twitterfacebook

On the True Meaning of Independence and The One Who Pioneered It

On the True Meaning of Independence and The One Who Pioneered It

Today is Independence Day in Lebanon. The first one, as we have had to renew that independence a few times over the years from different foreign entities. But this Independence Day was the essential one, because it saw the birth of the sovereign nation that became Lebanon, on November 22nd, 1943. As with all Independences, you have a group of leaders at the forefront of the struggle, founding fathers, and mothers, who seek independence for their countrymen and women, and who have to be mature enough to undertake this ultimate quest for liberty to fruition. In Lebanon’s case, a handful of men fronted that independence, and one of them was my grandfather, Abdallah El-Yafi.

This November marks the 30th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. Though he was the record-breaking individual who served the highest number of times as Prime Minister (nominated by every serving President), what many people do not know is that one of his most renowned achievements is that he gave the voting rights to women in 1952, as well as the right for women to run for public office. Indeed, his highest mission throughout his political career was to secure women’s rights, a subject matter that he explored in his phenomenal thesis, published in 1925, entitled “The Legal Case for Women’s Rights in Islam.” Drawing from Quranic commands and Islamic philosophy, he made a case for how women should be allotted more rights in society for the wellbeing of society. That was in 1922, before women in the United Kingdom were even allowed to vote. He then ran for office with that precept on his platform, was fought by men from all political and religious backgrounds, Christian, Muslim, Druze, and Jewish alike, many called him a “heretic” for his “apostate feminism”, some accused him of plotting to ruin the social fabric of society, but he kept on. And due to his incorrigible righteousness, which he was notorious for, he became Prime Minister, and finally made it the law in 1952 that women can not only participate in the election process, but can and should run on the ballot.

A few months ago, there was a television program on New TV that explored the “Top 10 Prime Ministers of Lebanon”, basing the ranking criteria on achievements and hardships faced during each PM’s tenure. My grandfather was ranked #2, second to Riad Al-Solh, the man who was Prime Minister when Lebanon officially gained its independence from the French in 1943.

In light of today’s worrying events, the rise of fascism and the glorification of misogyny make the struggle of women even steeper. Women are struggling everywhere, literally everywhere, to be heard, to be respected, and be seen as more than the “weaker vessel”, as the Bible calls us, as more than the vessel for man’s comfort, or a walking womb, or a woman with a borrowed identity, and a body she often struggles to own. We live in a world where, even within our own gender, we grapple with trying to prove that we can be both feminine and in charge, that we can love with a full heart and make colossal decisions at the head of enterprises and nations, that we can be both nurturing and competitive, empathetic and assertive, sentimental and analytical, that everyone benefits from the empowerment of women because we always choose to win on behalf of everyone, almost never just on behalf of ourselves. Though the struggle is real, it is necessary to stop every once in a while, and remember to commemorate those who were our allies in our endless fight for equality. On this Independence Day, I remember my grandfather. He pushed not only for a _political_ independence, but for the most important independence of them all: the independence from the yoke of misogyny and inequality, which he recognized, very early on, as the main handicap in every society. The pain of the feminine struggle for dignity lives on, but the memory of advancement must remain hopeful and intact in the name of those, like my grandfather, who put everything on the line to clamor for the fundamental principle that EVERY HUMAN BEING must have equal worth in every nation.

Happy Independence Day.

This is the segment that honors him (please click on “CC” to read the subtitles in case you don’t understand Arabic):

Written by Sara El-Yafi

45 Comments

  1. Leila Hammoud Ghalayini · November 22, 2016

    God bless his soul

  2. Asad Abukhalil · November 22, 2016

    Silly Lebanese rankings aside, Abdullah Al-Yafi was far superior to Riad As-Sulh and to the others.
    1) he did advocate political participation of women and his parliamentary campaigns was one of the first to rely on women volunteers and staffers (including my mother when she was in law school at St. Joseph).
    2) Unlike Riad As-Sulh, he never dealt under the table with Zionists.
    3) He was not corrupt like Sa’ib Salam and the rest.
    4) unlike most other prime ministers and presidents, there is nothing in the US archives which is damning about him.
    5) He was fierce in his support for Palestinian resistance. His family should be proud of him for many generations to come.

  3. Adam Farrah · November 22, 2016

    What an amazing, humbling text. Abdallah El-Yafi is my father’s favorite political figure (which says a lot) for all the reasons you mentioned and so much more. So honored to read you, Sara. Hope I get the chance to meet you one day.

  4. Zeid Tawil · November 22, 2016

    Sara El-Yafi that was beautifully said. Finding out who and how amazing Abdallah El Yafi was is perfect explanation of what kind of grand daughter you’ve turned out to be.
    Respect 💓

  5. Zahira Sawwaf · November 22, 2016

    Bless you Sara El Yafi for this informative Article about Ur Grandfather. ,,,May God Bless his Soul. 🙏🙏🙏

  6. Riebal Hmaydan · November 22, 2016

    may his soul rest in a peace..

