Jordan: A Democratic Audit
Assessment: 1989-2010, Citizenship, Law and Rights
Dr. Adli Hawwari
In this chapter, I present, analyse, and discuss the data gathered through two questionnaires referred to previously. I follow the order and headings of categories and subcategories used in the long questionnaire. I begin with the short questionnaire (the macro-analysis). I then refer to the same issues in the corresponding overarching questions in the long questionnaire because they are identical.
The democratic audit’s category about citizenship, law, and rights consists of four subcategories: (1) nationhood and citizenship; (2) rule of law and access to justice; (3) civil and political rights; and (4) economic and social rights. Each overarching question is stated before the marks are given.
1.1: Nationhood and Citizenship
The overarching question (Q1S, Q7L) asks: ‘Is there public agreement on a common citizenship without discrimination?’ All twenty-four respondents answered the question. The lowest mark given is 1; the highest is 10. The mean is 5, which is the same as the most frequent answer.
This average does not reflect that such an agreement exists. The issue that explains this absence of agreement pertains to the status of Palestinians in Jordan. The manifestations of disagreement resurface frequently. For instance, in May 2010 the matter emerged vigorously, ostensibly out of concern that a solution for the Palestine question would be at the expense of Jordan.
The issue of Palestinians in Jordan is often discussed passionately, prompted by external and internal considerations. The external factor pertains to Israel, whose leaders often argue that Jordan is the alternative homeland for the Palestinians. The aim is to absolve Israel of the human, moral, and legal responsibilities regarding the Palestinians and their right to live in, and return to, their homeland—Palestine.
The other reason is internal. In this regard, one will find complaints on both sides: some Jordanians are resentful of any suggestion that the Palestinians who sought refuge in Jordan were more culturally developed than Jordanians, and that it was the Palestinians who made Jordan prosper. Similarly, there is resentment by some Palestinians due to the feeling that they are less favourably treated when it comes to employment in government departments, for instance.
Interestingly, the number of Palestinians in Jordan is not officially acknowledged, even though a national census takes place every ten years. As Abu Odeh (1999, p. 255) points out: ‘the government has refrained from publishing the breakdown of Palestinian-Jordanians and Trans-Jordanians’. An old estimate, referred to by Sayigh (1987, p. 14), puts the number of Palestinians in the East Bank in 1967 at 47.1 percent. When the West and East Banks are used to calculate the percentage, it rises to 70.35 percent.
In Abu Odeh’s discussion of this issue, he refers to information based on statistics collected by the Civil Affairs Department, which issues passports and identity cards. These statistics indicated that the Jordanians of Palestinian origin in the East Bank in 1988 amounted to 40 percent of the population (1999, p. 255).
The statement of May 2010 by retired military officers cited specific numbers of Palestinians in Jordan. According to the statement, the Palestinians in Jordan fall into three categories. In the first, there are 2.5 million Palestinians, of whom there are two million refugees whose citizenship is not challenged. In the second category, there are 850,000 who are Jordanian citizens but have a ‘yellow card’, namely, they possess a permit which enables them to reside in the West Bank. In the third category, there are 2.2 million Palestinians who do not have Jordanian citizenship. These are refugees of the 1967 war who sought refuge in Jordan from Gaza and the West Bank. In total, there are nearly 5.5 million Palestinians in Jordan.
The figures published by the Jordanian Department of Statistics for 2004 showed that the population was 5.3 million on 1 October 2004. The growth rate is put at 2.5 percent. The figures do not provide a breakdown of national origin. The statistics show that the most populated governorates are Amman (38% of population); Irbid (18%); and al-Zarqa (15%). The urbanization rate is 82 percent.
Using the figures mentioned in the statement issued by the retired officers, the 2.5 million Palestinians who have Jordanian citizenship are equivalent to 47 percent, nearly half of the population. If the 850,000 Palestinians who hold a ‘yellow card’ are excluded, the percentage drops to 37 percent which is still high. There is a possibility of a margin of error because of the need to adjust figures in line with the fertility rate, but the percentages will remain nearly the same.
Although the retired officers’ statement is not an official document, and is open to be challenged regarding its figures, the numbers and percentages nearly mirror the other estimates mentioned above. Therefore, it is likely that the specific figures in the statement are accurate because the retired officers had access to official data, or had been supplied by people who have such access.
