I have already circled September in my calendar! I know exactly where I will be and what I will be doing.
It is a date which every Bahraini should be proud of as a Bahraini and Arab woman will for the first time assume the role of president of the United Nations General Assembly.
Shaikha Haya bint Rashid Al Khalifa will be the second woman to hold the post in its 61-year-old history, after Angie Brooks of Liberia, who was president in 1969.
Congratulations Shaikha Haya on this great achievement, which is truly a huge leap in terms of showing the rest of the world the high calibre of Bahraini women and the heights they have reached.
We have indeed come a long way.
I hope this will answer all the questions people ask me about women in my country.
For if the picture is not all that perfect, there is great hope in the future with two female ministers and finally a woman president of the UN General Assembly.
It is a gain of such a great magnitude it is sure to generate interest from around the world about Bahrain in general and the status of its women in particular.
The responsibility placed on Shaikha Haya's shoulders is indeed huge, as the world's eyes will be focused on her during her tenure.
She will be responsible for running the General Assembly, attending endless meetings and facing the questions of some of the world's most seasoned journalists in one Press conference after another, to name but a few of the challenges ahead!
While I wouldn't want to be in Shaikha Haya's shoes, as I am more comfortable covering events from the sidelines, the post of General Assembly president is an unenviable one which I am sure she has already been briefed about and ready to deal with its realities, come September.
This takes me back to days when I was a cub reporter and won a scholarship to the UN to cover the proceedings of the 49th General Assembly meeting almost 10 years ago!
Being in the General Assembly hall was daunting to say the least. But heading the meeting is another story altogether.
Thank you Bahrain for placing your trust in a woman and showing the rest of the world our civilised face, which I am more than sure Shaikha Haya would be able to project, given her earlier performance as our ambassador to France.
It is indeed a bright page in Bahrain's modern history.
* Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Bahrain is once again making the headlines for hosting the biggest event in racing history - and it is the number one race on the Grand Prix calendar.
While thousands of people are working behind the scenes to make the event a success, a smaller number of locals are openly rallying support for a demonstration to coincide with the race - to call for banning the newly drafted Family Law, which seems to be getting closer to reality by the day.
What is it they are calling for exactly? A race against time and a trip back to the dark ages?
Have we gone totally mad in Bahrain or it is just me getting negative vibes from everything happening back home?
What are the turbaned clerics against exactly? A written codified personal law which guarantees the rights, responsibilities and duties of every member of the family?
Or the fact that the carpet will be swept from under their feet and they will lose the unchallenged control they have over people's life and destinies?
The fact that we are in the year 2006 and there isn't a written law to safeguard family rights is a joke, especially when legislators are busy calling for covering up mannequins and segregating institutes of higher education.
They could have better used their time and our public funds on discussing more worthwhile issues.
Why is a family law such a threat to the clergy and men in general? What are the side effects they are so worried about? How will it upset the family unit in Bahrain?
What will outlining what the duties and rights of the husband, wife and children in line with Islamic Sharia upset the clergymen so much?
And what baffles me is why have so many women gone out on the streets to demonstrate against a law which will finally give them recognition as wives and mothers - and some standing in a court of law, which will have a written code of conduct and not depend entirely on the whims of one man?
Sigh! The future looks bleak indeed if we have reached crossroads where our people are actually rallying behind oppressing women and not giving mothers and children their legal rights, as ordained by the Holy Quran and Islamic Sharia.
*Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Bahraini women have once again shown the rest of the world their resolve, dedication and ability to score even better points than men!
Although I am anything but a football fan, I can't deny how excited I was with the news that my countrywomen have brought pride to the kingdom by winning the first Arab Sevens Football Championship in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
How I wish I was with the spectators on the stands, cheering and rallying behind them!
To think that Bahraini women are enjoying a popular team game such as football - practising, running, sweating, beating teams from other countries and clinching a trophy is laudable to say the least. You rock, girls!
Winning a regional tournament and being named the first Arab ladies in football, of all games, is a great achievement.
The challenge is now to remain on top, continue to bring in more trophies and encourage more women to get involved in sports, for life should include recreational activities and fun - as all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl!
My only hope is that women athletes would be able to share the limelight with their male counterparts and benefit from the spoils allocated for developing sports activities in Bahrain.
I completely understand the sensitivities among the local community of seeing women dressed in sportswear and exercising en masse in public and have no objection against it, as it is part of a code of traditions and behaviour that we should respect.
What would be fitting is to see women-only clubs and recreational facilities opening up, which include football pitches, tennis courts and squash and badminton areas - to name a few - to encourage more women to have a life and get involved in sports and other activities.
Sport will not only boost their morale, but also help fight off extra pounds, which many of us have amassed over the years simply because sports and outdoor activities have been exclusive to men in a society which has for long frowned upon women who run, jump and toss balls.
Our aspiring women politicians too can learn something from our budding women's football team and make the headlines, come the October parliamentary elections - for it is with hard work and sincere effort that many of us can achieve their dreams.
*Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Once again, a newspaper report draws our attention to some of the injustices women in Bahrain - and much of the Arab and Islamic world - suffer when their rights and dignity are stripped away, for no other reason than that they are women.
I realise I keep repeating myself and I sometimes wonder whether my comments serve a purpose, or whether they all fall on deaf ears.
No woman deserves to suffer the indignity brought to our attention of a 38-year-old Muharraq widow, who is being threatened with becoming homeless overnight.
Whatever the reasons for the feud with her in-laws, she is a mother with children, whose destiny was to lose a husband at such a young age and face the dilemma of not having a roof over her head, where she can live in peace or do whatever she chooses to do with the rest of her life.
Instead of rallying behind her, for her circumstances are cruel, her in-laws are making her life a living hell, with beatings and abuse, not only for her but her daughter as well.
So what if she brought men to fix the pump at home?
Instead of attacking her, the incensed brother-in-law, who happens to live in the same house, should be asking himself why he had not been the one responsible for fixing the broken pump.
For him and his wife to gang up against the helpless family is unacceptable and for the police to turn the grieving widow away, without as much as investigating the case and showing the attackers that there still is some law and order, is appalling.
I am happy a lawyer has intervened in this particular case, but my heart bleeds for all the other women, whose voices and cries don't reach us because they suffer in silence in a society which is adamant in treating women as second or even third-class citizens.
Law-makers, the government and parliament should take a closer look at atrocities being committed against women every day and should ask themselves whether they are doing their jobs properly, when half the country's populated is wronged.
Ownership laws should change in Bahrain if we are to aspire to empower women and give them their rightful place in society.
A home should be jointly owned by the husband and wife, for it is paramount for the stability and security of the family as a whole.
For society to wash its hands of such atrocities being committed against helpless women and girls is ridiculous and for us all to watch injustice committed and keep our lips sealed is shameful.
*Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 323|
I am so annoyed and disgusted at the sheer ignorance of some parents, who would rather see their children die than allow medical intervention to save their lives.
I couldn't believe my eyes yesterday when I read the GDN's report of the Sitra parents who refused to let doctors operate on their five-year-old despite being diagnosed with appendicitis.
Doctors had to snatch her away from her parents and operate on her without her loving parents' approval, five days after she was first diagnosed and her parents refused to allow the doctors to do their work.
Had this happened in the West, there would have been a major outcry.
The police, social services, child rights groups and every Tom, Dick and Harry would be up in arms, calling for the rescue of this poor child.
But our civil organisations seem to be a tad too busy waging war against Denmark than looking into more pressing issues at home.
I really can't understand what was going on in her parent's head, but their excuse that operations were conducted unnecessarily is so lame, adding insult to injury.
This is a government hospital. Doctors don't get paid per patient. Doctors don't even get paid proper doctor wages, compared to other doctors in the region.
It is also a central hospital, where doctors don't perform surgeries as a recreational activity.
Had it been a private hospital, I would have been more sympathetic towards the parents.
But turning down free surgery that would have left a scar and meant immediate relief to a child in pain? This is really unbelievable.
I just feel like screaming. People like this baffle me and being of a poor background and from a village is no excuse.
A parent is a parent is a parent. How did they bear their daughter's screams and pain for so long without doing the right thing?
Why did they return to the same hospital again, if they knew deep in their heartless hearts that the operation was unnecessary?
How could they have sat back seeing their child in agony for so long, before budging and coming down from their lofty towers and seeking help from the same hospital they refused treatment at earlier? Why didn't they seek a second opinion?
And how do they feel now that their daughter, a young innocent child who had no say on what had fallen upon her, is lying in a critical condition in intensive care at Salmaniya Medical Complex.
Some people would do just anything to get children of their own, while to others it obviously means nothing to lose a child.
Or is it because she is just a girl? Had she been a boy, would the attitude of her parents been any different? Just wondering.
*Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 300|| |
Hurray! With 10 months to go for the parliamentary elections, a woman has already voiced her plans to run the race - against an Islamic fundamentalist, that is. As much as I adore the courage shown by women's rights activist Mariam Al Rowaie, the last election has proved to us without doubt that bearded men fared better than those who prefer a clean shave.
And women? Well, out of the eight women candidates, not all are blessed with facial hair and not a single one won a seat, making me wonder whether we as a Bahraini nation are more prejudiced towards body hair.
While the constitution gives men and women equal political rights, society has seriously undermined the democratic reforms by unilaterally deciding that only men get the votes and the right to join the legislative branch of governance.
It has automatically alienated half of society, leaving issues of concern to women and families away from the debating floor.
Yes, some people may argue that women have made some hard-won gains, thanks to the direct intervention of parliament.
We now have veiled women driving cars on our roads and this was only possible because the issue was raised and rubber-stamped by the 40-man strong parliament.
Too bad, women cannot go to women-only classes at Bahrain University, female patients cannot be seen by women doctors only and girls cannot shop in women-only malls.
But there is always hope that these issues can still be debated and approved by parliament, if hardliners get their way again and the silent majority continues in its hibernation.
If you want a blunt opinion, the truth is that parliament does not reflect society and doesn't give outsiders or even Bahrainis for that matter a true picture of the real Bahrain.
