Arab blogger on gender rights
Jordanian script-writer talks about women in the workforce and honour killings.
Last Modified: 03 May 2009 07:41 GMT

Zaghmout says despite recent progress, women in Jordan still face gender challenges [EPA]

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, blogging has become a phenomenon in the Middle East.

Young Arabs began to use the internet to voice their anger and disillusionment over political disenfranchisement in their countries, but soon turned to social issues as well.

In 2006, Fadi Zaghmout, a Jordanian web developer who also writes film scripts, decided to start his own blog about personal freedoms and tolerance in the Middle East.

His blog, The Arab Observer, courted controversy because it pursued topics that some in the Middle East believed to be unsuitable.

Al Jazeera recently spoke with Zaghmout about his blog.

Al Jazeera: What interested you about blogging?
Zaghmout: At first, I started enjoying message boards and forums, and then I started writing short stories. Eventually I realised that I have a strong passion for my values and that I want to communicate my views with others.

Some friends of mine started blogging and pointed it out to me.

I have been blogging for two-and-a-half years now mostly in English but sometimes in Arabic as well.

I mostly cover social issues, what interests me the most is gender equality, sexual freedoms and tolerance.

What issues do you cover in your blog? 

My blog mainly covers social issues. I usually focus on issues related to social freedoms, sexual freedoms, women issues, homosexuality and gender issues.

For example, I discuss how women are perceived to be at fault in our society at times even when they are the victims of sexual assault.

I have also discussed how the achievements of women in the workforce can be perceived as a threat to their chances of getting married because a lot of Arab men prefer to feel superior over their wives.

And I have discussed how Muslim homosexuals struggle to find a middle ground between their beliefs and their sexuality.

Do you feel Arab bloggers have more freedom than their counterparts in the media?
Yes, for sure, but, I don't think they will replace journalists, instead journalism will benefit from the Arab blogosphere.

Blogs are becoming more and more interesting news materials. They can provide more alternative and better sources for the events on the ground and they can help pushing the boundaries of freedom for traditional media. 

What challenges do you think Middle East journalists face and how can they push the boundaries to wards more freedoms of the press?

I think that journalists need to be more vocal in addressing social issues. It is time for Middle East journalists to lead the way for more social freedoms.

I don't understand why everyone is so concerned about political issues while forgetting the real important things our people are facing these days. 

The issue of gender equality seems important to you.

I created a fictional female character that I named Haya.

I use her when I want to address women's issue from a woman's perspective. We live in male-dominated societies and women, despite their tremendous achievements in the past couple of decades, are still subjected to many injustices because of their gender.

I discuss sexual harassment of women in the Arab street, honour crimes, social pressure on women to get married, female sexuality and many other issues.

I see social pressures affecting my female relatives and friends on a daily basis. They suffer from many old habits and traditions that should no longer be applied.

Women comprise half of our societies. Gender equality must be achieved in order to make the best of our human resources.

Do you see women becoming more active in Arab society? Have they found a voice?

Women have achieved a lot in the past decades, and yet they still have a long way to go.

I see them becoming stronger and more active as our societies get more mature. Changes might take some time, but they are definitely in the right direction. 

Al Jazeera
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