Citation
Interview with Rania Al-Jaabari

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Rania Al-Jaabari
Series Title:
Middle East Women's Activism
Alternate Title:
مقابلة مع رانيا الجعبري
Creator:
Al-Jaabari, Rania ( Interviewee )
الجعبري ، رانيا ( contributor )
Jaabari, Rania al- ( contributor )
Pratt, Nicola Christine ( contributor )
Place of Publication:
Amman, Jordan
Publication Date:
Language:
Arabic

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Palestine ( LCSH )
Jenin ( LCSH )
Ikhwān al-Muslimūn ( LCSH )
Qaida (Organization) ( LCSH )
Arab Spring (2010-) ( LCSH )
الربيع العربي (2010-) ( UW-MEWA )
Youth for Change ( UW-MEWA )
شباب من أجل التغيير ( UW-MEWA )
Oslo Accords (1993) ( UW-MEWA )
Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (1993 September 13) ( LCSH )
January 25 2011 Revolution (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
Thawrat 25 Yanāyir 2011 (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
ثورة 25 ياناير 2011 (مصر) ( UW-MEWA )
Battle of Qasioun (Syria : 2013) ( UW-MEWA )
معركة قاسيون (سوريا : 2013) ( UW-MEWA )
Cave of the Patriarchs massacre (Hebron : 1994) ( UW-MEWA )
مذبحة الحرم الإبراهيمي (الخليل: 1994) ( UW-MEWA )
טבח מערת המכפלה (חברון : 2009) ( UW-MEWA )
Hebron Massacre, Hebron, 1994 ( LCSH )
Qānā Massacre (Qānā, Lebanon : 1996) ( LCSH )
مجزرة قانا (قانا ، لبنان : 1996) ( UW-MEWA )
March 24 Youth ( UW-MEWA )
شباب 24 آذار ( UW-MEWA )
Foreign funding ( UW-MEWA )
Funding ( UW-MEWA )
Finance ( LCSH )
Fund raising ( LCSH )
Women's rights ( LCSH )
NGOs ( UW-MEWA )
Non-governmental organizations ( LCSH )
منظمة غير حكومية ( UW-MEWA )
Religion ( LCSH )
Religious extremism ( UW-MEWA )
Radicalism -- Religious aspects -- Islam ( LCSH )
Arab Spring (2010-) ( LCSH )
الربيع العربي (2010-) ( UW-MEWA )
Hizballah (Lebanon) ( LCSH )
حزب الله (لبنان) ( UW-MEWA )
Salafism ( UW-MEWA )
السلفية ( UW-MEWA )
Salafīyah ( LCSH )
Journalism ( LCSH )
Tunisian Revolution (2010-2011) ( UW-MEWA )
Jasmine Revolution (2010-2011) ( UW-MEWA )
الثورة التونسية (2010-2011) ( UW-MEWA )
Censorship ( LCSH )
Syria ( LCSH )
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Jordan -- Amman Governorate -- Amman
Coordinates:
31.949722 x 35.932778

Notes

Abstract:
Rania was born in Amman in 1980. Her father was a tradesman and her mother was a teacher. They are both of Palestinian origin. She studied at Al-Zarqa Al-Ahliyya University, in the Islamic Law Faculty, graduating in 2002. At university, Rania was not involved with political activism, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, but would participate in protests related to events in Israel/Palestine. After university, she worked as a teacher but quickly grew disillusioned with the curriculum, which she believed encourages extremist politics. Rania found a job working at Al-Arab Al-Yawm newspaper for 7 years, and then at Aramram TV. Through journalism, she became familiar with leftist political activists and became interested in domestic politics and issues of democratic reform, as well as women’s rights. Rania was excited by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and reported on the demonstrations outside the Egyptian embassy in Amman. She participated in the 24 March 2011 protests against the Jordanian regime and witnessed the security crackdown against them. Since then, Rania has focused on her writing and learning more about the history of the women’s movement in Jordan. She is very critical of present-day women’s NGOs that receive external funding. ( en )
General Note:
Funding : Women's Activism in the Arab World (2013-2016). This project, funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, examines the significance of middle-class women's activism to the geo/politics of Arab countries, from national independence until the Arab uprisings. It was based on over 100 personal narratives of women activists of different generations from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
General Note:
Interview conducted on: 11 May 2014
General Note:
Duration: 1 hour, 34 minutes and 18 seconds
General Note:
Language of Interview: Arabic
General Note:
Audio transcription and translation by Captivate Arabia, Amman, Jordan, info@captivatearabia.com
General Note:
آسيا -- الأردن -- عَمّان -- عَمّان
General Note:
VIAF (name authority) : Pratt, Nicola Christine : URI http://viaf.org/viaf/49147457

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Warwick
Rights Management:
© 2014 the Interviewer and Interviewee. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

