On October 16, 2016, Khawla Matar (born in Bahrain) was awarded the United Nations Secretary-General’s Courage Award.
The award was not a symbolic act of honoring, nor a mere recognition of efforts, this award is rather granted – according to the United Nations – to those who had “presented tremendous efforts that go above and beyond the call of duty, and who had presented innovative pioneering projects”. Matar had worked in a “dangerous environment”, and today is the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria. She was well-versed in flourishing peace in Syria, despite the mines of war and politics, and the vicious form of human suffering that inflicted the country.
Knowledge of war offers a rare ability of creating peace and hope in life. Khawla approached the battlefields of war and crises for decades, and wrote her news coverage across the flaming map of the Gulf, the Middle East, and some of Europe. From this flaming map, Khawla absorbed human textures, and created her benign qualities while moving across countries’ borders – qualities that are as a rainfall showering a green terrain that surrounds a crowd of does;
But what grants Khawla this courage?
It is her ability to understand ‘the other’, and to create means, with him, to devoid him of stress. This is an ability which eventually creates the talent of being able to storm in without disturbing, approach what is prohibited without causing chaos, and to contain without the urge to control or cancel.
In short, it is the ability of producing negotiation and peaceful neighboring, which seems – in terms of humanity – a form of coexistence, or one unique color among the colors of a rainbow (everyone sits in the same coffee shop, but it is their coffee choices that vary).
This is one among many things that blossom in Khawla’s features, “the daughter of Al-Muharraq” who excels, in the most difficult times, at triggering rainfalls, even during dim weathers, and over deserted islands.
What grants this Bahraini woman this distinction?
Her elegance. Elegance in speech, in writing, and in dealing with crises and perforating them. Elegance is one of the secrets of fruitful dialogue, of making negotiations successful, and of enchanting ‘different others’ with charm.
Khawla’s elegance is not a digression to beauty, or a departure from the common good. She is in control of her stride, she owns herself, and she knows how to rest securely in her chair, while placing her elegant scarf aside – the scarf which informs the other that this is a brave, decisive person, even if it means challenging a stereotype, or breaking a glass barrier of austerity and stagnancy. It is an elegance of the spirit which rejoices the different other, and delights the choice of taking adventures.
The Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, since 2019, has had more than one burden and scarf on her shoulders, however, she is surrounded by hope, silent until the moment, in assuming the burdens of her proud country. Many believe her to be a possible opportunity of reviving Bahrain after long years of bitter crises. No one is expected to provide ready-made solutions, nevertheless, Khawla is a character that provides “successful recipes” for solutions. Perhaps, what is currently expected is a meeting between the parties in the crisis on the borders closest to some of them, in the near future, after which “Kahwla’s recipe” would have the opportunity of leaning roughness and stubbornness, and comforting fears and rebuffs, and then reducing the distance to the dialogue table.