Category: Land of the Arab Revival


October 6, 2017

50 Jordanian companies and factories took part in a recruitment fair in the Zaatari refugee camp yesterday in an effort to help Syrian refugees find work.

The exhibition, organized by the Zaatari Employment Office in cooperation with UNHCR and the International Labor Organisation (ILO), is the first of its kind in the camp located in Mafraq, 85 kilometers northeast of Amman. It is being held nearly two months after the Jordanian Ministry of Labor began issuing work permits to refugees residing in refugee camps allowing them to work outside of the camps.

Statistics from the Ministry of Labor indicate that more than 7,000 Syrian refugees residing in the Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps were issued work permits.

Ahmed Orabi, owner of a Jordanian clothing factory, participated in the exhibition hoping to get skilled Syrian tailors and seamstresses. “The Syrians are skilled textile workers who have a good reputation in the field,” he explained, adding that there are about 35 refugees currently working at his factory.

Orabi received dozens of requests for employment from the refugees which he will review. He told Alaraby Al-Jadeed:  ‘I am looking for workers with experience. It is not a problem if they have minimal experience, as they can be trained quickly.”

The Jordanian Labor Law applies to Syrian refugees in terms of working hours and minimum wages, while the factory, located in a city about 30 kilometers from the camp, provides transport.

Refugees also benefit from financial exemptions provided by the Jordanian Labor Ministry in order to encourage them to apply for work permits. The fee for a working permit is $14.

Jordan began granting work permits to Syrian refugees living outside the camps following the Supporting Syria and the Region conference held in London in February last year. This came after European countries promises to facilitate the entry of Jordanian exports into their countries, in exchange for granting 200,000 work permits to refugees.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171006-jordan-syrian-refugee-camp-holds-recruitment-fair/.

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By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto

Sep 09,2017

AMMAN — A study conducted by the Chinese Railway Engineering Corporation (CREM) for the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) has confirmed that the topography of the city allows the implementation of the Amman Metro, a GAM official told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

Following a memorandum of understanding signed in December 2016 between the two parties, CREM started a field study in the capital with the aim of analyzing the potential path the metro would take if established in Amman.

The study concluded that the launch of such a project would be possible on the ground.

The GAM official called these results “very positive” and “encouraging”, noting that CREM is currently preparing a more detailed study on the implementation of the metro in the city — which is expected to connect the north and south of the city through a single line.

Furthermore, the official said that, if the project was found feasible, it would be implemented in parallel with the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), with a common station connecting both systems.

“Amman needs the metro as part of the integrated transportation system, which aims to build a comprehensive transportation network where the two systems would work together,” the official stated.

Once completed, the detailed study will be submitted to the GAM later this year, along with the estimated cost and the detailed plans for the project.

If feasible, the construction and the operation of the Amman Metro will “probably” be conducted under a DBOT (design, construction, operation, transfer) model, the official said, adding that other options are yet to be considered.

The establishment of the Amman metro would reduce the “frustration” of commuters facing daily transportation hustle, the official added, stressing that many complaints were expressed over the lack of regulations in the bus service earlier this year.

However, the project still raises discrepancies among the population.

“We definitely need a new transportation infrastructure”, said student Ghazal Aburaad. “However, finding the necessary funds and organisations will present great challenges,” she continued, noting that “the government will not be able to do this without partnerships”.

This view was shared by Hazem Zureiqat, founder of the public transportation advocacy campaign Maan Nasel, who stated that “the main challenge is going to be with institutions and management”.

“If the government wants to implement this plan, it will probably have to subsidize it,” said Zureiqat, adding that the metro is a very costly system.

Furthermore, Zureiqat pointed out that this is not the first study on the implementation of a metro line in Amman, referring to the feasibility study conducted in 2010 by a French company.

“When the results of that study came out, the cost of line per kilometer was up to JD140 million, and that is why the priority was given to the BRT,” he said.

“However, the BRT is not enough and Amman needs a rail-based transportation system”, he concluded.

Source: The Jordan Times.

Link: http://jordantimes.com/news/local/amman-suitable-metro-project-%E2%80%94-field-study.

August 3, 2017

Some 78 Jordanian members of parliament have signed a motion demanding the closure of the Israeli embassy in Amman following an Israeli shooting that left two Jordanians dead last month.

The motion, submitted on Tuesday, also demanded that the Jordanian ambassador leave Israel immediately in order “to express rejection of the Jordanian government’s handling of the issue and returning the killer to Israel”, according to Ma’an news agency.

