8 November 2012 To: Her Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Talal, Head of the Jordanian National Commission for Women The Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development, P. O. Box 5118, Amman, Jordan, 11183. www.johud.org.jo cc: President of the University of Jordan, Professor Ikhleif Tarawneh Chairperson of the Board of Trustees at the University of Jordan, His Excellency Professor Khalid Touqan Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, Her Excellency Asma Khader Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, His Excellency Professor Wajih Owais
Your most high Excellency Princess Basma Bint Talal, Greetings from South Africa. I trust this letter finds you well. It is my honor, your Royal Highness, to address you today: hardly could there be a more needed and elevated task than heading a National Commission for Women, especially in this day and age. I want to thank you and commend you for your work, your care and your vision. As a gender researcher and women empowerment advocate I know that when we make life better for women, we touch many peopleâ€™s lives for the good. It is however also with great sadness I am addressing you today in my position as leader of the GRACE Network. GRACE is the Gender Research Network that focuses on Gender
Research into ICT for Empowerment in Africa and the Middle East (grace-network.net ). We comprise 21 research teams located in 14 countries and we are very proud to count two brilliant Jordanian women in our Network: Professor Rula Quawas (University of Jordan in Amman) and Professor Arwa Oweis (Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid). It has come to our notice in GRACE that Professor Rula Quawas has recently been removed from her position of Dean of Foreign Languages, midway through her two-year contract. The link between her removal and the posting of her students’ YouTube video about sexual harassment on the campus of the University of Jordan in Amman seems undeniable. Your Royal Highness, we in GRACE are not only very proud of Rula and her students, we are proud of their families, their friends, colleagues, their university and last but not least, their country: all the environments that supported this creative act of communication and resistance. As we say in Africa: it takes a village to raise a child. For such a video to emerge from the University of Jordan’s Amman campus, there must be in place an infrastructure and an environment that nurtures and empowers not only academic excellence and freedom of expression but also respect for women and their right to become all that they dream of becoming. I have seen the video and it took my breath away: it is a showcase of excellent cultural cinematographic research. It takes sharp powers of observation and level headed analytic capacity to produce such original, truthful, passionate, innovative and elegant work. However, Rula’s obvious brilliance as a scholar and teacher and her students’ amazing originality and talent, would not have been able to produce work like this in a vacuum. There are many places in the world where such a video would be just as appropriate, if not more but where it would be unthinkable to have been made and shared. And I am not only thinking here of Africa and the Middle East, the areas we as a Network are most familiar with. So I want to commend you, the University of Amman staff and students, and all its guardians and patrons for creating a space where young Jordanian women can assert themselves and their dignity vis a vis men and reach out to them. Because that is how I see what these beautiful young women are doing: they do not want to remove men from their lives, they want them to change, to become more and better than they are. And when Jordanian men will take this plea into their hearts and change their mindset and their behavior, they will gain much more than women’s respect and love. They will become the kind of human beings that the future can be built on. Your Royal Highness, we all know, that the era of patriarchy and androcracy is ending. The world and its people can no longer afford such a life-denying mindset, such a destructive paradigm.
The wave of intolerance and barbarism against women we are witnessing lately from the United States to Kuwait and from China to South Africa is a sign that the old systems are trying to re-assert themselves against the tide of change. But it is time for change. Your young women have heard the call and are inviting your men to come to the table. I can imagine that it may be painful to see oneâ€™s country, oneâ€™s university associated with such a powerful gesture of accusation and resistance. I can imagine that oneâ€™s sense of honor could get conflicted into an emotional assault of shame. And yet, another attitude is possible. This video could and probably should have been made in so many places all over the world. We invite you therefore to take pride in the fact that it was made in Jordan, at the University of Jordan in Amman where young women are nurtured into standing up for themselves and as such inspire hope in women and men everywhere. I would therefore plead with you to use your influence to see to it that Professor Rula Quawas will get reinstated. This would fulfill the journey of soul searching and questioning that I am sure has had many people preoccupied in Jordan and beyond, in a most beautiful and life giving way. Reinstating Rula would convince the bullies that are currently harassing these young women that this is not the way to behave. It would also re-assure her students and their families and communities, that freedom of speech is not a privilege but a right, an inalienable human right which is essential to lead a full human life. I trust that Your Royal Highness shares our perspective that it is the hallmark of a good university to foster exactly this capacity in its students and honor the teachers who are capable of nurturing this. Yours truly,
Ineke Buskens GRACE Network Leader