  7. Johny El Asmar · November 22, 2016

    Amazing

  8. Racha Badran · November 22, 2016

    All my respect to your late grandfather Sara. Thank you for sharing..

  9. Raymond G. Khalife · November 22, 2016

    Dear Sara, isn’t that a shame that in the 21st century we have a Prime Minister trying to form a ministry and so far I have not seen one Woman’s name on the list!!

  10. Ginane Makki Bacho · November 22, 2016

    ما بوافي الا اليافي! I knew your grandfather, my late dad was a close friend of him, I worked for him in the elections which he lost but remember when he home head up when we were!

  11. Nicholas Marquez-Grant · November 22, 2016

    He seems like an amazing man that did a lot of good

  12. Tom Burges Watson · November 22, 2016

    Mabrook & vive le Liban 🇱🇧 !

  13. Rima Ghanem Bahout · November 22, 2016

    Behind every great grandfather there is an amazing granddaughter!

  14. Russell Patient · November 22, 2016

    Truly beautiful man deserving of all accolades and he has obviously passed his many wonderful attributes through the family line.

    Whilst it saddens me greatly that women still,in this day and age,face such struggles I always find comfort in the knowledge that such fiercely intelligent and remarkable women as yourself exist to enlighten and inspire others.

  15. Maya Khayath Anhoury · November 22, 2016

    Merci Sara pour cette vidéo émouvante et pour ton texte sur ton grand père qui aux dires de mon père était une personalité qui était universelle de par son ouverture au monde et aux idées avangardistes. Un homme évolué dans tous les sens du terme. Il semble que ses enfants et ses petits enfants on hérité de cette graine. Bonne fête de l’indépendance chère Sara El-Yafi et chantons tous en coeur joyeux notre bel hymne national ! <3 Koullouna lil-watan, lil'oula lil-'alam

    Translation: Thank you, Sara, for this moving video, and for your text about your grandfather whose personality, as my father used to say, was universal thanks to his openness to the world, and his avant-garde ideas. He was an evolved man in every sense of the word. It seems like his children and grandchildren inherited these traits. Happy Independence Day, dear Sara El-Yafi, and let us sing all together our joyful national anthem! All of us for our homeland, its height, its flag.

  16. Shahad Alani · November 22, 2016

    The apple does not fall far from the Jeddo tree 🙂

  17. Faris Smadi · November 22, 2016

    A wonderful piece Sara and a great occasion to honour your late grand father. May his soul rest in peace.

  18. Sasha Van de Water · November 22, 2016

    A heartfelt tribute to a remarkable man. How fortunate you are, Sara, to have his example so close, and to have inherited much of his fighting spirit! Happy Independence Day!

  19. Sarah Zahra · November 22, 2016

    A must read text

  20. Russell Patient · November 22, 2016

    Beautifully written piece from the wonderful Sara on Lebanon’s day of independence. Please read…the words flow from a truly remarkable mind and heart.

  21. Lara El-Yafi · November 22, 2016

    Happyyy Independence Day❤️🇱🇧

  22. Michel Jreissati · November 22, 2016

    Impressive

  23. Joumana El-Yafi · November 23, 2016

    AMAZING!
    Sara El Yafi, your grand father,God rest his soul, is watching you full of pride 🙏
    Happy indépendance day and every single day to your beautiful heart soul and pen !👍🇱🇧🌺😘💖

  24. Ali H. Halawi · November 23, 2016

    Sara, words are words until you put them together, they become gems filled with meanings and depth. Your ideas flow in a magical narrative manner, well done…as usual. I wish i can give more than one like for such testimonial. I sure do hope women like yourself find the path back home to help initiate the change process.

  25. Soraya La Pread · November 23, 2016

    Sara El-Yafi is as epic as her Grandfather. 🙌🏿

  26. Kailash Agnihotri · November 23, 2016

    Bless you Sarah for recollecting and representing your grand father on the occasion of independence Day of Lebanon.

  27. Riad Talje · November 24, 2016

    Sara: You surely take after your grand father and this keeps the torch marching from one generation to another. I encourage you to play an active role in the local politics in Lebanon. You possess all the qualities of force important blreakthroughs in our decadent political process.

  28. Paulette Maalouf · November 24, 2016

    Paix à son ame ! Tu es la fille de Ghada ou de Nahida? Je jouais avec tes tantes quand j’habitais près de l’hippo!

    Translation: Peace to his soul! Are you the daughter of Ghada or Nahila? I used to play with your aunts when I lived next to the hippodrome!

  29. Regina Kantara · November 24, 2016

    Thanks Sara for ur activism ….hope will live a social human and political progress and success
    Thanks to share the TV link

  30. Raghda Mugharbil Al Zein · November 24, 2016

    There is a street named after him. Now I’m proud to know more of what a great PM he was.