“Jordanian blood and Jordanians’ dignity are not cheap and the government was supposed to stand for the right of the blood that was shed and maintain their dignity strongly and firmly,” the motion read.

Read: Jordan should stop bowing to Israel

Deputy Khalid Ramadan Awada added that further action would be taken if the government did not respond to their demands.

The petition comes a week after hundreds of people protested outside the Israeli embassy in Amman calling for the cancellation of Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel known as “Wadi Araba”.

Tensions have been high since the Jordanian government returned the shooter to Tel Aviv, followed by the release of images of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcoming the soldier. Jordan’s King Abdullah has since demanded that the guard be tried for murder.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170803-jordan-mps-demand-closure-of-israeli-embassy/.

August 01, 2017

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The lower house of Jordan’s parliament on Tuesday scrapped a provision in the kingdom’s penal code that allowed a rapist to escape punishment if he married his victim. Cheers erupted from the spectators’ gallery as legislators narrowly voted for repeal, following an emotional debate.

The vote was hailed as a major step forward for women in the conservative kingdom. “This is a victory for the women’s movement and human rights movement in Jordan,” said Salma Nims, the secretary general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women.

Despite the country’s pro-Western political orientation and cosmopolitan urban elites, many areas of Jordan remain socially conservative, with entrenched notions of “family honor.” This includes the belief that having a rape victim in the family is shameful, and that such “shame” can be expunged through marriage.

In Tuesday’s debate, some lawmakers had argued that an amended version of Article 308 was needed to protect rape victims against social stigma by giving them the marriage option. In the end, lawmakers voted in line with the recommendations of the government and a royal committee on legal reforms.

Moussa Maaytah, the Cabinet minister for parliamentary affairs, said that Tuesday’s “progressive decision” capped years of debate in the Jordanian society. The decision must still be approved by parliament’s appointed upper house, or Senate, and by King Abdullah II. After the expected final approval, Jordan would join Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt which have canceled their “marry the rapist” clauses over the years.

The international rights group Human Rights Watch said Lebanon’s parliament is also considering repealing such a provision. The clause remains on the books in several other countries in the Middle East and Latin America, as well as in the Philippines and Tajikistan, HRW said.

In a statement issued before Tuesday’s vote, the New York-based watchdog said that scrapping Article 308 “would be a positive step to strengthen the rule of law and end impunity for violence against women.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, several dozen activists rallied outside the parliament in Amman, the Jordanian capital, calling for repeal. They held up banners reading “Article 308 is a disgrace to the Jordanian justice system” and “Article 308 does not protect honor, it protects the culprit.”

Nims said before the vote that many of the lawmakers had been undecided. She said some saw the provision as a form of “protection” for women who can demand marriage rather than suffer further social stigma for having been raped.

The need for such “protection” indicates a fundamental problem in how Jordanian law and society perceive women, said Eva Abu Halaweh, executive manager of Mizan for Law, a human rights group. “The law still looks at women as bodies, linked with ‘honor,'” Abu Halaweh said.

Earlier this week, parliament took another step toward legal reform, closing a legal loophole that had given courts the discretion to impose sentences of as little as six months on those who killed female relatives in the name of “family honor.”

Under the new amendment, killing “in a fit of rage” can no longer be considered a mitigating circumstance in such cases.

Associated Press writer Reem Saad in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

June 14, 2017

Jordan’s economy has incurred losses worth $2 million since a closure of the Saudi land borders last week against the Jordanian exports heading to Qatar as a result of the Gulf diplomatic rift.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and began an economic blockade against the Gulf state. Jordan later joined the move by announcing a reduction in diplomatic representation with Qatar.

According to sources at Jordan’s Exporters and Producers Association for Fruits and Vegetables, Jordanian traders who have previously signed exporting contracts with Qatar, started exporting their products by air.

Jordanian shipments’ volume to the Gulf state has also dropped to 90 tons per day, down from 600 tons per day before the blockade.

According to Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia has prevented the entry of 85 Jordanian trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits, and over 10 trucks which were loaded with livestock heading to Qatar, following the rift.

Qatar has begun pursuing alternative routes and agreeing on new deals with other countries to counter the blockade imposed by most of its neighboring Arab states. Turkey was ready to help resolve the dispute, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, while Iranian officials have offered to send food to Qatar by sea.

Moreover the Danish company, A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, which owns the world’s biggest container line, has worked to bypass the transport ban imposed on Qatar by using alternative routes. Last Friday, it announced that it would begin container shipments to Qatar via Oman, avoiding trade restrictions imposed on the Gulf state by Arab countries.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170614-jordan-plunges-into-economic-crisis-following-qatar-blockade/.

