian gunman who shot and wounded six people last Wednesday before he shot and seriously wounded himself the head.


Initially, officials have said gunman Thaer al-Weheidi had no links to terror groups. But on Monday, the security officials said they were investigating possible links with extremist groups.


[Source]


The arrested were part of the Salafi Jihadi stream, the movement responsible for breeding many terrorists, including the notorious Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi.

After the Jordan suicide bombings back in 2005, Jordan called for war against religious extremism and the whole Takfiri culture. But come to think of it, what reforms have really been made? Terrorist attacks are only symptoms of the problem, and clearly the problem, being extremism, is still prevalent and growing. In 2006, a gunman shot a Briton to death, also in the Roman amphitheater, while shouting "God is great".

We have the perfect recipe for extremism here: boredom, resentment, frustration, poverty. Drastic changes need to be made, and they need to be made now, if we are to prevent any further attacks. Like one of my commentators said, you can't have mosques preaching about death to infidels every Friday and then expect everything to be okay. What are we waiting for? Another suicide bombing?

[Ironically enough, the gunman's family has issued a statement condemning the attack by their relative and voiced their allegiance to the country and it's leadership. Yeah, okay.]

July 21, 2008

Nothing Much

Sorry for the lack of blogging lately. I am definitely not helping with the boring blog status 7aki was talking about. The news is boring, same nonsense that makes you want to jump off a cliff. The difference is I haven't been in the mood to discuss it and depress myself. And I can't find anything else decent to talk about. I didn't think I'd be suffering from a writer's block this early. Ugh. But here you go, in a desperate attempt for a post, enjoy this obscenely hilarious video from Maz Jobrani. :D


P.S. I finally got my laptop. Praise the Lord. An Acer 5620G. It's a nice laptop.

July 17, 2008

Downtown Concert Shootings

What's this about??!

An unidentified gunman shot and injured at least six musicians on Wednesday after a concert in the capital before committing suicide, security officials said.


They said the incident took place after a performance by the Amman symphony orchestra with a Lebanese choir at the Roman amphitheatre in the congested downtown area of the capital.


The gunman shot himself in the head after being chased, one witness said.


The musicians' injuries were mostly light to moderate although one was seriously hurt, a security official said.

[Source]


The event was "An Opera Night Under the Stars", a concert by the Amman Symphony Orchestra and the Choir of the Holy Spirit University from Lebanon. Hmmm.

Stupid people ruining our image AND our tourism. This is the fourth attack on tourists in the last two years. This may be an isolated incident, but there's some mentality behind it.

I think it's about time we outlawed possession of guns.

Here are more links for further information.

July 14, 2008

Do You Find This Offensive?


Take a look at this cartoon by prominent cartoonist Emad Hajjaj. It shows a man talking to Mohannad from the hit show Noor, saying "The Arab woman is a fan. She's her own enemy in elections. She consents to beating and polygamy. She likes to have boys and not girls. She doesn't continue her education because of society's customs. She is of dark skin but with a blond complex. Modern in appearance but empty in substance." To which Mohannad replies, "Just what I needed! An Arab woman who is no match for the Turkish women! Just give her my photo and tell her much obliged."


The National Committee for Women in Jordan, represented by Asma Khader, whom I greatly admire, sent a letter to Alghad newspaper, where the cartoon was published, expressing resentment about the drawing, which according to them "portrays an unfair image about Arab women, and Jordanian women in particular, and that the negatives he mentioned are the exception and should not be generalized."


Now I agree, the drawing is overly generalizing, because of course it does not describe all Arab women, but then again, isn't exaggeration the point of most cartoons? That's how they convey their message. And let's face it, the negatives are not the exception. Most of what he said is sadly correct. Women are their own worst enemy, and I always say that. Last elections were the first time a woman won outside the designated women's quota. A step forward, without a doubt, but ONE woman. Out of 104 parliamentary seats, just one woman won. Also, many women are just looking to get married, and whether their husbands are already married, beat them, forbid them from working or continuing their education is besides the point, because society dictates they get married or else they're considered a source of shame for their families. And don't get me started on how in this day and age, people, including WOMEN, still prefer baby boys over baby girls. And the blond complex? How else could Fair and Lovely still be in business? Or the rest of Amman's hairdressers for that matter?


