Hind al-Fayez and the Challenges for Reform in Jordan
Hind al-Fayez is a Jordanian businesswoman, political activist, conservationist and member of parliament. Although she comes from one of Jordan’s most influential tribes, Bani Sakher, she says she is proud to be the daughter of late Arab nationalist and political activist Hakem al-Fayez. A leader in the Baath party, he had lived in Syria and spent nearly 22 years in Syrian prisons after Hafez al-Assad deposed then-President Nureddin al-Atassi in a 1970 military coup.
Born in 1968 in Amman, al-Fayez studied IT engineering at Yarmouk University in the northern city of Irbid. On graduating, she worked for an international company for three years before moving to the UK to study marketing. On her return to Jordan, she started her own advertising company.
Al-Fayez says she wanted to remain in the business sector but moved into politics when her father asked her about her political views and realized her support of Arab causes. She ran in the 2007 and 2010 parliamentary elections but failed to make it to the Lower House. She blames the failed attempts on the security agencies, whom she claims interfered in the elections because of her nationalist views and outspoken stance.
In 2013, however, she was elected to the House of Representatives for the Central Badia district women’s quota. Many observers in Jordan describe her as a “very active” lawmaker, an advocate for further political and economic reforms and a strong opponent of the Kingdom’s proposed nuclear programme. She also opposes the widely unpopular natural gas deal that the Jordanian government is considering signing with Israel, seeing it as normalization.
“I hated politics because my father was jailed for 22 years for his political views. Being in the business sector kept me away from politics. But as a woman with principles, it was tough to remain an onlooker and not to be engaged in the political process,” al-Fayez said.
“As corruption in Jordan became systematic, I decided to be in a place where I could hold officials accountable. Parliament was the only place that would enable me to do so,” she added. In addition to being a member of parliament, she is co-chair of the Integrity and Transparency Committee and a member of the Energy Committee.
When asked about the performance of current MPs, al-Fayez said she is disappointed with some of her colleagues but happy with the reactions of the public, whom she sees as the ultimate judges of legislators’ achievements.
The lawmaker believes that the fruits of the Arab Spring are yet to be reaped in terms of democracy and better living conditions. “The Arab Spring did not fail. But more time, maybe ten or 15 years, is still needed to see the results of this revolution,” she says.
In December 2014, the 47-year-old became a global celebrity after a video of a Lower House session went viral on social media. The video showed her shouting angrily at a fellow MP who had attacked pan-Arab nationalists in Jordan. The floor was then yielded to another legislator, Yahya al-Soud, who was seated next to her. “Sit down, Hind,” al-Soud yelled several times before going on to criticize the election law that allocates 15 seats in the 150-member House of Representatives to women. “God curse the person who brought the (female) quota to Parliament!” he said. #SitDownHind has become a popular Twitter hashtag and a popular meme on social media. While social media users in Jordan poked fun at the incident, it drew regional and international media attention to gender inequality.
Asked by Fanack Chronicle whether she considers herself an advocate for women’s rights in Jordan, al-Fayez said she is a campaigner for social justice.”My message to His Majesty King Abdullah is that this is the right time to implement real political and economic reforms. The King and the country are in their strongest moments so it is important for the King to seize the opportunity and lead reforms, not wait for people to demand change.”