28 Sep, '06

Layla Fakhro, the Bahraini unappreciated legendWhy is there a lump in my throat?

Why do I feel as if I have lost my mother, or my father again, a sibling or a dear friend? The feeling overcoming me since I heard of her death and started reading about her are very similar to those when my own father passed away.

But why?

I didn’t even know Layla!

Yet I find myself sad and despondent.

I find that at a time when my country has been thrown to the wolves, God decides to take the very people who have fought tooth and nail to save it.

At a time when so called “representatives of the people” have sold their conscience, honour and dignity for a handful of dinars, I read that Layla eschewed the surrounds of available wealth to raise the cloak of illiteracy from desperate people.

At a time when the country throws open its door to foreign mercenaries, I learnt that Layla picked up a weapon and went to fight in another Arab land against a foreign oppressor.

At a time when an important arm of our government diligently works to expel the majority of its own people from its institutions and side-lining them based on their religious affiliation, I heard that Layla has never allowed others’ personal beliefs or race to stand in the way of her extended hands of help and friendship.

At a time when the bastardisation of our democracy continues apace and the elected representatives applaud the further restrictions to our freedoms, I read that Layla has opened doors to thousands of our own citizens as well as our Omani brothers and sisters to reach for the sky.

At a time when we trade our ideals for our own selfish comforts, I learnt that Layla has lived the majority of her life in exile fighting for and defending hers.

At a time when our national university is more concerned with its students’ dress code and mannerisms rather than their educational development and giving them the necessary tools to think critically, I read that Layla virtually established the modern educational system in Oman in the 60s.

At a time when our society were more concerned with limiting the role of women, I learnt that Layla established the first women’s society in 1968 and led them to demand and get their rights.

At a time when the ranks of our unemployed and poor are increasing in the midst of untold oil wealth, I read that while Layla was an exile she donated whatever she got from her family in funds and clothes to help those less fortunate.

At a time when illness was slowly eating her away, Layla re-established Bahraini women’s institutions and led them to excel.

And then it came to me:

We were living in the shadow of a giant; and that comforting shade is no longer there.

We were living in the aura of a legend; but we have not yet satiated our thirst from her spirit.

We were living in the surrounds of a hero; yet only her comrades knew her true value.

How can we repay an eternal debt of gratitudes to these legends?

Would naming streets after them suffice? Erect statues in squares? Write books? A series of articles? Build libraries and halls in their honour?

All of these are good, but are never enough.

What Layla Fakhro and her likes struggled to give us is much more than we can ever repay them for; they gave us our dignity back, and recognised each and every one of us as worthy human beings, equal in rights and duties.

How can we ever repay that?

Layla Fakhro, Huda Salem, mama Huda, rest in peace now.

Your lungs have not given up on you as much as your own country has.

I love you Layla. And I’m sorry for not having the pleasure of ever meeting you and kissing your hand.

Goodbye Layla.

You will not be forgotten.

You are the doyen of the pantheon of legends.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Anon Counsel says:

    Its amazing what people can do when they are deeply touched by something.

    Congratulations Mahmood, I think that was the finest piece you have ever written. I never knew or had heard of Layla Fakhro, but after reading your piece, I also feel touched by her loss.

  2. Ash says:

    I’d like to know more about this amazing woman but unfortunately Google isn’t being very helpful. Anyway, yours was a deeply moving tribute to her, Mahmood.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What kind & beautiful words Mahmood. Very touching.

  4. Anonymous says:

    There are people who serve for the sake of helping others, like our deceased, and there are those who serve for the sake of propagating their own agenda, and they are so many! Ready to sell themselves and others for their own sake!

    God Bless her soul and the souls of all our deceased.

  5. Abdulla Fakhro says:

    Mahmood, thank you for your kind words.

    Although it’s been a week since she passed away, your post brought tears to my eyes once again.

    She will be sorely missed.

    Inna lillah, wa inna ilayhi raji3oon.

  6. mahmood says:

    Abdulla no thanks sought or needed, this is absolutely nothing compared to what your blessed aunt has done for this country and its people, let alone the rest of the Gulf.

  7. esam fakhro says:

    Mahmood – i am joining hands , regardless of what you say ,with my son abdulla in being ever so touched by your ever so humane tribute of layla .
    may God bless you always and may God rest layla’s soul in ever lasting peace .

  8. Malcolm Coghill says:

    Just googled Layla Fakhro, She was a true giant. Sorry that she is gone from this World. May Her Soul rest in peace.

