Jordanian journalist’s award puts ‘honour killings’ in spotlight
AMMAN - Jordanian journalist and activist Rana Husseini received the Arab Woman of the Year Award 2019 for Social Impact for her role in inspiring women to stand against violence and injustice they face from their families, husbands or society in general.
An investigative journalist who exposed so-called crimes of honour in Jordan, Husseini has dedicated herself to defending women’s rights in a country where violence against women has increased dramatically, reaching 5,240 cases in 2018, the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development said.
“These awards serve a noble cause and I believe when women from different countries are being recognised it is a great matter. The awards recognised two other women from Bahrain and Kuwait under the topic ‘No Honour in Crime’ because they also work on fighting gender-based violence in their countries,” Husseini said.
The conservative Jordanian society was scandalised when Husseini started writing about honour killings in the English-language daily the Jordan Times.
“People simply did not want to talk about it as they believe it is a family matter. In the beginning, we faced many challenges such as families not wanting to be asked about the murder and officials did not recognise it. It was very hard to get the information. On several occasions, I was asked to leave,” Husseini said.
“Today, things have changed and slowly we are getting there. Few women are being killed in the name of honour by their husbands, brothers or cousins. I believe that Jordan has made solid progress in protecting women.”
While local media shied away from addressing honour killings, traditionally considered as a taboo, Husseini continued reporting on the crimes and pushing for the amendment of discriminate laws.
“The people and officials looked at me with hostility, saying it is not my business to cover these issues and that it is a family matter when a brother kills his sister for ‘honour,’” she said.
“Violence against women is an international phenomenon. Globally, one-in-three women is subjected to some kind of violence in her life whether sexually, freedom of movement, financially or choosing a husband, et cetera.”
Husseini has made a name for herself fighting for women’s rights. She has received Al Hussein Decoration for Distinguished Contribution, Second Order, bestowed by Jordanian King Abdullah II, for her activism regarding human rights and for defending women causes in 2007.
“Covering such a sensitive issue was not a walk in the park for a female journalist. I remember 20 years ago I drove to a small village where a woman was murdered. The people reacted angrily to my questions and asked me to leave immediately. I received threatening e-mails and many people were critical of my work but I thank God nothing harmful happened to me,” she said.
Husseini has received several awards, including the Distinguished Alumna Award from the Oklahoma City University Alumna Association, Spanish Ciutat de L’Hospitalet Award for the Defence of Human Rights and Peaceful Coexistence, the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism and Marie Claire Top Ten Women of the World Award for bringing attention to honour crimes against women in Jordan.
She was among 11 people given Arab Women of the Year awards by Regent’s University London, Bicester Village, the Fast Building Contracting Company and the London Arabia Association. The presentations were made December 6 in London.
Feeling the urge to attract more involvement of the global society, Husseini wrote a book, “Murder in the Name of Honour: The True Story of One Woman’s Heroic Fight Against an Unbelievable Crime,” which focused on the conspiracy of silence surrounding honour crimes and the stories behind them. An estimated 69% of such crimes are committed by the brother of the victim.
“The success of my book, I believe, is because it tells the truth,” Husseini said. “I did not hide anything or exaggerate anything and told stories as they were. I was basically addressing a problem, documenting what happened in Jordan and documenting the success made by Jordan in deterring this phenomenon.”
“Definitely, it is not a religious issue but more of a social one. These crimes happen in all religions and all classes of society. Sometimes men are the victims as they are forced to kill the women they are brought up to love and care just because the people and the society around them force them to do that,” she added.