An unsung hero, silently lost in Za’atari Refugee Camp
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Amid the refugee crises sweeping through the region, and specially the Syrian refugees flow Jordan has witnessed on the onset of the armed conflict in Syria. Jordan and Jordanians have made substantial sacrifices for the sake of making their country a haven for everyone. Today, and with heavy hearts, we tell the story of one of our own, an unsung hero who retained no effort trying to lift the burden of asylum off Syrian refugees; for the sake of making Za’tari Syrian Refugees Camp a safe shelter for them and their families for today and the future. Today, we tell the story of the beloved friend and dear colleague the late Judge Dr. Abdul hakim alshbool, the head of the Sharia Court of Law in Za’tari Syrian Refugee Camp, who passed away on Thursday, February 16th, 2017.
The late judge Dr. Abdul Hakim alshbool obtained a bachelor’s degree in Sharia from The University of Baghdad and a PhD in Sharia Law from the University of Jordan in 2007. He was the Chair of Notary of Al-Ramtha Sharia Court before a Royal Decree named him an Honourable Sharia Judge in January 10th, 2013 and held this position for four years until he passed away in office as the head of Al-Mafraq’s Sharia Court – Authentication and The Head of Sharia Court of Law in Za’tari Refugees Camp.
Ever since the establishment of the Za’tari Syrian Refugees Camp, Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) has worked side by side with the Jordanian Government and the UNHCR to cater to the needs of the Syrian refugees in Jordan. In Za’tari Camp, ARDD’s lawyers worked closely with the late Dr. Abdul Hakim for two and a half years where they illustrated a fine example of the synergy between judge and lawyers, coming up with effective solutions to issues of legal protection facing the Syrian refugees in the Za’tari camp. During his time in service, the long-lost but unforgotten friend was best known for a smile that rarely leaves his pleasant face as well as his great devotion in serving Syrian refugees as his work has left a permanent impact on the lives of those he helped protecting and the families he prevented their disintegration through affixing marriage contracts which largely contributed to the provision of legal protection to Syrian children by authenticating their descent, thus actively preventing the existence of an entire generation of stateless children.
As today we say our saddest goodbyes to our dear friend may his soul rest in ultimate peace; we would also like to welcome the new chair of Al-Za’tari Sharia Court of law Mr. Fadi Al-Mhaidat, who is following the same steps toward providing legal protection to the Syrian refugee brothers. ARDD is looking forward to having more cooperation between all governmental sectors and civil society institutions for what is best for humanity.
Between the US travel ban and the UK's halting of implementation of the “Dubs Amendment”
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development – ARDD is alarmed by recent developments worldwide jeopardizing the rights of most vulnerable refugees. Specifically, we are alarmed by political decisions such as the January 27th executive order by President of the United States banning access to migrants and refugees from seven Muslim majority countries, along with UK’s decision to stop implementing the “Dubs Amendment” to the immigration Act 2016 (as of Feb 8, 2017) by which a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children currently under very strenous circumstances could have been brought to safe to the UK. These decisions not only disregard commitments and responsibilities vis-à-vis international humanitarian law, but also seriously threaten the most vulnerable refugees who are fleeing war and conflict, and who may be torn apart further or prevented from being reunited.
Over the years, our organization has worked with refugees from different nationalities in Jordan. Despite difference in size, capacity and wealth, the country currently hosts nearly 72 times more Syrian refugees than the United States, and nearly 260 times more than the UK. While ARDD understands the challenges that come with the influx of refugees into host countries, we are deeply concerned by the risks posed by illegal migration. In February 2015 ARDD launched its protection campaign “Don’t Go: Protect, Inform, Act!” with the purpose to inform refugees and migrants of their rights and dangers to life and well-being of illegal migration bears, while urging the international community to find solutions to the crises leading to mass displacement that affects the Middle East and North Africa.
ARDD urges the international community to strongly oppose this concerning trend of political decisions and to step up to adequately respond to the consequences of war and displacement by abiding to international commitments and humanitarian values, while maintaining, and if possible, increasing their support to UNHCR and its partners. While criticism of the US travel ban and its temporary halt by the American judiciary are important steps in the right direction, they are unfortunately not enough. Political decisions such as those of the UK and USA, further pose a direct threat to the fragile stability in countries of first refuge, such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, while at the same time spreading of more hostility against refugees worldwide
Finally, as a legal aid organisation ARDD is deeply inspired by the brave response of the many lawyers, judges, law firms and volunteers who took to the airports in the US to support the stranded passengers and refugees and used their legal skills to help those who are most vulnerable, as well as the civil society and legal organizations and volunteers working to protect refugee children stranded in France and elsewhere in Europe. We congratulate them in solidarity for their courage and unwavering commitment to human rights and the rule of law which are paramount for maintaining justice.
Campaign to issue birth certificates for children above "one" year
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development in cooperation with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launches a project to provide legal services in 2017.
The campaign encourages Syrian refugees in Jordan (inside and outside the camps) to follow up the issue of birth certificates for those children over the age of one year that were unable to get a birth certificate due to obstacles and diverse reasons, considering that these certificates are required for many legal procedures in accordance with the law in Jordan. ARDD will provide the necessary legal help to facilitate and clarify the legal procedures for issuing birth certificates through a team of specialized legal advisers. UNHCR will cover all the necessary legal costs for the completion of these procedures.
In the interest of addressing the matters relating to the various documents of Syrian refugees, this campaign is a result of the continuous efforts made by ARDD in cooperation with UNHCR and all concerned authorities in Jordan. Birth certificates are one of the most important documents to legalize children’s status in Jordan and protect their rights.
