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Jordanian Youth: Effective Drivers for Social Change

by on July 31, 2010

I was born in Tehran, Iran in 1981. My parents brought me to the United States for a better life when I was around 13 months of age. My younger brother was born in Philadelphia, and both him and I identify as second-generation Iranian-Americans. My parents did a great job of teaching us about our culture while raising us in suburban Maryland – all the while accepting the American culture that we inhabited.

They also taught me the importance of having strong morals, what’s wrong v. right, and standing up for what we believe. So it upsets me when people associate the Middle East with terrorism, honor killings, and violent political uprisings. These are all regular occurrences in the Middle Eastern world, which I feel the media unfairly focuses on far too often. Isn’t it time we switched our focus to the positive? And what better way to do so than through strong voices in social media?

In 2003, Iranian Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in activism, and in women’s and children’s rights. I will never forget the tears running down my mother’s face when she heard the news. It made me realize how far women have come in that region, and the motivational impact it has on my elders that have been through worse times. To think that was 7 years ago makes me wonder why inequality continues to occur at such alarming rates.

Two countries West, similar issues exist in Jordan– especially with human rights. Fourty-two percent of Jordanian women are physically abused. While Ebadi in Iran emerged into the spotlight before social media became popular, Jordan’s Queen Rania emerged recently when social media is in full effect. Her effective use of Twitter has been a primary example of how political leaders use social media for social change in Jordan, and for better world recognition (e.g. the TwisitJordan Campaign).

Despite the negative press in the Middle East, Jordan is making the quickest progress in “westernizing” itself as a country in that region. For example:

1) The press has covered women rising up in the business world and opening public places up to both sexes

2) Ali Dahmash has been using his blog to drive social change. In his words, he “believes that with dialogue we can break barriers and narrow the gap between East and West.”

3) Naseem Tarawnah, who I found particularly interesting, is a 24-year old blogger living in Jordan and reporting on various activism issues, including honor killings.

This last example is where I think Jordanians can improve the most. While online Jordanians like Queen Rania and Ali Dahmash are more well-known and represent the older and more politically active population, Naseem is the perfect example of how the youth can stand up and help shed Jordan (and the entire Middle East) in a better light, globally – AND drive for human rights activism within the country. All by expressing their own genuine voices and opinions.

So where are these voices to drive this social change? Naseem has a comprehensive list of active Jordanian bloggers which provides a range of authors writing about a variety of topics. These bloggers can raise issues such as women’s rights to drive change. Twitter makes it easier than ever to have this conversation in real time.

Jordan is increasingly online and listening. Statistics show a surge in internet usage over the last couple years. According to various online studies, 40% of the Jordanian population (nearly 23 million) is online today, a jump from 18% in 2008.  Two-thirds of the online population are men under the age of 29. This means we need to motivate women online to become more active and strive harder to have their voices heard. If 42% of Jordanian women are abused, where are THEIR voices in calling for social change?

For the time being, though, I think it’s a great start. I truly believe the rest of the Middle East should join Jordan’s lead in communicating with each other and with the rest of the world. Already, American soldiers in Iraq have been blogging their experience since the start of the war, and Iranian youth shared graphic videos and stories during the political uprising of early 2010 (“Where Is My Vote?”).

Much like myself and other Middle Eastersn, Jordanians certainly have the strong morals and stand up for what they believe in a turbulent society. It’s time for Jordanian youth to become leaders in driving social change not only in their country, but also in other Middle Eastern countries.


From → Jordan

One Comment
  1. Bravo. This was a great post and call to action for youth, while also sharing a very personal story as part of your description for why it matters. You managed to take the relatively well known examples of Queen Rania and not do the easier post just focusing on her, but rather using her efforts and those of others as context for the main point that you really wanted to make in this post about encouraging more youth to share their personal stories online to help change the Western world’s perception of the Middle East. I found your post to be engaging, important and definitely worth sharing. At the end of the day, that’s a perfect combination for a blog post. (5)

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