  9. Mahmood,
    Over the last week I have read almost all the tributes written for Layla Fakhroo, may her soul rest in peace. I was deeply moved by yours. She is a true legend and a great person to say the least.

  10. Adel Fakhro says:

    I am Layla’s brother, so I’m hardly in a position to render an objective opinion of your article. However, suffice it to say that I find your words not only deeply moving but also very perceptive in your description of this extraordinary woman.

    Layla’s monumental achievements were at least partly recognised by those who knew her. About 2 years ago, I suggested to her and her husband, Ubaydli, that we publish a book to describe their experiences in exile and, through those, to document the political history of that era. Layla just smiled and shook her head in that gentle way she had. “Others have done more than I ever did,” she said.

    Then, four months ago, in partnership with Ubaydli, I started work on a book to document the history of the Fakhro family in Bahrain, and through that to tell the story of how Bahrain has developed economically, socially and poltically in the 20th Century. We decided to dedicate a whole chapter to Layla’s story and, through that, the story of the hundreds of other young Bahrainis who endured imprisonment and exile for their beilefs during that period. With the book’s editor, we started videotaping a series of interviews with family members to record their recollections of various events and personalities, the milestones of the 20th Century. In July, we wanted to start interviewing Layla, but we all felt that she was not really well enough to be bothered with that, so we decided to leave it until the end of the summer. She passed away before we could do the interview, and before we could accurately document her experiences and her achievements.

    So, aside from the grief over losing a sister, I find myself struggling with the sense of the wasted opportunity to tell her story first hand.

    You spoke of Layla’s courage, her heroism, her love for freedom and her belief in the equality of all people. Add to that her humility, and her ready willingness to praise others but never herself.


  11. bahraini4eva says:

    Layla Fakhro was a woman who fought for justice, equality, and freedom for all in Bahrain, Oman, Cyprus, and all countries she ever set her foot on. She looked at everyone with an equal eye and welcomed all with an open heart. She fought for the poor and strove to provide them with a better education as she worked day and night teaching and supporting them until they have grown up to become some of the most successful individuals today. Layla Fakhro was brought up in a very respecful and well-off family but chose a path filled with tremendously difficult challenges in which she lived among the poor after having been forced out of her home country because she refused to live in an occupied land of ignorance and oppression. She was a woman of unbelievable inner-strength and remarkable courage who stood firm on her beliefs and ideals, and opened the gates for women in Bahrain, Oman, and the rest of the Gulf to believe in themselves and fight for their well-deserved rights. She was a true legend, one which we will never forget and shall always speak about for one generation after another.

    Layla Fakhro’s final words before leaving this world forever,
    رددوا معي في صمت أسمعه.. الوطن حب متناه.. وحب الوطن دين فرض لا يقبل المساومة أو التأجيل.. وهذا الدين طريقه طويلة ومتواصلة تتوارثها الأجيال.. وتلك الأجيال القادمة لا محال لا تقبل اليأس.. واليأس فيروس قاتل لا ينبغي أن يتسلل إلى قلوبنا.. وقلوبنا واسعة مفتوحة لحب متدفق للوطن.. وأعطوا حق الاعتذار لكل من أخطأ بحقكم واقبلوا اعتذاره.. لا تغفروا لمن أخطأ في حق الوطن.. فليس من حقكم أن تغفروا له.. أشكركم وكم كنت أتوق إلى إنشاد هذه الورقة الأخيرة معكم لكن.. ليس باليد حيلة.. فقد خذلتني رئتاي.. لكن حب الوطن أقوى


    Layla Fakhro, our mother, our sister, our mentor, our idol, May your Soul Rest In Peace Forever.

    Inna lillah, wa inna ilayhi raji3oon.

  12. Andrea says:

    When I asked Abdulla, “What is she like?,” he responded, “…she’s an amazing woman….always positive, independent, smart and loving.”

    I realize now that these fond words were also the humblest he could have chosen to describe such an amazing, selfless and rare gem of a human being. This touching homage to such an inspirational woman, who lamentably I will never have the chance to know, also brought tears to my eyes.

    She has breathed hope into humanity and one can hope that her legacy will insprie a new generation to follow in her footsteps, even if only in the smallest of ways.

    My heart goes out to all of her family and friends. I am truly inspired.

  13. mahmood says:

    Thank you Dr. Esam, Adel and Abdulla, please accept my and my family’s condolences again for the passing of our great lady. With siblings and a family like yours and her beloved husband and daughters, I am sure she is resting in peace now.

