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Jordan's Queen Rania, longtime champion of women and children, speaks up for refugees
01 October 2015

At a critical time in the Middle East, Queen Rania of Jordan is facing the challenges of fundamentalism, the refugee crisis and rights for women and children with a rare combination of grace and guts

While accepting an award in Germany this month, Queen Rania of Jordan called for extraordinary acts of compassion and global cooperation in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented the queen with the Walther Rathenau Prize for fostering peace and understanding between East and West. Addressing the hundreds of gathered dignitaries, Queen Rania stressed that “denying refugees their basic rights risks creating a defeated and disillusioned generation who, at their most desperate, could be susceptible to extremists’ ideology.” Her tiny country of 6.8 million has taken in some 1.4 million Syrian refugees — or 20 percent of Jordan’s population — despite its own poverty and unemployment woes.

At the same time, her region is struggling with an unfathomable expansion of fundamentalism. Which means that voices such as hers — calling for development, stability and progress — has become all the more critical, and rare. For Arab women in particular, Queen Rania is one of a scant handful of role models at a time when many young women throughout the Arab world are desperately seeking inspiration from within their own culture. So when Queen Rania speaks, her voice is heard loud and clear.

She is vaunted by the international media for her active role in promoting youth through the World Economic Forum and The Clinton Global Initiative. She has the beauty, the eloquence, and the title. Not so enviable, though, are the dual positions she must sustain as a queen with conviction in a region where every small step forward for women is seen as a threat by large segments of society.

 While walking the walk for her values, at times she had paid the price for her moral backbone, as when she campaigned for legal child-protection reforms — no trifling matter in Jordan and the broader Middle East, where secrecy and a culture of shame keep families from talking about their “dirty laundry.” When the Queen insisted that children be legally protected from abuse, police officials who had originally rejected any policy that would question a father’s authority over his children — even in cases of abuse or rape — were persuaded to collaborate with her campaign.

But then there are the setbacks. When she advocated for equality of citizenship for men and women, she took the flack when the cause backfired. In Jordan as in the rest of the Arab world, when a woman marries a foreigner, her children are not necessarily granted citizenship Palestinian/Jordanian origin is a major point of contention in Jordan, and the queen’s advocacy aroused old fears and tensions between Palestinians and Jordanians.

Despite such pressures, Queen Rania has taken on charged issues including the spirit of Islam and the deformities foisted on it by groups such as ISIS, expressing what most Arabs believe but are afraid to say out loud.

full report available here.