April 03, 2017

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May has begun a visit to Jordan where she is to announce plans to send more British military trainers to help the kingdom’s air force in the fight against Islamic State group extremists.

Jordan’s royal court said Monday that May and Jordan’s King Abdullah II toured a military facility, inspecting a rapid response force and a joint training program. May is on a three-day visit to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In Jordan, she is to present a package of measures to boost cooperation between British forces and Jordan’s air force. Jordan has carried out air strikes against IS targets as part of a U.S.-led military coalition against IS. IS controls parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq.

The training is to take place in Jordan and Britain.

2017-02-27

Jordan’s position towards the Syrian civil war has often appeared unclear: It supports moderate rebel groups from the Syrian Free Army (FSA) yet there is no great display of animosity between Amman and Da­mascus.

The Syrian regime has refrained from painting Jordan with the same damning brush as it does Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In turn, the Jordanians have not been as vocal in the call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, as some of their allies have.

Some analysts said Jordan has been maintaining a balancing act: accommodating the position of its US and Gulf financiers without adopting an anti-Assad stance wholeheartedly.

There are many tribal relations between Jordanians and Syrians and King Abdullah II cannot afford to appear to be totally indifferent to the death and suffering of civilians at the hands of pro-Assad forces.

There are more than 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Observers, however, pointed to a recent change in Jordan’s policy towards the Syrian conflict that appears to focus on the increasing threat of terror from Islamic State (ISIS) militants and other groups.

“Analysts say that these developments pushed Jordan out of its so-called grey zone and disengage from the Gulf position towards the Syrian issue,” wrote Khalil Qandil in the Jordanian website Assabeel.net.

Jordanian political analyst Amer al-Sabaylah said Jordan was preparing to protect its borders from threats of terror and was looking at Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria as an example.

“Jordan’s priority in fighting terror requires finding a partner in the Syrian south to replicate the Turkish intervention in Syria but without a direct Jordanian involvement,” Sabaylah told Assabeel.net.

His views were shared by other Jordanian analysts.

“Unlike Turkey, Jordan cannot afford nor does it want to carry out a military incursion into southern Syria, a region that is vital to its national security,” wrote Amman-based commentator Osama al-Sha­rif in the Jordan Times.

“Instead, it is building a coalition of moderate rebel groups and local tribal fighters to fend off possible advance by Daesh,” he added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “It is also carrying out preemptive aerial strikes against Daesh positions in southern Syria.”

Jordanian political science Professor Hassan al-Khalidi told the website 24.ae that Amman was primarily concerned with its own security.

“The Jordanian maneuvers in the Syrian issue are primarily aimed at protecting (Jordan’s) northern borders in the event that they are flooded with the remnants of terrorist groups fleeing areas under pressure in Syria and Iraq.”

Brigadier-General Sami Kafawin, the commander of Jordan’s border guards, told the Associated Press that ISIS was expanding its influence in a makeshift border camp that hosts tens of thousands of displaced Syrians.

Jordan also appears to fear that the FSA faction it backs in Southern Syria would be weakened by the resumed Russian air strikes against moderate rebels in Deraa, which would allow ISIS and other radical groups to flourish on its borders.

As a result of new clashes between FSA rebels and the regime, two projectiles reportedly fell on the Jordan side of the border, slightly wounding one person.

Diplomatically, at the invitation of Russia, Jordan attended as a monitor the latest round of talks between the Syrian regime and rebels in Astana. It was also invited to be present during the Geneva talks on February 23rd.

King Abdullah II had also met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a staunch supporter of Assad, to discuss the Syrian crisis.

The pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper Addiyar reported that top intelligence official Ali Mam­louk recently met with the Jordanian king in Amman to “coordinate together against terror”.

Many Syrians have looked with suspicion towards what they say is a friendly relationship between As­sad and Amman, despite Jordan’s backing of the FSA.

They say that King Abdullah’s support of Syrian moderate rebels has always been in Jordan’s favour — to counter radical groups — and that Amman is now being more open about it, dismissing the suggestion that there is a shift in strategy.

The Syrians are not alone in thinking that. Jordanian analyst Fahad al-Khitan said that Jordan’s priority for a long time has been to secure its border areas from the threat of militant groups such as ISIS. “Noth­ing changed in that strategy,” he wrote in the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad.

Jordan will be hosting the next Arab League annual meeting on March 29th but, as was the case in previous summits, Assad will not be invited since the bloc suspended Syria’s membership in 2011.

“How the invitations are dealt with will be based on the decisions of the Arab League, and we will abide by what it has decided,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Sa­fadi said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called for the Syrian government to be permitted to re­join the bloc but Jordan is unable to fulfil Moscow’s request, even if it wanted to.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81722.

2017-02-13

Jordan appears to be tightening its grip on religious messages coming out of its mosques but it may be offering its preachers more sticks than carrots.

Jordanian chief justice Ahmad Hilayel resigned two days after delivering a Friday sermon during which he rebuked Gulf states for not stepping up their financial aid to Jordan.

“As an imam of this country and one of its scholars, I am addressing the Gulf’s leaders, kings, emirs, sheikhs and wise men,” he said in a sermon broadcast live on Jordanian state television January 20th from Amman’s King Hussein mosque.

“The (financial) situation has reached a tipping point (in Jor­dan)… so where is your help, where is your money and where are your riches?”

Hilayel said the Jordanian state could collapse if people were to take to the streets, warning that would lead to chaos and destruction as in Syria, Iraq and Libya. “Would you like to see such a scenario (happen in Jordan)?” he asked.

Many criticized Hilayel for embarrassing the government in front of its financial backers in the Gulf and some took issue with his use of the Friday sermon to deliver a political message. Musa al-Odwan, a retired army general and writer, told Al Jazeera that Hilayel had “no business talking politics” as he is a religious judge.

It is thought that Hilayel agreed to resign to save face rather than being fired.

Jordan’s Religious Affairs Ministry on January 10th said it had dismissed 15 mosque preachers and disciplined seven others for refusing to take part in nationwide memorial prayers for Jordanian troops killed in clashes with gunmen who had attacked a tourist site in Karak province.

The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed the December 18th attack in which 11 members of the security forces and three civilians, including a Canadian tourist, were killed. The kingdom has been hit by number of ISIS attacks in the past year.

Observers said Jordan may be changing course from its policy of trying to contain hard-line preachers towards a more confrontational approach.

“In the past, the authorities opted for negotiation. Two years ago they released two leading jihadists, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada al-Filastini, in an attempt to co-opt their followers into their own war on Islamic State,” the Economist wrote in September 2016.

“More recently, though, they have gone for round-ups. Hundreds of cells have been broken up. And so far this year 1,100 Jordanians have been hauled before military courts on terrorism charges,” it added.

However, the government would still have to rely on cooperative preachers to do its bidding in reli­gious circles.

One preacher, Ali al-Halabi, issued a religious edict saying that Jordanians must not pray for the souls or attend the funerals of the “terrorists” killed by the army in Karak. Halabi insisted they would still be regarded as Muslims but added that the militants cannot have ordinary burials and the public must always be reminded of their “deviant creeds”.

The government has installed closed-circuit cameras in a number of mosques, although the vast majority of them are not electronically monitored. Local informants attending prayers are reportedly the most common way for the government to keep an eye on places of worship.

Local media reported that the government promised to award bonuses to state-appointed mosque preachers who are “distinguished in their work”. The proposal includes studying the preachers’ sermons as part of the evaluation process.

The Prime Ministry’s coordinator for human rights, Basil al- Tarawneh, said the Religious Affairs Ministry was carrying out recommendations from the Na­tional Center for Human Rights. The recommendations include familiarizing mosque preachers with matters of human rights and “combating extremist thought”, the offi­cial Petra news agency said.

A similar initiative is reportedly being coordinated with the Ministry of Social Development to make mosque preachers more aware of women’s rights.

However, in improvised areas such as Zarqa governorate, where the spread of radicalization is more likely, officials are warning that the housing accommodations for mosque imams are “not suitable for habitation”.

Many of the accommodations are damp and have no access to sunlight as they are built under the mosques, Youssef al-Shalabi, the head of the religious endowment department in Zarqa, said in late January.

Some of the residents are exposed to flooding from nearby mosque toilets, creating a smell that was making some preachers ill.

A government report released last October stated that many of the imams’ children have asthma and other illnesses due to poor housing conditions.

One imam told the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad that he lives with his wife and five children in a 90-sq.-metre residence.

Accommodation is not provided to all imams. Most cannot afford to live elsewhere as they are required to be in the mosque from early hours of the day until late at night due to the timing of prayers.

Such living conditions may put additional strain on the relationship between the state and the imams it employs.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81413.

2017-02-13

In a span of six days in January, Jordan witnessed several gruesome crimes in which people were killed or injured by immediate family members, creating an unprecedented level of fear of what is known as familicide.

Jordanians followed closely the killings that struck families in various parts of the country. While some saw the attacks as signs of society’s decay, others were simply appalled by the nature of the crimes involving children.

