Archive for the 'Jordan' Category

Oct 27 2016

The rule of law in Jordan

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

His Majesty King Abdullah hit the nail on the head when he focused his Sixth Discussion Paper on the need to respect and abide by the rule of law.

The rule of law is not a new concept. It basically means that law, a written clearly stated law, should govern the country, as opposed to arbitrary decisions by government officials.

Some trace the concept of the rule of law to the 16th century Britain; others go back to the ancient philosopher Aristotle who wrote that “law should govern”.

But how do we apply this concept in today’s Jordan?

To begin with, it is important to understand, as the King stated, that loyalty and devotion “remain abstract and theoretical in the absence of respect to laws”.

This means that if you speak and sing praises to country while not respecting the law, you are much worse than a person who is critical of the country but respects its laws.

If accepted correctly, this would wipe out an entire class of individuals who constantly clap and sing the country’s praises but are often the first to ask for wasta and exceptions to the law. Continue Reading »

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Oct 06 2016

The gas deal

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By Daoud Kuttab

The American Noble Energy Company signed a 15-year agreement with the National Electric Power Company to ensure its supply with natural gas at the cost of $10 billion.

The gas will be coming from the newly discovered huge gas wells in the eastern Mediterranean and will most likely be piped into Jordan through the occupied West Bank, without the permission of the Palestinians.

The Jordan Bromine Company, which operates south of the Dead Sea, had signed a similar deal.

Ever since a memorandum of understanding was signed to buy the Israeli gas from the American company, many Jordanians have protested the deal.

Parliament opposed it, as well as large numbers of Jordanians, but since this is a deal with a private company, even though the government owns controlling shares in it, it does not need parliamentary approval.

At least this is what government officials say.

This leaves the Parliament with very few options to stop the deal. It would have to vote down the government, in a vote of confidence, to be able to stop this deal. Continue Reading »

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Sep 21 2016

On election day

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

When Khaled Kalaldeh, the head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), spoke at the close of the day’s voting, those in attendance were stunned: “Eight voting boxes in the Central Badiya were tampered with and we plan to have a revote in those areas.”

Journalists attending the closing press conference of a long day on September 20 were not used to such transparency and decisiveness. In previous elections, such issues were never talked about from such an authoritative position, and no one remembers a decision on election night to have a revote anywhere in the Kingdom.

The IEC along with the Constitutional Court and the right to assemble (without the need of prior permission) were among the accomplishments of the reform process in Jordan.

The Constitutional Court has not performed very well and the right of assembly without prior permission is being eroded, but the election commission appears to have fulfilled the aspirations of Jordanians who wanted a body separate from the executive branch to oversee elections and ensure that the process is carried out independently.  Continue Reading »

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Sep 07 2016

Why Is Jordan refusing entry to Gaza Palestinians?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Sharif Muhaisen is worried about losing his job. Muhaisen works for Sanad, a construction industries company in Ramallah owned by the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF). Muhaisen is responsible for importing cement from Jordan. “We import about 500,000 tons of cement from Jordan every year,” he told Al-Monitor by phone from his home in Ramallah.

As part of his job, Muhaisen must travel to Jordan to meet with various cement companies, attend workshops and for other work-related reasons. Since summer 2015, however, Jordan has denied Muhaisen entry.

“Although I was born in Gaza, I have lived all my life in the West Bank, but I still need a special entry permit from the Jordanian authorities,” he said. “Since last summer, [the Jordanian authorities] have consistently denied me an entry permit.” Muhaisen provided Al-Monitor with a screen shot of text messages informing him that his requests had been denied.

Muhaisen, whose wife and two children have Jordanian passports because they were born on the West Bank, have no problem crossing the King Hussein Bridge into the kingdom. Up until the summer of 2015, “It took a few days to get the Jordanian authorities to issue the needed permit, but since my last application in June [2015], I and many others have been regularly rejected,” Muhaisen said. Continue Reading »

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Sep 01 2016

An ill-advised act

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Election season is a time for ideas, initiatives and actions. It is also a real test for the commitment of a state to democracy.

This week, this democratic test met a challenge and the result was not very good.

A group of young Jordanians decided to hold an election-awareness event. They rented a public location in Jabal Luweibdeh, contacted a number of election experts, including a woman member of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and announced the event on Facebook.

As per the amended Jordanian Constitution, they informed the Amman governor of their public event 48 hours before it was due to start.

Three and a half hours before the launch of the Hiwar lil tagheer (dialogue for change) the governor of Amman called the owners of Sakyat Al Darawish, its intended location, and informed him that the event is not allowed to take place.