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Full Text
1
Interview with Rania Al-Jaabari
2014
TAPE 1
Nicola Pratt: May I ask you first, when and where were you born?
Rania Jaabari: I was born in Jordan, Amman in 1980.
N.P: What did your parents do?
RJ: Excuse me?
N.P: What did they do, their jobs?
RJ: My father was a tradesman, and still is, and my mother was a teacher but when she got
married she quit her job.
N.P: What were your first memories about political or national events as a child?
RJ: The national events for me started as soon as I started to be aware of things around me,
when we used to go to Palestine, we are Jordanians from Palestinian origins, my father couldn't
go to Palestine as he didn't have a Palestinian ID but my mother had one and she passed it to
us, so now I have two ID's, Jordanian and Palestinian. So, we used to go to Palestine not every
year, depending on the circumstances, so my political awareness started to form there when I
was a little girl and I wanted to go out and play but they would tell us we couldn't because of
"the Jews" so the place where we were allowed to play was a landing in front of the house like
this one, so we would play there, and when army vehicles passed by sometimes we would be
afraid but sometimes my cousin would tell us not to be afraid and to throw stones at them, so
my political awareness started there.
N.P: So, your parents came to Jordan after 1967? Or after 1948?
RJ: No, we came to Jordan... actually there's a difference, after 1967 my father was considered
a Jordanian resident but before that he kept moving, he was one of those Palestinians whose
family was in Hebron, that was in the 1960s. He would take a bus in the morning, most of the
time in an area called Bab Al-Zawya, there was a bus that would bring them here, to the Sugar
Market, so he would go to work and at night he'd take the bus again and go back to Hebron,
that was before the Jews occupied it, when the Jews occupied Hebron he was here and couldn't
go back. My mother stayed in Palestine but she worked as a teacher in Saudi Arabia for a while,
and she came to Jordan when she got married, which was in 1979.
N.P: Did you go to University?
RJ: Yes. I went to Al-Zarqaa Al-Ahliyya University, faculty of Sharia.
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N.P: When did you graduate?
RJ: I graduated in 2002.
N.P: When you were in university did you join any groups, organizations or initiatives?
RJ: As for university, I have to talk a little bit about university, it was a university affiliated with
the Muslim Brotherhood. To be honest, the educational approach in that university was by 60%
an enlightening approach, not a fanatic approach, there was 40% extremism and that depended
on the nature of the professors, but generally speaking when it came to the administration of
the university there was a desire for enlightenment and towards openness but under certain
limitations. There were two kinds of activism at the university, for example I was studying
Sharia and I was discovering ideas and finding that those ideas I was studying were different
from the ones practiced in society, the Ideas of Islam were much different from the extreme
ideas in society. So there was some sort of personal activism sometimes, like trying to tell them
that this "Jilbab" (gown) you are wearing is not the only official outfit for Muslim women. Like
discussing music, I discovered that music isn't prohibited in Islam and that there was a musical
renaissance in the days of Islamic Caliphate. I discovered that the ideas I was studying were
much better than what was practiced in reality. So, there was personal activism in that field, it
wasn't applied strongly on the ground because there was club called the College Girl Club, I was
one of the founders and we were trying to promote these ideas, it wasn't my idea, it was the
idea of some girl friends of mine in the university, enlightened girls, and I was with them, but
that club was hijacked, not hijacked actually, it happened naturally but there were plots
involved to put it under the control of the students' council which consisted of MB members.
So, at that time I felt frustrated by what happened because I felt that the society was always
ready for extremism and it feels comfortable with extremism, although happiness isn't found in
extremism, happiness comes when you have an open mind and a revolutionary mind, not
moderate, revolutionary, this is my personal opinion, so I preferred to get back to my personal
project which was writing stories and to focus more on my studies. There were political
activities but they weren't effective nor initiative for a simple reason which is that I didn't feel
that the formation of the political power in the university represented me, who are the MB. So,
I preferred to participate in sit-ins but not to have an effective role, I preferred to be there
during the protests about what happened in the events of Jenin in Palestine, the cold-blooded
murder perpetrated by the Zionists, I was there, but I didn't have an effective role because I
was finding out gradually that I was closer to the Left rather than the religious Right. But I didn't
have a chance to join the leftist movement because in university I didn't meet leftist people. So,
my political activism in university was limited because I couldn't find the proper environment.
But I was busy enough with my literary activism, I wrote a play related to the events in Palestine
and the students liked it, and I wrote my first story which was published in my first story
collection which I published in 2010, almost 8 years later, it was the first story after the period
of frustration with the activism we had. So that was pretty much my time at university.
N.P: And after university?
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RJ: After university many things happened but to sum it up quickly, after graduating from
university I got a job right away as a teacher, I felt that what was being taught here in the
subject of Islamic Studies didn't present the students with the enlightened ideas of Islam. I only
taught for 4 days and from what I saw in the curriculum I felt that what was given to the
students prepares a fertile ground for extremism and the values of terrorism to flourish. Notice
that in Jordan people didn't dare to bad mouth the terrorists in Al-Qaeda until after the
explosions in Amman in 2005, before that people thought that insulting them meant insulting
religion or their beliefs. This fertile ground to accept extremism and terrorism is strongly
established by school curricula. I felt that if I went into the class and stuck to the curriculum
then I would be giving the students... or I would be serving to establish a ground which I am
against having in society, that was in 2002, almost year after September 11. For me, the lies of
Al-Qaeda were revealed in 2011, because I studied Sharia and I know exactly what it a "war
zone" means. The text cited by Osama Bin Laden and Mohammad Al-Thawaheri to justify their
acts by claiming that America was a war zone, they had twisted the Islamic text. In Islam,
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to tell the armies not to cut a tree, not to kill a
woman, not to kill a person praying in a synagogue. So, that was an in humane act, although I
am against liberalism, I'm a leftist, I'm against liberalism because I believe it tightens the noose
around the necks of the vulnerable people, and if it didn't kill them openly it kills their will from
the inside, this is my personal belief. So how could I be happy when I see the American citizen...
I can still see that scene before me, that when that happened, when the plane crashed into the
tower and there was no escape, that person decided to end his life and jump off the building.
That scene made some people here laugh, but those people didn't lose their humanity easily.
They lost their humanity because of the atrocities they saw in Iraq, in Palestine, because of the
base of extremism in the curricula I told you about, which should have made them feel that
they had to be humans in the first place before being Muslims, the Islamic doctrine instills
humanity in people before instilling the values of being a Muslim, that's why in Islamic texts
mercy always precedes punishment. All these effects made me feel that I would be a partner in
the crime if I kept teaching those curricula, so I preferred to choose doing something else which
is trying to introduce children to different ideas other than those in the book while sticking to
the book at the same time because it was a curriculum which they will be tested on in the end.
The students didn't like that, and here in private schools in Jordan people interfere with the
educational methods, so I chose to quit teaching, and from then on I started to think about
getting into journalism to present this way of thinking which I wanted to fight for, to introduce
them through journalism. So I started working to establish a youth magazine but things didn't
work out. But while working to establish the magazine I met Fatima Smadi, who's my mentor in
journalism, and I started working in Al-Arab Al-Yawm in 2005, 2 and a half years after searching
for a job opportunity. I started working in Al-Arab Al-Yawm in the annexes section, the annexes
allowed us to do investigative reports and stories, and they were closer to the society than
other sections like the economic and the local sections, so it was Divine Providence at work that
I entered the field of journalism through journalistic stories which required me to be on the
street all the time and kept me among people. That was my story with journalism.
N.P: Okay... are you still working in journalism?
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RJ: Yes, I stayed with Al-Arab Al-Yawm for 7 years, I left after the newspaper was sold to a new
owner who started to interfere with the editing policy; so I quit in protest to the interference by
the owner with the editing policy of the newspaper. After that, in the same period, I worked for
a year with Aramram TV, it's an online TV channel that targets the youth, so I gained a new kind
of experience as I used to work in written journalism with Al-Arab Al-Yawm, I also practiced
photography as a hobby as well as shooting videos, and before that I made a film with a friend
of mine, my film wasn't even edited, I felt it was weak but I acted in a film with her, a film that
she wrote and directed, so I had the desire to work in visual media, so I worked with Aramram
for almost a year, after that... I speak, I mean I can translate from Hebrew, so in 2013 I wanted
to dedicate myself to studying Zionism, sometimes I'm active and other times I am lazy but I'm
working on that, I wrote a number of articles, I started earlier this year to cooperate with Al-
Safeer Lebanese newspaper, I wrote articles in the Arab and International sections and I'm now
writing articles for specialized annexes.
N.P: Did you participate in any initiatives or groups before that regarding the Palestinian Cause?
RJ: Yes, about Palestine, as I told you, there wasn't a suitable environment at university, so my
concern with Palestine moved from activism on the ground to writing. Later on when I started
working in journalism, 3 or 4 years after I started working in that field I moved to the local news
sections, which is the most important section in the newspaper, in that section you get closer to
politics somehow. I was responsible for women issues, I wrote about women issues, but
sometimes when there was a political story and the person in charge couldn't attend certain
demonstrations I would cover for them, and then gradually by 20111 was the one in charge of
attending demonstrations. Like many young people, I would introduce myself to some people in
the demonstration even to those whom I felt had a relation to the security apparatus, I would
introduce myself as a journalist and a participant, I was there to do coverage for the
demonstration but also to participate, particularly after Ben Ali fled from Tunisia, because I still
believe that the Arab Spring started pure but there were certain powers in the world who did a
quick intervention and trick us into believing that they were the ones who started the Arab
Spring. No, it was sparked by hunger and injustice, and the Palestinian Cause was present, I
don't remember attending a sit-in or a demonstration in 2011 -1 didn't miss any sit-in or
demonstration in Arab Spring since Ben Ali fled- because before that I attended one or two
demonstrations and I wasn't at the gate of the Tunisian embassy, but after Ben Ali fled I didn't
miss any sit-in or demonstration and I don't remember the slogans calling for "free Palestine"
weren't there at any of those events, even in the freedom squares in Egypt and Tunisia,
Palestine was there.
N.P: About the events of 2011 and later on, the revolutions and the Arab Spring, what were
your thoughts at the time, how did you know there were demonstrations in Amman? How was
the general atmosphere?
RJ: First, I have to mention an important point, which is that through my work in journalism I
started to form ties and connections with leftist friends, there was one relationship that was
formed prior to 2011, let's say in 2004 and we didn't meet regularly but that relationship
prospered in 2010, just before the Arab Spring, when the Arab Spring started we were being
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introduced to different people... No, actually I started to get closer to the leftist before that
through a friend who introduced me to some young people and I was invited to boycott the
parliamentary elections in 2010, few weeks before the Arab Spring. And I did participate in the
boycott campaign of the elections and I was active to a certain extent but the campaign didn't
have a huge effect, and there was a high percentage of the Jordanian people who boycotted
the elections, but that wasn't because of the campaign, not the "Youth for Change" group, no,
the real reason was that the people felt that the elections were rigged and they have been
disappointed for years and I don't remember seeing people excited about the elections except
in 1989 when I was 9 years old, and I remember how my relatives passed by and there was a
bustle and movement all around, I felt there were elections but afterwards, after the Single
Vote electoral system we stopped feeling that way, elections became a joke. The relations that
grew during the period of elections boycott expanded more after the Arab Spring. When I went
to a protest with a friend, I was taking photographs while she was shooting video footage, we
had limited connections but they expanded little by little and we started to meet more people.
Facebook helped, before 2011 Facebook for me was about the family, and then suddenly it
expanded to include political activists. As for my first impressions, I wasn't optimistic during the
Tunisian revolution and that was due to two things: the first was that I was born in such a time
that I didn't hear about a single victory in my life, I didn't hear anything good about politics in
my life. I remember very well that on May 25th, 2000, the day on which South Lebanon was
liberated I wanted to be happy, but I saw a cartoon which made me scared, it was a cartoon by
the cartoonist Emad Hajjaj where he drew an Israeli tank leaving South Lebanon and crushing
the negotiation table in Palestine, so I realized that the Zionists can't fight on one front, and
because of the resistance victory in South Lebanon, the Lebanese scene wasn't calm enough for
the Zionists, they had to end things there and to focus on Palestine because they were bound
by Oslo conventions and they didn't want to fulfill these obligations, so even that simple
Lebanese victory, which was the base for other things later on and I personally cherish these
things but I was afraid at the time that something would happen in Palestine and something did
happen. As on May 25th 2000, our Lebanese brothers were celebrating victory and liberation
and in September 28th Sharon entered Al-Aqsa Mosque and an uprising broke out which was a
thousand times stronger that the "stones uprising", during the first year of the stones uprising
