Is Jordan's Cybercrime Unit Making an Example of This Yemeni Teen for Having Opinions?

Published January 30th, 2020 - 09:25 GMT
Barred from School: Facebook Discussions Land a Minor Yemeni Girl in Jordanian Courts
Tujan also talked about her school teachers' comments regarding the way she prays while in school. (Facebook)

A Yemeni teenager named Tujan Al-Bakhiti is facing trial after the Jordanian Cybercrime Unit charged her with "blasphemy and insulting religious feelings." Sharing Facebook posts that discuss politics, religion, and other topics landed Tujan in trouble several times before, most notably in her school's decision barring her from attending classes last month.

Translation: "I’m being tried in Amman, Jordan for merely moderating a discussion using my Facebook account. The Cybercrime Unit wants to hold me responsible for sharing some of my father’s posts and for the comments on them, which is a dangerous precedent in the Arab World. You can’t hold someone accountable for sharing others' opinions, nor can you charge them for sharing ideas with the simple goal of discussing them, especially when they haven’t endorsed these ideas. If the Cybercrime Unit wants to hold everyone accountable for purely sharing content, it should also hold thousands of Jordanians and residents of Jordan for posting links to pirated films and TV shows, since many of these shows contain ideas that can also be described as “offensive to religion”, and same goes for book fairs held annually in Jordan [...] Why are they only targeting me? This is so unfair." 

Tujan also shared photos of herself with members of her family while heading to juvenile court saying that she's clearly being discriminated against, especially after her school's decision to bar her from attending classes last December over her social media posts.

Translation: "To the court with my uncle Ashraf Al-Bakhiti."

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) issued a statement condemning the Jordanian government's decision, calling on officials to deliver justice and to "stop show trials."

On social media, commentators weighed heavily on the news of her undergoing a trial, saying that a 17-year-old kid shouldn't go through this experience for sharing her thoughts online. Some users also expressed their shock by the unexpected level of surveillance practiced by Jordanian authorities, despite the country's reputation of being fairly tolerant.

Translation: "Jordan is bringing a minor to court accusing her of being an atheist. Apparently, laws in the Arab countries are subject to personal preferences..."

The 17-year-old student had appeared in a live Facebook video last month detailing the demands that her well-known private school in Jordan had made, such as asking her to take down social media posts. After Tujan's refusal to abide by her school's demands, her mother was asked to transfer her daughter to another school.

Tujan is the daughter of prominent Yemeni political activist Ali Albukhaiti who defected from the Houthi group in Yemen in 2016. Ali Albukhaiti is a vocal critic of Islamist ideologies and was forced to leave Jordan in August 2019 for "offending" the Saudi-led troops fighting in Yemen known as the Arab Coalition. Currently, he resides in London.

In her December video, Tujan also talked about her school teachers' comments regarding the way she prays in school. Her teachers allegedly asked her not to join other students during prayer, suggesting that her prayer is "more Shiite-like" and is "making Sunni-majority students uncomfortable."

Translation: "Something about my struggle with private schools in Jordan and the different labels Arab communities including my Yemeni one want to impose on us as young people."

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