The young organisers panicked slightly, but soon contacted a local radio station that agreed to accommodate the invited speakers and guests.  Continue Reading »

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Aug 25 2016

Separating politics from religion

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Colourful posters of smiling candidates are not new among election-related paraphernalia. But a certain orange-colour poster caught people’s attention because of the slogans it contained.

One slogan read: “No to the exploitation of religion.”

Another affirmed support “for a civilian state”. A third showed two arrows going to opposite direction with the words “politics” and “religion”.

As religious extremism grows in the region, a strong movement that believes in the separation of politics from religion is starting to grow.

A popular Facebook group called “towards a civilian state in Jordan” has attracted over 2,000 members and includes some serious discussions and debates.

This attempt at secularisation is being replicated in many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, despite the strong push back by religious groups and individuals who feel that talk of separating religion from politics is heresy and an imported ideology. Continue Reading »

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Aug 04 2016

Accident exposes hate, intolerance

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

The incident was tragic by any standard, but the response appears even more tragic.

When Shadi Abu Jaber, a 17-year-old Jordanian, along with another passenger died in a car accident in Amman, social media users started talking about the young man whose life was cut short. 

Among other things, friends recalled various things about young Abu Jaber, including that his mother sang in a local church (his uncle is an evangelical pastor) and that he was a guitar player in a local band.

Words of condolences filled the Facebook page of a local TV station’s website that broke the story. People used the normal words in such occasions, such as “Allah yerhamo” (May God have mercy on him).

The outpouring of warm words and condolences apparently did not please some people who seem to have a problem with such normal human reaction.

How can people express such words of sympathy in the case of a young man who “played the guitar”? 

And anyway, said others, Muslims are not allowed to call for mercy on non-Muslims. Continue Reading »

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Jul 20 2016

The New Arab Censors

Published by under Articles,Jordan

Project Syndicate

By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN – The Internet has proved to be a powerful tool for overcoming media restrictions and censorship worldwide. But new restrictions on Web-based news media, such as those in Jordan, threaten to reverse the progress that the Internet has enabled.

For example, the tendency of Arab countries’ media to discuss issues concerning other countries more freely than those affecting their own has long impeded citizens’ ability to keep abreast of domestic affairs. Amin.org – the Arab world’s first censorship-free Web site, which I established in 1996 – addressed the problem by giving people access to information and commentary from foreign publications about domestic issues and events.

Four years later, at a time when Jordanians could access primarily government-owned radio stations, plus a few foreign stations, I launched AmmamNet.net, an Internet radio station that broadcast news and commentary from Jordan to the rest of the world. While Jordan later loosened official restrictions on audio-visual media, AmmanNet continued to deliver high-quality independent news and commentary.

Continue Reading »

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Jul 03 2016

Promoting enlightenment

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Countering violent extremism has become the flavour of the month recently, but if a leaked document is accurate, the government has been following a strategy to counter extremism for at least two years.

The strategy of countering extremism states that it is based on three pillars: a correct interpretation of Islam, the need to promote a culture of democracy, and instituting values like tolerance, pluralism, respect for human rights and acceptance of the other.

It calls for a holistic, long-term, approach and not a quick fix.

But the 6,350-word document that begins with talk of tolerance, human rights and democracy reads more like a blueprint requiring action by the various executive branches of the government.

Any official reading this document will get the impression that many of the bullet points directed to different ministries are more like orders than words of advice.

The eight-page document, as published in a local newspaper, provides executive specifics on how to deal with extremism, including 49 articles expected from the Islamic Waqf Ministry, 17 articles that the Ministry of Social Affairs is supposed to implement, 15 items concerning the Ministry of Education,16 for the ministry in charge of media affairs, 10 items for the Ministry of Culture, 16 for the Interior Ministry, 10 for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 11 items to be worked on by the tribal affairs adviser. Continue Reading »

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Jun 23 2016

Abbas in Amman back to the routine

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

The statement coming out of the Jordan News Agency, Petra, was very ordinary. It stated that President Mahmoud Abbas and his delegation made up of PLO secretary Saeb Erekat and head of the Palestinian intelligence service Majed Faraj were hosted by King Abdullah and the Crown Prince for an iftar banquet on Wednesday, June 15.

The statement went on to say that the two leaders discussed current issues, including the Palestinian conflict and the stalled peace process.

The Petra news report may have sounded routine and ordinary, but this was no ordinary meeting.

The routine visits that Palestinian President Abbas usually makes to see the King have not been happening for nearly a year or so.

Very few people have been able to figure out what was the reason for this drought in relations.

Some have pointed out that it was due to the Palestinian insistence that Jordan submit a resolution to the UN Security Council back on December 24, 2014.

Jordan, which at the time was presiding over the Security Council, had advised against the move, but Ramallah insisted. The resolution failed to gain the needed minimum nine votes to be voted on.  Continue Reading »

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