  31. Abdullatif Fakhoury · November 24, 2016

    رحمخ الله الرئيس اليافي النزيه اللبق المعتدل وقد عرفته صغيراً برفقة والدي سواء في بيتع في شارع فؤاد الاول ام في مزرعته في بتعلين وم يكن يتأخر عن تقديم الخدمات لمن يقصده بقدر ما كان باستطاعته وكان يشكو احياناً من قلة وفاء البعض ويقولف نخدم الواحد 99 خدمة والخدمة الاخيرة لم نتمكن لأسباب خارجة عن ارادتنا ومع ذلك نلام ولم يكن يتأخر عن القيام باي مجهود لتقديم اية خدمة ضمن القانون ولطالما تعرض للإساءة ممن احسن اليهم ولاسيما عندما كان يروج انه في رسالته للدكتوراه انتقد بعض التصرفات الاسلامية في وقت لم يكن احد من الطتعنين قد قرأ الرسلة او اطلع عليها انما هو قلة الوفاء وقد ثبت صحة رأيه عندما ترجمت رسالته مؤخراً الى العربية ويكفيه8 فخراً ما قدمه من اجل المرأة التي كرمها كما كرمها الاسلام وقد عرفته عن قرب لبعض الامور واعجبت بصراحته ووفائه واحترامه للقانون رحمه الله واسكنه فسيح جناته . ويقع على عاتق اولاده واحفاده جمع تراثه ونشره قدوة واسوة حسنة لمن يعمل في السياسة .

    Translation: God bless President El-Yafi’s soul, what an honest, courteous, moderate person he was. I knew him when I was a child in the company of my father, whether at his house on Fuad I street, or at his farm in Btaaline. He would never hesitate, or even be late, in the provision of services to those who had requests, he would offer his public service as best as he could. Sometimes, he used to complain of the lack of loyalty of some people, and he would say, “We could help someone 99 times, and if the 100th request cannot be fulfilled for a reason outside of our will, he would blame us.” Your grandfather would not spare any effort to help anyone within the law, and he would often get attacked by the people that he helped, especially when he was rumored, in his PhD thesis, to have criticized some of the Islamic practices at the time, when, in reality, none of the people who criticized him had even read his thesis! It was mostly a lack of loyalty. The validity of his views was confirmed when his thesis was recently translated into Arabic [his original thesis was written in French]. Your grandfather should find enough pride in what he did for women whom he honored in the way Islam has honored them. I am quite familiar with the views he held on certain matters, and I admired his honesty and loyalty and respect for the rule of law. God bless his soul, and may he rest in peace. The onus is on his children and grandchildren to collect his legacy and to publish it as an example and a model for people who want to do politics.

  32. Ali Khalife · November 24, 2016

    Le. Defunt. Mr. Le. Premier. Ministre. Abdallah al yafi. Etait. Une. Personne. Tres. Chere et. Tres. Rare. Par. Ses qualites

    Translation: The late Prime Minister, Mr. Abdallah Al Yafi, was a very dear person, and very rare in his qualities.

  33. Gisele Sawaya · November 24, 2016

    صارا اليافي . الله يبارك فيكي . انا اتذكر جدك العظيم . كنت صغيرة انما والدي كان يحبه كثيرا .
    يا ريت تطبق اقتراحته .

    Translation: Sara El-Yafi, God bless you. I remember your magnificent grandfather. I was a child, but my father was very fond of him. I wish his propositions would be applied!

  34. Youmna N. Mahmassani · November 24, 2016

    Superb!

  35. Ali Khalife · November 24, 2016

    رحم. الله. عبد الله. اليافي. بطل. من. بلادي

    Translation: God bless Abdallah El-Yafi. A hero from my country.

  36. Rami Abadi · November 24, 2016

    🇱🇧👍🏼✌🏻

  37. Jinane Chalabi Mahmassani · November 24, 2016

    God bless you Sara El Yafi & may he rest in peace.

  38. Tisir Sasso · November 24, 2016

    هالفيديو ذكرنا بشفيقه و نجيبه و الله كنا نسيناهم

    Translation: This video reminded us of Shafiq [Wazzan] and Najib [Mikati], by God we had forgotten them

  39. Choghig Der-ghougassian · November 24, 2016

    la digne heritiere de son grand-pere!! bravo sara!!

    Translation: The worthy heiress of her grandfather!! bravo sara!!

  40. Chirinne Zebib · November 24, 2016

    Is it possible to find his thesis ?

  41. Claude Tabbal · November 24, 2016

    Edifying post mrs Yafi. Very beautifully written.

  42. Basma Fakri · November 24, 2016

    Excellent article, thank you Sara.
    Happy Independence Day.

  43. Kamal Aboukhater · November 24, 2016

    Hello Sara!
    What an expletive & salutary narration of the prominence & avant-garde of your late grandfather, Abdallah El-Yafi, of which I admit, I was totally ignorant of his progressive intellectual thinking & ensuing achievement in this field, the emancipation of Lebanese women.
    May God Bless his soul.

  44. Raymond Samaha · November 24, 2016

    Sara i am sure yr a wonderful and real lebanese lady whom i wish and dream to see leading this country with others like you for our coming generations …pls work on it seriously and ty ty …

  45. Ibrahim AlHusseini · November 26, 2016

    “we always choose to win on behalf of everyone, almost never just on behalf of ourselves.” #true

Leave a Reply

Translate »
%d bloggers like this: