Joumana Haddad

Learning from Afghanistan

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The J.Spot
a blog about women’s rights, human dignity, secularism and sexual freedom in the Arab world


As I was watching the recent interview of brilliant American political satirist Jon Stewart with Afghani presidential candidate Fawzia Koofi on his 'Daily Show', I felt utterly ashamed. In a country like Afghanistan, where a female can be killed for the sole reason of being a female, a brave young woman dares to raise her voice, to challenge the oppression imposed on her, and aims at being president. Meanwhile, in our 'modern', 'liberal' Lebanon, we mostly hear news about the candidacy of the likes of Myriam Klink and Lara Kay for parliament. Few medias dedicate attention to the serious women who will run in the upcoming elections and who are trying to make a difference in this country. Most of us haven't even heard their names, are not familiar with their background, and know nothing about their agendas.

Yes, in a country like Afghanistan, where people risk their lives to cast their votes, and where female candidates are often accused of being prostitutes, have their campaign workers kidnapped and their families threatened; women do not allow fear to deter them from proving their determination to move forward. Meanwhile, in our 'democratic' Lebanon and its four female deputies, many women are convinced that politics is a "man's world". What would a woman's world be, then? Pedicures and shopping at Aïshti?

Member of Parliament and presidential candidate Fawzia Koofi, who is a strong advocate for women's rights, was the first girl in her family of 22 siblings to get an education. She was elected to parliament in 2005 and re-elected in 2010. The Taliban tried to assassinate her after she became Afghanistan’s first female deputy speaker. And it was so empowering and inspiring to hear her speak, knowing that she lives in a country where women were shot in the streets if a stray breeze lifted their burqas.

The above does not mean that I am blindly supportive of women in politics. In my opinion, it is not enough for a candidate to be a woman for that to be a reason for other women to encourage and support her. The fact that she has a vagina is not a sign of a candidate’s qualifications, and I have not yet learned (nor will I ever learn) the secrets of blind allegiance to women’s issues. No, and a thousand nos for such an insulting, superficial kind of solidarity. Women deserve more. Much more.


Notwithstanding, I am convinced that we have numerous worthy female candidates in this country, and I truly hope that our upcoming elections will give them a chance to deploy their talents and capabilities. As long as the political, cultural and economical power structures remain controlled by men, I see little hope for change in the basic attitudes that so many men have towards women. No nation can be economically strong without the involvement of women. No nation can be called a democracy without the respect of women's rights. No nation can move forward without the participation of women in its political life.


Amidst those who are trying to caricaturize the role of women in politics, like Klink and Kay; and amidst the disregard of issues affecting women’s rights in Lebanon, we badly need more women in our parliament.

Note that I said 'women', not aspiring starlets. Women that have mouths connected to their brains. Women that would stand up in the face of patriarchy and discrimination.

In short, women that can finally lift up this country's female consciousness and representation, instead of lifting up its male private parts.

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Note that I said 'women', not aspiring starlets. Women that have mouths connected to their brains