Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Does telling the truth require an apology?

I would like to draw attention to my best friend, Maryam Al Sherooqi. She writes for a local newspaper, Al Wasat, and has gotten quite a following since she started there early last year or so....and she might be going to jail next month.

Last September she was with a co-worker (she is employed as a guidance counsellor at a govt school here as a govt employee) at Bahrains Civil Dept applying for another job within the Ministry of Educations system...while there she and her friend had a conversation with one of the employees...just a casual chat really to pass the time...but that conversation was the premise for an article she wrote soon there after...an article about discriminatory practices at the Civil Dept between Shiias and Sunnies...when it comes to employment potential.

Her article garnered a lot of attention an opened up a lawsuit against her by the Civil Dept...claiming that she flat out lied about the conversation...and that she had humiliated the Civil Dept by making such slanderous claims against it...that they discriminate against potential employees based on religious affiliation...etc.

Now heres the thing...she didnt lie obviously as her co-worker was there as well and was witness and participant to the conversation(she has been ordered to divulge the identity of the Civil Dept employee she chatted with...but has refused)...so she hasnt slandered anyone...and as far as I know...humiliating someone (if she in fact did that) isnt grounds for imprisonment ....is it? A fine maybe...but jail time?

She went to the Prosecutions Court the other day and faced a judge (and was fingerprinted) who stressed to her that if she "just apologized" everything would be over and she could get back to her life. He asked her if all this drama was "worth it". She replied that her integrity and self respect were worth it...and she would rather go to jail then apologize for telling the truth (incidentally EVERYONE in Bahrain KNOWS there is blatant discrimination between Shiias and Sunnis in the employment sector...so exactly what "lie" did she tell)...her court case is scheduled for March 3rd...and a 7 year jail sentence is hanging over her head. She is being called a traitor to her country(charges stated on her court documents)...for telling the truth.

Yesterdays Al Wasat had quite an article about her and a few others that are facing the heat for daring to believe the "Freedom of the Press" malarkey that has been trotted out now and again by the Powers That Be. http://www.alwasatnews.com/Yesterday/Issue-2356/LOC/LOC-0-/859462.aspx?newspaper_date=02-17-2009

So Maryam Al Sherooqi may be facing a lengthy jail sentence merely for stating an obvious fact that we all know to be true. She is basically being charged with "humiliating" the Civil Dept...which has turned into a charge of treason.

Now heres the thing that is REALLY upsetting...if that wasnt enough. Many "friends and family" that complain right along with her about the "unfairness of it all"...that "we need to do something to change this"...that sit in their coffee shops and living rooms declaring loudly what "they would do" if given a chance...have been given a chance...to support their family member...their friend...to support Maryam Al Sherooqi in her hour of need...and yet they have, for the most part, gone quiet...only speaking up to demand that she apologize so THEIR lives can continue much in the same vein it was until she came along and "stirred the waters"..."embarrassed the Sherooqi name...called attention to herself etc...in other words...humiliate herself and apologize...for their benefit.

Ive known her for 3 years....she is my best friend. Ive never met a more straight forward outspoken defiant and honest person as her. She tells the truth...she tells the truth in the face of daunting consequences...she tells the truth and constantly makes enemies because of it...she tells the truth and makes people angry and agitated and wanting to blame her for doing nothing more then "opening their eyes" to a fact they already knew...but refuse to acknowledge. She tells the truth and gets punished for her truth telling...and still she tells it.

She has been threatened ( her family as well..some of whom are in high positions in this country...and who have been subtly warned about a potential loss of position unless she backs down)...she has been made miserable in too many ways to count for that article...and some follow ups she has done...yet she has never wavered..never hesitated...never for a moment considered it would be easier just to drop her head and get back in line with all the other sheep....and for that she deserves an award in my opinion...not incarceration.

She has two little girls and a husband...and elderly mother...she has a job and responsibilities. She has so much to lose and not a whole lot to gain if she perseveres...and yet she only see herself stepping forward and doing the one thing she feels she has no choice but to do...tell the truth and hope justice is served.

I have only one thing to say about her...Im proud of her...and I wish I could do more to show her the support she deserves...and I wish I could tell all those men that are determined to shame this woman and send her back down "where she belongs" by imprisoning her...that they would do well to stand back and look at her...really look at her...maybe they will learn what it means to have integrity...self respect...and a back bone....and I wish I was half as brave as she is.

Im there for you girl...all the way. Truth shouldnt require an apology.


*to see articles she has written.... her "inflammatory" article was written last Sept. 08.

*update...Journalists Without Borders has called her and have offered her support on her trial day. Good news for sure.


Mahmood Al-Yousif said...

I completely and unequivocally support Ms. Al-Sherooqi too. She is a brave journalist who has nothing to apologise for.

The Queen said...

What a shame. I feel for her and wish there was something that I could do for her. I am of the belief that you are nothing if you do not have integrity. Maybe one day that attribute will be valued in the Middle East, let's hope it is soon for your friend's sake.

Gardens of Sand said...

It is people like Ms. Al-Sherooqi that give me hope for Bahrain. It is courageous women and men like her, who refuse to back down and cower in shame, who stand fast with the truth,who slowly but surely change the world. Bahrain is a little better to have her among her midst. I whole-heartedly support Ms. Al-Sherooqi and wish her only the best.

janice said...

I hope this brave, strong woman prevails.

Chiara said...

Unfortunately this is all very typical human behaviour: believing freedom malarkey, reporting a truth but being condemned for it, the loud arm chair revolutionaries going silent and inactive, the threats, etc.

And unfortunately, I would suggest that she find some aspect to apologize for, and keep writing in more subtle ways, rather than martyr herself and her career, unless she has incredible active well-connected support that won't fade away.

coolred38 said...

Mahmood...thank you and good to see you again.

Queen...integrity is definitely in short supply...but ass kissing never seems to dry up...sigh.

Gardens...you and me both. I always have hope that more and more Bahrainis like her would step up to the plate...cause my life is affected too by their inability to take charge of this corruption going on.

Janice...thank you

Chiara...I feel she is definitely treading dangerous grounds but she wont give in or give up...with or without public and personal support. She says God supports her...and thats enough for her. I hope so for her sake.

Chiara said...

In that case I wish her alot of Baraka,and say Ameen.

Chiara said...

Reporters without Borders is exactly the type of help she needs, as an international profile is protective, along with their expertise.

coolred38 said...

Oh...Reporters Without Borders...I knew that...mistake on my part.

I hope its good news for her...she needs some.

Chiara said...

No worries there are other groups too:
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) http://www.ifj.org

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

International News Safety Institute (INSI)

Amnesty International, and PEN.

Good Luck to her

janice said...

Seeing all the support for your friend is encouraging, more international "light" needs to shine on this issue.

Susie of Arabia said...

Many countries in the Middle East seem like they can't handle the truth and are in denial about many things that occur in their society. And then to hear them complain constantly about the way things are, yet when it comes time to take a stand for what they don't like, they clam up. Your friend Maryam has principles - something that many people here do not have.

coolred38 said...

Susie...I agree 100%...they all complain and demand satisfaction and change...but when the opportunity presents itself or someone else actually has the balls to effect some change...the sheep suddenly go quiet....and then have the nerve to fingerpoint at the "lone sheep" for daring to do what they themselves couldnt manage....Im sick of it.

I hope it works out for her...she doesnt deserve this and I dont understand how her simple article could have gotten her this much trouble.

Aafke said...

I am deeply disturbed reading this. I sincerely hope she will retain her freedom!