the Zionist soldier wasn't allowed to shoot a child, they only scared them, but a year later
shooting was par for the course. But in 2000 the killing was done indiscriminately, it was for
free. When the Tunisian revolution started I would go to the newspaper in the morning, I was
busy with a literary reading program, I didn't want to follow political news, I was just covering
my section. My colleagues were excited but I wasn't. My family was excited but I wasn't. I
remember very well that I was in my bed and my mother was shocked that I wasn't excited.
And on the day Ben Ali fled she came and told me that the government resigned and whatnot,
she would report the events to me, every hour she would tell me another piece of news to get
me excited but I wasn't expecting anything good to happen. And then she came into the room
and told me that Ben Ali fled. When I went to see it on TV I didn't believe it, after that I felt a
desire to go to the embassy but it was difficult to go out because it was night and my parents
weren't used to that yet, after that I would stay at night in front of embassies and whatnot. So, I
then felt there was something different, I started to read analyses which were written, I didn't
read analyses before that, I was indulging in literature and hateful of reality, so I came back to
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reading the news. I was afraid of being happy and then finding out it was all a lie, so I started
reading and following the news and I felt that was something real. I remember that I didn't
sleep that night, I went to the newspaper the next day and thought maybe I didn't fully
understand the situation, I felt that was a revolution but maybe I misunderstood the situation,
let's hear what the editor-in-chief was saying, let's hear what people older than me were
saying, and I felt that everyone agreed. After that I thought that before feeling happy I have to
wait and see what happens in Egypt. I had Egyptian friends on Facebook and I started to see the
calls for the January 25th revolution. I used to say that if the Egyptian revolution came to pass
then this is true, this test. When the Egyptian revolution broke out, I was waiting for it to
happen, I didn't think whether it would succeed or not, I thought that if a revolution happens in
Egypt then the rest of the Arab nation will follow suit. So when the Egyptian revolution
happened I thought it was just a matter of time before the head of the regime falls down,
actually I wished that the whole regime would come down but it was only the head of the
regime that came down. I remember very well my editor-in-chief when two demonstrations
happened simultaneously, as I told you, I used to cover the demonstrations sometimes when
the reporter in charge was busy because I was in charge of women issues, so they felt how
enthusiastic I was and saw how I used to participate in the sit-ins I wasn't covering, and I would
take photos. So, my friend told the editor in chief there was a demonstration by the MB from a
mosque across from the 4th circle, and at the same time there was a demonstration by the
leftists in front of the Egyptian embassy. First he looked at me and said: "Rania will cover the
Egyptian Embassy demonstration from this day until Mubarak is deposed." So, we had this
sense, we believed things were going in that direction. I wasn't a good analyst, and perhaps I'm
still not a good one, when I got really happy in front of the Egyptian Embassy. I think I did all the
coverage in front of the Egyptian embassy except for one material, since my boss assigned that
coverage to me until Mubarak was deposed, I did the coverage on the day Mubarak was
deposed, and I wrote the article in the sense that we've risen. Actually, I like the term
"European Spring" although I remember very well that it was a Zionist historian who mentioned
the European Spring as he was criticizing Israel and the Western countries for staying asleep
until we had risen. I remember that very well but I don't remember the historian's name. Why
do I like the term "European Spring"? Because the European Spring didn't happen in 20 days,
and that was the mistake of my friends, colleagues and family, they thought that once Mubarak
was deposed we would be like Europe overnight, which was wrong. In Europe, renaissance took
100 years after it was announced but 100 and 200 years before announcing it, literature started
to rebel or we started to see signs of rebellion against feudalism in literature, and the rejection
of that in many novels, poems and even music, in the style of music itself. I remember... this is
not applicable because it was in the beginning of the European Spring but we can draw
conclusions from it, "The marriage of Figaro", that was a play criticizing the monarchy in France,
and criticizing Mary Antoinette. When Mozart took it and turned it into a musical piece the
desire for rebellion was growing but Europe didn't reap the fruit of that rebellion before 100
years later, and after going through a long, dark period of killing and destruction, but there was
a desire by scientists, authors, artists and politicians to rise and to advocate the values of
freedom that they believed in.
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TAPE 2
Rania Jaabari: the values of liberty in Europe were divided into two parts, and we have that
division now, the capitalist liberties and socialist communist liberties, and perhaps the socialist
revolution collapsed in Europe when the students' revolution failed, as if the revolution hanged
in the balance, it didn't come through, so... Why did I say I wasn't a good analyst? I expressed a
lot of joy in front of the Egyptian embassy, I remember the words I wrote in the article, I was
holding the pen and paper, looking at young people and the picket signs and whatnot, but the
article was being written there before I went back to the newspaper and typed it on the
computer... but there's an important point which is that the people started to form their
policies on the ground while Mubarak was refusing to step down, and if Mubarak had held on
to his position for a few months, a different Egyptian society would've been built on the
ground, and this is not my own analysis, it's what was said by analysts and I found it to be true
later on. Before that society would be built, I remember there was a newspaper issued in the
name of Tahrir Square, there were labor committees, so a month later there would've been a
government for the revolution, and that government would choose its leaders, the problem
with the revolution in both Tunisia and Egypt was the lack of leaders, so it was easy to gamble
on it. The day Mubarak stepped down we were all dancing, in Jordan, in Palestine, in Tunisia,
everywhere, but little did we know that we were dancing while and ambush was being plotted
for the revolution. And, the revolution in Egypt is different from that in Tunisia, unfortunately. I
wish the Tunisian experience was the one applied to Egypt because Tunisia and the Arab
countries in North-West Africa are far from us, they don't have much influence on us, although
the flight of Ben Ali was the biggest catalyst for the Egyptian people. The Egyptian people in
2005 or 2008, most probably 2008, they held a protest of million people protesting
unemployment, the Unionist Party held a protest of million people, so there was movement,
but what made us believe or made the Egyptians believe that anything is possible was Tunisia.
So, I wasn't a good analyst and I think that until now sometimes I'm still feeling my way into
political analysis... but I still believe in the Arab Spring and I believe in the first place that despite
the killing and destruction in Syria but the presence of Russia and Iran and the military
experience of Hezbollah, that saved the Arab World from another Iraq. I couldn't imagine Syria,
which I had visited with my family few months before I started working in journalism, and I
used to say to myself that in the future when circumstances allowed I would go there with my
friends, but I didn't have the chance, I got busy with journalism and literature and my other
commitments, and the next thing I knew, Syria was being destroyed. So, for a moment I was
afraid it would be taken away from me. In the beginning I was with toppling the Syrian regime
because I believed that all these Arab regimes were puppets of capitalism in the region and
their main goal was achieving their interests, but less than a year later when the revolutionaries
started getting salaries... I know that revolutionaries sacrifice their lives for their country; I don't
understand how a revolutionary would take a salary. And when I started seeing the Salafists,
who I started to fight against when I went to university, and when I saw the atrocity of
September 11, because, I don't feel happy when America achieves a victory, I was very happy in
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2008 when Russia was getting back into the game and I'm very happy now with Russia under
Putin's rule. I feel happy about anything that stands up to America, but the American citizens
are humans, so I didn't accept that atrocity for American citizens, how could I accept it for my
Syrian brothers? So, I felt a real surge of happiness when the Syrian regime achieved its first
victory in the battle of Qasyoun. Perhaps I was a good analyst there. I thought the regime
would win in the coming battles, and it did, it was victorious in Al-Qalamoun, in Kasab, and now
in Homs, and it's making progress. I can't imagine what would happen to women either in
Jordan, in Jordan women would've paid the price by the way, not because our brothers and
fathers would be killed but because our freedom as women which we're trying to take by force
from this extremist society, we are now seeking freedom, but we would be back to trying to get
our basic rights which we had before, if the Salafists were victorious in Syria against the regime
that is. It would've become a dream to go out to the street, to come here, to go out with my
male friends, if I went out with someone who isn't a blood relative it would've been a disaster.
So, I think the Arab Spring would be completed in the region when Syria survives what was
plotted against it in the name of the Arab Spring. Although I had strong reservations against the
Syrian regime because it's an oppressive regime, but that oppressive regime offered
facilitations for the opposition in order to be a major player in the region and there are no
emotions in politics. I am a Palestinian Arab, or an Arab Palestinian to be more accurate, I was
happy with the victory in 2006 in September's war, and I was very happy to see the theory, it's
not a theory actually but the idea of Dr. Abdul Wahhab Al-Misseeri, the famous Egyptian
scholar, God bless his soul, he always maintained that Israel was a puppet for America and for
capitalism in the region, and since I was a child I could only see that Israel was the mover and
shaker of the world, I couldn't understand Dr. Abdul Wahhab's idea, because I used to go to
Palestine and see how they were taking over everything and that anything they said would
happen in the next days... in the 2006 war I was convinced by what Dr. Abdul Wahhab said, and
I remember very well that in 2009 I went to Palestine for a family visit and to renew my ID. My
parents had a solid believe that I shouldn't learn Hebrew because the Jews aren't here to stay
for long. So I would look around, Palestine looked sad, it was my first visit in 10 years. Palestine
looked sad, in 1999, one year before Al-Aqsa uprising, we managed to sneak into Jerusalem, but
we did get it, we prayed and we roamed the 1948 areas. Palestine was more beautiful in 1999,
in 2009 it was a set of scattered cantons because of the apartheid wall. But there was a strange
steadfastness and a strange hope. I had the opposite state of mind, I was here away from the
killing, and I've never witnessed a battle, when I was a child... I now attend demonstrations and
sometimes there are clashes and I don't always feel afraid, sometimes I feel afraid, to be
accurate, but when I was a child I was scared of the Jews and the reason I was made scared of
them was that I was a little bold and I could go out... how can I describe that? In Hebron When I
was a child, that mountain for example would have a few houses and lots of grape vines. I loved
to go walk among the vines, I felt like I was flying, so my mother thought the best way to
restrict my wildness was to make me scared of the Jews. Also, I inherited from my family and
my older siblings, I have siblings who are much older than me and who witnessed the
occupation of Hebron by the Jews. Sometimes our stories at night were not like those of
ordinary children but rather stories like for example when my older sister would tell me about
the day the Jews entered Hebron and what they witnessed and things like that. And the best
stories for me and my siblings were when my mother would tell us stories from Hebron which
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included Jews and horrors, so I was raised to be scared of the Jews and to feel that they were
the enemy who could end my life. So in 1996 when I went to pray in the Cave of Patriarchs
there were barriers. Another important thing is that the way Jews treat Arabs stem from an
ideology of hate, there were few times when I saw a Jew smiling. I was a little child with no
political background, what established my political background was the hatred I saw in the eyes
of the occupiers. I remember before going to Palestine in 1987, I used to ask my mother in the
morning when she was dressing me, I think this is something that most of Palestinians who go
to Palestine have in common, Palestine is a constant obsession, so I would ask my mother: "why
can't we live side by side with the Jews? Why do we have to fight and kill each other? Don't
they say Jerusalem is theirs? We can both pray there." I used to say they could have synagogues
and I'd pray in the mosque, and Christians have churches too, we're not doing anything wrong,
we'd just live together. But she told me that we couldn't live together, I asked why and she said
because they came in and massacred us. So, as a child I didn't have a position on this and I
didn't always believe my parents, I was like that, I didn't believe older people, so I'd say no,
maybe they are good people. When I crossed the bridge there was an image fixated in my mind,
and I wrote about it, the image of the Jordanian soldier and the Israeli soldier. Jordanian
officers were cooperative, people in Jordan are famous for their generosity, so the soldier
would be standing at the entrance of the bus to check our passports, and we were 5 children
with my mother and we were of close ages, so sometimes she wouldn't be able to carry one of
us, so she would carry my younger sibling for example and I wouldn't be able to get into the bus
so the soldier would lift me up, you know? So we called them the good soldiers because they
were friendly, they smiled all the time, they laughed with us, there was a nice relationship.
Once the bus crossed Jordan River, a screaming soldier would appear, not just screaming for no
reason, he was asking for our passports or IDs in that crude way. So, that image is fixated in my
mind, with Jordanian soldiers we didn't see the guns, he would have some sort of weapon but it
didn't show, while the I saw the weapons on the Israeli soldiers before seeing the soldiers
themselves. The soldier with the weapons and gears, that was a terrifying site, I felt like I was
going into battle not entering my land. And the way they screamed, there were very few times
when I saw a Jew smiling in my life, very few. The few Jews who were smiling, when I grew up I
understood why I saw some smiling Jews on the bridge, when I started to specialize in studying
the Zionist affairs, because there is military service for all Israelis, they can't send you to the
front lines while doing military service, they wouldn't send you to South Lebanon, because you
didn't go to military academy, but as it was military service they let them work on the bridge, in
the peaceful points, they call them the controlled points which are away from the front lines.
