When I opened up the papers today I immediately spotted two stories that made me happy in the daily litany of grief.
One is the story of Mai Jori – who I’d talked about earlier in this blog.
Surprise surprise; this peasant woman from the small village of Ghulam Muhammed Jamali in Baluchistan didn’t win the seat she ran for in the district elections. The winner was her opponent, Nasir Khan Jamali, a member of the local feudal family. And again, it’s no surprise that the elections were publicly decried as hugely rigged.
Of course, its not a matter of elation that Mai Jori lost – but it is something big don’t you think, that this poor woman, mother of nine, who comes from an area most famous for burying its dissenting women alive, even gathered the strength to raise her head and her fist and stepped forward to run in the first place? And that this woman, who ran her campaign from a wooden donkey cart, so frightened her landcruiser driven elite opponents that they dared not run a fair campaign?
Mai Jori occupies the lowest rung of a long ladder in one of the most backward areas of a country riddled with corrupt fat cats. But she’s made international news – a full page in a Dutch national daily at least - she has her own Facebook site, and her name calls up 171,000 entries on Google.
It’s a step in the right direction.
And the other story that I read this morning with a glad heart: in Abu Dhabi, a competition called The Millions’ Poet, where poets from all over the Arab world battle it out in front of a vast TV audience a Saudi woman called Hissa Hilal has also made the international news.
Covered completely in a burqa she delivered a poem called The Chaos of Fatwas, that was a blistering attack on extremist Islamic fatwas.
The audience love which came her way after she sonorously delivered the poem has shot her through to the finals on 31 March. If she wins, she’s going to be more than a million dollars richer. Meanwhile of course the death threats are flying her way like flies to honey.
Hissa Hilal and Mai Jori – two women who deserve our vote.
Photo by Yan Boechat