A man in his 20s stabbed his wife and three daughters in Ram­tha, north of Jordan. The mother and two girls died; the third is in critical condition. Also in January, a man shot his brother in the head in Madaba, south-west of Amman and a father killed his 6-year-old daughter before committing suicide.

In other familicide incidents, a man in his 20s killed his sister, who was in her 40s, in front of a hospital in Amman. Police investigated the case of a 26-year-old woman found hanged in her house in Irbid, north of Amman, to establish whether it was a suicide or a death by a family member.

Depression is the main reason behind the incidents, human rights activist Rana Husseini said. “De­pression, in my opinion, is the leading cause in which a father in a moment of weakness goes on a killing spree ending the lives of his own family,” Husseini said.

“Of course, there are other reasons such as cases of schizophre­nia, which is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves and which might appear in a cer­tain age and a certain situation and sometimes it can go undetected,” she added.

Husseini, who has focused on social issues with a special emphasis on violence against women, recalled an incident in 1989 when a high school student killed his entire 11-member family and a friend due to the pressure his family placed on him.

“That crime is considered among the most horrific in Jordan. The 18-year-old boy killed his whole family because he could not face the pressure they placed on him when he failed his high school exams. The student was executed but authorities should have studied this case and dug deeper to see why it happened,” Husseini said.

Drug addiction is also often mentioned as a cause of familicide. A 20-year-old man who decapitated his mother in 2016 was high on a drug called “the joker,” which is a mix of tobacco and lethal substances such as rat poison.

Dr Momen Hadidi, director of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Jordan, said that addiction to drugs such as the joker could cause unpredictable actions.

“Due to the fact that some drug mixtures vary, the effect on a person varies from one to another, which might lead to murder or rape of your closest family members even if it was taken once,” he said.

“Those who take drugs become vulnerable and you cannot predict their actions. They become extremely dangerous and tend to hurt those who are around them, starting with their families.”

Whatever the reasons behind the crimes, they are unjustifiable for Gaby Daw, 49, a social worker.

“Recently, we have been reading more about tragic cases of famili­cide,” Daw said. “Usually there are no apparent signs to suggest that anyone is in danger or will commit such hideous crimes, leaving everyone shocked and in a state of disbelief.

“I believe that the current (socio-economic) situation plays a big role in turning a person into a monster whereby one cannot think reasonably anymore and turns to violence and suicide. Difficult financial conditions, economic crises, depression and mental disorders are all factors.

“I personally witnessed several cases in which a person tried to kill himself just because he was re­jected asylum in a foreign country. When you are desperate you will do anything to hurt yourself, but to hurt your family, your children, this I cannot understand,” Daw added.

A report by Assabeel news website stated that 12 people have committed suicide in Jordan since the start of 2017. In 2016, there were 117 suicides in Jordan compared to 113 in 2015.

Hussein Khazai, a professor of sociology at Jordan University, said weak family ties and poor faith in addition to drugs contribute to these acts in Jordan. “Authorities need to study each case separately and spread awareness about them in the society,” he said.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81412.

Sunday 15 January 2017

Jordan’s interior minister lost his job Sunday after criticism following a deadly attack, in a government reshuffle that also saw long-serving foreign minister Nasser Judeh cast aside.

Ten people including a Canadian were shot dead at the popular Jordanian tourist destination of Karak on 18 December, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Following the attack, some 50 lawmakers called for a motion to censure interior minister Salama Hammad.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Hani Mulqi said in a statement from the royal palace that Hammad was being replaced by Ghaleb Zohbi, a lawyer who had previously held the same post.

The same statement announced that Judeh, who had served as foreign minister since 2009, was making way for Ayman Safadi, formerly an adviser to the king and deputy prime minister.

It did not say why the ministers were being replaced. It is the second reshuffle since 28 September.

Last month’s attack in Karak, home to one of the region’s biggest Crusader castles, killed seven policemen, two Jordanian civilians and a female Canadian tourist.

Four assailants were killed by the security forces after an hours-long siege of the castle, where the suspects had fled to after opening fire on police.

IS claimed responsibility on 20 December, saying four “soldiers of the caliphate” used machineguns and hand grenades in the attack.

Jordan is part of the US-led military coalition against IS and has carried out air strikes targeting the extremist group.

It also hosts coalition troops on its territory.

The kingdom was hit by four attacks last year, including a suicide attack in June that killed seven guards near the border with Syria that was also claimed by IS.

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/jordan-interior-foreign-ministers-unseated-reshuffle-1787269023.