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To Jordanian MP Hind Fayez, keep standing

A Jordanian deputy, Yihya Saud, “ordered” defiant MP Hind Fayez to sit down, stirring anger

Daoud Kuttab

Published: Updated:

On December 1, 1955 (the year I was born), a 42-year-old African-American woman, Rosa Parks, made a defiant gesture by refusing to give up her bus seat despite a call by the white bus driver to stand.

Fifty-nine years later, almost to the day, a Jordanian deputy, Yihya Saud “ordered” defiant MP Hind Fayez to sit down.

The call: “Uqudi ya Hind” (sit down Hind) was captured on video and went viral on YouTube as Jordanians and others circulated the footage. Not only did Saud bark out this order, but he also cursed those who introduced the quota system which allowed women to reach Parliament.

The insult that Fayez and all Jordanian women received in Parliament on December 2 has produced no serious reaction

Daoud Kuttab

No doubt the words that Saud addressed to his colleague are not new to most women who are used to men ordering them around, especially if they have the guts to stand up for what they believe.

Standing in solidarity

Jordanian Women MPs (not the men) attempted to stand up for their female colleague in the next Lower House session and sat in the foyer rather than their allotted seats. But the boycott didn’t last long and they were convinced to return to the chamber without Saud having apologized.

Women, who make up half the Jordanian population, are represented by 18 out of the 150 Lower House members — a mere 12 per cent.

In the Arab region, Tunisia has the highest representation of women, with 68 MPs (31 per cent).

The insult that Fayez and all Jordanian women received in Parliament on December 2 has produced no serious reaction. A women’s organization issued a statement protesting against what happened, but no further action was taken by the Kingdom’s women or men. In a country full of well-funded women’s NGOs and human rights organizations, as well as human rights societies from both sexes who claim to advocate the rights of women, the reaction to the offence is very sad.

It shows that Jordan’s civil society is not serious about one of the most fundamental human rights in the world, namely the need for gender equality. Women continue to be discriminated against, both formally in courts, in government and in business (and probably even in civil society organizations), and informally in all walks of life.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

As the world celebrates the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.N.’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, it is important to realize that verbal violence is the originator of physical violence against women. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been endorsed in most countries of the world, including Jordan, declares in its first article: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Perhaps the most powerful statements ever made in terms of pointing out this issue, was at the 1995 Beijing Conference by then U.S. first lady Hillary Clinton, when she insisted that women’s rights are human rights.

“As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace around the world — as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled and subjected to violence in and out of their homes — the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized.”

Nearly six decades after Parks’ refusal to heed the “orders” to stand up to give up her seat to a white man, it is time to tell Fayez and all the women of Jordan and the world to stand up in pride and confidence, and that all of us men and women will be supporting you.

This article was first published in The Jordan Times on December 11, 2014.

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Daoud Kuttab, an award winning Palestinian journalist who resides in Jerusalem and Amman. Mr. Kuttab is the director general of Community Media Network a media NGO that runs a radio station in Amman (al balad radio 92.4fm) a newsweb site ammannet.net and a TV production operation in Palestine Penmedia (penmedia.ps) which is producing the Palestinian version of Sesame street. You can read his blogs on DaoudKuttab.com and find him on Twitter @DaoudKuttab.

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