So, those Jews would be serving their military time, they would be doctors or engineers or a
fresh high-school graduate, civilians. So, I discovered that the ideology of Israeli soldiers
stemmed from hatred, so I understood why the Jews on the front lines when they come to talk
to me, although I'm a civilian, they talk to me with a frown and when they talk to me in Arabic I
feel like they are hurling insults at me. Not as tourists, when I travel anywhere I see people
smiling even by soldiers, but those did not smile, they gave me a look that said: "Why did you
come?" I felt this is what they were saying to me. As for the Israeli citizens doing military service
some of them come to Israel not because of the Zionist ideology which believes that is the
promised land, most of them are secular, they don't believe in that, but they come because
there are better job opportunities there, there's insurance better than in Europe, there are
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improved services offered to Zionists to come here, so they come because they believe in
human rights, which are not taught by Israel, their parents would be secular so they don't have
to learn this ideology of hate so they smile in my face, and that same person doesn't believe in
Israel but rather in the welfare in Israel because, when the 2006 war broke out and even before
that when Al-Aqsa uprising broke out and the Palestinians sought to apply the theory of the
balance of terror by carrying out explosions, I have a different stand on this now on the
explosions that target Israelis, but that event that took place pushed Israelis to buy apartments
in Europe and some of them returned to Europe, Israel faced the fear of being emptied out,
that revealed an important point for me which is that when my grandparents in 1967, when the
Israeli army entered Hebron my uncle's wife wanted to take her kids and run away, she was
telling them let's flee. So they said to her: "we saw what happened to those who fled in 1948
and we would rather die on our land." So I saw the difference between me as an Arab citizen
on my own land, and by the way when they fled in 1948 it wasn't before they didn't want their
land, but because the Arab regimes and leadership told them to leave for a couple of weeks to
avoid being killed and then they'd be back, so they escaped with the intention of going back,
they had their keys and their land bonds with them and their memories, but Israelis are not like
that, Israelis are now celebrating the 66th anniversary for their so-called independence, but
only fear grew inside Israelis on this land because it is not their land, while we are counting the
66th year of our Nakba (catastrophe). I was telling you, when I went to Palestine in 2009 my
family firmly believed that there is hope and that freedom is coming, that hope they told me
about but I couldn't feel it when I saw Palestine being torn apart, ad when I saw things going
from bad to worse in Palestine. I got back that hope from the flight of Ben Ali, and I got it back
when I saw the slogans that didn't forget Palestine by the Arab youth, and that hope was
revived again on the day Mubarak was deposed, and I think this hope was established now by
the steadfastness of the axis of resistance represented in Syria, Hezbollah and Iran, backed by
Russia and sometimes by China, and with new major power rising in the world, Russia under
Putin's leadership, I insist on calling it that until it shows that Putin is now laying the
foundations for the spirit of the Soviet Union which he's dreaming of reviving, if that happens
then I believe the future looks better for the Arab World and the desperation I felt in the
beginning of 2011 before the flight of Ben Ali will not be back, in case I was sure there were two
major powers in the world not only one, and for me as an Arab it is not enough to have two
major powers in the world, there has to be Arab leadership forming on the ground, we are a
national liberation project, because there must be price to pay to Russia after Syria and the
resistance stood their ground. Also, the Syrian regime paid a price for turning things on ground
in its favor and that price was the support by Russia when it proved to be a winning bet. Also,
we must not forget an important point which is that Russia considered the battle in Syria a
battle of life and death, the real battle through which it can regain its status in the world before
1990, so I believe all these circumstances were in favor of my Arab nation. In the end I think
what's left is for every person to realize they have a responsibility and that responsibility isn't
only to hold massive protests on the street, there's something before that, I told you earlier
when I talked about the curricula, how much I felt that they create a fertile ground for hatred
and extremism for the youth, the curricula also creates a ground in the Arab world to reject
knowledge and to hate knowledge, they don't pave the way for building a clear national
project, I spent my life searching for the truth, in my childhood and teenage years I wasn't a
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religious person, but... this could be the answer to the question about the political events that
had an impact on me... the first political event that had an impact on me and it was a hard
impact was the massacre in the Cave of Patriarchs. I was in Amman, I live with my family here,
we spend the whole year here and we go to Palestine in the summer, sometimes we go and
sometimes we don't. I remember very well it was Ramadan, we woke up to the news that there
was a massacre in the Cave of Patriarchs. I remember how worried my mother was for her
brother and our relatives there and I remember how my father was worried about his brother.
There was a state of anticipation, people saw the massacre as a piece of news, like now I see
the killing in Syria as a piece of news, but for a moment you would be worried that you would
receive bad news about a loved one. I was still a child back then, I was 14, I was at the threshold
of youth but I was still thinking in a childish way. I was worried that my mother or father would
be sad, sometimes at the age of 14 or 15 your heart can't contain sadness, your whole heart is
reserved for joy, you don't think of sadness, so I didn't want my parents to be sad, I just wanted
to receive good news. By the afternoon we made sure that nothing happened to any of our
relatives, nobody we knew died but there were martyrs. 2 years later, the massacre of Qana
happened in South Lebanon, which was a turning point in my life. I was just starting to write
back then. After than Palestine became an obsession, Palestine was no longer the idea... and it
was then that I found an answer to the question I asked my mother about why we fight with
the Jews. I found that the Jews were just willing to kill. That massacre happened in 1994, after
Oslo conventions, and there was also Wadi Araba Treaty, two peace treaties and then to have
massacres... actually Wadi Araba was still on the way, it wasn't signed yet, it was about to be
signed. When I used to go to Palestine I took the truth in doses. When I knew that Goldstein
was a doctor and he came to kill. You could understand when a soldier who's used to killing
comes to kill, but a doctor? I started to see that as a brutal society, I couldn't enjoy being in the
Cave of Patriarchs, when I went there I asked my mother why there was a wire mesh above the
old neighborhood which is like a narrow alley, I'm sure you know it, with houses on both sides,
so I asked my mother why it was there, she said it was because the Jews threw trash at them,
the Jews lived upstairs. They told us that there were Jews who could throw acid at our faces
while walking on the street; I would become ugly in an instant. So, as a child and in my teenage
years when I went to Palestine I would be scared, but after 2000, the more massacres there
were the stronger sense of resistance I had, I didn't want to be afraid of the Jews but it should
be the other way around. I'm the one who always dreamed of being a writer and working in the
field of writing, I had a dream when I was 20 years old at the beginning of Al-Aqsa uprising to
fight or to carry out an explosion. Years later I became against carrying out an explosion and
blowing yourself up, not because... but because I came to believe that this was a failed military
approach, the successful approach would be organizing a battle against the soldiers, what's
more important than killing civilians in Israel is to make civilians feel that the army is
compromised, that would make them afraid. That idea crystalized and I was able to announce it
loud and clear during the 2006 war. Hezbollah shook Israel when Israel felt it was compromised
military and security wise. But to kill people, I'm against that, I'm with developing your military
abilities, that's why I was against Hamas in that, but I couldn't blame them, I couldn't blame the
people at that point, they were being killed indiscriminately, so they went in the direction of
explosions impulsively and I believe that if the uprising was to happen again now the
Palestinian people wouldn't go back to explosions. They would have learned from the
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experience of Hezbollah, and notice that what proves this point is that in 2008, during the war
on Gaza, it was all for getting Shalit back, so Hamas have learned and grew up, for in early
2000s they would send a young man to blow himself up while in 2008 or before that when they
arrested Shalit they managed to achieve a military as well as a security victory. They didn't kill
him, they treated him very well, they were doing well from a humanistic and an Islamic point of
view, they didn't violate the values of humanity, but they achieved a real victory. But in the year
2000, the girl who was afraid of the Jews, when I saw the massacres especially after Jenin's
massacre and the events in Jenin, I wished to end my life in Palestine by carrying out an
explosion. I envied those who were able to resist and to fight. Maybe that's why my father
didn't let us go to Palestine during that time because I could've met some people, because
when I grew up and learned more I learned that the Prophet's saying: "Each one of you is a
shepherd, and each shepherd is responsible for his flock. A woman is a shepherd in her house
and responsible for her flock, and the man at his work..." I don't memorize it by heart, but the
meaning is that each one of us is fighting from their respective position.
TAPE 3
Rania Jaabari: where we're supposed to fight our battles. I learned that I had to struggle
through my work as a journalist, and through story writing and through art, these are platforms
for resistance that could me more important than just fighting, because fighting is something
secondary, another phase, and what my generation and the next generation need is to save us
years of being lost. I was an open-minded girl, I went for religion because I was oppressed as a
Muslim, I studied Sharia and learned that things wasn't supposed to be like that, I saw that
Christians in Palestine were oppressed like Muslims and even more. And then I started to feel
that, no... I need to go for fighting and then I thought I should focus on literature. I can save the
next generation this long journey through writing and journalism, so that they won't take long
to decide where to go or to take a long time thinking about religion and political issues. I talked
too much.
Nicola Pratt: No, not at all... and now, are you part of any initiatives?
RJ: Yes... something important happened in Jordan because of which I am working on my
personal project which in my opinion serves the national project. After the protests that took
place in the Arab World and the values of liberation, a group of young people in Jordan, and we
were young, although it was only 3 years ago but I feel that I was young unlike now. A group of
youth or an entity unknown to anyone announced on March 24th, just like Egypt announced
January 25th as the start of Mubarak's demise, and just like March 15th in Syria was proclaimed
as the onset of the Syrian revolution, March 24th was proclaimed as the beginning of the
demise of the Hashemite regime. As I told you, I am enthusiastic about toppling the regimes
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and back then I believed that all Arab rulers should leave. So, with that enthusiasm I went with
my friends to Al-Dakhiliyya Circle, on March 24, 2011. And there I discovered something
important... by the way, for documentation purposes, I said I was present in the demonstrations
for a whole year in 2011, that's not true, the period was prolonged, to be accurate I started
attending demonstrations starting January 7, 2011 until... I attended a number of
demonstrations after March 24th, so let's say until April or May, 2011, so you could say half a
year, not a whole year, to be accurate. In March 24th I read into the political situation in Jordan
in 24 hours only. I was enthusiastic and believed that we, as national powers... of course I was
there as a journalist and a participant, I was covering the demonstrations for my newspaper
and participating too. I was saying all the powers were there and would be united and then
they would impose what they wanted on the regime. Generally, the slogan for toppling the
regime wasn't there, the slogans present there were slogans that weren't understood by the
participants. They didn't understand what a constitutional monarchy was. Most of them
thought an "elected government" meant to elect the Prime Minister. We didn't want the single
vote electoral system but the youth didn't have a vision, and I'm talking about the youth now,
the political parties had a vision, but the youth didn't, and the youth were the movers and the
parties were trying to depend on them in front of the regime. That's why I'm telling you it was a
problem that the youth didn't have a vision, because the parties put them in the front lines, so
there was no talk about the Muslim Brotherhood, or Al-Wihda party, or the Communist party,
or Al-Ba'ath party, nobody was referred to them, the references were made to the youth of
March 24th, and the proof to that was that on the day the sit-in was dispersed when Al-Jazeera
hosted Nasser Joudeh to talk they didn't host any of the parties' leaders, they hosted one of the
young people of March 24th, a representative of the young people who were in the sit-in. these
young people knew nothing about the political process, they didn't know what the single vote
electoral system meant. I myself wouldn't know about the elections laws and the difference
between them and all these details if it wasn't for my work in journalism, but through my work
as a journalist, and since I wanted to study women presence in the Parliament I studied the
electoral systems that could help women reach the Parliament, so there was an obligatory path
to take which is to understand the laws, if it wasn't for that I would've been like them; because
our generation wasn't brought up to read. For example, I like to read what I read is literature, I
read about music, about Shari'a, as for the law, the passion for reading wasn't instilled in the
minds of the Arab youth, that's why when they hear about something they don't prefer to read
about it, they prefer that you tell them about it, and they wouldn't try to verify what you said,
they just repeat it, and that's the real catastrophe. On March 24th the political powers put the
youth on the front lines and started fighting among themselves to take over the slogans'
microphone, someone was yelling slogans and the Muslim Brotherhood took over the
microphone, and after we were chanting "Mawtini", I mean in the first hours of the day and the
sit-in we were chanting slogans against hunger and poverty and we chanted songs shared by all
groups of society and by all Arabs, the song I remember everyone sang together was "Mawtini"
and that song spread in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad and it was remixed by Naseer Shamma;
because he felt that this song was the one that touched Iraqis the most, imagine that,