But the fact also remains that it is our own doing. Not enough women stood for the last elections for many reasons - the very same reasons why some competent men shied away from ridiculing themselves and standing for an election they knew before hand they would not win.
If you are a believer in the theory of probability, then you know as much as I do, that if enough women join the race, there are likely to be some who will make it to the finish line. Let's see how many women play their cards right this year.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 288|
What a way to usher in the New Year. For one Bahraini family, the year 2005 has been blackened forever in their memories.
I don't know the full story, but what I know from newspaper reports is that a 16-year-old boy was handed over to the police by his own father for raping his 13-year-old brother and sister, 14, on the same day.
According to sources, it is one of the worst incest-rape cases police have ever had to deal with.
And it should be, for the very son who was entrusted with caring for his siblings, while his parents were outside the house, turned out to be the person who should have been least trusted - yet another one of life's shocking ironies.
I don't know what was going on in this young man's head, but to brutally attack his younger brother and sister and rob them of their innocence and shock an entire society in the process, is something I cannot comprehend.
What gave this 16-year-old monster the right to ruin the lives of both his brother and sister and bring shame and heartbreak to his parents and society?
Did he think his siblings would stomach the pain and humiliation?
Did he think his parents would cover up his criminal act?
Did he really believe his gruesome act would go undetected and unpunished?
Who is to blame for such a tragedy?
Should we blame it on his upbringing, or point the finger at society?
Do we blame our clergymen, who have become too involved in politics and have put the serious job of shaping the characters of youngsters on the back burner? Should we blame an education system which has failed to teach young people - especially boys - the simple principle of respect?
I am so disgusted by this sheer act of violence against everything all the decent people out there hold dear, that they are working hard day in, day out for - a dignified and better tomorrow for each and every Bahraini.
I am extremely annoyed that this act has come to shame our society at such a critical time, at the end of an already bumpy year.
Even the pessimist in me did not expect it to plummet to this level. Even I was looking forward to a fresh start for the year ahead. I hope this menace, though he may be only 16, rots in jail for a long time to come.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 286|
Can someone, anyone, explain to me why plans for a shelter for battered women are still on the shelf when mothers, wives and daughters are still being abused by husbands and fathers, even as I write?
I don't buy the excuse from the Social Development Ministry - which is headed by a woman minister - that a permit is being denied because the group (Al Sharaka Amnesty International) which has applied for it is not registered with the ministry.
I think there are more sinister forces out there who do not want to see women given a choice, a safe haven to turn to when life becomes too miserable to bear and the walls of a horror house they are forced to live within become too suffocating.
In our society, a woman has no other place than her father's or her husband's house - or her grave.
Any woman living outside the parental or marital home is seen as a source of shame and an object of suspicion.
Women are continuously monitored, least they decide to take charge of their own affairs and bend some already twisted rules.
It is sad that in a country which has gone a long way to give women equal rights, including free access to education and the right to vote or stand in parliamentary or municipal elections, women still lack so much when it comes to protection from domestic abuse within their own homes.
It is the norm for families and friends not to get involved in family disputes, even when they turn violent - even when bones are broken and spirits are crushed.
With family and friends turning away and refusing to interfere, the problem is compounded by the lack of a written family law and penalties to punish those involved in domestic abuse, though parliament has at last taken up the cause.
Even doctors say they can't do much when women are admitted to hospital with broken bones and bruises, when the women themselves are too afraid to press charges because they know it won't get them anywhere and may bring them more trouble when they go back to the hell called home.
What is better, a temporary shelter for abused women, which gives them a chance to clear their heads and seek a permanent solution to their suffering away from threats, or continued abuse simply because they have nowhere to turn for protection?
The choice is simple and is obviously in the hands of the Social Development Ministry, which should come up with a solution matter quickly, since family affairs come its umbrella.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 279|
Finally, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. According to Works and Housing Minister Fahmi Al Jowder, 35 per cent of the 1,175 families who will benefit from housing loans worth BD31 million are headed by women.
This is a sizeable proportion, considering that traditionally a woman cannot be seen to live on her own in our society.
Should her marriage fail or her husband die, God forbid, she should automatically return to her parental home.
Shelter is one of the fundamental human rights in the Human Rights Charter, a right many women were denied in the past, simply because they were women.
The fact that they are mothers, with children, parents and other relatives to care for, meant nothing to many decision-makers who believed that a Utopia existed where all men were responsible and provided for their families and ensured that there was a shelter over their heads.
The fact that there are single women out there who are not destined to be married and who have no homes of their own, did not make a difference.
When marriages turn sour, women and their children are usually the first and only victims, with some cruel men actually throwing their families on the street.
With archaic property and housing laws which stipulated that government homes must be in the name of the male head of the family, some women found themselves on the streets with their children.
I have seen with my own eyes what has happened to women turned away from their families' homes and told to fend for themselves, in a world which is not and has never been charitable to divorced and widowed women.
I know of a woman who has been moving apartments every few months for at least 18 years, because every time she applied to the Housing Ministry for a home, her application was turned down because she was not married!