I disagree with Hajjaj in that not all those who watch the show are empty and superficial. I mean come on, it's just a TV show, even though I still do not understand the obsession. And half the poeple I know who watch the show are actually guys. I think maybe Hajjaj was lamenting how people became obsessed with a show and seemed to forget all the problems we have? I don't know. But I for one, refuse to attack Hajjaj. He is one of the very few openly speaking male feminists in our society and he deserves some credit for that.

Jordanian Bloggers Making the News

Here's an article about Jordanian bloggers in the Star newspaper mentioning Batir from Jordan Watch, Naseem from the Black Iris and myself. It's nice to see that bloggers are becoming more known in the mainstream media. Here's to freedom of expression!

July 13, 2008

Another Victim In the Name of Honor

Authorities are still questioning the family of a minor who allegedly stabbed his older sister to death to cleanse his family’s honour earlier this month, official sources said.

The 23-year-old victim, who was not identified by officials, was stabbed 11 times in the chest, reportedly by her 17-year-old brother at their home on July 3.

The suspect immediately turned himself in to the police claiming to have killed his sister to cleanse the family’s honour because his sister went missing from home for 35 days.

“So far, the only person to be detained is the suspect and the criminal prosecutor has charged him with manslaughter,” an official source told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

The victim was arrested almost a week before her murder, the source said, adding that the governor handed her over to her family on July 3 after her father signed a guarantee that he would not harm his daughter.

The following day, the suspect reportedly stabbed his sister to death after she allegedly informed him she was involved in an affair with a man in the area, according to the source.

A postmortem conducted at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine by pathologist Hani Jahshan indicated that the victim was not involved in any sexual activity.

In his initial testimony to police, the suspect claimed he was sitting alone with his sister in the kitchen discussing her absence from home when she told him that she was “seeing a man”.

“The suspect told interrogators he became enraged and stabbed his sister to death in a moment of rage after hearing her confession,” the source added.

Meanwhile, a second source close to the investigation told The Jordan Times that a pathologist examined the victim shortly after the police found her and she denied being involved in any affair.

“The victim informed examiners that she left home because her family discovered that she owned a mobile phone and she feared their reaction, adding that she stayed at a friend’s house until the authorities found her,” the source explained.

The victim became the eighth woman reportedly murdered in a so-called honour crime in Jordan since the beginning of the year.

[Source]

I don't know what to say. I really don't. Even if the brother is convicted of manslaughter without the use of article 98, the juvenile law would be implemented which allows him to return to society with a clear criminal record after an educational training in some juvenile correctional centre.

I'm so sick of this. I'm disgusted. And I'm ashamed that this happens in MY country. OUR country. And I feel helpless.

What a perverse definition of honor we have.

Sigh.

Note: So did Arabic newspapers just stop reporting honor crimes? There was no mention of this in Alghad.


July 12, 2008

We're Never Going To Be Civil, Are We?

Almost a week after the Tafileh Tech tribal violence, which put the university's president in the hospital, and involved a party of 16 firing bullets at a former MP's house, another incident of tribal violence rears it's ugly head, only this time in Kerak. After a ferocious fight between two families, the parties ended up at the SAME hospital causing the fight to reignite, and about 100 people started using knives, batons (ganwat), sticks and rocks to assault each other. Patients in the hospital had to be taken out for their safety and a lot of damage was done to the hospital's emergency department. The police eventually controlled the disturbance and took the second batch of injuries to a different hospital this time.

And now the same, old ridiculous play will repeat itself, when "distinguished leaders and academics" of one tribe will ask the other for a truce (most likely forced by someone), and the whole thing ends with no consequences for those who initiated the fight. Not as long as you know a guy who knows a guy. Nobody would have the guts to get in a fight if they didn't know a bigshot in the first place.

And so the vicious cycle continues. Doesn't matter how modern we seem, we really still have a mentality from the middle ages.

July 11, 2008

King Abdullah On Star Trek?!

I can't believe I didn't know this before! In 1995, back when he was a prince, King Abdullah played an uncredited extra in a Star Trek episode. Apparently, he wasn't given any lines because he wasn't a member of the Screen Actors Guild. His Majesty? A Trekkie? This is so cool!!