"Mawtini" song whose lyrics were written by a Palestinian poet. I remember very well that at
8:00 sharp on March 24th when we were standing at the circle there were thugs on the other
side hurling insults at those standing at the circle, we were journalists and participants, young
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and old, Islamists and leftists, Christians and Muslims, once Mawtini song started to play
everyone started to sing along, even the journalists who were there and had no ideology, were
there just to cover the event as a journalist not a participant, they stood in front of the camera
and everyone sang Mawtini, that was the only moment where we all became one, after that we
were scattered, after that the Muslim Brotherhood took over the microphone at the sit-in and
they started to chant Islamic slogans, "who is your role model?" - "Mohammad". Why say now
that our role model is Mohammad, peace be upon him, there were Christians standing there,
there were leftists who were non-believers, and the Islamic songs started. The next day after
that the Muslim Brotherhood started negotiating with the regime, they sat on the table, leaders
from the Muslim Brotherhood led the noon prayers and the youth prayed behind them, and in
the afternoon they left, they didn't stay, there were negotiating with the regime, and as I told
you, there was no slogan for toppling the regime but the youth dreamt about it, they had a
dream to expand the movement until it reached that stage but the first slogans were against
hunger and poverty. What scared the regime and the intelligence apparatus was that slogans
started to escalate, the bar was raised for the slogans without a public base... we were around
40 or 50 people overall, or let's say 200, no problem, let's say we were 200, we chanted the
slogan: "The people want Al-Raggad to step down", Al-Raggad was the head of the intelligence
apparatus back then, and the intelligence apparatus reported to the officials in higher ranks,
the king and the Royal Court that the slogans were escalating continuously. The next day the
sit-in was dispersed. I remember the bitter feeling of injustice I had, I was at the circle when the
sit-in was dispersed, the bitter feeling of injustice I had when the sit-in was dispersed stayed
with me for a week. During that week I decided that I could not stay on the street because the
political powers in Jordan are in conflict, and they have no agreement on one national project.
Each one of them wants to serve their own interests, and they are not seeking the project of
national liberation, I started to believe that if the Monarchy system was toppled we would
suffer the same consequences as Syria. First we should work on the public base to raise
awareness among people. And as I decided when I was in university to get back to my personal
project in the early 2000s, in the beginning of the second decade which was the beginning of
20111 decided to get back to my personal project which had to end up in the frame of the
liberation values I believed in, and then I would be present in the demonstrations but not as a
participant, but as an observer in order to know what direction my writings should take, what
direction I should take with my work. My writing experienced really matured, there's something
I forgot to talk about, that in the beginning of 2012, some friends of mine and I started a
website called "Radical" where we wrote without self-censorship, I used to write in the
newspaper sometimes without self-censorship, but the editor-in-chief could edit it because of
the publication law, the websites here had more freedom than they do now, before the new
publication law for websites. So I started with Radical and stayed with them for one year only,
after that we had a disagreement because... we had a professional disagreement, I felt they
were young activists who were producing a partisan newspaper or magazine, and I've always
dreamed of producing an intellectual magazine, I would have my own editorial policy with a
clear ideology but I wouldn't be partisan or narrow, so I chose to leave, but my writing
experience matured there. I used to talk about the regime all I wanted and there was nobody to
censor, we published article every two weeks, and we worked like a newspaper or a magazine,
we would meet and identify topics for the next week, we'd look into the events and updates
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that were there, we'd decide which were the most important ones and we'd arrange the cover
and the topic of each chapter, and we would write as if we were in Europe, not here, be it in
the values of social liberation, the values of political liberation, that was the mature experience
which I'm sad that it wasn't completed. The guys are still working on it but they are moving
from being an intellectual magazine to a partisan magazine. It's important to have partisan
magazines, that's very important and I'm happy that the project is being more widely spread,
but I can't work in a partisan magazine because I wasn't brought up in a party, I don't have that
culture, my culture is rather based on being a journalist and a writer so I have a broader
horizon, I believe in the leftist ideology and the answers it has for the economic, the political
and even the social life, but without being narrow in producing a media item, it's important to
be more open.
N.P: is there anything you want to say which I didn't ask about?
RJ: There could be something that is related to the situation of women, the civil society
organizations, that's part of the nature of my work and research. Just like I sought the truth in
religion and in politics, I spent years searching for the truth regarding the issue of women. Ever
since I was a child I was obsessed with women issues because I came from a conservative family
and a family who favors boys to girls but to a certain extent, my mother is educated, she didn't
allow a blatant favoritism, one that's too obvious, but there was favoritism in rights and
freedoms according to what's imposed by society. Sometimes when I was a child when we
made coffee and men and women would be sitting in separate rooms coffee would be served
to men before women, that really annoyed me when I was a child. I felt that women issues
were very important, but suddenly when I gained more awareness at the age of 14 or 15, I
started to see that the issue of women was a joke in society and that it was taking lightly, so
that annoyed me, I wondered why? I wasn't fully aware yet, I wasn't into journalism yet, I was
14 or 15, in the 8th or 9th grade, I didn't know that the civil society had started to establish
roots here 4 years earlier. I'm not against civil society; I'm against its mechanism, its work
mechanism. My brothers went to Islamic schools and I went to public schools, they went to a
private school while I went to a public school. That's why a part of my culture was sort of, not
generally, closer to secularism, because I didn't study in an Islamic environment, I studied in a
public school where you're exposed to all kinds of opinions, you see Muslims and Christians,
you see teachers who are believers and those who are not, you see all kinds of people. So, I
noticed that my male brothers had a complex towards women which was growing increasingly
throughout their school years, they believed women should not go out to work, they believed
that they keep watching me, and those convictions were being established. What's weird,
actually it's not weird it's something known to everyone, after 1990, extremism in Jordan
increased, unfortunately for me as a female, and this is my personal view of the issue and the
view of many analysts, that America and the Arab regimes depended on mobilizing the youth to
go and fight in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s in order to delegate
the war and topple the Soviet Union. Now, the results of the Salafists movement which grew in
the 1970s and 1980s started to ripen in the 1990s, when I was entering my teenage years and
wanted to live up my life, and the source of my dreams were books and novels, I used to read
for Muhammad Abdul Haleem Abdullah, the Egyptian storyteller, Hana Meena, the old Arabic
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literature, all of them had values of liberation, and unfortunately for me, or maybe fortunately
for me I don't know, when I was 13 I was introduced to Mutanabbi, and I didn't know that I
shared with Mutanabbi a moment of Arab defeat and separation. I only learned that when I
grew up. Mutanabbi's poems were liberated and he had a wide horizon, so I think what's
important is what you read in books not what my brother or the sheikh in the mosque says. As
years went by, extremism increased even more, until 2011, after 2011 the extremism I faced
from my society started to abate, because it was in the best interest of the Arab regimes and
America to fight Taliban's terrorism after they had toppled the Soviet Union, so we had what's
called "moderate Islam", but it's not a nice version of Islam, that moderate Islam, because it
stemmed from a desire by America and the Arab regimes, not from Islam itself, meaning than,
in Islam, and this is something I know very well, my father or brother has no right to impose
hijab on me, but I as well as 90% of girls in society wear it against our will, we don't want it, and
when I wore it I wore it against my will. In Islam there is no text that obliges the father to
impose hijab on me, but it's imposed. In moderate Islam which came after September 2011
doesn't give women their rights, it's a version of Islam, as Dr. Abdul Wahhab Al-Misseeri
described it in one conference, an Islam that doesn't bother America, but in the end it doesn't
protect women or children, it doesn't lay the foundations for a real awakening project. That's
why after 2011, Islam became a nice cover, as in: let the girls wear colorful clothes, let the girls
go out, music is not prohibited, that gave concessions on extremism, but the situation of
women didn't change, the color of their veils changed, before 2011 it was preferred to be black
or white, and not to look beautiful, and to cover this part, and don't show your features, and
you could wear pants, they let women to wear pants with a head veil after 2011, but the core
of women rights remained lost, I didn't reach a real answer to what could get me my rights back
and gave the cause of women the value it deserves because I believe it's a fair cause, until I
started to cover women issues in the local news section in Al-Arab Al-Yawm. I started to cover it
and I saw nice ideas. We would go to a 5-star hotel; they would be talking about women-
friendly work environment. That's a really nice idea, that the Ministry of Labor along with the
Ministry of Development should try as much as possible to provide a good work environment
for women, to have child care facilities, nursing hours, that when women go to work they
wouldn't feel that their little children are suffering because of that. All these are good things,
but I started to discover that civil society organizations who are there to serve the issues of
women, they are not serving the cause of women in the first place, and that obliged me to
study the history of the cause of women and perhaps you talked about that with Suheir. By the
way, Suheir Al-Tal's books answered my questions while I was covering women issues, when I
started to cover women issues and there were questions here I went to Al-Fares Bookshop,
who's the publisher of Suheir's books and bought a book by Suheir and I started to read and to
have questions, I started creating topics, I would go to female activists and ask them questions
and create my article, so I was searching for answers through my work, so I found that women
in the past didn't get funding. I heard that the minimum funding obtained by Jordanian civil
society organizations by the European Union or USAID or by any other bodies, the minimum
funding is 100 thousands. And nothing improves, in the contrary, the cause of women is
regressing, while the late Lam'a Bseiso and Emily Bsharat, the pioneers of feminist work, and
[inaudible:25:05] Haddad and others, these women didn't have any funding, they used to
gather and say that they should do so and so, their goal was eradicating illiteracy among
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women... There's an activist called Buthaina Jardaneh, she comes from an aristocratic family,
she was a teacher in the 1960s and... No, not Buthaina Jardaneh, it was Raghda Mango, she
comes from one of the most aristocratic families in Amman, when she was struggling for
women rights she didn't go to 5-star hotels, they simply gathered and went to convince families
to send their daughters to school. When they knew about a girl whose family wanted to take
out of school and marry her off at the age of 16, she told me that when they went to the camp
to convince the parents not to take their daughter out of school they would be knee-deep in
the mud, and they would manage to convince the father to let his daughter continue her
education. So, the cause of women was at its prime because it was in the core of the national
liberation project. As for the civil society organizations now, I discovered that they only get
funding, they hold workshop, they don't care whether the participants benefitted from it or
not, the project ends and that's it, nothing is built up on what has been done. I found that the
civil society organizations contributed to dealing with the cause of women as a shallow cause,
they contributed to turning it into a joke in addition to religious extremism which grew in the
society, I think Suheir said that, there's no need to repeat it. Feminist activists in the 1990s and
the early 2000s used to coax religion, they didn't say that was wrong and didn't dare to take a
bold step by going to moderate religious clerics and ask them whether what's being said about
women's attire is true. Is it true what's said about women staying at home? They weren't
fighters. They were rather busy with protocols more than going for the real struggle and
seeking the real information and then telling what's true and what's not true, and I've heard
and I was asked by one of the feminist activists to delete a phrase or she would claim that she
didn't say it because it was against religion and she didn't want to attack religion and she was
afraid of attacking religion. So, I think that the primary victim on the Israeli occupation of
Palestine or the Zionist occupation of Palestine, and I call it the Zionist entity not Israel, and the
occupation of Iraq, and the primary victim of the America-Soviet conflict was Arab women. It's
true that we have poverty and whatnot but the dreams of many girls were crushed for the sake
of religion, and the religion became a front line between people and society and I started to
think that if I wanted to live my life I wouldn't go to heaven and that is wrong... I talk a lot.
N.P: Are there other people or young people who think like you?
RJ: Yes, not too many but the number is increasing. Something is changing in Amman and in
the Arab World as a whole, I believe that, a desire to go back to reading is maturing but it's still
in the beginning, it's not big yet, there's a desire to do research. I don't believe in my own
generation as much as I believe in the coming generation, and I feel that there is a wheel that's
rolling forward and nobody will be able to stop it. The political situation is helping it to move
forward... there are values that are being changed in the society, moving towards openness. For
example, there were parents in the 1980s who didn't allow that their daughter would fall in
love, but now there are parents who feel that but they are afraid to ask the girl, and there's a
margin of freedom that's blooming despite the overflow of extremism that we have, but I think
that the overflowing extremism is in its final days, because extremism now, and I'm talking from
a social point of view, extremism now is being fought by all the international powers, the
international powers that begat extremism is now denying it. So there are young people like
that, and there are young people who are lost.
17


