A seventeen-year old Yemeni girl named Tujan Al-Bakhiti is facing trial after the Jordanian Cybercrime Unit charged her with blasphemy and insulting religious feelings and beliefs. It should be pointed out that Tujan is the daughter of the prominent political activist Ali Albkhaiti who defected from the Houthi group in 2016. Ali Albkhaiti is known to be a vocal critic of Islamist ideologies and was forced to leave Jordan in August 2019 for ‘offending’ the Saudi-led troops fighting in Yemen, also called the Arab coalition. The unjust trial of Tujan is an example of a show trial and a mockery of justice that is mostly aimed at deterring her father.
The case dates back to early December 2019 when the administration of Al Jazeera School in Amman demanded Al-Bakhiti to stop sharing posts on her social media accounts. According to the school, the minor was spreading ‘toxic thoughts’ and offending Islam. When Tujan rejected to abide by this demand, the school’s board suspended her and barred her from attending classes. In this way, her school not only breached Tujan’s right to freely express her own opinion but also to obtain education. A few days later, Tujan was subpoenaed and had to appear before the Prosecutor General in the absence of a lawyer or a guardian over a report that was filed by the Cybercrime Unit.
The Jordanian Penal Code (Article 273) states that anyone defaming the Prophet Muhammad or Islam is liable for inmprisonment for up to three years. In comparison to other Middle Eastern countries this is seen as a rather moderate punishment. Nevertheless, a minor should not be undergoing a trial for sharing her thoughts on her social media as it falls under the scope of freedom of opinion and expression. Also, the case reveals the high level of surveillance practiced by Jordanian authorities, despite the country is being perceived as rather tolerant.