Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Jordan

Jordan’s 2020 Election Shifts from Landmark Poll to Business as Usual

E.J. Karmel 11.5.2020

November 2020 is election season not only in the United States, but also in Jordan where the prospects for a shakeup in parliament are quickly receding. Based on interviews with Jordanian political leaders, E.J. Karmel explains the shifting dynamics among candidates, lists, parties and currents that are undermining the potential for a changed parliament and seem to be leading to another business-as-usual election next Tuesday.

Bird Markets, Artisanal Pigeons and Class Relations in the Middle East

On a dark, empty lot along Garden Street in Amman, Jordan stands an illuminated sign for Victors Café, a subterranean game space advertising pinball, pool and snooker, where pigeon breeders in the know secretly gather every Friday at 9pm for one of the best bird auctions in the capital.

Voices from the Middle East: Providing Urgent Aid to Refugees in Amman, Jordan

Amanda Lane 04.8.2020

Jordan’s strict nationwide curfew and ban on car traffic in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is complicating crucial aid delivery to refugees. Amanda Lane, executive director of the Collateral Repair Project, explains how they are coping with the new restrictions and why the situation was already so precarious for refugees.

Refugees at Risk in Jordan’s Response to COVID-19

Reva Dhingra 04.8.2020

The Jordanian government’s severe restrictions on movement to contain the spread of COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting refugees and low-income Jordanians. While the government has established a national fund for needy Jordanian families, resources for the large population of already insecure refugees are drying up as international agencies scramble to shift gears.

Resurgent Protests Confront New and Old Red Lines in Jordan

In response to multiple waves of protests, including a surge of protests in 2019, the Jordanian state has worked hard to establish and enforce five red lines for the protests not to cross in order to rein in the potential impact of unified protests across the kingdom.

Dhiban as Barometer of Jordan’s Rural Discontent

Dhiban shares with much of rural Jordan a long history of seismic societal shifts and gradual economic marginalization. This history forebodes continued unrest in underdeveloped areas as long as economic problems remain unaddressed.

Exposing Jordan’s Gas Deal with Israel

The Jordanian government has gone to great lengths to hide information about its 2014 multi-billion dollar gas deal with Israel from the public. But the government’s attempt to keep the public in the dark has only energized a popular campaign demanding full disclosure of its terms.

Making the Economy Political in Jordan’s Tax Revolts

The Jordanian citizenry remain unwilling to pay more taxes. The old system no longer works, but the way forward demands that Jordan’s leaders address the need for substantive reforms in both the economic and political systems that currently govern Jordanian lives. Any new social contract between the ruler and ruled cannot function by raising taxes while withdrawing services to struggling lower and middle classes.

Amman

Amman has absorbed influxes of refugees for decades, each perpetuating political and cultural tensions in a country already fragmented by tribal allegiances. While these divisions provide an easy scapegoat as to why the country continues to struggle financially, politically and developmentally, state policies and practices are at least as responsible as external pressures for exacerbating Jordan’s domestic troubles. Most significantly, the state’s deregulated planning practices and its haste in undertaking neoliberal policies to attract transnational capital investment have resulted in numerous failed development projects. Instead of fast-tracking projects that might bring economic growth, deregulated planning practices have produced a series of incomplete and poorly planned projects, among them the Jordan Gate Towers and the Limitless Towers.

Refugee Rights Hit the Wall

The expansion of humanitarian aid in Syria and its neighboring states has gone hand-in-hand with a growing restriction on refugees’ right of movement and ever-stricter control over refugees’ personal information and biometric data. UNHCR and the Syrian and Jordanian governments share two interests in particular: to raise humanitarian funds and to centralize information and control over refugee populations.

“Do You Know Who Governs Us? The Damned Monetary Fund”

Sara Ababneh 06.30.2018

What had started as protests over a taxation draft law and an increase in gas prices quickly led to a popular uprising against the neoliberal path on which the state has embarked.

The Fiscal Politics of Rebellious Jordan

Pete Moore 06.21.2018

Activism in the modern Arab world saw its peak in the Spring of 2011, but Jordanians have returned to the streets in a new round of protests triggered by recent economic policies and long standing grievances. How should we understand these protests?

Reviving Activism in Jordan

In January 2011, hundreds and sometimes thousands of Jordanians began protesting like clockwork on Friday afternoons; they continued to do so for nearly two years. The crowds were small compared to those in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain, but the turnout was sustained and marked a significant uptick for Jordan, where peaceful protest had not been uncommon. But by 2013 the demonstrations declined in both size and frequency. The regime weathered the main storm of the Arab uprisings, and without having resorted to violent repression. Many in the regime credited top-down reforms, including a revised constitution and amended laws on parties, public gatherings and elections. The political elite, including King ‘Abdallah II, spoke in terms of a reformist democratic march, through which Jordan would show the region a third way between the stark alternatives of revanchist authoritarianism, on the one hand, and upheaval and civil war, on the other. Jordan’s “Arab spring” would be about evolution, not revolution.

Sudanese and Somali Refugees in Jordan

In late 2015, hundreds of Sudanese staged a sit-in outside the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Amman, Jordan. Their hope was to obtain recognition of their rights as refugees and asylum seekers, and to receive better treatment from the agency. A previous protest in 2014 had ended when Jordanian police persuaded (or compelled) the Sudanese to leave the site. This time, however, after the Sudanese had camped out for a month in the posh neighborhood of Khalda, the police arrived in force in the early hours of a mid-December morning. They dismantled the camp and transported some 800 protesters and others—men, women and children—to a holding facility close to Queen Alia International Airport.

Jordan Drops the Pretense of Democratic Reform

Despite promises otherwise, in the past four years, King ‘Abdallah has peeled the veneer of parliamentary governance off an increasingly autocratic system.

Putting Refugee Work Permits to Work

For decades, humanitarian experts and international organizations have called upon host countries to give more work permits to refugees. Permits are posed as a way to alleviate the poverty of refugees and lessen their dependency on aid. Host countries have...

Oasis in the Desert?

From the summer of 2012 through 2014, there were rapid influxes of refugees from Syria into the Zaatari camp in Jordan. The camp’s population spiked in early 2013—from 56,000 in January to a peak of 202,000 just four months later—overwhelming the UN High Commissioner...

NGO Governance and Syrian Refugee “Subjects” in Jordan

The typical image of the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan is one of suffering. Journalistic account after account introduces spectacular stories of devastation and loss. While perhaps dramatized, these tales are not false. Syrian refugee camps have forced hundreds of thousands of strangers to live together in austere, unequal and artificially constructed communities, which are subject to new national laws. To live in the camps is indeed to endure or have endured some form of suffering—but also to be part of a collective of survivors.

Losing Syria’s Youngest Generation

Reva Dhingra 03.2.2016

Hasan bounces in his chair, pencil tapping against the table as he bends over the first page of a math exam. He hesitates, before stretching his hand frantically into the air as he waits for help from the program facilitator busy with one of the handful of other boys scattered across the classroom. Hasan is a student at one of over 90 Non-Formal Education Centers opened in Jordan by the education NGO Questscope in partnership with the Jordanian Ministry of Education, funded by a grant from UNICEF. The program, aimed at providing tenth-grade equivalency certificates for refugee and Jordanian children who have spent years without formal schooling, has witnessed a dramatic expansion since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

Water Blues

Two quiet but revealing developments related to Middle East water were announced in the spring and summer of 2015. On February 26, Israeli and Jordanian officials signed an agreement to begin implementation of the long-awaited and controversial Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project. And, on June 9, a civil society-based coalition led by EcoPeace, a regional environmental NGO, released the first ever Regional Master Plan for Sustainable Development in the Jordan Valley. The two schemes represent very different approaches to solving water problems in the region—the first is an old-school engineering fix requiring massive new infrastructure, while the second is a river restoration project rooted in sustainable development principles.

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