Despite the instances of discrimination they relate, the two scholars say they are not looking for sympathy or seeking to convey a sense of injustice. They believe that “their main duty is to employ the privileged space they have through academic work to defend the rights of marginalised people and to understand the contexts of such discrimination through research.”
“As academics, we feel the responsibility that our voice, as well as the voices of those who face similar difficulties inside and outside universities, should be heard,” said Alshammari. “We want our research to be international and accessible to everyone. We want people to change their perceptions, and to pay attention to how they conduct business outside the classroom.”
Ghabra advocates the importance of using contacts, scholarly knowledge, and academic privileges to provide a safe space for students who may need support.
“Being an academic means I am an activist and can advocate for people’s rights because I maybe have better connections. I have the privilege of having a Ph.D., which makes me more responsible for trying to make societies more tolerant, open and accepting.”
The paper’s fourth chapter is titled: “Disrupting Privileged and Oppressed Spaces: Safe Spaces.” It details how the two scholars’ experiences reinforced their awareness of “the need to use their privileges to provide a safe space for students who need support, particularly those likely to feel alienated, such as the Bidoon (stateless people) and the disabled.”
In the chapter, Ghabra writes: “When Bidoon students tell me that they are stateless, it is my moral and privileged responsibility not to share this information with other students or professors. There is a feeling of mutual trust, and we must work to develop it. These situations require me to help them in different ways.” (See a related article, “Kuwait’s Stateless Students See Hope in Nationality-Blind Certificates”.)
Discrimination Is a Global Issue
The discrimination the research reveals is not confined to a specific country, nor indeed to just the Arab world. In a recent survey of more than 3,000 scientists worldwide, conducted by the journal Nature, only 40 percent of respondents felt that their employers were doing enough to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
Maysaa Jaber, a lecturer in English at the University of Baghdad, told Al-Fanar Media: “There are examples of discrimination that may put women off accepting leadership positions in academic institutions, or leave them psychologically affected, such as calling them ‘Umm’ (‘mother of’) followed by the name of their son or daughter rather than using their academic title.” (See a related article, “Arab Women Are Left Out of University Leadership”.)
[Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our free newsletter.]
Jaber, who holds a doctorate from the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom, added: “The obstacles that academics face greatly affect their career paths. Any woman in a teaching position faces misconceptions and stereotypes, such as the suggestion that she is weak and cannot show leadership, especially if the leaders are men. They justify this by saying that women have domestic responsibilities as a wife and mother.”
Jaber believes that research papers that expose such discrimination are “important and necessary to improve the educational environment in the Arab world, and raise awareness of discrimination whose manifestations vary from one country to another.”
More Related Articles