Who is the victim?



This is a reaction to a conference that was given at the world council affair by Amal Elsana Alh Jooj who is the director of Arab-Jewish center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation. She was born in Laqiya, an Arab Bedouin village in the northeastern of Negev. I invite you to watch it at http://fora.tv/2008/11/07/Amal_Elsana_Alhjooj_at_the_World_Affairs_Council before reading the article below even though it is not necessary to see the video before reading it.

When one looks at this conference, he could be surprised by the number of people who opposed her. She had to overcome her father, her mother, her sisters, her brothers, her uncles and aunts, her village, her community, her values and traditions but still she made it.

This story might give the impression that the people around her were all against her. Although it is true, it is not the completely accurate. I am not suggesting that they did not do everything they could to stop her but I am saying that I am saying that they were not that much in opposition.

A more careful observation of their interactions and the reasoning behind them can change our vision of who is the victim in this affair. Even though she had suffered a lot because of her entourage, they made her go through all these difficulties because they were also the victim of something that is larger than them.

The relentless opposition she will encounter was due to the fact that they were acting under their pursuit of happiness. If people do not understand that they were acting under the sole motivation of the happiness of the whole, they will miss the entire story.

Indeed, what they have been taught over the years and should I say over centuries is that much of their happiness will come from their acceptance of some rules and regulations that are the bases of their traditions and values. When each family follows those rules, it maintains stability, honour and the whole family, village and their community will remain united.

Therefore, women are supposed to behave a certain way and men are there to make sure that they do behave that way and they will do everything that is in their power to reach that goal.

Now, are men used this context to abuse women? The answer is: “definitely yes”. Are women in a submission position in this context? The answer is: “absolutely yes”. Should something be done to change this situation? The answer is: “600% yes”.

Having said that, I believe it would help review the reaction of all the parties involved. Let’s take for instance her father. Although he wanted nothing else than to see his daughter being happy, there was nothing he could have done to erase the context he was raised in. His duty was to enforce the traditions not only because it was showing his masculinity but also because the survival of his family within their community was at stake. If he had not acted the way he did, they had the power to affect his family revenue. What could he have done against that? Should he sacrifice all his family just for this daughter? What was he supposed to do? Her father is as submitted to the culture and its traditions as his daughter is submitted to him. He is the victim of the system under which they are living.

As for her brother, his father, his mum, his uncles, his aunts, his sisters, his friends and the community were looking at him. He had been brought up as someone who was supposed to fight this kind of situation. As a man, he is supposed to protect the honour of his family. All his friends were looking at him. His masculinity was at stake. It was his occasion to show that he was a man. Nobody can blame him for wanting to be the man that everybody in his community described as a strong and capable man. He was defending his family, their honour and above all the family he was going to have later on. It was a huge test of his manhood.

As her father was, her brother was even more submitted to the traditions because he has everything to prove. He will be the one carrying out the strength and the respect of the family. If he failed, he would be nothing in his community. Since he does not intend to live elsewhere, he has to submit himself. The pressure he is under is as heavy as the pressure his sister who wants her freedom is. It is not the same kind of pressure but still it is a pressure. Her brother never had a choice. The way the society he leaves in pressured him to act that way. What is worst in his case is that he thought that he was free to act that way. He never realized that he was only an element programmed to act this way. He fought something he did not understand for something he did not understand either. His society expected him to have some reflexes and if he did not follow through the instructions of the society, he was not going to be anything. He was pushed to be against his sister without even knowing. He tortured and harassed her without understanding the purpose behind it.

At the end of the day, their community held their finances, their honour, and their reputation and if they did not respected the rules they put in place, they were going to suffer the consequences.

Among all the people who opposed her was her mother. One could be surprised by this but it is absolutely normal within her context. First of all, she never witnessed in her entire life something like that. If her daughter rebelled against the traditions, it meant that she did not raise her properly. Since she had many daughters who were going to get married, she did not want the rebellious one to create problem for the marriage of the others. Even if we suppose that they get married, if ever there is a problem within the marriage people will ultimately blame it on her because of this trouble daughter she had.

Let’s even forget about her sisters, what about herself. How is she ever going to find a husband with a character that is so difficult? Her mum is thinking about her daughters’ happiness. At least the happiness she knows about. The one that was advertised to her along the years, the one she fought for, the one she saw people running after. Who can blame her?

In addition to that, when people realized that her daughter was that difficult, they will blame her but also the family she came from. Surely she can not be bad all by herself. It has to be because her own family did not raise her the way they should have. They will insult her mum and dad.

If that was not enough, people will look at her husband as someone weak because he can not control his daughter and all that because she was not able to give her the importance of following the rules and traditions of her community.

Behind all those reasons, there is one that might be bite hidden. Indeed when her daughter acted like that, it probably reminded her of the time she had to let go of her dreams. It is not even certain that she had the right to express the dreams she had. None of the girls around her mum when she was young would dare do something like that. They all had to abandon what they wanted to do. They all had to kill the dreams they had within them in order to survive. Why should this one be entitled to?

Even worst than that is the fact that if her daughter managed to achieve her dreams, then maybe, the mum should have fought some more. Maybe she abandoned too easily. Maybe the life of privation she lived is all her faults and nobody else. She can only blame herself. She is the one responsible of the situation she is in. Therefore she is fighting her daughter but she is also the victim of the same system.

The community did what they had to do. Since her father was not able to discipline his house, they took the necessary steps to ensure that he would do it. They had to protect the rules and traditions under which they lived. They needed to preserve them by any means necessary. They put some financial pressure under that family in order to push him to force his family to respect the rules.

Her father did everything he could until he could not continue. His brother did everything he could until he could not go beyond. The community did whatever was in their power to prevent that from happening.

The only force that was driving everything was her. She pushed her father to go as far as he could until he could not. Her brother prevented her until he could not as well. When she was shattered by everything and all seemed lost, she did not stop crying until her brother in law told her that she was suffering because she was under her father and brother rules. Her imagination clicked again and she found another way to make things move in her favour. Her tears made them realized that there was nothing they could have done to stop her. They had to do something for their own survival. They knew that if she was not going to receive what she wanted, she would have died. When the situation is seen that way, things have to move. Her determination forced things to go her way. She never stopped reminding everyone what was her objective. Everything that was coming out of her was telling the whole world what was her agenda and when she did not have it, she expressed her sadness about it. She did not pretend that she could be happy otherwise. She kept her dream alive regardless of the pain it was causing her. If there is a lesson here for all of us, it is that we should fight for what we believe.

In conclusion, I would say that the dream that this is a woman who managed to get what she wanted in her community although the rules were playing against her. She did not reject her traditions but she used the rules and regulations of her traditions at her advantage. This means that there is a room for those women to fight the system within if they decided to do so.

Opposing men to women is at best a solution that is incomplete but at worst inefficient. If she was able to do it, it is because there was a way and there is still a way. She did not try to copy what was happening in the occidental world. She fought like a Bedouin woman would fight her community. There was no mimic of what occidental were doing.

She considers herself like a feminist but not like the ones in the occidental world. She said it clearly that she did not have the same view as them. I do not mean that there is anything wrong with the way feminism is in Europe or USA but I am saying that it is not always adapted to every community or country.

It is possible that if there is a plural definition of feminism, it might help those countries or communities to try to create the one that is best suited to them. They might not have the same ambitions as their counterpart in US or Europe and there is nothing wrong with that.

Looking at this problem of submission of women in certain communities and part of the world without taking in consideration what is the objective that they are trying to reach as a whole is a lack of respect. If those communities are fighting for something that is clearly going against their daughter’s will, it is because there is a reason. We should do our best to understand those reasons. We should find out what is the belief that is maintaining men and women in a state of submission toward a system that has proven its limits. How come they see their sisters, mothers, daughters suffered and they keep on doing what is hurting them. Those men are not insensitive to their pain. They just decide that it is better to act the way that makes those women go through enormous pain. They are not bad men or bad women.

There must be something at the core of these situations that is making them take decisions that end up hurting the one they are supposed to protect and even worst that is making the women accept these situations as something completely normal. If nobody understands that, then the problem will never be solved.

Out of respect for those communities, it is important to give an answer to that problem that addressed the roots of the problem which is the submission of men and women to those traditions. It needs to be dealt with as a whole instead of trying to replicate what was done in the occidental world.


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