The statement by the retired officers encapsulates the recurring debate about the status of Palestinians in Jordan. It claims that Jordan is being pressurized (by unnamed parties) to give citizenship to the third category, and to give the Palestinians a quota in the political system. This, according to the statement, makes Jordan the alternative Palestinian state that Israeli officials often promote.
It is worth recalling that King Hussein’s decision to sever administrative and legal links with the West Bank in 1988 is considered unconstitutional by the MB in Jordan. There was no court in Jordan with the power to adjudicate on constitutional matters. If there had been one, it was highly unlikely that it would have been allowed to consider the constitutionality of King Hussein’s decision. The issue of constitutionality is met with two kinds of responses. One is expressed by the former PM, Abd al-Ra’uf al-Rawabdeh, who argues that decisions of secession do not take place through constitutional means, citing the example of the failure of Syrian-Egyptian unity in 1961.(1)
The other response to the argument of un/constitutionality comes from some people who call for the constitutionalization of the decision to sever the links with the West Bank. In other words, the constitution must be amended to eliminate any doubt that the West Bank is not part of Jordan, and that the Palestinians of the West Bank are not Jordanians. Such a move eliminates the slim and unlikely possibility to declare the severance decision unconstitutional if circumstances change in the future.
One of the leading voices for the call to constitutionalize the severance decision is Nahed Hattar, who presents himself as a leftist and Marxist. His brand of leftism and Marxism is unique in that it is difficult to tell the difference between it and ultra-right wing, chauvinistic nationalism. In one of his articles (2009), Hattar describes ‘national unity,’ as a ‘deceptive slogan’ because ‘the Jordanians are united’. His definition of Jordanian does not include the Palestinians. It includes ‘Arab and non-Arab minorities who came to the region before the State of Jordan was established’.2
The statement by the retired officers has additional significance for three reasons. First, the army and its personnel, including retired servicemen, are traditionally thought of as the bedrock of the regime. Second, the position adopted in the statement was not synchronous with the official line at the time it was published. Third, the involvement of former army officers in this debate seems to be a calculated move by non-military people who espouse the views expressed in the statement. In Jordan, the army is one of those ‘red lines’ which means either it is an untouchable subject, or anything less than lavish praise is unacceptable.
The statement calls for making a constitutional arrangement to end the overlap between citizenship and membership in professional associations. It also proposes to treat the Palestinians in Jordan in two ways. The first is to continue to treat the refugees of 1948 as Jordanian citizens until the fate of UN resolution 194 (right of return) is decided. The statement further proposes that the implementation of this resolution should become a major pillar in Jordan’s foreign policy. The second way is to give the refugees of 1967 either Palestinian citizenship (by the Palestinian Authority), or travel documents by Jordan.
Not surprisingly, this recurring theme is a cause of concern for the Palestinians in Jordan. Qamhawi (2010) considers the measures which lead to the withdrawal of Jordanian citizenship as ‘ethnic cleansing’. His choice of words lacks accuracy, as ethnic cleansing involves violence and expulsion. However, the anger shown in the article is not baseless, as the withdrawal of citizenship can have destructive consequences on the livelihood, ability to travel, and prospects of employment.
Although racism or ultra-nationalism can be a motivating factor in these campaigns to keep Jordan Jordanian and only for Jordanians, the recent campaign is influenced by the economic conditions which have led to an increase in poverty. As elsewhere in the world, when economic conditions deteriorate, a segment of the population will feel that immigrants or asylum seekers are to blame. There is usually no shortage of people, politicians, activists, or people in the media, who will exploit such an argument, especially during times of elections.
The statement by the retired officers also betrays the inconsistent logic of their argument. One of the characteristics of the distorted debates which take place in Jordan is that every statement, written or spoken, must praise the king and declare unwavering loyalty, and then make the demands. All criticism is then directed at the government. The critics pretend that those in government are implementing their own policies, and conveniently overlook the fact that the PM is appointed by the king to implement policies under his specific instructions or general guidance.
This position, which lacks political courage, succeeds sometimes in removing an individual or an entire government. However, nothing then changes because the policies being implemented are not those of the individuals removed. Moreover, it often appears that this tug of war is a form of political contestation dictated by the lack of other more organized and rational means. However, it is apparent that this form of political contestation is incapable of producing change because it does not address the substantive issues of freedom and social justice, and fails to demand reforms from the king no less, and not from the individuals he handpicks.