July 10, 2008

One Month Blogoversary

Observations of a Jordanian is officially a month-old! Don't worry, I won't be doing this every month, but it's a slightly significant milestone for me that I thought deserved a post. For some reason, don't ask me why, some people are actually liking the blog. Crazy, I tell ya. To be frank, when I made the blog, I had no clue what I'd do with it. I hadn't decided on what I would be writing about, I just thought I'd post whatever interested me. Post after post, I found myself sticking to the "serious" stuff, or local issues, and I was branded an "issues blogger", a title I find very flattering, especially considering that the Jordanian blogosphere doesn't have a lot of issue bloggers, and even fewer issue bloggerettes.

Anyway, i'm rambling. I just wanted to thank everyone who's been reading the blog, and fellow bloggers who've welcomed this newbie. Also, suggestions/ideas/criticism are always welcome. Besides, I can always delete your comments. :p

July 9, 2008

Your Dose of Sarcastic News Clippings

  • Jordanian fails to commit suicide for the 11th time. He tried to throw himself off the fourth floor of a building while extremely inebriated, but backed out at the last minute. Oh well, 12th time's the charm.

  • Prime Minister Nader Dahabi appointed Minister of Media and Communications Nasser Judeh as Chairman of the Jordan Radio and Television Corporation. Judeh's predecessor, Sabri Rbeihat expressed his hopes that the JRTVC's "accomplishments" would continue. Meanwhile, ATV employees continue their protests, demanding their salaries that haven't been paid for 4 months now, and the launch of the channel that was supposed to broadcast back in August 2007. Easy on the accomplishments, guys.

  • By Royal Decree, the Lower House of the Parliament was adjourned, bringing the House's extraordinary session to an end. The MPs can now enjoy their much needed time-off.

  • President of Tafileh Technical University Sultan Abu Orabi switched with President of Balqa Applied University, Omar Rimawi. Let's hope no riots break out this time.

Update: The Ministry of Higher Education said it has no knowledge of any changes between presidents of universities, and that such changes have not and will not be discussed in the near future. Seems the "informed" source that reported the changes wasn't that informed after all. Sigh.

July 7, 2008

News Clippings

  • The Lower House of the Parliament endorsed the controversial Societies Law introduced by the government. The law compels non-governmental organizations to declare their source of funding and obtain approval from the government to accept the funding. It also imposes steep fines, a prison sentence and seizing of the funds if the minister decides the funding is "not in conformity with the organization's goals". Don't you think it's funny all the trouble the government goes through to "legitimately" limit the Muslim Brotherhood's activities?

  • The Greater Amman Municipality is removing posters and banners around the capital that are in violation of the regulations. I have to say, I think the Municipality has been doing a wonderful job with improving the city. Numbering the buildings and putting up street signs. All very helpful. Suggestions by yours truly: change those archaic street names into something actually legible and ban these pickups with sound speakers selling god knows what . I can actually hear one right now. Oh, and please remove these florescent blue lights lining the streets.

  • The Ministry of Islamic Affairs is ordering mosques to only use sound speakers in prayer times. Mosques will not be allowed to use the outside sound speakers for Friday sermons. I think this is a very reasonable step, particularly in areas where there is more than one mosque. Clearly from the comments, people do not seem to agree.

  • Al-Yarmouk University is celebrating Independence Day today. Bakkeer?

  • As for news from outside the country: A Chemistry professor and his female student in Saudi Arabia were sentenced to prison and lashes for discussing research on the phone. The professor was sentenced to 8 months of prison and 600 lashes and the woman to 4 months and 350 lashes. The spokesperson for the human rights society in Saudi Arabia said he could not make a comment now.

Fixing Journalism in Jordan

Recent events, such as the alleged McCain allegations (which some people are still convinced with, apparently) and the Jordan Festival normalization 'suspicions' that came very close to cancelling it, have revealed serious incompetence on the part of the press. The journalists are blaming the government's lack of transparency for the spread of rumors. This may have been a factor, but there's more to it than that, I'm sure.

Maybe it's because in Jordan, journalism, as a career, is not thought very highly of. The mentality that compels our high-achieving students to become doctors or engineers is still very much alive. Or maybe it's because we only used to have access to government-owned newspapers for a long time, then suddenly became exposed to online media with all its candor, which led some people to abuse it. Or maybe it's because journalists were not acquainted with journalism ethics in the first place.

