Arrests of teachers ‘unconstitutional’, say women’s rights advocates

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AMMAN — Women-rights advocates are declaring “full support” for female activists who were arrested for taking part in rallies.

The Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) issued a statement on Saturday declaring its full backing for school teacher Rida Al-Farran and her colleagues Insherah Sandouqa, Saba Mahdawi, Nuwwar Mahdawi, and Hanan Al-Dabsheh, stressing that the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to rally peacefully and to hold unionist activities.اضافة اعلان

“We assert that the measures taken against teacher and unionist Rida Al-Farran, as reported, violate her constitutional rights, as a Jordanian citizen, and the norms and values of the Jordanian society,” said the statement, adding that “this comes at a time when it is claimed that we are a state that supports women’s right to take part in political action”.

The JNCW stressed that women’s participation in political life is restricted to “symbolic representation in elected and appointed bodies”, adding that “there are still some practices that decide for women where and how they can engage in political life”.

“Active political participation cannot take roots without protecting the right to all forms of expression and to peaceful civil and unionist action. We affirm our rejection of the humiliating way and the breach of privacy that this teacher and citizen was exposed to when she was arrested, which violates the laws and procedures in force, and does not defend the dignity of women in the country,” the statement further said.

It also stressed that “what happened is a form of political violence against women, and all measures that have been taken must be reviewed to ensure that they are not repeated, to protect women’s right to political action as guaranteed by the Constitution”.

The JNCW said it will ask the competent authorities to “conduct the necessary investigation and ensure that such practices do not recur”.

According to Farran, on March 29 she was awakened from her sleep at 8am by a knock at the door. Electricity had been cut off and the building manager informed her that the electricity company had disconnected it — despite her having paid all the bills — and that someone from the electricity company wanted to talk to her.
What happened is a form of political violence against women, and all measures that have been taken must be reviewed to ensure that they are not repeated...
“I went out of the house to talk to him, but did not find anyone, and as I turned to go back to the house, a group got out of a car.”

Informed that there was an arrest warrant for her, she asked to be allowed to inform her family, change her clothes, and fetch the medicines she needs as a cancer patient. Initially they refused, but then agreed. Still, the agents refused to show her the arrest warrant, telling her that she would see it at the police station, where she was kept until 3pm. She was then moved to a police department concerned with implementing court orders in East Amman.

“They gave me my phone at 4:30am, to assure my brother that I was fine. At 6pm, orders came to release me without guarantee or bail.”

Farran was suspended from work in 2018 because of her political activism, she said, adding that her arrest happened because authorities thought she would participate in a demonstration planned for Tuesday.

“The arrest was a message to Jordanians that they could be arrested for things they might be thinking of doing, at a time when the official rhetoric urges partisan and individual participation in public life,” she said.

Meanwhile, Commissioner-General of the NationalCenter for Human Rights (NCHR) Alaa Al-Armouti denounced the arrest, stressing that the center is in the process of investigating the issue before issuing a statement.

“The NCHR’s position on restrictions of freedoms, including of assembly and expression, and of those of trade unions, is well-known, and these are violations of rights and freedoms, in contravention of local and international covenants,” he said, adding that the security forces act “excessively, to an extent that we are not accustomed to, against both men and women”, that they violate the sanctities of homes “at unjustified levels”, and that their acts intend to “silence”.

Teacher Sandouqa said that on Tuesday she went to the teachers’ protest in front of the Ministry of Education, “and there were only two teachers there, amid a heavy security presence”. She said she “appeared in a live video through my Facebook page to emphasize the teachers’ demands and rights, and in the meantime I was arrested and they took me to the Sweileh Security Center where I remained until after 9pm, then I was released and went home, to Irbid”.

She called her arrest “kidnapping”, and stressed that she will continue to try to get back to work the 120 colleagues who were forced to get early retirement or were suspended, and “are now without salaries”.

Sandouqa stressed that “freedoms are suppressed despite the fact that the Constitution calls for the opposite”, adding that “these circumstances create an environment of fear”.

She said that for two years she has been penalized one way or another, by not receiving the annual increase or having three days deducted from her salary when she left before the end of school hours to join the protests.

Jordanian Teachers’ Syndicate spokesperson Noureddine Nadim said that “the arrests of teachers are surprising in our society; we are not used to having women arrested in this unnecessary way”, adding that “the arrest procedures will have to be investigated, especially that women in our society have their status and must be dealt with in a different way”.

“As a syndicate, we asked for an investigation to find out who is responsible, and ask that the respect and dignity of teachers, of Jordanian citizens, be restored,” he added.

Nadim stressed that no specific charges were brought for these arrests that were, rather, “a precautionary arrest to prevent any illegal gathering”, stressing that “these teachers did not announce their participation in the protest”.

He said that some policies need to be reconsidered because they “affect” the social values.

According to Nadim, 70 teachers were either suspended from work or forced into early retirement, which prompted a group of teachers to protest on March 29, asking that they be allowed to return to work. 

Minister of State for Media Affairs Faisal Al-Shboul was unavailable for a comment to Jordan News.

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