I am delighted to see that women are finally being treated with a little bit of justice and that they will be given nearly a third of housing loans approved by the government.
This will give those women and their children safety, security and peace of mind.
It will go a long way towards ensuring that justice, government support, human rights, independence and dignity are not restricted to men alone.
Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 258|
Excuse my ignorance but I really don't understand all the fuss over the personal status law. Why is it taking this long to pass a law which is aimed at safeguarding the cornerstone of society, the family unit, stipulating the rights and responsibilities of every member of the family (be it man, woman or child)?
What is wrong with unifying a code of conduct which helps deal with domestic issues in a civilised and organised manner?
Why are some people so opposed to the idea of giving men, women and children their social, legal and religious rights in the form of a written law, which could give people an idea of what their rights and responsibilities are - even if it is only on paper?
We all agree that there are problems in some homes which cannot be solved amicably and which should be taken to another level and we all know how long it takes for our courts to process cases, from petty thefts to gruesome murders.
Divorce, abuse and custody battles take their toll on family life and should be resolved in a systematic manner - not according to the whims of certain individuals.
Why are clergymen so against having a unified written family law in a country like Bahrain, where the population doesn't exceed 700,000 and where the majority of people are Muslim?
And why is the government, which had no reservations in passing the controversial societies and demonstrations and public gathering laws, playing the waiting game and allowing this issue to be blown out of proportion?
It is in the interest of all parties to ensure that families are stable and that people know what their rights and obligations are within the family unit.
I realise the issue isn't as simple as I make it sound. I also understand that there are a few subtle differences in the way clergymen interpret family law in Islam.
But what I can't accept is how can a problem, which has remained unsolved for so long, be blown out of proportion when its declared purpose is to ensure the rights of men, women and children in a state of law.
To all those squabbling factions out there, stop fretting and get down to work. The more time wasted on issuing a law of this magnitude, the more women, children and even men will suffer. Injustice isn't a good feeling to grow up with, not when the next generation is at its receiving end.
Let's set our differences aside and try and settle scores on bigger issues - issues which don't involve breaking homes, slamming of doors and social stigma and scars that the victims of divorce and domestic abuse have to cope with for the rest of their lives.
Vol XXVIII NO. 179
A friend of mine called me yesterday wailing and crying.
I had thought that there was a catastrophe, or perhaps someone had died.
But no. Her problem was with a colleague of hers…who was cooking her lunch in the office during lunch break.
Before my friend knew it, she was gasping for fresh air. The entire office reeked with the smell of cooking fish. There was smoke everywhere. And the fire sirens didn’t go off, because there simply wasn’t a fire siren in the building! But we will not go on about safety in the work place now because it was no longer an office. It was a dirty old kitchen with very bad ventilation.
And what was worse, was that my friend had a business meeting scheduled in 10 minutes.
She had to cancel the appointment and evacuate the office and was still angry about the situation way into the night.
When she told me about her ‘situation’ I was simply speechless.
It took me back to the days when I was at university and had to teach in a government school for three months as part of the requirements for my Bachelors degree in English and Education.
Do you know what I saw in the teacher’s room everyday? No. This isn’t a scene from an Egyptian sit-com. It was real. The honourable teachers had their vegetables sprawled all over their tables and were busy chopping cucumbers, aubergines and lady’s fingers to name a few. Of course, they were also peeling potatoes and carrots and exchanging recipes, among other things!
What is it with people who have ZERO respect for their workplace? If the aforementioned woman was mad keen to fry her fish and eat it, why didn’t she go home to cook her offensive meal? And if those teachers were so torn between wifely duties and their teaching profession as teachers, why did they find it so difficult to make a choice?
A woman’s place is in the kitchen indeed but this is no excuse to bring the kitchen to the office.
Make up your mind woman…there are a lot of jobless people out there! Who says you are indispensable?
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 156|
BY Amira Al Hussaini
My grandmother died just a few days ago. I did not go to the burial ceremony. I just couldn't bear it. I couldn't muster enough courage to see how we will all end up one day, so I stayed at home and wallowed in self-pity.
It is so hard to imagine that she has gone, that the day I once had nightmares about has come.
I keep waiting for someone to pinch me and tell me it's a bad dream, that it's not true.
She lived a simple life and left this world without much fanfare.
Though she was a grandmother to us all, she was actually my mother's aunt.
My real grandmother died at the age of 35, when my mother was young.
So when we were children, my mother's aunt took the place of granny and lived up to the role and more.
She is the only granny I have known, but she was even more than that.
She is the past that has gone, never to come back. The true spirit of Bahraini women.
At a young age, she was married off by her father to a much older pearl merchant, from a seaside village.
A few years later, her husband succumbed to bad debts and misery and eventually died, leaving her with two boys sick with sickle cell anaemia and a daughter.
They continued living in the village because in those days, that was it.
A woman's fate was sealed with marriage - wherever that took her.
Despite the terrible times, she held her head high and never once complained.
Her eldest son died just after getting married and starting a family.
Her second son died few years later and her daughter got married to a Saudi relative and moved to the Eastern Province.