All successes thanks to the great efforts made in legal advocacy by UNHCR and its legal partner (Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development organization) and all concerned authorities for their continued support led by the Ministry of Interior and the Syrian Refugees Affairs Directorate.
Why do we need gender sensitive services for women seeking justice?
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Despite the significant gains in women’s rights in Jordan, there is still much work to be done; especially concerning gender sensitivity in institutions offering legal assistance (Husseini, 2010). For instance, a study by UN WOMEN (2015) found that 61% of a sample of judges, prosecutors and lawyers acknowledged that women face challenges in legal institutions because of their gender. These challenges were reported to be mainly due to a lack of specific procedures for dealing with violence against women (VAW) and the knowledge and attitudes regarding women’s vulnerabilities.
When it comes to seeking legal assistance, an analysis on the nature of the disputes in court revealed significant gender differences. For example, women are more likely to report Personal Status Law disputes, such as child custody, divorce, alimony, etc. On the other hand, women are discouraged to make these disputes public and are usually doing it without the support of their families, putting them in an even more vulnerable situation
Furthermore, women who suffer gender-based violence, and seek support from police and/or other institutions, are in a higher state of vulnerability. In addition, given the fact that the staff of public and formal institutions are often male dominated and lack the necessary training to deal with these cases, women may feel threatened or scared to file complaints.
These discrepancies do not occur because the laws in Jordan are overtly discriminatory. In fact, the Jordanian Constitution states that “all shall be equal before the law”. Nevertheless, there is still much room for improvement, such as enabling gender-sensitive services by conducting proper training (through a gender perspective) of police and court staff , ensure that procedures and policies are being implemented, and promote a change in knowledge and attitudes regarding women who seek the support of formal legal services, especially those who are victims of violence.
Every day women and girls are subject to different forms of violence. The widespread social acceptance of this violence against women and girls (VAWG) is due to a lack of legal awareness, a bias in legislation and an unequal implementation of the law. To discuss the issues of this topic, the local Jordanian TV station 7 Stars hosted HE Dr. Sawsan Majali, Member of Jordanian Senate,HE Ms. Wafa’a Bani Mustafa Member of the Jordanian Parliament, and Director of the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) Ms. Samar Muhareb on the 23rd January.
Regarding VAWG, lack of legal awareness was brought up as one of the most pressing issues, and as Dr. Sawsan Majali stated “lack of legal awareness is a major problem in Jordan and is one of the root causes for violence against women”. According to Ms. Samar Muhareb, Director at ARDD, the lack of awareness of legislation and the know-how in dealing with various crimes and violations that fall under VAWG are some of the pressing issues.
The legislations and laws in Jordan show a state of legal discrimination, according to MP Wafa’a Bani Mustafa, she identifies two states of discrimination: (1) inequality between men and women’s legal status, and (2) the inequality between men and women in the enforcement of the law. Bani Mustafa argues that legislations are highly discriminatory against women, all the way from the constitutional level, and down to various laws like the Penal Code, Personal Status Law, Labour Law and Citizenship Laws among others. In regards to the inequality between genders, examples range from Jordanian women being prevented from passing their citizenship to their spouses or children, the law only recognizes the father as the sole legal guardian, and that women face bigger hardships than men when divorcing.
ARDD, along with other organisations, are calling on the parliament to take the demands of civil society and the feminist movement into consideration in amending the Penal Code, stated Ms. Samar Muhareb. In addition, Dr. Sawsan Majali stressed the need for better communication between civil society organisations and activists in the field of women’s rights to provide solid numbers and cases to the legislators in order to showcase the impact of the implementation or lack of protection in the law for people in Jordan.
Civil society organisations are currently working to empower women to understand the judicial process and be able to claim their rights, ensuring access to gender sensitive services and to make communities, in general, aware of the rights guaranteed to women under the Constitution, which states that all Jordanians shall be equal before the law. ARDD is currently working with two such projects: Know Her Rights and Women’s Access to Justice Phase 2.
Know Her Rights is a project a two-year project implemented by ARDD and funded by the UN Trust Fund. The goal of this project is to support women and girls to exercise their right to live a life free from sexual and gender-based violence in Jordan through awareness-raising and advocacy by different sectors in the community such as women’s organizations, national media, and educational professionals. On the 17th January, this year, ARDD hosted a panel discussion that engaged key civil society actors to raise awareness about VAWG. This discussion aimed at increasing the knowledge base on different forms of violence faced in Jordan.
ARDD works actively to fight injustices against women by promoting enhanced access to justice, which is exactly what the second phase of the project Women’s Access to Justice aims to do. Implemented in partnership with Oxfam and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the project’s aim is to reduce the vulnerability and suffering of disadvantaged women by building on their human capital, facilitating their access to the legal system and securing just outcomes. As part of its advocacy efforts, the WAJ project plans to conduct an advocacy campaign which aims at contributing to equitable access to justice for poor and vulnerable women by facilitating and creating a gender sensitive and informative environment at the Zarqa Sharia Court. Despite the noticeable changes in women’s access to justice in Jordan, there is still room for improvements, especially at the administrative/procedural level. Overall, the legal system lacks the capacity to respond to women’s needs, for example, the environment within the court is not adequate to support women and they often face unsympathetic and intimidating male court staff, especially in Sharia courts that are solely composed by men. Therefore, by facilitating and creating a gender sensitive environment in the court, with sensitized court staff, visible and user-friendly way to follow procedures, women will be more likely to use the judicial system and exercise their rights.
These two projects complement each other on crucial parts, and seek similar aims and goals. Hence, ARDD works to promote awareness of rights as well as provide venues for vulnerable people to access their rights and entitlements. As were stated by Wafa’a Bani Mustafa in the interview, “Knowing your rights is the first step towards claiming them”.