Whatever it is, there have been recent steps to improve the situation. The Council of Higher Education has raised the admission average to the faculty of journalism in Al-Yarmouk University from 65% to 70%. King Abdullah has created a private fund for providing proper training for journalists to improve journalism in Jordan and push it a step forward. News websites are vowing to adhere to the standards set by the union.

Controlling media in Jordan is definitely not the answer, especially when it comes to online media, simply because it cannot be done. You ban one website, another's going to pop up the next day. It's about reintroducing ethics and standards. It's about education.

July 5, 2008

HM King Abdullah Reading Blogs!

I didn't think I could have a higher opinion of HM King Abdullah, but it seems I was wrong. I was amazed to find out that today, HM had left a comment on fellow blogger Naseem's post, which was about the interview HM has given on Tuesday. In the comment, HM commended the discussion and emphasized the importance of freedom of expression, as long as it doesn't personally offend someone or works against the nation's interest. HM had also left a similar comment on Al-Dustour website.


I am absolutely amazed, that a leader of a country, who probably has a million things to do, takes the time to read the views and opinions of ordinary citizens to communicate with them. He's more humble than your average Jordanian. If only more politicians would follow in his footsteps!


Congratulations Nas! I'm only a tad jealous!

July 4, 2008

Am I the ONLY One Not Watching Noor?


Seriously. I don't get the obsession. Is there something wrong with me? Man this is worse than Bab il 7ara.

July 3, 2008

Jordan Charges Geert Wilders with Blasphemy

The Jordanian Prosecutor General on Tuesday charged Geert Wilders, producer of anti-Islam film Fitna with five counts of blasphemy which can carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison. The prosecutor also sent a subpoena through the Dutch embassy to bring Wilders for trial. From what I understood, seeing as he doesn't reside in Jordan, this doesn't mean much unless we ask individual countries that he visits to extradite him, which would limit his freedom of movement.

As dumb as it sounds to hold citizens of other countries accountable by our laws, I think this is a very peaceful form of protest. I'll take lawsuits over angry embassy-vandalizing mobs any day. Plus, he got off easy if you ask me. What saddens me, however, is this gap between cultures that seems to be growing in light of the recent events. Extremists from both sides instigating hatred and discrimination against the other. Whatever happened to civilised discussion?

This is depressing.

July 2, 2008

HM King Abdullah Addresses Issues and Puts an End to Rumours

The newspapers are buzzing with the interview His Majesty King Abdullah has given addressing issues that have been troubling Jordanians for some time now. I did not realise how bad the situation in Jordan has gotten until I read the interview. The skyrocketing prices, the land sales, the Jordan Festival, the McCain episode, the casino deal, the vicious rumours circulated by the media, the ever-growing skepticism towards the government's actions (which I admit to have been a part of), the conflict between parties that stoops to a new low everyday. Things have gotten so bad that the King felt obligated to exceptionally speak very frankly about these issues, basically to shut people up and end the controversy, and I have tremendous respect for him because of that.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

About Prices:

"The high prices are on everyone's mind. This is a problem the whole world is suffering from and the developing world, which we are a part of, is being hit the hardest. No government in the world, as far as I know, has found a short-term answer to completely shield its people from the high prices, anyone who claims otherwise is being unfair.

The government has taken several measures to protect citizens against the high cost of living...I am the first to admit that this is not enough and that we need to do more and we will do more, God willing."

About the Land Sales:

"Selling government land to pay off international debt, which Jordan recently did, has saved current and future generations from paying high interest payment on the debt.... I want to remind people that we have paid off $2.4 billion of our debt this year.
..the debate should not focus on whether the government has the right to sell public land or any other public asset for that matter, because it obviously does have the right to sell land, but how the proceeds from the sales are used? If the process is transparent, and if the benefit of selling outweighs that of maintaining ownership, then this represents an opportunity that the Jordanian people should benefit from.

...I welcome, and indeed encourage, public criticism when it comes to the question of transparency and to whether some government assets should indeed be sold. In any country, sale of government assets is usually controversial. But currently the level of debate in Jordan has dropped to unacceptable levels with overdramatisation, rumours and opinions that are based on total ignorance of the issues; to the point where, even mature and lucid criticism is drowned out by rumours and ignorance."