My mother became a daughter to her and she became the mother my own mother missed and for us, she took the place of the grandmother who died before we were born.
She stayed in our house when we were growing up and then moved back to her real grandchildren when we were old enough to stand on our own feet.
I was the most attached to her because, to tell you the truth, I would actually sit down when told to sit, shut up when asked us to be quiet and do chores as best as I could - and I owe all that to her.
She taught me how to stitch and embroider. She would bring all this fabric out and thread of all hues and together we would stitch motifs and flowers and birds, on everything from pillow cases to my T-shirts.
Now she is gone.
She would tell me tales of the past - the Bahraini version of fairy tales - which she spiced up and altered to fit the mood and situation.
Now she is no more.
She lived to be old and deaf and her tongue got heavy with the passage of years.
Every time I saw her lately, she would ask me if I had just come back from school and whether I had finished my homework - even though I finished school 15 years ago.
I can always remember her being old. She saw her own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, yet I would have loved for her to have hung on still longer, to see my own children yet to come.
She was there for me as a child, picking up after me, teaching me right from wrong, giving me lessons in life and opening my mind to interesting hobbies.
I owe her a lot, but the truth is that as much as she was good to me, giving me and brother and sisters her unconditional love and care, I have let her down badly.
My visits to her grew infrequent, even though she lived close to places I go to regularly.
I was selfish and couldn't bring myself to see her sick and bedridden.
It broke my heart, but as much as I loved her, I shunned her.
At my hour of need, she was all there for me... at her hour of need, I was too busy.
May Allah bless her soul in peace and may he forgive me for being the ungrateful grand-daughter I had become.
May he forgive me for being just to too busy with life to look back and care for someone who meant and gave so much.
Vol XXVIII NO. 97 Saturday 25th June 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
It is a time of national celebration as thousands of graduates take a bow, with girls outsmarting boys once again in the secondary school examinations and showing the world the true mettle of Bahraini women. This year, 375 girls scored over 95 per cent, compared to 94 boys, showing that girls are at least four times better than the 'superior' male sub-species.
You can't imagine the size of the smile on my face when the results were announced.
They have even managed to bring tears to my eyes - for I am both happy and sad that more girls are realising the importance of being a step ahead of boys, who take a lot for granted in this society just because of their gender.
To be fair though, almost twice as many girls sat the exams - 3,990 girls compared to 2,178 boys - and although the reason for this beats me, it still makes me feel uneasy.
Without going deep into the figures, which I am not in a position to decode, they make me shudder every time I wonder that if there are really more smart girls and even fewer less-than-average boys around, what will the Bahrain of tomorrow be like?
Will we have less than average bozos bossing smarter women around? Will women accept a situation like this? And because there are fewer boys than girls, will girls accept sharing their better halves with other women?
The truth is, we don't have to look into the future to answer those questions.
A look at our present gives us the picture, for less-than-average bozos are already bossing smarter women around.
Women are accepting the situation because there isn't a legal framework nor a family law to protect them from abuse.
And, like it or not, smart women are forced to share the same men because they feel that such a rare species as "acceptable" men are getting fewer and harder to find by the day.
I really don't want to dampen the spirit of the celebrations in almost every home I know of, with young bright women making a mark and planning for a future where they know they should be superior.
I don't want to sound like Dr Doom, but the truth is that those figures mean nothing in a society still shackled by age-old traditions,which discriminate against girls just because they are smarter and more dedicated to their chores.
Unless things change drastically over the next few years and legislation is imposed from above to protect women's and family rights, I am afraid all our collective efforts to improve our lot as women and ensure that we serve our families and society in a befitting manner, will go to waste.
Friday March 18, 2005
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Cover up the mannequins please. Those distasteful anorexic women should not be on display for public viewing. Let them wear abayas, with the red lace of nightgowns hanging out from the side. For a change, the mannequins will then be mimicking real women - instead of the other way round. I can't help but roll my eyes every time I am out in public, surrounded by women wearing the tightest, brightest, embroidered, see-through abayas.
Is it only me who feels this way? If they really want to expose what lies beneath, why do they bother wearing the abayas to begin with?
Please, don't get me wrong. I am not voicing my insecurities or anything.
I am also all for freedom of expression and dressing up is one way of expressing oneself, which I don't want to limit in a society which has more restrictions and taboos today than it did in the swinging 60s and sizzling 70s.
But to humiliate the abaya - the sign of the humble modest woman who strictly adheres to tradition and culture - in this shameful manner is blasphemous by all standards.
I really don't know why parliament has not taken up the matter, or why members from the Islamic Bloc haven't yet passed a motion banning such scandalous abayas, which are closer to nightgowns than the symbol of the humble Muslim woman.
I know I am opening myself up to criticism here, because I am not exactly the abaya-wearing Muslim woman.
But at least whatever clothes I wear cover more than some of the abayas worn by many women!
If parliament does not want to do something about loose women on the streets, perhaps the municipal councils should come up with a motion to cover up scantily-clad women wearing abayas?
They have, after all, appointed themselves as the vice squads in a Bahrain where everything is so perfect - albeit with a few people hanging their underwear to dry outside their homes.