18
TAPE 4
Rania Jaabari: there are young people, and I'm talking now about my generation, they are
divided into 3 groups: a small part of them has awareness, they go towards knowledge through
reading, and they believe they have to work on their project. There's a group that's lost,
searching for a purpose. Sadly, there is a group who believes in the values of the previous
generation, it's just a show, they go to protests and get photographed and they post the
pictures to Facebook, they say that they read something but they don't think about it. So, there
are all kinds of people. But as I told you, the reason I like the term "European Spring" is so that
people would believe that a revolution doesn't happen in 20 years, it takes so many years, and I
still believe that we have set out on that road... is that good?
Nicola Pratt: Good. Thank you.
18


Full Text
Interview with Rania Al-Jaabari
2014

TAPE 1
Nicola Pratt: May I ask you first, when and where were you born?
Rania Jaabari: I was born in Jordan, Amman in 1980.
N.P: What did your parents do?
R.J: Excuse me?
N.P: What did they do, their jobs?
R.J: My father was a tradesman, and still is, and my mother was a teacher but when she got married she quit her job.
N.P: What were your first memories about political or national events as a child?
R.J: The national events for me started as soon as I started to be aware of things around me, when we used to go to Palestine, we are Jordanians from Palestinian origins, my father couldn’t go to Palestine as he didn't have a Palestinian ID but my mother had one and she passed it to us, so now I have two ID's, Jordanian and Palestinian. So, we used to go to Palestine not every year, depending on the circumstances, so my political awareness started to form there when I was a little girl and I wanted to go out and play but they would tell us we couldn't because of "the Jews" so the place where we were allowed to play was a landing in front of the house like this one, so we would play there, and when army vehicles passed by sometimes we would be afraid but sometimes my cousin would tell us not to be afraid and to throw stones at them, so my political awareness started there.
N.P: So, your parents came to Jordan after 1967? Or after 1948?
R.J: No, we came to Jordan… actually there's a difference, after 1967 my father was considered a Jordanian resident but before that he kept moving, he was one of those Palestinians whose family was in Hebron, that was in the 1960s. He would take a bus in the morning, most of the time in an area called Bab Al-Zawya, there was a bus that would bring them here, to the Sugar Market, so he would go to work and at night he'd take the bus again and go back to Hebron, that was before the Jews occupied it, when the Jews occupied Hebron he was here and couldn't go back. My mother stayed in Palestine but she worked as a teacher in Saudi Arabia for a while, and she came to Jordan when she got married, which was in 1979.
N.P: Did you go to University?
R.J: Yes. I went to Al-Zarqaa Al-Ahliyya University, faculty of Sharia.
N.P: When did you graduate?
R.J: I graduated in 2002.
N.P: When you were in university did you join any groups, organizations or initiatives?
R.J: As for university, I have to talk a little bit about university, it was a university affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. To be honest, the educational approach in that university was by 60% an enlightening approach, not a fanatic approach, there was 40% extremism and that depended on the nature of the professors, but generally speaking when it came to the administration of the university there was a desire for enlightenment and towards openness but under certain limitations. There were two kinds of activism at the university, for example I was studying Sharia and I was discovering ideas and finding that those ideas I was studying were different from the ones practiced in society, the Ideas of Islam were much different from the extreme ideas in society. So there was some sort of personal activism sometimes, like trying to tell them that this "Jilbab" (gown) you are wearing is not the only official outfit for Muslim women. Like discussing music, I discovered that music isn't prohibited in Islam and that there was a musical renaissance in the days of Islamic Caliphate. I discovered that the ideas I was studying were much better than what was practiced in reality. So, there was personal activism in that field, it wasn't applied strongly on the ground because there was club called the College Girl Club, I was one of the founders and we were trying to promote these ideas, it wasn't my idea, it was the idea of some girl friends of mine in the university, enlightened girls, and I was with them, but that club was hijacked, not hijacked actually, it happened naturally but there were plots involved to put it under the control of the students' council which consisted of MB members. So, at that time I felt frustrated by what happened because I felt that the society was always ready for extremism and it feels comfortable with extremism, although happiness isn't found in extremism, happiness comes when you have an open mind and a revolutionary mind, not moderate, revolutionary, this is my personal opinion, so I preferred to get back to my personal project which was writing stories and to focus more on my studies. There were political activities but they weren't effective nor initiative for a simple reason which is that I didn't feel that the formation of the political power in the university represented me, who are the MB. So, I preferred to participate in sit-ins but not to have an effective role, I preferred to be there during the protests about what happened in the events of Jenin in Palestine, the cold-blooded murder perpetrated by the Zionists, I was there, but I didn't have an effective role because I was finding out gradually that I was closer to the Left rather than the religious Right. But I didn't have a chance to join the leftist movement because in university I didn't meet leftist people. So, my political activism in university was limited because I couldn't find the proper environment. But I was busy enough with my literary activism, I wrote a play related to the events in Palestine and the students liked it, and I wrote my first story which was published in my first story collection which I published in 2010, almost 8 years later, it was the first story after the period of frustration with the activism we had. So that was pretty much my time at university.
N.P: And after university?
R.J: After university many things happened but to sum it up quickly, after graduating from university I got a job right away as a teacher, I felt that what was being taught here in the subject of Islamic Studies didn't present the students with the enlightened ideas of Islam. I only taught for 4 days and from what I saw in the curriculum I felt that what was given to the students prepares a fertile ground for extremism and the values of terrorism to flourish. Notice that in Jordan people didn't dare to bad mouth the terrorists in Al-Qaeda until after the explosions in Amman in 2005, before that people thought that insulting them meant insulting religion or their beliefs. This fertile ground to accept extremism and terrorism is strongly established by school curricula. I felt that if I went into the class and stuck to the curriculum then I would be giving the students… or I would be serving to establish a ground which I am against having in society, that was in 2002, almost year after September 11. For me, the lies of Al-Qaeda were revealed in 2011, because I studied Sharia and I know exactly what it a "war zone" means. The text cited by Osama Bin Laden and Mohammad Al-Thawaheri to justify their acts by claiming that America was a war zone, they had twisted the Islamic text. In Islam, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to tell the armies not to cut a tree, not to kill a woman, not to kill a person praying in a synagogue. So, that was an in humane act, although I am against liberalism, I'm a leftist, I'm against liberalism because I believe it tightens the noose around the necks of the vulnerable people, and if it didn't kill them openly it kills their will from the inside, this is my personal belief. So how could I be happy when I see the American citizen… I can still see that scene before me, that when that happened, when the plane crashed into the tower and there was no escape, that person decided to end his life and jump off the building. That scene made some people here laugh, but those people didn't lose their humanity easily. They lost their humanity because of the atrocities they saw in Iraq, in Palestine, because of the base of extremism in the curricula I told you about, which should have made them feel that they had to be humans in the first place before being Muslims, the Islamic doctrine instills humanity in people before instilling the values of being a Muslim, that's why in Islamic texts mercy always precedes punishment. All these effects made me feel that I would be a partner in the crime if I kept teaching those curricula, so I preferred to choose doing something else which is trying to introduce children to different ideas other than those in the book while sticking to the book at the same time because it was a curriculum which they will be tested on in the end. The students didn't like that, and here in private schools in Jordan people interfere with the educational methods, so I chose to quit teaching, and from then on I started to think about getting into journalism to present this way of thinking which I wanted to fight for, to introduce them through journalism. So I started working to establish a youth magazine but things didn't work out. But while working to establish the magazine I met Fatima Smadi, who's my mentor in journalism, and I started working in Al-Arab Al-Yawm in 2005, 2 and a half years after searching for a job opportunity. I started working in Al-Arab Al-Yawm in the annexes section, the annexes allowed us to do investigative reports and stories, and they were closer to the society than other sections like the economic and the local sections, so it was Divine Providence at work that I entered the field of journalism through journalistic stories which required me to be on the street all the time and kept me among people. That was my story with journalism.
N.P: Okay… are you still working in journalism?
R.J: Yes, I stayed with Al-Arab Al-Yawm for 7 years, I left after the newspaper was sold to a new owner who started to interfere with the editing policy; so I quit in protest to the interference by the owner with the editing policy of the newspaper. After that, in the same period, I worked for a year with Aramram TV, it's an online TV channel that targets the youth, so I gained a new kind of experience as I used to work in written journalism with Al-Arab Al-Yawm, I also practiced photography as a hobby as well as shooting videos, and before that I made a film with a friend of mine, my film wasn't even edited, I felt it was weak but I acted in a film with her, a film that she wrote and directed, so I had the desire to work in visual media, so I worked with Aramram for almost a year, after that… I speak, I mean I can translate from Hebrew, so in 2013 I wanted to dedicate myself to studying Zionism, sometimes I'm active and other times I am lazy but I'm working on that, I wrote a number of articles, I started earlier this year to cooperate with Al-Safeer Lebanese newspaper, I wrote articles in the Arab and International sections and I'm now writing articles for specialized annexes.
N.P: Did you participate in any initiatives or groups before that regarding the Palestinian Cause?
R.J: Yes, about Palestine, as I told you, there wasn't a suitable environment at university, so my concern with Palestine moved from activism on the ground to writing. Later on when I started working in journalism, 3 or 4 years after I started working in that field I moved to the local news sections, which is the most important section in the newspaper, in that section you get closer to politics somehow. I was responsible for women issues, I wrote about women issues, but sometimes when there was a political story and the person in charge couldn't attend certain demonstrations I would cover for them, and then gradually by 2011 I was the one in charge of attending demonstrations. Like many young people, I would introduce myself to some people in the demonstration even to those whom I felt had a relation to the security apparatus, I would introduce myself as a journalist and a participant, I was there to do coverage for the demonstration but also to participate, particularly after Ben Ali fled from Tunisia, because I still believe that the Arab Spring started pure but there were certain powers in the world who did a quick intervention and trick us into believing that they were the ones who started the Arab Spring. No, it was sparked by hunger and injustice, and the Palestinian Cause was present, I don't remember attending a sit-in or a demonstration in 2011 - I didn't miss any sit-in or demonstration in Arab Spring since Ben Ali fled- because before that I attended one or two demonstrations and I wasn't at the gate of the Tunisian embassy, but after Ben Ali fled I didn't miss any sit-in or demonstration and I don't remember the slogans calling for "free Palestine" weren't there at any of those events, even in the freedom squares in Egypt and Tunisia, Palestine was there.
N.P: About the events of 2011 and later on, the revolutions and the Arab Spring, what were your thoughts at the time, how did you know there were demonstrations in Amman? How was the general atmosphere?
R.J: First, I have to mention an important point, which is that through my work in journalism I started to form ties and connections with leftist friends, there was one relationship that was formed prior to 2011, let's say in 2004 and we didn't meet regularly but that relationship prospered in 2010, just before the Arab Spring, when the Arab Spring started we were being introduced to different people… No, actually I started to get closer to the leftist before that through a friend who introduced me to some young people and I was invited to boycott the parliamentary elections in 2010, few weeks before the Arab Spring. And I did participate in the boycott campaign of the elections and I was active to a certain extent but the campaign didn't have a huge effect, and there was a high percentage of the Jordanian people who boycotted the elections, but that wasn't because of the campaign, not the "Youth for Change" group, no, the real reason was that the people felt that the elections were rigged and they have been disappointed for years and I don't remember seeing people excited about the elections except in 1989 when I was 9 years old, and I remember how my relatives passed by and there was a bustle and movement all around, I felt there were elections but afterwards, after the Single Vote electoral system we stopped feeling that way, elections became a joke. The relations that grew during the period of elections boycott expanded more after the Arab Spring. When I went to a protest with a friend, I was taking photographs while she was shooting video footage, we had limited connections but they expanded little by little and we started to meet more people. Facebook helped, before 2011 Facebook for me was about the family, and then suddenly it expanded to include political activists. As for my first impressions, I wasn't optimistic during the Tunisian revolution and that was due to two things: the first was that I was born in such a time that I didn't hear about a single victory in my life, I didn't hear anything good about politics in my life. I remember very well that on May 25th, 2000, the day on which South Lebanon was liberated I wanted to be happy, but I saw a cartoon which made me scared, it was a cartoon by the cartoonist Emad Hajjaj where he drew an Israeli tank leaving South Lebanon and crushing the negotiation table in Palestine, so I realized that the Zionists can't fight on one front, and because of the resistance victory in South Lebanon, the Lebanese scene wasn't calm enough for the Zionists, they had to end things there and to focus on Palestine because they were bound by Oslo conventions and they didn't want to fulfill these obligations, so even that simple Lebanese victory, which was the base for other things later on and I personally cherish these things but I was afraid at the time that something would happen in Palestine and something did happen. As on May 25th 2000, our Lebanese brothers were celebrating victory and liberation and in September 28th Sharon entered Al-Aqsa Mosque and an uprising broke out which was a thousand times stronger that the "stones uprising", during the first year of the stones uprising the Zionist soldier wasn't allowed to shoot a child, they only scared them, but a year later shooting was par for the course. But in 2000 the killing was done indiscriminately, it was for free. When the Tunisian revolution started I would go to the newspaper in the morning, I was busy with a literary reading program, I didn't want to follow political news, I was just covering my section. My colleagues were excited but I wasn't. My family was excited but I wasn't. I remember very well that I was in my bed and my mother was shocked that I wasn't excited. And on the day Ben Ali fled she came and told me that the government resigned and whatnot, she would report the events to me, every hour she would tell me another piece of news to get me excited but I wasn't expecting anything good to happen. And then she came into the room and told me that Ben Ali fled. When I went to see it on TV I didn't believe it, after that I felt a desire to go to the embassy but it was difficult to go out because it was night and my parents weren't used to that yet, after that I would stay at night in front of embassies and whatnot. So, I then felt there was something different, I started to read analyses which were written, I didn't read analyses before that, I was indulging in literature and hateful of reality, so I came back to reading the news. I was afraid of being happy and then finding out it was all a lie, so I started reading and following the news and I felt that was something real. I remember that I didn't sleep that night, I went to the newspaper the next day and thought maybe I didn't fully understand the situation, I felt that was a revolution but maybe I misunderstood the situation, let's hear what the editor-in-chief was saying, let's hear what people older than me were saying, and I felt that everyone agreed. After that I thought that before feeling happy I have to wait and see what happens in Egypt. I had Egyptian friends on Facebook and I started to see the calls for the January 25th revolution. I used to say that if the Egyptian revolution came to pass then this is true, this test. When the Egyptian revolution broke out, I was waiting for it to happen, I didn't think whether it would succeed or not, I thought that if a revolution happens in Egypt then the rest of the Arab nation will follow suit. So when the Egyptian revolution happened I thought it was just a matter of time before the head of the regime falls down, actually I wished that the whole regime would come down but it was only the head of the regime that came down. I remember very well my editor-in-chief when two demonstrations happened simultaneously, as I told you, I used to cover the demonstrations sometimes when the reporter in charge was busy because I was in charge of women issues, so they felt how enthusiastic I was and saw how I used to participate in the sit-ins I wasn't covering, and I would take photos. So, my friend told the editor in chief there was a demonstration by the MB from a mosque across from the 4th circle, and at the same time there was a demonstration by the leftists in front of the Egyptian embassy. First he looked at me and said: "Rania will cover the Egyptian Embassy demonstration from this day until Mubarak is deposed." So, we had this sense, we believed things were going in that direction. I wasn't a good analyst, and perhaps I'm still not a good one, when I got really happy in front of the Egyptian Embassy. I think I did all the coverage in front of the Egyptian embassy except for one material, since my boss assigned that coverage to me until Mubarak was deposed, I did the coverage on the day Mubarak was deposed, and I wrote the article in the sense that we've risen. Actually, I like the term "European Spring" although I remember very well that it was a Zionist historian who mentioned the European Spring as he was criticizing Israel and the Western countries for staying asleep until we had risen. I remember that very well but I don't remember the historian's name. Why do I like the term "European Spring"? Because the European Spring didn't happen in 20 days, and that was the mistake of my friends, colleagues and family, they thought that once Mubarak was deposed we would be like Europe overnight, which was wrong. In Europe, renaissance took 100 years after it was announced but 100 and 200 years before announcing it, literature started to rebel or we started to see signs of rebellion against feudalism in literature, and the rejection of that in many novels, poems and even music, in the style of music itself. I remember… this is not applicable because it was in the beginning of the European Spring but we can draw conclusions from it, "The marriage of Figaro", that was a play criticizing the monarchy in France, and criticizing Mary Antoinette. When Mozart took it and turned it into a musical piece the desire for rebellion was growing but Europe didn't reap the fruit of that rebellion before 100 years later, and after going through a long, dark period of killing and destruction, but there was a desire by scientists, authors, artists and politicians to rise and to advocate the values of freedom that they believed in.

