When Society Reproduces Authoritarian Oppression

Tuesday 30 June 202008:55 pm

Our colleague Ghada Kamel Al-Shaikh, has been demonized and threatened with murder, immolation and more. Al-Shaikh, a Jordanian journalist who writes regularly for Raseef22, reports on political, social and cultural issues, amplifying voices of the men and women of Jordan to the Arab region.

A few days ago, in the aftermath of the Egyptian queer human rights activist Sarah Hegazi suicide, and in the context of a large wave of astonishment around the world, reflected both on the ground and on social media sites, Amman based activists have drawn a graffiti of Sarah’s picture with the caption “But I will forgive” which was the statement with which she concluded a note she wrote before committing suicide.

Anybody can demand “Block Raseef22”, but we will keep being the voice defending them, when they too are subjected to oppression.

The graffiti, however, did not last on Amman’s walls for long, as the Directorate of Greater Amman had it wiped out.

At the time, we contacted Al-Shaikh to cover the story, we suggested that she prepare an expanded report, contacting members of the LGBT community in Jordan, to allow their own voices to express and tell their daily experiences under a political and social status quo that oppresses on a daily basis, and which, unfortunately, is not different in Jordan from any other Arab country.

Al-Shaikh interviewed several members of the LGBT community in Jordan. Most notable was a lengthy interview of a member of the group tweeting under the account “Meem Al-Ordon” (LGBTs of Jordan). She used his voice to communicate a picture of the daily reality experienced by the LGBT community. Being, on one hand, a member of the community, and on the other, an observer of the community’s issues, daily stories, and challenges imposed by the system as well as the society. The report adhered to sound and professional journalism standards, containing no expression of personal opinion except in a short conclusion that expressed the hope for a world that has a place for everyone.

The moment the report was published, Al-Shaikh was hounded by bullies threatening her through tweets and private messages. At first, she faced these attacks, but as the campaign against her got more vicious, she started to worry and fear for her safety

The moment the report was published, Al-Shaikh was hounded by bullies delivering threats to her through Twitter posts and private messages. At first, she faced these attacks, but as the campaign against her got more vicious, she started to worry and fear for her safety, which is legitimate and understandable, especially taking into account that journalists, in this region, don’t feel safe or protected as they don’t live under political and legal conditions that protect them. Al-Shaikh contacted her editor at Raseef22, expressing worries and fear that history would be repeated, the assassination of Nahid Hattar haunted her, people don’t hesitate to repress voices different from their own. Accordingly, Raseef22 unpublished the report at her request fearing for her safety.

This is not the first time that Jordanian journalists face defamation campaigns that threaten their livelihood, moral, and even political security. Nothing is easier than amassing unfounded accusations against them. The reporter could have resorted to the courts, being the safe and just sanctuary for all, not only because of the threats she received but also because of the defamation directly impacting her own persona and career.

It is unfortunate Jordan’s social media has become a battleground dominated by censorship and oppression to stifle any independent voices.

Many assume the rank of “Divine Ambassador” speaking in the name of religion and morals, they issue “good behaviour certificates” to others, and grant themselves the right to prohibit same sex relations or relations with partners of different faith

Those same voices turn their eyes away when a brother abuses his own sister or even kills her “because she breached Shari’a”, but don’t hesitate to threaten a journalist communicating the voices of fellow Jordanians, who have different lifestyles.

It is not enough for them that the LGBT community has to remain invisible in public spaces, and sometime oppressed in their own “safe” homes, but they seek to silence anyone mentioning them, continuing to pretend that LGBT people don’t exist.

We believe our people will live with dignity, justice, and equality, when women, refugees, children and the LGBT community live with dignity, justice and equality, with no fear, and with a lot of safety

Attacking a reporter is the easiest mean used by those with patriarchal minds. In the attack against Ghada Al-Shaikh, and any other attack against vulnerable groups living in our societies, whether women, LGBTQ community members, refugees and other groups, some ask “Is it a priority to discuss these groups when poverty and colonialism are decimating our nations?”.

Raseef22’s answer is: We believe that our people will live with dignity, justice, and equality, when women, refugees, children and the LGBT community live with dignity, justice and equality, with no fear, and with a lot of safety.

Lastly, it is important to point out that the attack against Al-Shaikh came in parallel with voices demanding that Raseef22 should be blocked, with a trending hashtag “Block Raseef22” for no less than a full day in Jordan. A large group in our society carries the sword of censorship, trying to cut off the head of anyone who voices an opinion different from its own. Exactly as oppressive regimes do with anyone who is not following their “whims”, anybody can demand “Block Raseef22”, but we will keep being the voice defending them, when they too are subjected to oppression.

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