Vol XXVII NO. 353 Tuesday 8 March 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
Have you ever heard of the International Men's Day? It is so obvious. It smacks you in the face and smirks at you every day.
It is celebrated 364 days a year (365 days every Leap Year) to glorify those selfish creatures who think that the whole world rotates around their little finger.
All they have to do is lift it and everything comes to a standstill, in anticipation of their petty desires - whether it is a war, spreading famine and disease, ultra-smart ideas like annihilating mankind by nuclear, chemical or biological warfare... all the way down to playing dirty politics.
On the family front, they break up families, cheat on their wives and abuse their children.
On the personal front, they break hearts and spirits.
The world is after all their playground to do with as they please, with women created to serve and please them.
But the overall picture is not that bleak.
In appreciation of women, who have shouldered the burden of seeing them in good health and in sickness, they have spared us one day in their busy calendar of events - March 8 - to commemorate the International Women's Day.
The rest of the year is all theirs to exploit women and act the masters of the realm they think they are.
In a country as small as Bahrain, where women constitute about 42 per cent of the population, it is a shame to note that appointments, laws and practices are not in favour of women.
Only two Cabinet ministers are women: Health Minister Dr Nada Haffadh and more recently Social Affairs Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi.
Add to this Supreme Council for Women secretary-general Lulwa Al Awadhi, whose post carries a ministerial rank.
Great strides really in a country which is yet to have an apparatus in place to protect women from family members, society, the law, lawmakers and keepers and from the very Ministry of Justice, whose only purpose is to ensure justice is implemented - if only on paper in an increasingly unjust world.
Believe me, women don't want equality. Not yet, at least. All we want is our basic rights - whether we are single, married, divorced, widowed or all of the above.
It isn't a lot - all we want is to live in dignity and with self-respect at a time when statistics released by the Interior Ministry show that an average of two women report physical abuse and one verbal abuse to police stations every single day.
Ensuring this isn't any easy feat, not in a democracy which is yet to approve a family law.
Contrary to popular belief, a family law will not only protect women - who by instinct have been created to protect their homes - but the family as a whole, including men.
Vol XXVII NO. 219 Monday 25 October 2004
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Why am I not surprised at all that the majority of those against having a written family law to protect the rights of women and children are men?
According to a study commissioned by the Supreme Council for Women and conducted by the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research, 64.38 per cent of those who turned down the proposal to have a family law were men.
The sticky question here is: WHY?
Why does the looming family law seem to be a threat to them? Is it because it may, in a way, curtail the unlimited freedom they have on the fate of children and women who fall under their wing? Would it perhaps give those women and children rights and privileges, which will be protected by law and give law-makers the right to intervene and make decisions in 'family affairs'.
Would it maybe, as the study suggests, curb some of the malpractices against women and children, practised mostly by men who feel that their only way of proving their manhood is through terrorising their helpless families?
I am also equally surprised that there were women against the proposal to draft the law. Once again, why? Why are women their own enemies?
I don't see a single reason why women would object to having a law, any law, which may draw a line under what they are entitled to, what their rights are and what their duties and obligations should be.
Over the centuries, I feel women have struggled mostly because of man-made laws which are totally devoid of the message of equality and humanity found in Divine Law. Men made their own rules and interpreted religious doctrines to suit their own selfish needs. They have continued to oppress women and in turn their entire families, even in this modern day and age.
There should be a law to define relations within the family for each and every single person, man or woman, to know what is expected of them and what they would get in return.
It is a shame that the time has come for everything to be set in black and white, even within a family. One would think people get married and start families for peace, stability and tranquillity, for achieving a sense of fulfilment and bringing unlimited joy to their own lives and that of people around them and not the contrary.
Vol XXVII NO. 155 Sunday 22 August 2004
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Figures speak volumes... or so they say. The fact that Bahrain University has accepted 2,039 girls and just 971 boys only for the new academic year makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I am wrong and it was a good idea to segregate our national institution of higher education after all.
In fact, it seems to be a matter of time before this futuristic vision sees light.
Imagine a university full of smart girls only. Never mind that they will all graduate one day and work in 'mixed' environments with men who couldn't make it to university because their grades were too low.
At least then girls will be able to compete against ambitious girls of their stature, who have nothing else on their mind other than to graduate with top grades, and then marry their knights in shining armour.
Now that is a very noble cause. Every girl, no matter how smart she is and at least each and every girl I know, has only one thing on her mind - and that is to ultimately get married one day.
If the mothers of our future generations are graduates from a women-only university with tip-top grades, then there is no harm in that, is there?
They will all be educated in an environment which protects them from men and shelters them from some of the perverse reactions, such as - God forbid - friendship and admiration, they might share with members of the opposite sex.
The fact those girls can focus on their studies, earn high grades and beat all the other boys to places at the university, while at the same time being totally obsessed with the idea of marriage, is amazing to say the least.
That they can work and fantasise at the same time shows that they are a gender to reckon with and show some admiration to, even if they are only girls, who will end up being mothers and grandmothers one day.