About the Jordan Festival:

"Today, Arab artists are contemplating cancelling their performances and Arab tourists who were planning on visiting Jordan are cancelling their trips. The government is now wasting its valuable time and resources trying to do damage control. All this because some so-called journalists are too careless and incompetent to do their basic work; it is shameful....Should Jordan's future be held hostage to rumours and gossip? And should false information be the reference for our Jordanian press? Should we remain silent until the truth becomes the victim of irresponsible journalism?

Let us assume for a moment that it is in fact Publicis that is helping to organise the event. In fact, I cannot think of a major company that does not do business with Israel. If all these companies are offlimits then we are in deep trouble. For example, Intel whose chips power 80 per cent of computers around the world has billions of dollars of investments in Israel; its closest competitor AMD also has large investments in Israel. Does that mean we should throw our computers away? This is nonsense. If we follow this line of thought, then we will be doing the best service to Israel. All it has to do is use the best technology and best talent in the world and automatically it would be offlimits to us. "

About Rumours:

"I am extremely shocked and dismayed at the low level of debate transpiring in some elite and media circles. Throughout my life I have grown accustomed to rumours about myself and my family, as well as Jordan; but today, I feel that these rumours are negatively affecting the future of Jordan and I simply cannot remain silent. "

"I remember once having a conversation with my father, God rest his soul, about rumours circulating around a certain government official. He told me to be very careful before repeating anything I heard, because he said the difference between a lie and the truth is very simple - proof. He said that people who make dangerous claims that can jeopardise people’s reputations and careers without any proof are either ignorant or cowards. He told me that we would never allow Jordan to be hijacked by cowards and the ignorant. Today, this is my message to my brothers and sisters, the honourable citizens, that public policy will never be held hostage to rumours and ignorance. The world is becoming an increasingly complicated and technical place. I realise that some governments’ policies may be misunderstood and may face public discontent, indeed governments may sometimes make big mistakes, but if anyone has any proof of any intentional wrong-doing, please stand up and let it be known. My door is open. I am honoured to belong to a Hashemite Family that is firmly shut to rumours and irresponsible discourse."

"We should read about the world around us before we judge ourselves and let us learn from the experiences of others, let us be open to the world and unafraid, for this is the only way we will progress. Let knowledge be your weapon and don't believe rumours, especially when someone tells you "it's from reliable sources".
Finally, know that you mean everything to me."

It is at times like these that I feel proud to be a Jordanian.

You can read the entire interview (which I recommend you do) in Arabic here, and in English here.


P.S. How ironic is it that Ammon started the news piece with the paragraph about how rumors are negatively affecting Jordan and should not be tolerated?

July 1, 2008

Queen Rania Video: Waiting on the World to Change

An Arab boy. A Portuguese girl. An American song. A global message.

I really love this song, it's originally by John Mayer. Here, Jordanian Hanna Gargour and Mia Rose are using it to reflect what Queen Rania is trying to do by making these videos. You can check the lyrics here.


The Jordan Festival Fiasco

With a number of artists backing out from participating (yes boys, Elissa too), the Jordan Festival has proven to be a failure already. The whole controversy started when someone announced (based on what, I don't know) that a French company by the name of Publicis, that was in charge of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, is organizing the festival.


According to the company's spokesperson, however, Publicis is neither organizing the Jordan Festival, nor has organized any anniversary celebrations for Israel. While the company's CEO, Maurice Levy, is in fact a self-proclaimed Zionist who participated in the celebrations, then again his company has organized a number of events in Jordan, including the most recent Nobel Prize Laureates Convention and the World Economic Forum in Petra.


So what's all the fuss about? Forget Rousan who wants to boycott the festival because of its financial implications on the Jordanian citizen, if no proof was found on the festival's association with normalization, then why are people still set on boycotting it?


The government, of course, was absent from offering clarifications to counter the accusations, and this isn't the first time. Remember the McCain episode? There's still a lot of ambiguity about the whole incident, simply because nobody remembers any officials providing explanations. Now the situation is repeating itself, and whatever they say at this point is hardly going to change people's minds. Too little, too late.


Maybe they'll cancel the festival to cut their losses, I don't know. Our economy seems to be suffering one blow after another.