In the past, this lack of agreement on citizenship was often calmed down by appeals to national unity, and references to Jordanians of all origins. King Hussein famously said in a speech in 1996 that those who wanted to destabilize national unity would be his enemy until the Day of Judgement. When the same debate resurfaced again in 2010, a similar appeal by King Abdullah II did not have the same effect.
The discourse about identity in Jordan resembles the debates on multiculturalism and assimilation in Western countries. The ultra-nationalist rhetoric equates identity with nationality, and the legal consequences of acquiring citizenship. Therefore, some will consider it an act of betrayal if a Palestinian in Jordan identifies him/herself as Palestinian.
Equating identity with citizenship is an aberrant preposition in a country from which many people migrate, or work abroad for extended periods. Yet they retain their Jordanian identity. Jordan has appreciated the desire of Jordanians not to lose their sense of identity and attachment to Jordan when they acquire citizenship in other countries. Therefore, the law has been amended in September 1987 to state that ‘a Jordanian who acquires foreign nationality remains Jordanian’ (article 9 of nationality law, 1987).
Judging from the debates about multiculturalism in Western countries, such as the UK, France, USA, and Canada, one can say that the ultra-nationalist Transjordanians are in favour of arguments which require immigrants to assimilate in the new society. However, the term immigrant will not be an accurate description of a Palestinian in Jordan, because nation-states in the Middle East are relatively new, and their borders are arbitrary. There was such mobility before the creation of nation-states in the region that makes the imposition of a narrow definition of nationalism on a group of people living in a small territory a nonsensical proposition.
An ultra-nationalist demand for assimilation is absurd because the difference is imaginary. Jordanians and Palestinians share language, culture, and religions. Migrants and refugees assimilate in different cultures, through learning a different language for instance. However, people do not assimilate in their own culture.
At the ruling dynasty level, King Hussein has established strong relations with some Palestinian families, such as the Touqan of Nablus. King Abdullah II continued to follow the same path. Members of the Touqan family served in senior posts such as governor of the central bank of Jordan and minister of higher education.
Moreover, the arguments of the ultra-nationalist Transjordanians are inconsistent with the fact that Jordan has always had a mix of national origins, before and since its creation. One of the prime ministers most admired by Transjordanians is Wasfi al-Tall, who was assassinated by Palestinian gunmen in Cairo in 1971. What seems to be overlooked is that al-Tall’s mother was a Kurd, and as such he cannot be the embodiment of a ‘pure’ Transjordanian.
The masculine mentality chooses to overlook the role of the mother. The maternal half is rarely talked about, and treated as negligible, even though many Transjordanian men are married to women from diverse national origins, including the male members of the ruling family, who chose American, British, Pakistani, Algerian, Lebanese, and Palestinian wives.3
Moreover, many Jordanian women marry men from other Arab nationalities, especially those who come to work in Jordan. However, their children are not given Jordanian citizenship. Therefore, mothers are left helpless should husbands abandon them.
Even though such feelings do exist, it is naïve to suggest that the Jordanian-Palestinian divide is vertical, and all Palestinians are on one side and all Transjordanians on the other. For every ultra-nationalist Transjordanian, there are many who reject their narrow definition of nationalism. A prominent critic of the ultra-nationalists is the writer Khalid Mahadin (2010), who has criticized the statement by the retired officers for using language which undermines national unity. In an article, he refers to Nahed Hattar without mentioning his name, and ridicules Hattar’s suggestion that the only true Jordanians are the Christians and the bedouin.
Also, plenty of evidence undermines the argument that the Jordanian population is indifferent to the Palestine question. One has to look at the demonstrations and other expressions of support of Palestine on various occasions, especially when the Palestinians are under Israeli attack, as in 2008/09 when Gaza was besieged and bombarded for three weeks. These expressions show that the support for the Palestinians and their cause is deeply rooted in all segments of the Jordanian society.
In the long questionnaire, five of the six assessors answered the question. The marks given are: 2, 2, 5, 6, and 7. The mean is 4.4. These marks do not depart significantly from those given by the respondents to the short questionnaire. In other words, such an assessment reinforces the validity of the results outlined and discussed above. To deal with this issue more effectively, Jordan should enact an anti-discrimination law.4 Although this law will not prevent discrimination, because less favourable treatment can be justified on other grounds, there will be a legal option which can have a deterring effect. Moreover, when the discrimination is so blatant, the courts can adjudicate and remedy the situation.
