Archive for the 'Jordan' Category

May 12 2016

A holistic approach to press freedom

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

The celebration of Press Freedom Day by Jordan’s UNESCO office by means of a debate on this year’s theme of access to information revealed the gap that exists between Jordan’s public position and the reality.

For press freedom to exist and flourish, a holistic approach is needed. Such approach must also be part of a larger human rights approach.

Producing a human rights strategy and declaring that the sky is the limit for press freedom will not do if there is no serious political will in this direction.

Examples of the gap are plenty.

According to the annual report of the Centre for Defending the Freedom of Journalists, Jordan imprisoned 10 journalists in 2015 for what they wrote and for expressing their views.

These arrests did not go unnoticed by the US State Department, which made freedom of the press and detaining journalists its number one issue in its most recently produced human rights report about Jordan.

The gap between words and reality was evident in the statements made at the debate on access to information organised by UNESCO on Sunday. Continue Reading »

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May 04 2016

Why is Jordan restricting Palestinians’ travel?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Like so many accomplished students, Benaz Someir, a Palestinian from Gaza, chose to attend Birzeit University.

 While pursuing her degree in journalism, Benaz met and later married Walid Batrawi, a fellow BA journalism student from Ramallah. For family and professional reasons, Benaz, a resident of Khan Yunis in Gaza, requested and was given permission to change her residency to the West Bank.

Having successfully convinced the Israelis to change her residency to the West Bank, Benaz was now able to travel to different parts of the world using the King Hussein Bridge, which was easier than returning to Gaza. The choice was hard, but Benaz felt that it was best for her and her career as a media trainer and for her new family in Ramallah.

That decision was made more than 20 years ago. But despite being married to a Palestinian and having proper residency in Ramallah for two decades, Benaz is being treated by Jordanian border control officers as a Gazan. Like all other West Bank and Gaza residents, Benaz holds the same Palestinian passport, yet she is treated differently than her husband.

Walid is allowed to travel to Jordan or via Jordan without any restrictions, while Benaz needs to get prior Jordanian approval. This practice began when Gazans carried Egyptian travel documents and West Bankers carried Jordanian travel documents. Continue Reading »

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May 03 2016

‘bridging’ dilemma

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By Daoud Kuttab

One issue subject to intense discussions is the “bridge” policy.  That is, King Hussein Bridge, which connects Palestine to Jordan and, by extension, to the rest of the world.

The bridge policy is unknown and undeclared. The main reason is that the bridge is not an international crossing point. 

While Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel, it does not consider this a recognised border point, but it is also unable to call it an official border point with Palestine because the Israeli army is still the de facto power on the western part of the bridge.

The fact that the West Bank was Jordanian territory before 1967 and Jordan has not yet constitutionally ceded the West Bank (King Hussein did sever administrative ties with it in 1989) adds to the reasons the bridge is not an international border yet.

But regardless of legal definitions, some 2.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and holding passports issued by the Palestinian government have no possibility to travel after Israel blocked their ability to use the Lod (Ben Gurion) Airport other than the King Hussein Bridge.

For some time after the outbreak of the second Intifada, in 2000, every Palestinian wanting to travel across needed to get permission to enter issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Interior. Continue Reading »

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May 03 2016

Palestinians from Gaza who hold properly issued passports are being discriminated against if they were born in Gaza

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By Daoud Kuttab

Of all the Jordanian policies that have often been the subject of intense discussion, the one subject that has been a taboo for anyone to talk about has been the ‘bridge’ policy. The reference here is to how decisions are made in regards to travel on the King Hussein Bridge which is the only connecting point between Palestine and Jordan and by extension the only connecting point for all (except for East Jerusalem residents) to the rest of the world.

The bridge policy is unknown and undeclared.  While Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel and recognises the state of Palestine, it does not consider the bridge a recognised border point.
The West Bank was part of Jordan before 1967 and Jordan has not yet constitutionally ceded the West Bank (King Hussein did sever administrative ties with it in 1989) adds to the reasons the bridge is not an international border yet. Continue Reading »

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Apr 11 2016

Tax havens and journalistic work

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Some five years ago, a lawyer working for the Panama-based Mossak Fonseca leaked a trove of documents exposing the identity of the owners of a large number of offshore companies registered in Jersey, the British Islands and Luxemburg.

This massive leak led to the German government’s closing three banks it deemed had violated German law and the case stopped there.

But the leaker was not satisfied and decided to make a second effort. Around a year ago, some 11 million documents including e-mails, company registrations and other sensitive documents were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutche Zeitung.