I have met girls of all ages and backgrounds and no matter how smart they are and how high their grades at high school and university were, conversations with them always end up with discussions of how their lavish wedding ceremonies would be and of their choice of future husbands.
This is only natural and for as long as there are women and men, people will continue to fall in love, get married and perhaps even have sex - to keep the human race going.
Now this is a frightening thought. How can we trust girls with such morbid thoughts? A woman thinking of marriage, sex and children? It must be the end of the world, for such 'feelings' are reserved for men only.
Thank God, boys are not faring so well at high school and hopefully one day the number of boys accepted at Bahrain University will drop so low that it will not be feasible to have a co-ed university anymore.
I feel that it is a natural process and one which could see light soon. Then our girls will grow up pure and chaste in a women-only environment.
Until then, I hope a smart man comes up with a potion which inhibits girls from thinking the way they do because it would be really dangerous then to have so many educated women with pent-up emotions and dreams and nowhere to realise them, because it has become unnatural for them to aspire to do what God has created them for.
Vol XXVII NO. 115 Tuesday 13 July 2004
By Amira Al Hussaini
The clock is running backwards. Bahrain, the Garden of Eden, will finally become the land of peace and tranquillity it always was. The land of the great Dilmun civilisation, where the crows don't croak and people live in eternal bliss.
There will be no vice, no prostitution, no daylight bank robberies, no drug peddling, smuggling or sniffing, no rape, no incest, no adulterous wives and husbands and no cold-blooded murders and stabbings.
In this utopia, policed by the Mullas, there will be no bribery and no one above the law (except the Mullas themselves).
More important, there will be no women in public office, no women in universities, no women in schools, no women on television, no women on the radio, no women on the street, no women. Full stop.
Instead, there will be men and boys. Little boys, who will have more authority and respect than any woman, just because of their gender.
The righteous will take the rule in their hands and go about bullying ordinary people, mostly women and expatriates, who are down-trodden and lack many of their basic civil rights anyway.
A religious police in Bahrain? What are we talking about exactly? Are those pushing for the idea telling Bahraini authorities that they have failed to uphold security and justice and that a bunch of bearded men can now tell people how to behave, what to wear, when to go to pray, where to go and what to do in their spare time?
Where is this taking us to? Extremist parliamentarians have already managed to alienate many real people from the real Bahrain and what real Bahrainis want. They have already told the world that Bahrain is not looking forward to a brighter tomorrow and that investors are better to take their money elsewhere.
Among their few triumphs have been blocking Big Brother, allowing veiled women to drive and squabbling amongst themselves on who got the biggest share of the limelight in the media.
To all those who want to take us back to the Stone Age, the message is loud and clear. We, the real Bahrainis, want to move forward with the times. We, the real Bahrainis, are the future generation and want to have a better Bahrain for our children. We, the real Bahrainis, are proud that our mothers drove cars, travelled to Europe, can speak English, are working and have brought us up with the freedom of choice. We, the real Bahrainis, have also learned to adapt with this freedom and have never let our families or country down. We too insist on handing this freedom of choice to our children. Parents, society and schools taught us right from wrong and the rest was up to us.
Most of us grew up in homes where there are people with religious inclinations and those with none at all. We all considered ourselves Muslim because it is Allah who judges us on the Last Day of Judgment and not men who have decided to terrorise people and tell them they are implementing Allah's law. We all celebrate Ramadan, Eid and Muharram, and all the religious occasions which fall in between, together as one big family - even those of us who don't wake up early enough for the dawn prayers.
Religion is a personal choice and not that instilled in others through terror and the rule of force. It comes from within and for the virtuous, it remains within. It is not something to show off and it is not a reason to show spite towards others, simply because they have not yet seen the'light.'
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Published: 17 May 2004
It really is a national disgrace that an MP can literally walk away from serious criminal charges - thanks to a law which grants him immunity.
How long will this farce go on? What do we tell all those women out there about democracy and upholding the civil rights of individuals, when women cannot speak up about being harassed by men in power.
A Syrian woman has been wronged - just because she did not have the backing of the law. Perhaps, if it was another woman with a social standing and the backing of an influential family, the case may have differed.
Her case against an MP, accused of pestering her for sex and making lewd suggestions was thrown out of the Lower Criminal Court - because he has immunity.
Do you know how difficult it is for a woman - any woman - to stand up for her rights in this society, which is controlled by men who indulge in their own petty, selfish, embarrassing pleasures?
I am sure that this woman thought a million times before speaking to anyone about the harassment she has allegedly endured from this respectable MP. She then had to go through the humiliation of explaining to one man after the other about how he fondled himself in front of her. She had to re-tell the story and re-live the horror and shame over and over again.
When the case went to court, she finally took a breath of relief. Justice will be seen to be done at last. But she sure was wrong.
Let's just look at the hundreds of cases in court involving women for a proper definition of the word justice.
Back to our respectable MP. How could a 47-year-old man be elected to public office despite being accused of fondling himself in front of a woman, repeatedly pestering her for sex and making lewd suggestions on a number of occasions.
How could he be let off the hook, just because he has become an MP since it all allegedly happened in 2001.