1.2: Rule of Law and Access to Justice
The overarching question (Q2S, Q14L) asks: ‘Are state and society consistently subject to the law?’ All twenty-four respondents answered the question. The lowest mark is 1; the highest is 10. The mean is 5.8.
The mean indicates that there are misgivings. Some of the respondents identified areas of concern which include: tribal law, selective application of the law, political influence over judges, formal rights in the constitution not practised; absence of a constitutional court; state security courts; and favouritism, nepotism, and wāsta.5
The state’s recognition of tribal laws dates back to 1936 when the government approved a law which gave ten nomadic tribes the right to have tribal courts to make decisions on the basis of tribal traditions. Article 5 permits the punishment of the perpetrator of a crime and many of his relatives (up to the fifth degree of kinship). The government officially cancelled the tribal law in 1976. However, the tribal practices are still prevalent, and tolerated by the government as will be outlined below.
As Massad (2001) explains in detail, there was a ‘new push for detribalization’ which began in 1976 (p. 67). A debate about the issue did not remain within government institutions. It appeared in the press, which published articles for and against tribalism, especially in 1984, when parliamentary by-elections took place. Massad summarizes this debate (pp. 70-71) and quotes a public letter sent by King Hussein to Ahmad Ubaydat, the then PM. King Hussein indicates in the letter that criticism of tribal traditions ‘reflects on the king and his family as well’ (p. 70). A letter of this kind, with a clearly defined position from the king on such an issue, amounts to an order to stop the debate.
The Minister of Information, Layla Sharaf, resigned in protest. She distributed her letter of resignation to the international news agencies. Queen Noor (2003, pp. 259-260) said she did so after the Jordanian press refused to publish her letter. It will be a strange editorial decision not to publish the resignation letter of a minister. However, the fact that the resignation is in protest at a position adopted by King Hussein explains why the press refused to publish her letter. Moreover, Queen Noor added that King Hussein was ‘furious’ (pp. 259-260).
Tribalism was given a new lease of life, especially after the enactment of an elections law known as the law which, contrary to the elections of 1989, allowed a voter to cast one vote in a multi-seat constituency. Moreover, the legacy of tribal laws is still active. The ugly side of tribalism emerges whenever there is a dispute between two tribes, especially in cases of murder.
When one member of a tribe kills another, the tribal practices have dire consequences. One incident took place in Ajlun in August 2009. A man from al-Momani tribe was killed while visiting his son at the home of his former in-laws, who belong to al-Smadi tribe. Both sides fought and torched properties. The riot police, darak, had to intervene and impose a curfew. In line with tribal traditions, high profile people formed a delegation and visited the aggrieved party to seek a truce. In this instance, the truce was agreed on the conditions that the alleged killer would not receive legal representation, and the court should sentence him to death. In other words, the conditions contradict the principles of a fair trial. Another consequence of incidents of this kind is jalweh, namely, the family of the killer and many of the relatives have to move from their homes to another area.
Furthermore, tribalism is responsible for the many fights that erupt in Jordanian universities in different parts of the country, including the University of Jordan—the oldest and largest university in Jordan. On 23 and 30 December 2010, fighting erupted on campus and resulted in damage to property and injuries. Initially, the fighting was downplayed, but when videos became available on the video-sharing website, youtube, the seriousness of the situation was recognized. Adel al-Twaisi, the president of the university, formed committees to investigate, and disciplinary action was taken against thirty students.
The frequency of fights at universities in Jordan was the subject of an article by Sate al-Zghul (2011) who collected from different sources statistics which showed that from 1999 to 2010 there had been 624 fights. The average per year is sixty-four fights, which is equal to more than once a week. He also indicated that 1999 saw the highest number of fights which reached 102. The latest year he included in the statistics was 2010 which saw eighty-eight fights.
Jordanian commentators, such as Ahmad Abu Khalil, express concern that the universities have become an arena for tribal fights instead of being the place for intellectual stimulation and competition. Whether the matter relates to murders, nominating candidates in elections, or fighting at universities, it is clear that tribal traditions do not fit in a modern society, even if tribalism is thought to have its good aspects—known as social capital. Moreover, such tribalism is proof that the ultra-nationalist Jordanians are basing their claims of Jordanian nationalism on quicksand, as this kind of tribalism does not recognize common bonds of nationalism or religion.
