Asma Khader, Fighter for Women’s Rights in Jordan, Dies at 69

Jordan has long been a steadfast ally of Western countries. But the status of women — their treatment in the labor force, access to good medical care and participation in politics — has deteriorated in recent years, although Jordanian women have made gains in education. A country where conservative tribes are often the backbone of government authority, Jordan has sat near the bottom of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for the past decade.

Nearly 11,000 girls under 18 were married off by their parents in 2017 alone, according to Mrs. Khader, often in refugee camps and marginalized communities. Amid high unemployment, marrying off a daughter is seen as a way to lessen the financial burden on the head of the household. Rates of physical, sexual or emotional abuse of women between 15 and 49 are also high.

“Asma remained focused on making sure other women, especially those from underserved and refugee communities, could access skills training, learning and economic opportunities,” the Women’s Learning Partnership said in a statement.

Asma Hanna Khader was born on Jan. 25, 1952, in Zababida, a town in the West Bank, which at the time was under Jordanian rule. Her father, Hanna, was a translator for the Jordanian Armed Forces. Her mother, Martha, owned a clothing shop in Amman. Asma attended school in the city and worked in her mother’s store.

Mrs. Khader earned her undergraduate law degree from the University of Damascus in 1977. She established her own legal office in 1984 and was one of Jordan’s few practicing female lawyers.

In Jordan, Mrs. Khader experienced life under martial law, imposed by King Hussein after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The law banned political parties and large public meetings, and gave the government broad powers to restrict freedom of speech and the press and to try ordinary criminal cases in military courts.

Mrs. Khader joined the male-dominated opposition movement, becoming a vocal political activist despite the risk of detention. She also represented political prisoners.

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