Jordan human rights defender Hala Al-Ahed faces harassment campaign

Jordan human rights defender Hala Al-Ahed faces harassment campaign
Al-Ahed was trolled after announcing she would be teaching a course about feminism.
2 min read
19 June, 2023
In May, al-Ahed won an award from NGO Frontline Defenders for her human rights activism. [Picture used with permission of Hala al-Ahed]

A Jordan human rights defender and lawyer has faced an online harassment campaign after she announced she would be teaching a course about feminism.

Hala Al-Ahed said on 13 June that she would launch a course in Jordan focused on "learning about feminism and its principles" in coordination with the NGO Ahel.

Following this, the lawyer received a backlash from people accusing her of trying to impose a western model of feminist ideology on Jordan, a still largely conservative kingdom.

"'Feminism' is built on five [things]: disobedience to the father, hatred of the father, contempt for the husband, absolute hostility to the man, and belief in the female as a god who has no partner," Mohamed, a journalist, said in response to the announcement.

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Al-Ahed said that her critics were mistakenly putting all forms of feminism "in one basket" in a way that harms "the legitimacy of the feminist struggle.”

Instead, she said it was important to develop "Arab feminism".

"We Arab feminists don't agree with western feminism because we believe that we have our own specific challenges in the region and we reject … interference under the pretext of protecting women's rights," Al-Ahed told TNA.

The harassment campaign against Al-Ahed soon expanded and became "organised and systematic", with a deluge of fake accounts attacking her for her activism, including for defending detainees.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights declared its "full solidarity" with Al-Ahed, and called on the Jordanian authorities to provide her with "all forms of protection" so she can continue with her work.

Al-Ahed is one of the most prominent Jordanian human rights defenders, winning an award from Frontline Defenders in May for her activism.

She is a member of the National Forum for the Defense of Rights and often defends victims of state-led repression in judicial proceedings.

Al-Ahed has come under fire for her work in the past, allegedly facing harassment from Jordanian state security services.

Her cellphone has also been hacked with the Israeli Pegasus spyware, which allows hackers to see the entire contents of the phone in addition to listening to phone calls.

Despite the recent harassment campaign, Al-Ahed said that she "believes in people" and that dialogue is necessary, regardless of threats made against activists.

Jordan has seen a steady erosion in civil rights in recent years and an uptick in state persecution of activists, according to rights groups.

In September 2022, Human Rights Watch said that Jordanian authorities "detain, interrogate, and harass journalists, political activists and members of political parties… to quash political dissent".