With regard to the laws enacted by the state, when one follows the outcome of court cases, one finds identifiable factors in the use of law as an extension of politics, but with added advantages that judicial proceedings are controlled in terms of how fast or slowly they should proceed. The decisions of the courts are influenced by a few factors outlined below.
The first discernible factor is in cases of alleged plotting against the king. People in security services have a duty to protect king and country. Two contradictory messages are often sent when talking about the king: that he is very popular, and that there have been many attempts on his life. Samīh al-Battikhi, the head of GID, fabricated a plot to kill King Hussein in 1993. Eventually, the defendants were all released. Al-Battikhi turned out to be a crook, and was tried for corruption and convicted in 2003.
Another factor is noticeable in cases with an impact on, or a link to, a member of the royal family. The case against Ahmad Uwaidi al-Abbadi can illustrate this point. He belongs to the Udwan tribe. He was an officer in the Jordanian police, and was elected to the HoD in 1989. He used to publish articles in the Jordanian weekly, Shihan, in which he expressed anti-Palestinian sentiments. After his stint in the HoD, he continued to write critical articles.
The Minister of Interior, Eid al-Fayez, sued him in 2007. Al-Abbadi was charged with publishing libellous material on the Internet, and was imprisoned for two years. He denied publishing the material, which involved Queen Rania, and considered the case against him vexatious. In April 2010, a court in Jordan ordered that the case should be dealt with afresh. His lawyer, Feras al-Rusan (2010), pleaded with Queen Rania to prevent Eid al-Fayez, from using her name in the court papers.
A third factor that influences the decisions of courts is whether a case is initiated at the behest of a prime minister and is decided while he is still in office. In this situation, the decision is in favour of the prime minister. An example to illustrate this point is the case against Toujan Faysal during the premiership of Ali Abu al-Ragheb. In May 2002, she was tried and sentenced to eighteen months in prison (more on this case in a section below).
If a case is decided after the prime minister is gone, the probability of the decision being in favour of the defendant increases. For instance, a case was initiated in 2007 at the behest of Maruf al-Bakhit against Fahd al-Rimawi, editor of al-Majd, for having written a critical editorial. However, the case came to trial after al-Bakhit left office. The judge ruled in favour of al-Majd in June 2008.
The fourth element amounts to using the law as an arm-twisting tactic against individuals and associations. When it comes to individuals, the legal proceedings are not initiated by a government prosecutor on his own volition. Instead, they are initiated in response to a complaint by one individual or more. A case in point is the legal proceedings brought against Adnan Abu Odeh. They were initiated in response to a complaint by the mufti of the city of Jarash. Another case was that of Eva Abu Halaweh, who attended a meeting with the US Vice President, Joe Biden, alongside a few other individuals in March 2010. In both cases, the proceedings were abandoned, likely due to American interventions. Abu Odeh researched and wrote his book on the Palestinians in Jordan in the US, and Eva Abu Halaweh is an American citizen.
A third court case was initiated against Muwafaq Mahadin and Sufyan al-Tall: two activists who participated in a TV programme broadcast by al-Jazeera in 2010. The programme discussed the situation in Afghanistan after a Jordanian officer related to the ruling family, Ali bin Zaid, was killed in a suicide attack in Khost. The complaint was filed by retired military officers who accused Mahadin and al-Tall of insulting the army. They were arrested in February 2010. However, there was a robust campaign in their support. They were released on bail, and when they were tried, they were acquitted in May 2011.
Using the law in a selective way against organizations can be illustrated through two examples. In 2007, the General Union of Charitable Organizations was the subject of legal action which was preceded by suspending its executive council and replacing it with a government-appointed one. The suspended members were accused of exploiting office. When the case went to trial, the members of the council were acquitted. The government also lost the appeal. The Court of Appeal upheld the acquittal in July 2010.
A similar attitude was taken towards a charitable society known as the Islamic Centre which was run by the MB. The society owns two hospitals in addition to other charitable bodies. The government suspended the management of the charity, and appointed a committee to run it in 2007. After investigations over three years, legal proceedings were initiated in 2009. This case took place during Maruf al-Bakhit’s premiership, who adopted a hostile attitude towards the MB/IAF. Hammam Said, the MB leader, suggested that the case was political rather than legal.