    Adel, I realised that with my father as well, and my inability to record a direct interview with him still saddens and frustrates me. But hope, in both of our cases I think, was the culprit and our love for them too. I keep deferring that recording “till the time he’s a bit better” but unfortunately God had other plans.

    Still, we are thankful for the time they spent with us, people like them make life worth living, because they suffer on our behalf, selflessly and without requirements of any acknowledgment. With these great people it is also never them, the “I” just doesn’t exist as they defer or remove that from their vocabulary and just charge ahead making this a better and more worthwhile world.

    May they all rest in peace. We are for ever indebted to them.

  14. Anonymous says:

    May they all rest in peace. We are, indeed, indebted to them.

    This was a beautiful post, Mahmood.

  15. alfanan says:


    Layla Fakhro was my previous boss when I worked at Al Nadeem. I remember her being tough with some of the staff members at times, but she was always very nice to me.

    She was such a kind, loving, and caring spirit. May her soul rest in peace, forever.

  16. Hala Yateem says:

    Mahmood, I am another person that was very touched by your eulogy of Layla Fakhro. I knew Layla through the Bahrain Businesswomen’s Society, where she was a great mentor for the younger members of the Society. I knew her as a strong, kind, straightforward woman who always spoke her mind. I regret that I never knew much about her life before she returned to Bahrain in 2001. She was such a modest lady that although she sometimes spoke of her life abroad, she never spoke about the amazing things she did to improve the lives of so many underpriviledged children. Bahrain has lost an amazing woman. May her soul rest in peace.

  17. can we talk now says:

    you know what is sad..
    it seems that our country only truly appreciates the contributions of great people after they are gone..
    wouldn’t it be wonderful if we honoured our giants while they are still alive?
    even if maybe to some of them it doesn’t matter, when someone does a good thing, we should say thank you..
    when the younger generations learn of the courage of their elders, they will probably be more inclined to consider that they themselves can do wonderful things for their country too..

    god rest her soul and watch over it..

  18. can we talk now says:

    I correct myself,
    I should say “sort of appreciates”, not “truly appreciates”, I don’t think that our legends are ever truly appreciated

  19. mahmood says:

    very true… I was living with the legend myself and saw at first hand how people just take him for granted. The very same thing happened to Layla as it happened and will continue to happen to others.

    That’s not correct, though but I have no idea how to solve it.

    Please like Layla and my father for instance would never dream of standing up and lauding themselves. They truly hated that shorted word in the English language: “I”, with a passion. They were too busy giving rather than taking.

    Rest their souls…

    Now that they are gone, and we do recognise their greatness, we should not sit around and let their memory die with them, it is our responsibility to do for them what they didn’t want to do themselves and get their story out, not for increasing their greatness, but to continue their work to inspire countless future generations.

  20. bahraini4eva says:

    “wouldn’t it be wonderful if we honoured our giants while they are still alive?”

    Indeed it would be wonderful for these giants to have been honoured during their lifetimes (even though it won’t be even partially compared to their tremendous givings), but legends such as Layla Fakhro would try to stay as far away as possible from the public eye which is why many haven’t heard of this wonderful being during her lifetime. In fact, if you ever spoke to Layla and asked her about her unbelievably difficult and courageous journeys in the Gulf and the Mediterranean to fight off occupation, poverty and ignorance with the weaponary of education, she would downplay her accomplishments and say that what she has done was just normal. She would not want to talk about her past remarkable experiences, but instead she would want to focus on what could be done for a better and brighter future especially for the poor. Legends are very very rare in this day and age and, like Mahmood said, we MUST tell their stories for our future generations to understand that those are the very giants who fought for the freedom and justice they have today! They are the only reason one could wake up with a smile every day knowing that SuperHeros do exist!
    May God Rest All Their Souls in Peace. We will miss them all dearly! Inna lillah, wa inna ilayhi raji3oon.

  21. I just found out that Layla Fakhro passed away. Where was I? Sleeping I guess so far away. I met her once, what an honor that way, how small I felt being in the company of giants. If only we could each contribute a tenth of what she did, Bahrain and this world would be a better place. It is amazing how so many giants go unnoticed and underappreciated on an island so small. Incidently, I met Ms. Fakhro through another giant. One I knew all my life, but did not know the extent of his greatness and sacrifices until she hinted at them. These unsung heroes of ours make me proud to be Bahraini. Allah bless them all…..

    Allah yer7amha.

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