TAPE 2

Rania Jaabari: the values of liberty in Europe were divided into two parts, and we have that division now, the capitalist liberties and socialist communist liberties, and perhaps the socialist revolution collapsed in Europe when the students' revolution failed, as if the revolution hanged in the balance, it didn't come through, so… Why did I say I wasn't a good analyst? I expressed a lot of joy in front of the Egyptian embassy, I remember the words I wrote in the article, I was holding the pen and paper, looking at young people and the picket signs and whatnot, but the article was being written there before I went back to the newspaper and typed it on the computer… but there's an important point which is that the people started to form their policies on the ground while Mubarak was refusing to step down, and if Mubarak had held on to his position for a few months, a different Egyptian society would've been built on the ground, and this is not my own analysis, it's what was said by analysts and I found it to be true later on. Before that society would be built, I remember there was a newspaper issued in the name of Tahrir Square, there were labor committees, so a month later there would've been a government for the revolution, and that government would choose its leaders, the problem with the revolution in both Tunisia and Egypt was the lack of leaders, so it was easy to gamble on it. The day Mubarak stepped down we were all dancing, in Jordan, in Palestine, in Tunisia, everywhere, but little did we know that we were dancing while and ambush was being plotted for the revolution. And, the revolution in Egypt is different from that in Tunisia, unfortunately. I wish the Tunisian experience was the one applied to Egypt because Tunisia and the Arab countries in North-West Africa are far from us, they don't have much influence on us, although the flight of Ben Ali was the biggest catalyst for the Egyptian people. The Egyptian people in 2005 or 2008, most probably 2008, they held a protest of million people protesting unemployment, the Unionist Party held a protest of million people, so there was movement, but what made us believe or made the Egyptians believe that anything is possible was Tunisia. So, I wasn't a good analyst and I think that until now sometimes I'm still feeling my way into political analysis… but I still believe in the Arab Spring and I believe in the first place that despite the killing and destruction in Syria but the presence of Russia and Iran and the military experience of Hezbollah, that saved the Arab World from another Iraq. I couldn't imagine Syria, which I had visited with my family few months before I started working in journalism, and I used to say to myself that in the future when circumstances allowed I would go there with my friends, but I didn't have the chance, I got busy with journalism and literature and my other commitments, and the next thing I knew, Syria was being destroyed. So, for a moment I was afraid it would be taken away from me. In the beginning I was with toppling the Syrian regime because I believed that all these Arab regimes were puppets of capitalism in the region and their main goal was achieving their interests, but less than a year later when the revolutionaries started getting salaries… I know that revolutionaries sacrifice their lives for their country; I don't understand how a revolutionary would take a salary. And when I started seeing the Salafists, who I started to fight against when I went to university, and when I saw the atrocity of September 11, because, I don't feel happy when America achieves a victory, I was very happy in 2008 when Russia was getting back into the game and I'm very happy now with Russia under Putin's rule. I feel happy about anything that stands up to America, but the American citizens are humans, so I didn't accept that atrocity for American citizens, how could I accept it for my Syrian brothers? So, I felt a real surge of happiness when the Syrian regime achieved its first victory in the battle of Qasyoun. Perhaps I was a good analyst there. I thought the regime would win in the coming battles, and it did, it was victorious in Al-Qalamoun, in Kasab, and now in Homs, and it's making progress. I can't imagine what would happen to women either in Jordan, in Jordan women would've paid the price by the way, not because our brothers and fathers would be killed but because our freedom as women which we're trying to take by force from this extremist society, we are now seeking freedom, but we would be back to trying to get our basic rights which we had before, if the Salafists were victorious in Syria against the regime that is. It would've become a dream to go out to the street, to come here, to go out with my male friends, if I went out with someone who isn't a blood relative it would've been a disaster. So, I think the Arab Spring would be completed in the region when Syria survives what was plotted against it in the name of the Arab Spring. Although I had strong reservations against the Syrian regime because it's an oppressive regime, but that oppressive regime offered facilitations for the opposition in order to be a major player in the region and there are no emotions in politics. I am a Palestinian Arab, or an Arab Palestinian to be more accurate, I was happy with the victory in 2006 in September's war, and I was very happy to see the theory, it's not a theory actually but the idea of Dr. Abdul Wahhab Al-Misseeri, the famous Egyptian scholar, God bless his soul, he always maintained that Israel was a puppet for America and for capitalism in the region, and since I was a child I could only see that Israel was the mover and shaker of the world, I couldn't understand Dr. Abdul Wahhab's idea, because I used to go to Palestine and see how they were taking over everything and that anything they said would happen in the next days… in the 2006 war I was convinced by what Dr. Abdul Wahhab said, and I remember very well that in 2009 I went to Palestine for a family visit and to renew my ID. My parents had a solid believe that I shouldn't learn Hebrew because the Jews aren't here to stay for long. So I would look around, Palestine looked sad, it was my first visit in 10 years. Palestine looked sad, in 1999, one year before Al-Aqsa uprising, we managed to sneak into Jerusalem, but we did get it, we prayed and we roamed the 1948 areas. Palestine was more beautiful in 1999, in 2009 it was a set of scattered cantons because of the apartheid wall. But there was a strange steadfastness and a strange hope. I had the opposite state of mind, I was here away from the killing, and I’ve never witnessed a battle, when I was a child… I now attend demonstrations and sometimes there are clashes and I don't always feel afraid, sometimes I feel afraid, to be accurate, but when I was a child I was scared of the Jews and the reason I was made scared of them was that I was a little bold and I could go out… how can I describe that? In Hebron When I was a child, that mountain for example would have a few houses and lots of grape vines. I loved to go walk among the vines, I felt like I was flying, so my mother thought the best way to restrict my wildness was to make me scared of the Jews. Also, I inherited from my family and my older siblings, I have siblings who are much older than me and who witnessed the occupation of Hebron by the Jews. Sometimes our stories at night were not like those of ordinary children but rather stories like for example when my older sister would tell me about the day the Jews entered Hebron and what they witnessed and things like that. And the best stories for me and my siblings were when my mother would tell us stories from Hebron which included Jews and horrors, so I was raised to be scared of the Jews and to feel that they were the enemy who could end my life. So in 1996 when I went to pray in the Cave of Patriarchs there were barriers. Another important thing is that the way Jews treat Arabs stem from an ideology of hate, there were few times when I saw a Jew smiling. I was a little child with no political background, what established my political background was the hatred I saw in the eyes of the occupiers. I remember before going to Palestine in 1987, I used to ask my mother in the morning when she was dressing me, I think this is something that most of Palestinians who go to Palestine have in common, Palestine is a constant obsession, so I would ask my mother: "why can't we live side by side with the Jews? Why do we have to fight and kill each other? Don't they say Jerusalem is theirs? We can both pray there." I used to say they could have synagogues and I'd pray in the mosque, and Christians have churches too, we're not doing anything wrong, we'd just live together. But she told me that we couldn't live together, I asked why and she said because they came in and massacred us. So, as a child I didn't have a position on this and I didn't always believe my parents, I was like that, I didn't believe older people, so I'd say no, maybe they are good people. When I crossed the bridge there was an image fixated in my mind, and I wrote about it, the image of the Jordanian soldier and the Israeli soldier. Jordanian officers were cooperative, people in Jordan are famous for their generosity, so the soldier would be standing at the entrance of the bus to check our passports, and we were 5 children with my mother and we were of close ages, so sometimes she wouldn't be able to carry one of us, so she would carry my younger sibling for example and I wouldn't be able to get into the bus so the soldier would lift me up, you know? So we called them the good soldiers because they were friendly, they smiled all the time, they laughed with us, there was a nice relationship. Once the bus crossed Jordan River, a screaming soldier would appear, not just screaming for no reason, he was asking for our passports or IDs in that crude way. So, that image is fixated in my mind, with Jordanian soldiers we didn't see the guns, he would have some sort of weapon but it didn't show, while the I saw the weapons on the Israeli soldiers before seeing the soldiers themselves. The soldier with the weapons and gears, that was a terrifying site, I felt like I was going into battle not entering my land. And the way they screamed, there were very few times when I saw a Jew smiling in my life, very few. The few Jews who were smiling, when I grew up I understood why I saw some smiling Jews on the bridge, when I started to specialize in studying the Zionist affairs, because there is military service for all Israelis, they can't send you to the front lines while doing military service, they wouldn't send you to South Lebanon, because you didn't go to military academy, but as it was military service they let them work on the bridge, in the peaceful points, they call them the controlled points which are away from the front lines. So, those Jews would be serving their military time, they would be doctors or engineers or a fresh high-school graduate, civilians. So, I discovered that the ideology of Israeli soldiers stemmed from hatred, so I understood why the Jews on the front lines when they come to talk to me, although I'm a civilian, they talk to me with a frown and when they talk to me in Arabic I feel like they are hurling insults at me. Not as tourists, when I travel anywhere I see people smiling even by soldiers, but those did not smile, they gave me a look that said: "Why did you come?” I felt this is what they were saying to me. As for the Israeli citizens doing military service some of them come to Israel not because of the Zionist ideology which believes that is the promised land, most of them are secular, they don't believe in that, but they come because there are better job opportunities there, there's insurance better than in Europe, there are improved services offered to Zionists to come here, so they come because they believe in human rights, which are not taught by Israel, their parents would be secular so they don't have to learn this ideology of hate so they smile in my face, and that same person doesn't believe in Israel but rather in the welfare in Israel because, when the 2006 war broke out and even before that when Al-Aqsa uprising broke out and the Palestinians sought to apply the theory of the balance of terror by carrying out explosions, I have a different stand on this now on the explosions that target Israelis, but that event that took place pushed Israelis to buy apartments in Europe and some of them returned to Europe, Israel faced the fear of being emptied out, that revealed an important point for me which is that when my grandparents in 1967, when the Israeli army entered Hebron my uncle's wife wanted to take her kids and run away, she was telling them let's flee. So they said to her: "we saw what happened to those who fled in 1948 and we would rather die on our land." So I saw the difference between me as an Arab citizen on my own land, and by the way when they fled in 1948 it wasn't before they didn't want their land, but because the Arab regimes and leadership told them to leave for a couple of weeks to avoid being killed and then they'd be back, so they escaped with the intention of going back, they had their keys and their land bonds with them and their memories, but Israelis are not like that, Israelis are now celebrating the 66th anniversary for their so-called independence, but only fear grew inside Israelis on this land because it is not their land, while we are counting the 66th year of our Nakba (catastrophe). I was telling you, when I went to Palestine in 2009 my family firmly believed that there is hope and that freedom is coming, that hope they told me about but I couldn't feel it when I saw Palestine being torn apart, ad when I saw things going from bad to worse in Palestine. I got back that hope from the flight of Ben Ali, and I got it back when I saw the slogans that didn't forget Palestine by the Arab youth, and that hope was revived again on the day Mubarak was deposed, and I think this hope was established now by the steadfastness of the axis of resistance represented in Syria, Hezbollah and Iran, backed by Russia and sometimes by China, and with new major power rising in the world, Russia under Putin's leadership, I insist on calling it that until it shows that Putin is now laying the foundations for the spirit of the Soviet Union which he's dreaming of reviving, if that happens then I believe the future looks better for the Arab World and the desperation I felt in the beginning of 2011 before the flight of Ben Ali will not be back, in case I was sure there were two major powers in the world not only one, and for me as an Arab it is not enough to have two major powers in the world, there has to be Arab leadership forming on the ground, we are a national liberation project, because there must be price to pay to Russia after Syria and the resistance stood their ground. Also, the Syrian regime paid a price for turning things on ground in its favor and that price was the support by Russia when it proved to be a winning bet. Also, we must not forget an important point which is that Russia considered the battle in Syria a battle of life and death, the real battle through which it can regain its status in the world before 1990, so I believe all these circumstances were in favor of my Arab nation. In the end I think what's left is for every person to realize they have a responsibility and that responsibility isn't only to hold massive protests on the street, there's something before that, I told you earlier when I talked about the curricula, how much I felt that they create a fertile ground for hatred and extremism for the youth, the curricula also creates a ground in the Arab world to reject knowledge and to hate knowledge, they don't pave the way for building a clear national project, I spent my life searching for the truth, in my childhood and teenage years I wasn't a religious person, but… this could be the answer to the question about the political events that had an impact on me… the first political event that had an impact on me and it was a hard impact was the massacre in the Cave of Patriarchs. I was in Amman, I live with my family here, we spend the whole year here and we go to Palestine in the summer, sometimes we go and sometimes we don't. I remember very well it was Ramadan, we woke up to the news that there was a massacre in the Cave of Patriarchs. I remember how worried my mother was for her brother and our relatives there and I remember how my father was worried about his brother. There was a state of anticipation, people saw the massacre as a piece of news, like now I see the killing in Syria as a piece of news, but for a moment you would be worried that you would receive bad news about a loved one. I was still a child back then, I was 14, I was at the threshold of youth but I was still thinking in a childish way. I was worried that my mother or father would be sad, sometimes at the age of 14 or 15 your heart can't contain sadness, your whole heart is reserved for joy, you don't think of sadness, so I didn't want my parents to be sad, I just wanted to receive good news. By the afternoon we made sure that nothing happened to any of our relatives, nobody we knew died but there were martyrs. 2 years later, the massacre of Qana happened in South Lebanon, which was a turning point in my life. I was just starting to write back then. After than Palestine became an obsession, Palestine was no longer the idea… and it was then that I found an answer to the question I asked my mother about why we fight with the Jews. I found that the Jews were just willing to kill. That massacre happened in 1994, after Oslo conventions, and there was also Wadi Araba Treaty, two peace treaties and then to have massacres… actually Wadi Araba was still on the way, it wasn't signed yet, it was about to be signed. When I used to go to Palestine I took the truth in doses. When I knew that Goldstein was a doctor and he came to kill. You could understand when a soldier who's used to killing comes to kill, but a doctor? I started to see that as a brutal society, I couldn't enjoy being in the Cave of Patriarchs, when I went there I asked my mother why there was a wire mesh above the old neighborhood which is like a narrow alley, I'm sure you know it, with houses on both sides, so I asked my mother why it was there, she said it was because the Jews threw trash at them, the Jews lived upstairs. They told us that there were Jews who could throw acid at our faces while walking on the street; I would become ugly in an instant. So, as a child and in my teenage years when I went to Palestine I would be scared, but after 2000, the more massacres there were the stronger sense of resistance I had, I didn't want to be afraid of the Jews but it should be the other way around. I'm the one who always dreamed of being a writer and working in the field of writing, I had a dream when I was 20 years old at the beginning of Al-Aqsa uprising to fight or to carry out an explosion. Years later I became against carrying out an explosion and blowing yourself up, not because… but because I came to believe that this was a failed military approach, the successful approach would be organizing a battle against the soldiers, what's more important than killing civilians in Israel is to make civilians feel that the army is compromised, that would make them afraid. That idea crystalized and I was able to announce it loud and clear during the 2006 war. Hezbollah shook Israel when Israel felt it was compromised military and security wise. But to kill people, I'm against that, I'm with developing your military abilities, that's why I was against Hamas in that, but I couldn't blame them, I couldn’t blame the people at that point, they were being killed indiscriminately, so they went in the direction of explosions impulsively and I believe that if the uprising was to happen again now the Palestinian people wouldn't go back to explosions. They would have learned from the experience of Hezbollah, and notice that what proves this point is that in 2008, during the war on Gaza, it was all for getting Shalit back, so Hamas have learned and grew up, for in early 2000s they would send a young man to blow himself up while in 2008 or before that when they arrested Shalit they managed to achieve a military as well as a security victory. They didn't kill him, they treated him very well, they were doing well from a humanistic and an Islamic point of view, they didn't violate the values of humanity, but they achieved a real victory. But in the year 2000, the girl who was afraid of the Jews, when I saw the massacres especially after Jenin's massacre and the events in Jenin, I wished to end my life in Palestine by carrying out an explosion. I envied those who were able to resist and to fight. Maybe that's why my father didn't let us go to Palestine during that time because I could've met some people, because when I grew up and learned more I learned that the Prophet's saying: "Each one of you is a shepherd, and each shepherd is responsible for his flock. A woman is a shepherd in her house and responsible for her flock, and the man at his work…" I don't memorize it by heart, but the meaning is that each one of us is fighting from their respective position.

