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rana husseini picinterview with rana husseini

A journalist in Jordan, Rana Husseini was the first reporter to bring the secretive practice of honor killings to the front pages of the daily papers.

Q What does this gathering of human rights defenders over the next few days mean to you?
RH These days have been marvelous. To bring humongous numbers of human rights defenders together is an excellent opportunity for all of us to get to know each others problems. This group—and Kerry—have done a great job in giving us a chance to present our own voices. And we represent the people whose rights have been violated repeatedly. This is a great opportunity for us to tell the stories.

Q What will you take back to Jordan? If a friend asks you what this was all about, what will you say?
RH I really can't express my feelings because I think it's wonderful. I think it's a human issue, and it's very important. The [Speak Truth to Power] book itself is a document that you can carry around and show people that there are miseries everywhere in the world. There are violations of human rights everywhere in the world and there are people who are fighting these violations. That means there is hope and Kerry brought this hope together for all of us to know that we are not in the wrong. We are not alone. There are other people taking on more serious issues, more dangerous issues. These are people who believe in what they are doing, people who believe that with their voices they will make change. I think this is what's important.

Q Can you tell us about the issue of women gaining their rights throughtout the world?
RH I think that women's issues are the same everywhere in the world, even in the U.S. Women in general have not obtained their full rights in some countries. It varies from country to another, but what's important is that there are people talking about violations against women. People learn; we learn from other countries who have gained more rights. We learn and we teach others, we interact together. This is the way to do it because in some countries, women still lack a lot of rights. With more interaction, we can learn more from each other's experience.

Q What are honor killings?
RH Honor killings are when a relative, a male relative, decides to kill his female relative because, in his point of view, she has tarnished the family's honor. We're talking about getting involved in a relationship, commiting adultery, maybe being a victim of rape, incest. In some cases it's all based on rumors and suspicion..

Q What was it that made you realize that just because these things may be tradition, that this isn't the way the world has to work?
RH When I was younger, I would hear about these crimes. But my involvement began when I started reporting for the Jordan Times in 1993. I was struck by a certain story that really moved me and I really felt that women are really blamed for any act. They are always accused of seducing men, of being the ones who are asking for any act, and I feel that is my duty to tell the truth. Nobody really cares about these crimes, most of these women are being killed for no reason; of course, this is not to say that I support women who commit a wrongful doing according to society—but I don't support being killed for it either. I feel that I have to tell my society, my people, decision makers that these crimes do happen, not to turn a blind eye. We should admit that it happens and talk about it.

Q How did you meet Kerry Kennedy Cuomo?
RH She wrote me an e-mail because in 1998, I won the Reebok Human Rights Awards for my work in human rights—for fighting against other crimes, actually. She e-mailed me and told me that she was doing a book. I felt it was an honor for me to become a part of her book. It's not only an honor, it's a way to tell the world about the stories of women in Jordan, and to let the world know that these things happen in Jordan and elsewhere in the world, and they need to stop.

Q How do you view this moment in the overall struggle for human rights? Is it a turning point, a moment of opportunity, a moment to re-assess where we are?
RH New technology is going to help a lot in exposing many issues through the circulation of information. The problem in our part of the world, for example, is that they try to hide officials and governmental officials—they try to hide certain facts. With e-mail and all the technology and media, it's very hard to for them to control any unwanted information—which is what we are fighting for. For now and the future, I think globalization and technology and everything that is going on will help a lot in exposing all kinds of violations against human beings.

Q What keeps you going?
RH I've been accused of being backed by the West, of encouraging sexual freedom for women. I have received all kind of accusations. I don't really care. Because I know what I am doing is right. I know that I am doing something. I am speaking for the women who cannot speak for themselves. And I am doing something that I know is backed by everything: religion, because killing is against religion, and basic human rights. It's the right to live and I don't think anyone would disagree.

Q How are you convinced of this?
RH I am convinced because this is the natural thing. People who are trying to quell these rights or these demands are afraid to lose power. It's all about power. People who are in power do not want to give it up. Any human being would know that we are born equal. We have the same rights, we are all entitled to a fair life. We all have our own duties.


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