Another feature is related to bail, which is either denied or delayed to increase the pressure on the accused. This happened in the case of Muwafaq Mahadin and Sufyan al-Tall. In a corruption case in 2010, that of a project to expand the country’s oil refinery, it took some time before the four defendants were granted bail. Saleh al-Armuti, the former chairman of the Jordanian bar association, and the leader of the defence team, suggested that the case was one of score-settling amongst politicians. In July 2010, the defendants were found guilty and were sentenced to three years imprisonment. The Court of Appeal also upheld the decision in October 2010.
The above cases were referred to the state security court, which in 2006 was described by HRW as ‘a tribunal which does not meet international standards of independence and impartiality’ (p. 2). Until the early 1990s, the decisions made by this court were not subject to appeal.
In the long questionnaire, five of the six assessors answered this question. The marks given are 3, 6, 6, 6, and 6. The mean is 5.4. When the means of the two sets of marks are compared, it becomes apparent that the assessment of the six assessors corroborates that of the twenty-four respondents.
The constitutionality of various decisions in Jordan is often questioned. One such decision, referred to earlier, is that of severing links with the West Bank. Similarly, doubts are raised about the constitutionality of enacting interim laws in normal times, and not only during emergencies as the constitution states. Moreover, a constitutional issue that has been decided by the government, rather than a supreme court, is that of royal pardon which is of two types: general and special.
The government interpreted this to mean that a general pardon absolves the pardonee of all offences. He or she will enjoy all rights, including the right to become a candidate in elections. However, according to the government’s interpretation, the special pardon releases the pardonee from prison, but does not restore all his or her rights. This is the interpretation that blocked the candidacy of Toujan Faysal in 2007.
The constitutional lawyer, and former Minister of Justice, Muhammad al-Hammouri, argues that both types of pardon are of equal force (2005, pp. 80-81). However, since there is no constitutional court to consider the issue, the government’s interpretation is imposed.
There is a high court that reviews decisions affecting employees of the government. It can order reinstatement in cases of dismissal. However, the jurisdiction of this high court does not include deciding constitutional issues.
Before concluding this section, the principle of the rule of law requires some discussion. The notion of rule of law is an important one, as is the principle that everyone is equal before the law. The application, however, is not always consistent with the principle. It can be circumvented and undermined by people in power. Challenging the government in a court of law is not an easy task. Governments resort to excuses such as state security or national interest to block proceedings or refrain from presenting evidence.
While decisions can be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights if the decision taken is in a European country, this mechanism is not available in many countries, including Jordan. Oppression in undemocratic countries is done in the name of the law. For the rule of law to be an effective principle, the laws should be consistent with the freedoms, and there should be a mechanism to challenge their constitutionality.
1.3: Civil and Political Rights
The overarching question (Q3S, Q19L) asks: ‘Are civil and political rights equally guaranteed for all?’ All twenty-four respondents answered the question. The lowest mark is 1; the highest 10. The mean is 5.
In analyzing the data in response to this question, I will adopt two approaches. The narrow approach examines specific rights, such as the freedom of expression, whereas the broad approach examines how equal rights in general are not guaranteed in relation to women and where citizens reside in the country.
Civil and political rights are usually mentioned together. Both are the subject of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The covenant enumerates the rights which include the right to life; the prevention of torture; the right to liberty and security; freedom of movement; equality before the courts; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression; freedom of assembly; and freedom of association. These rights are also referred to as civil liberties.
When one examines specific rights such as those mentioned above, one finds variations in the degree to which they are respected. For example, freedom of movement is better respected than freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. The right to demonstrate is heavily restricted. When people manage to demonstrate with or without permission, one finds heavy-handed measures, as was the case during a strike by workers at the Port of Aqaba in July 2009. Similar heavy-handed treatment befell the demonstrators against Israeli aggression against the Gaza strip in 2008/9.
In the long questionnaire, four of the six assessors answered this question. The marks given are 3, 5, 5, and 7. The mean is 5, which mirrors that of the short questionnaire. I chose to be brief in the discussion of the specific rights because they would be addressed in other questions. Therefore, I will now examine the lack of equal rights in the broad sense—the representation of residents of governorates and women.
Geographically and administratively, Jordan is divided into twelve governorates. Electorally, it has fifteen, with different numbers of seats. Three of the fifteen constituencies are reserved for the bedouin of the northern, southern, and central regions of Jordan—three seats each. The largest governorate is Amman, where almost half of Jordan’s population reside. However, the number of seats allocated for Amman is not proportionate. For instance, a vote in Karak is worth more than seven in Amman. The government justifies this by pleading concern for representation of all parts of the kingdom.