Why hasn't Parliament met and discussed lifting his immunity in a session and passed a decision on it?
Isn't this part of the democratic process we have been churning out front page after front page on?
Or is the role of MPs, who promised their constituents 101 things before their election, restricted today to flexing their muscles at the government?
Next time I am in parliament, I wouldn't want to cross paths with this MP nor with all the others who covered up for him and brushed away this woman's complaints, just because she was a woman.
Had he not been an MP, what would the punishment have been like?
I will recount to you a personal horror story which happened to me and my sister one night not in the too far past.
We were chased by five Saudi thugs, who pulled my sister out of the car and started hitting and biting her. When passers-by stopped to rescue her, they escaped. We filed a case at the Hoora Police Station, the culprits were arrested, rushed through court on a Thursday and released on BD 40bail each.
The follow-up to the case? My lawyer cannot do anything because the case papers have disappeared.
Will anyone respond to my queries and complaints for justice? No.
Me, my sister, the Syrian woman and all the other women out there should just swallow their humiliation and accept the fact that if they want to live, go out, drive, go to college or go shopping, they have to put up with harassment and shut up.
There is no one to hear their complaints and no one to stand up for them. Bravo, Bahrain. Welcome to the new era of democracy and reform.
Vol XXVII NO. 36 Sunday 25 April 2004
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Women, the better half of society, finally make their mark on the political scene in Bahrain with the appointment of Dr Nada Abbas Haffadh as Health Minister.
This recognition is long overdue and to be frank, is rather belated, considering that formal education for girls was introduced in 1928.
In fact, the first Bahraini women to get a formal education had to wake up at dawn and walk to the nearby American Mission School, Manama, about 20 years before this date.
A quick calculation shows that it has taken women about 100 years to climb the corporate ladder and reach the pinnacle of the civil service hierarchy! Nevertheless, better late than never.
Thank God, we have another clear-cut job for us which doesn't take a century to qualify for - and that is baby-sitting all those men with big moustaches and pumped up muscles.
On a serious note, women have worked alongside men in making Bahrain what it is today and it is only just that the day has finally come when a woman sits alongside her peers in the Cabinet to draw up plans for a better Bahrain and make decisions which affect both men and women.
I hope all men out there won't think that the charismatic Dr Haffadh is only a pretty face to look at because her appointment is truly a dream come true for women in Bahrain.
Having a woman minister means that Bahrain has finally started grasping the fact that society is made up of men and women and both could be relied on to serve its interests.
The only concern is that Dr Haffadh will be expected to prove herself every step of the way, just because she is a woman.
She will have to work harder than all the other ministers to ensure that a woman can become a minister - and a successful minister too. Just because she is a woman, her every single move and smile will be scrutinised.
And as the first woman minister with a portfolio, she will also be expected to make it work - simply because she is the first to shoulder such a post and her success could determine whether or not more women ministers will follow.
To Dr Haffadh and all the other women who will follow in her footsteps, I have one thing to say: The recipe to success is easy.
Dr Haffadh can bank on her experience, knowledge and, of course, the all-powerful X chromosome, women have inherited and passed on from one successful matriarchal generation to the other.
No matter what men say, women have amazing organisational skills (we can walk and talk on the telephone at the same time); a sixth sense that is never wrong (especially if there is something fishy) and foresight (even without using the skills of a clairvoyant).
Women can also withstand pressure and have the resolve to make things work - even when men say they won't.
To all the pessimists out there: from now on, it is an onward march for women and the sky is the limit.
Vol XXVI NO. 354 Monday 8 March 2004
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Rise and shine Princess, it's International Women's Day today!
It's an occasion more important than all the other silly days man has come up with over the decades put together.
It's the day we stand up high and mighty and bask in the glory of our achievements across the ages.
It's the day we brag about our successes and call for more equality and justice without fully realising the power in our hands and our hands alone.
It's time we got together to fight the one and only tyrant who is making this life a living hell - whether it is a husband or a father or a brother or a male boss or an MP, who has no idea what it is to be a woman and deal with the mood swings and discrimination we face every step of the way.
It should be the day we fully realise our power and use it for a change.
We run the world and this isn't an understatement. All those little men are rings we spin around our little fingers - mere players who strut and fret upon our stage following our whims and then are heard no more based on our commands.
Behind every great man, there is a woman and without us women, this world will never go round. There will be no man nor woman nor any use or purpose for this world. It doesn't take a scientist to figure this out. Everything will come to a standstill, because men - the movers and shakers of this world - will not budge an inch. They will not be able to make babies on their own to ensure the continuity of mankind. More important, there will be no audience for them to show off and flex those muscles.
We are the mothers, wives, sisters, girlfriends, colleagues and mistresses. We rule. It's just that we haven't figured out yet how to use all this power.
Respect is to be earned and not demanded. Over the ages, women have sacrificed a lot and the least we expect today is to be treated with respect and dignity.
To all those mothers out there, start at home with your little boys. Teach them to say thank you and express their emotions. Teach them to be courteous and respect women. Hopefully, a new breed of men could be trained to make this a better world for all of us - men and women.