TAPE 3

Rania Jaabari: where we're supposed to fight our battles. I learned that I had to struggle through my work as a journalist, and through story writing and through art, these are platforms for resistance that could me more important than just fighting, because fighting is something secondary, another phase, and what my generation and the next generation need is to save us years of being lost. I was an open-minded girl, I went for religion because I was oppressed as a Muslim, I studied Sharia and learned that things wasn't supposed to be like that, I saw that Christians in Palestine were oppressed like Muslims and even more. And then I started to feel that, no… I need to go for fighting and then I thought I should focus on literature. I can save the next generation this long journey through writing and journalism, so that they won't take long to decide where to go or to take a long time thinking about religion and political issues. I talked too much.
Nicola Pratt: No, not at all… and now, are you part of any initiatives?
R.J: Yes… something important happened in Jordan because of which I am working on my personal project which in my opinion serves the national project. After the protests that took place in the Arab World and the values of liberation, a group of young people in Jordan, and we were young, although it was only 3 years ago but I feel that I was young unlike now. A group of youth or an entity unknown to anyone announced on March 24th, just like Egypt announced January 25th as the start of Mubarak's demise, and just like March 15th in Syria was proclaimed as the onset of the Syrian revolution, March 24th was proclaimed as the beginning of the demise of the Hashemite regime. As I told you, I am enthusiastic about toppling the regimes and back then I believed that all Arab rulers should leave. So, with that enthusiasm I went with my friends to Al-Dakhiliyya Circle, on March 24, 2011. And there I discovered something important… by the way, for documentation purposes, I said I was present in the demonstrations for a whole year in 2011, that's not true, the period was prolonged, to be accurate I started attending demonstrations starting January 7, 2011 until… I attended a number of demonstrations after March 24th, so let's say until April or May, 2011, so you could say half a year, not a whole year, to be accurate. In March 24th I read into the political situation in Jordan in 24 hours only. I was enthusiastic and believed that we, as national powers… of course I was there as a journalist and a participant, I was covering the demonstrations for my newspaper and participating too. I was saying all the powers were there and would be united and then they would impose what they wanted on the regime. Generally, the slogan for toppling the regime wasn't there, the slogans present there were slogans that weren't understood by the participants. They didn't understand what a constitutional monarchy was. Most of them thought an "elected government" meant to elect the Prime Minister. We didn't want the single vote electoral system but the youth didn't have a vision, and I'm talking about the youth now, the political parties had a vision, but the youth didn't, and the youth were the movers and the parties were trying to depend on them in front of the regime. That's why I'm telling you it was a problem that the youth didn't have a vision, because the parties put them in the front lines, so there was no talk about the Muslim Brotherhood, or Al-Wihda party, or the Communist party, or Al-Ba'ath party, nobody was referred to them, the references were made to the youth of March 24th, and the proof to that was that on the day the sit-in was dispersed when Al-Jazeera hosted Nasser Joudeh to talk they didn't host any of the parties' leaders, they hosted one of the young people of March 24th, a representative of the young people who were in the sit-in. these young people knew nothing about the political process, they didn't know what the single vote electoral system meant. I myself wouldn't know about the elections laws and the difference between them and all these details if it wasn't for my work in journalism, but through my work as a journalist, and since I wanted to study women presence in the Parliament I studied the electoral systems that could help women reach the Parliament, so there was an obligatory path to take which is to understand the laws, if it wasn't for that I would've been like them; because our generation wasn't brought up to read. For example, I like to read what I read is literature, I read about music, about Shari'a, as for the law, the passion for reading wasn't instilled in the minds of the Arab youth, that's why when they hear about something they don't prefer to read about it, they prefer that you tell them about it, and they wouldn't try to verify what you said, they just repeat it, and that's the real catastrophe. On March 24th the political powers put the youth on the front lines and started fighting among themselves to take over the slogans' microphone, someone was yelling slogans and the Muslim Brotherhood took over the microphone, and after we were chanting "Mawtini", I mean in the first hours of the day and the sit-in we were chanting slogans against hunger and poverty and we chanted songs shared by all groups of society and by all Arabs, the song I remember everyone sang together was "Mawtini" and that song spread in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad and it was remixed by Naseer Shamma; because he felt that this song was the one that touched Iraqis the most, imagine that, "Mawtini" song whose lyrics were written by a Palestinian poet. I remember very well that at 8:00 sharp on March 24th when we were standing at the circle there were thugs on the other side hurling insults at those standing at the circle, we were journalists and participants, young and old, Islamists and leftists, Christians and Muslims, once Mawtini song started to play everyone started to sing along, even the journalists who were there and had no ideology, were there just to cover the event as a journalist not a participant, they stood in front of the camera and everyone sang Mawtini, that was the only moment where we all became one, after that we were scattered, after that the Muslim Brotherhood took over the microphone at the sit-in and they started to chant Islamic slogans, "who is your role model?" - "Mohammad". Why say now that our role model is Mohammad, peace be upon him, there were Christians standing there, there were leftists who were non-believers, and the Islamic songs started. The next day after that the Muslim Brotherhood started negotiating with the regime, they sat on the table, leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood led the noon prayers and the youth prayed behind them, and in the afternoon they left, they didn't stay, there were negotiating with the regime, and as I told you, there was no slogan for toppling the regime but the youth dreamt about it, they had a dream to expand the movement until it reached that stage but the first slogans were against hunger and poverty. What scared the regime and the intelligence apparatus was that slogans started to escalate, the bar was raised for the slogans without a public base… we were around 40 or 50 people overall, or let's say 200, no problem, let's say we were 200, we chanted the slogan: "The people want Al-Raggad to step down", Al-Raggad was the head of the intelligence apparatus back then, and the intelligence apparatus reported to the officials in higher ranks, the king and the Royal Court that the slogans were escalating continuously. The next day the sit-in was dispersed. I remember the bitter feeling of injustice I had, I was at the circle when the sit-in was dispersed, the bitter feeling of injustice I had when the sit-in was dispersed stayed with me for a week. During that week I decided that I could not stay on the street because the political powers in Jordan are in conflict, and they have no agreement on one national project. Each one of them wants to serve their own interests, and they are not seeking the project of national liberation, I started to believe that if the Monarchy system was toppled we would suffer the same consequences as Syria. First we should work on the public base to raise awareness among people. And as I decided when I was in university to get back to my personal project in the early 2000s, in the beginning of the second decade which was the beginning of 2011 I decided to get back to my personal project which had to end up in the frame of the liberation values I believed in, and then I would be present in the demonstrations but not as a participant, but as an observer in order to know what direction my writings should take, what direction I should take with my work. My writing experienced really matured, there's something I forgot to talk about, that in the beginning of 2012, some friends of mine and I started a website called "Radical" where we wrote without self-censorship, I used to write in the newspaper sometimes without self-censorship, but the editor-in-chief could edit it because of the publication law, the websites here had more freedom than they do now, before the new publication law for websites. So I started with Radical and stayed with them for one year only, after that we had a disagreement because… we had a professional disagreement, I felt they were young activists who were producing a partisan newspaper or magazine, and I've always dreamed of producing an intellectual magazine, I would have my own editorial policy with a clear ideology but I wouldn't be partisan or narrow, so I chose to leave, but my writing experience matured there. I used to talk about the regime all I wanted and there was nobody to censor, we published article every two weeks, and we worked like a newspaper or a magazine, we would meet and identify topics for the next week, we'd look into the events and updates that were there, we'd decide which were the most important ones and we'd arrange the cover and the topic of each chapter, and we would write as if we were in Europe, not here, be it in the values of social liberation, the values of political liberation, that was the mature experience which I'm sad that it wasn't completed. The guys are still working on it but they are moving from being an intellectual magazine to a partisan magazine. It's important to have partisan magazines, that's very important and I'm happy that the project is being more widely spread, but I can't work in a partisan magazine because I wasn't brought up in a party, I don't have that culture, my culture is rather based on being a journalist and a writer so I have a broader horizon, I believe in the leftist ideology and the answers it has for the economic, the political and even the social life, but without being narrow in producing a media item, it's important to be more open.
N.P: is there anything you want to say which I didn't ask about?
R.J: There could be something that is related to the situation of women, the civil society organizations, that's part of the nature of my work and research. Just like I sought the truth in religion and in politics, I spent years searching for the truth regarding the issue of women. Ever since I was a child I was obsessed with women issues because I came from a conservative family and a family who favors boys to girls but to a certain extent, my mother is educated, she didn't allow a blatant favoritism, one that's too obvious, but there was favoritism in rights and freedoms according to what's imposed by society. Sometimes when I was a child when we made coffee and men and women would be sitting in separate rooms coffee would be served to men before women, that really annoyed me when I was a child. I felt that women issues were very important, but suddenly when I gained more awareness at the age of 14 or 15, I started to see that the issue of women was a joke in society and that it was taking lightly, so that annoyed me, I wondered why? I wasn't fully aware yet, I wasn't into journalism yet, I was 14 or 15, in the 8th or 9th grade, I didn't know that the civil society had started to establish roots here 4 years earlier. I'm not against civil society; I'm against its mechanism, its work mechanism. My brothers went to Islamic schools and I went to public schools, they went to a private school while I went to a public school. That's why a part of my culture was sort of, not generally, closer to secularism, because I didn't study in an Islamic environment, I studied in a public school where you're exposed to all kinds of opinions, you see Muslims and Christians, you see teachers who are believers and those who are not, you see all kinds of people. So, I noticed that my male brothers had a complex towards women which was growing increasingly throughout their school years, they believed women should not go out to work, they believed that they keep watching me, and those convictions were being established. What's weird, actually it's not weird it's something known to everyone, after 1990, extremism in Jordan increased, unfortunately for me as a female, and this is my personal view of the issue and the view of many analysts, that America and the Arab regimes depended on mobilizing the youth to go and fight in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s in order to delegate the war and topple the Soviet Union. Now, the results of the Salafists movement which grew in the 1970s and 1980s started to ripen in the 1990s, when I was entering my teenage years and wanted to live up my life, and the source of my dreams were books and novels, I used to read for Muhammad Abdul Haleem Abdullah, the Egyptian storyteller, Hana Meena, the old Arabic literature, all of them had values of liberation, and unfortunately for me, or maybe fortunately for me I don't know, when I was 13 I was introduced to Mutanabbi, and I didn't know that I shared with Mutanabbi a moment of Arab defeat and separation. I only learned that when I grew up. Mutanabbi's poems were liberated and he had a wide horizon, so I think what's important is what you read in books not what my brother or the sheikh in the mosque says. As years went by, extremism increased even more, until 2011, after 2011 the extremism I faced from my society started to abate, because it was in the best interest of the Arab regimes and America to fight Taliban's terrorism after they had toppled the Soviet Union, so we had what's called "moderate Islam", but it's not a nice version of Islam, that moderate Islam, because it stemmed from a desire by America and the Arab regimes, not from Islam itself, meaning than, in Islam, and this is something I know very well, my father or brother has no right to impose hijab on me, but I as well as 90% of girls in society wear it against our will, we don't want it, and when I wore it I wore it against my will. In Islam there is no text that obliges the father to impose hijab on me, but it's imposed. In moderate Islam which came after September 2011 doesn't give women their rights, it's a version of Islam, as Dr. Abdul Wahhab Al-Misseeri described it in one conference, an Islam that doesn't bother America, but in the end it doesn't protect women or children, it doesn't lay the foundations for a real awakening project. That's why after 2011, Islam became a nice cover, as in: let the girls wear colorful clothes, let the girls go out, music is not prohibited, that gave concessions on extremism, but the situation of women didn't change, the color of their veils changed, before 2011 it was preferred to be black or white, and not to look beautiful, and to cover this part, and don't show your features, and you could wear pants, they let women to wear pants with a head veil after 2011, but the core of women rights remained lost, I didn't reach a real answer to what could get me my rights back and gave the cause of women the value it deserves because I believe it's a fair cause, until I started to cover women issues in the local news section in Al-Arab Al-Yawm. I started to cover it and I saw nice ideas. We would go to a 5-star hotel; they would be talking about women-friendly work environment. That's a really nice idea, that the Ministry of Labor along with the Ministry of Development should try as much as possible to provide a good work environment for women, to have child care facilities, nursing hours, that when women go to work they wouldn't feel that their little children are suffering because of that. All these are good things, but I started to discover that civil society organizations who are there to serve the issues of women, they are not serving the cause of women in the first place, and that obliged me to study the history of the cause of women and perhaps you talked about that with Suheir. By the way, Suheir Al-Tal's books answered my questions while I was covering women issues, when I started to cover women issues and there were questions here I went to Al-Fares Bookshop, who's the publisher of Suheir's books and bought a book by Suheir and I started to read and to have questions, I started creating topics, I would go to female activists and ask them questions and create my article, so I was searching for answers through my work, so I found that women in the past didn't get funding. I heard that the minimum funding obtained by Jordanian civil society organizations by the European Union or USAID or by any other bodies, the minimum funding is 100 thousands. And nothing improves, in the contrary, the cause of women is regressing, while the late Lam'a Bseiso and Emily Bsharat, the pioneers of feminist work, and [inaudible:25:05] Haddad and others, these women didn't have any funding, they used to gather and say that they should do so and so, their goal was eradicating illiteracy among women… There's an activist called Buthaina Jardaneh, she comes from an aristocratic family, she was a teacher in the 1960s and… No, not Buthaina Jardaneh, it was Raghda Mango, she comes from one of the most aristocratic families in Amman, when she was struggling for women rights she didn't go to 5-star hotels, they simply gathered and went to convince families to send their daughters to school. When they knew about a girl whose family wanted to take out of school and marry her off at the age of 16, she told me that when they went to the camp to convince the parents not to take their daughter out of school they would be knee-deep in the mud, and they would manage to convince the father to let his daughter continue her education. So, the cause of women was at its prime because it was in the core of the national liberation project. As for the civil society organizations now, I discovered that they only get funding, they hold workshop, they don't care whether the participants benefitted from it or not, the project ends and that's it, nothing is built up on what has been done. I found that the civil society organizations contributed to dealing with the cause of women as a shallow cause, they contributed to turning it into a joke in addition to religious extremism which grew in the society, I think Suheir said that, there's no need to repeat it. Feminist activists in the 1990s and the early 2000s used to coax religion, they didn't say that was wrong and didn't dare to take a bold step by going to moderate religious clerics and ask them whether what's being said about women's attire is true. Is it true what's said about women staying at home? They weren't fighters. They were rather busy with protocols more than going for the real struggle and seeking the real information and then telling what's true and what's not true, and I've heard and I was asked by one of the feminist activists to delete a phrase or she would claim that she didn't say it because it was against religion and she didn't want to attack religion and she was afraid of attacking religion. So, I think that the primary victim on the Israeli occupation of Palestine or the Zionist occupation of Palestine, and I call it the Zionist entity not Israel, and the occupation of Iraq, and the primary victim of the America-Soviet conflict was Arab women. It's true that we have poverty and whatnot but the dreams of many girls were crushed for the sake of religion, and the religion became a front line between people and society and I started to think that if I wanted to live my life I wouldn't go to heaven and that is wrong… I talk a lot.
N.P: Are there other people or young people who think like you?
R.J: Yes, not too many but the number is increasing. Something is changing in Amman and in the Arab World as a whole, I believe that, a desire to go back to reading is maturing but it's still in the beginning, it's not big yet, there's a desire to do research. I don't believe in my own generation as much as I believe in the coming generation, and I feel that there is a wheel that's rolling forward and nobody will be able to stop it. The political situation is helping it to move forward… there are values that are being changed in the society, moving towards openness. For example, there were parents in the 1980s who didn't allow that their daughter would fall in love, but now there are parents who feel that but they are afraid to ask the girl, and there's a margin of freedom that's blooming despite the overflow of extremism that we have, but I think that the overflowing extremism is in its final days, because extremism now, and I'm talking from a social point of view, extremism now is being fought by all the international powers, the international powers that begat extremism is now denying it. So there are young people like that, and there are young people who are lost.

TAPE 4

Rania Jaabari: there are young people, and I'm talking now about my generation, they are divided into 3 groups: a small part of them has awareness, they go towards knowledge through reading, and they believe they have to work on their project. There's a group that’s lost, searching for a purpose. Sadly, there is a group who believes in the values of the previous generation, it's just a show, they go to protests and get photographed and they post the pictures to Facebook, they say that they read something but they don't think about it. So, there are all kinds of people. But as I told you, the reason I like the term "European Spring" is so that people would believe that a revolution doesn't happen in 20 years, it takes so many years, and I still believe that we have set out on that road… is that good?
Nicola Pratt: Good. Thank you.

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