The Munich-based newspaper realised that to make use of this leak, it needed an international effort.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was asked to help and the largest journalistic effort was launched: 330 journalists from around the world were contacted and asked to participate in the follow up to this leak with conditions. Continue Reading »

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Apr 03 2016

Jordan’s way of dealing with terrorists

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By Daoud Kuttab

After every horrific act of violent extremism we are inundated with right-wing incitement against followers of a major religion and, often from the West, with calls to use the Israeli approach in combating terrorism.

Very little effort is made by pundits to actually dig deeper and think of a more appropriate and effective approach to this disease without compromising human values.

A look at the Jordanian model reveals a strategy that has proved to be effective in keeping the country safe without resorting to heavy-handed and wildly restrictive actions that often do more long-term harm.

Jordan’s methodology in dealing with the scourge of violent extremism and terror is largely preventative. It stems from the need to have a good idea about some of the extreme members of the society and work diligently through different means to contain and weaken them, as well as making the red lines crystal clear.

The Jordanian model is focused. It depends much on human intelligence efforts focused on the individuals that are believed to pose a particular threat, rather than on an entire group or community. Continue Reading »

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Mar 10 2016

Losing post-Arab Spring accomplishments?

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

The Independent Federation of Unions in Jordan wanted to hold an event to celebrate International Women’s Day. A hotel hall was booked and invitations were sent out. A few hours before the event organisers were told by the hotel management that they could not hold the event.

It seems that a security official had called the hotel management and ordered them not to allow the event to take place unless the organisers get permission.

When pressed, the hotel director said that the call came from the intelligence department and he gave the organisers the nom de guerre of the officer.

This was not a fluke, one-off interference in activities of civil society.

In the last month alone, tens of non-governmental organisations were surprised by the return to heavy-handed intelligence services interference in public activities, training workshops, conferences and other public events that have been held without intervention for years.

An event by Himam, a local NGO committee coordinating government officials with international donors, was ordered cancelled, only to be allowed after high-level intervention. Continue Reading »

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Feb 17 2016

Gas and the people of Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

After 90 minutes of powerful anti-Israeli speeches by 18 members of Parliament, Deputy Speaker Mustapha Amawi called the session over because of lack of quorum.

The speakers were incensed by the fact that Jordan and the American Noble Energy Company signed a letter of intent to import gas from the Israeli Leviathan field in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaker after speaker explained that Jordan today is no longer in need of this deal, after having built a liquid gas seaport in Aqaba and working on building the Basra-Aqaba pipeline to import Iraq oil and gas.

Furthermore, parliamentarians insisted that today’s oil prices, hovering at around $30 a barrel, are different from what they were a few years ago. Oil was over $100 a barrel and the Egyptian gas pipe was blown up every other week, causing Jordan to have to use much more expensive alternatives to generate electricity. Continue Reading »

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Feb 08 2016

Guest workers in Jordan

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

The preliminary results of the national census in Jordan show that Syrian refugees number around 1.3 million.

Along with other nationalities, non-Jordanians now compose what amounts to 31 per cent of the total population.

Of the 9.5 million people living in Jordan, 6.6 million are Jordanian citizens, according to the Census Bureau.

We are told by the census commission that among non-Jordanians, 634,000 are Palestinians. It is not clear if these Palestinians are the displaced Gazans who made it to Jordan in 1967 and who, unlike their West Bank brethren, never had Jordanian citizenship or if this number includes Palestinian passport holders who are living and working in Jordan, or both.

In addition to Syrians and Palestinians, Jordan today is also home to some 390,000 Egyptian (the real number is most likely higher because many are without work permits and probably avoided the census). There are also 130,000 Iraqis, 31,000 Yemenis and 23,000 Libyans.

These numbers are a clear indication of the depth of the economic difficulties that Jordan is facing as a result of its policy to host Arab refugees and will certainly play a role in the conference on Syrian refugees that will take place in London today. Continue Reading »

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Jan 21 2016

When tribal law supersedes civil law

Published by under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

A murder took place in Jordan. The suspected killer is known, but unlike in normal cases, this time it was addressed by tribal law.

Tribal law is not new in Jordan. It has existed for centuries and the modern nation state has found ways to accommodate it.

Civil courts have often been presented with cases of conflicts that had been initially resolved in a tribal manner and used such decisions to make their final resolution.

But when tribal law replaces civil law and when such a decision involves members of the government, one has to take a clear position.

The deputy prime minister and minister of education headed on January 15 a delegation of dignitaries with the aim of soothing the anger of one of Jordan’s communities in the south.

As part of the atwa (tribal agreement), the deputy prime minister and his delegation signed a document that violates Jordan’s Constitution, laws and treaties.

The agreement, signed by Minister Mohammad Thneibat, declares without trial the guilt of the suspected killer, decides capital punishment for him and vows not to pursue any effort for clemency for him. Continue Reading »

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