Addressing issues of representation should be welcome, but there is a contradiction in the application. All citizens should be represented equally, not least because the constitution states explicitly that all Jordanians are equal before the law. The government has various quotas for the Christians, Circassians, and bedouin. These quotas are from the early days of the kingdom. In 2003, the elections law was amended to allocate women a quota of six seats in the HoD.
In 2010, the number was doubled. Given that the number of women is 2,773,000, and men 2,950,000, the ratio of representation is equal to one seat per 462.2 thousand women, when the quota was six seats. The ratio became one seat per 231.1 thousand women when the quota was increased to twelve seats. Moreover, given that 104 seats of the HoD can all be for men, the ratio of representation amounts to one seat per 28,000 men.
With regard to quotas in general, there are arguments that all quotas in Jordan are unconstitutional. The argument is based on article (6)(i) which states: ‘Jordanians shall be equal before the law. There shall be no discrimination between them as regards to their rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion’.
Another argument about the quota for the bedouin is that they have been urbanized, and some Jordanians of bedouin roots have held high offices in the states, such as ‘Akef al-Fayez, and his son Faysal.
In relation to the quota for Christians, Nahed Hattar arrives at a higher percentage of Christians in Jordan than the quota gives them. He calculates the percentage by excluding the Palestinians in Jordan. A more important aspect concerning the Christians in Jordan goes beyond the number of seats allocated for them. Jordan is praised as being tolerant, and indeed Christians in Jordan enjoy considerable freedom of religion. Moreover, some Christians hold senior positions in government, such as the Ministry of Finance and central bank of Jordan.
However, this tolerant image does not hide the fact that the Christians in Jordan are not found in the most senior positions of the army, nor has a Christian ever become a prime minister of Jordan. (Medical practitioners serving in military hospitals get high ranks, but this is a different field).
A Christian, Marwan al- Muasher, was made deputy prime minister. However, this post is more symbolic in its value, as a prime minister in Jordan would have more than one deputy at the same time. I suggest that Muasher’s promotion was a reward for his roles in the peace process which led to a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. He was Jordan’s first ambassador in Israel.
In The Arab Center, Muasher tells that members of his family were not keen on the fact that the first Jordanian ambassador to Jordan would be a Christian from a family which has priests. Also, when the neoconservative, Paul Wolfowitz, got into trouble at the World Bank for behaving unethically, only Muasher came out in support, in an attempt to save him.
Women’s political and civil rights are not equal nor are they guaranteed. Women in Jordan were given the right to vote in 1974. Ironically, they were given the right when no one in Jordan, men or women, could cast a vote to elect the government. The right to vote was given shortly before the inauguration of the Women Year (1975). Inam al-Mufti became the first Jordanian woman to hold a ministerial position in 1979. She served as the minister of social justice. While she was a minister, a new woman organization was established—the General Federation for Jordanian Women.
The second female minister was Layla Sharaf, the wife of Abd al-Hamid Sharaf, who is related to the royal family, and served as a prime minister. She resigned in 1985 after King Hussein stopped the debate about whether tribal laws should be abolished or not. Massad (2001, pp. 70-71) criticizes the reference made in Sharaf’s letter of resignation to ‘enlightening the citizen’. Massad says: ‘Sharaf, it would seem, had internalized the modernization project uncritically’ (p. 71). This interpretation is based on over-theorization. It fails to recognize that it took a great deal of courage to resign, make the resignation letter public, and incur the wrath of King Hussein. I suggest that Sharaf’s use of ‘enlightening the citizen’ is unrelated to ‘the modernization project’, as Massad assumes. ‘Enlighten’ is a commonly used word, and it means ‘inform’.
The third woman to hold a ministerial post was Rima Khalaf who served as minister of trade and industry, then as minister of planning. At her time, Jordan’s association agreement with the European Union was reached. She was one of three deputies of the PM in the government of Abd al-Ra’uf al-Rawabdeh which was formed in 1999—the first after Abdullah II succeeded his father. As already mentioned, the deputy post is of symbolic value in the main.
Through the unelected route, women occupied high-ranking positions in the government. However, going through the electoral route demonstrated that women have a problem winning seats in the HoD. When Jordan decided to hold elections in 1989, women looked forward to the opportunity. Hayfa’ al-Bashir said she considered it a duty to run in the elections.6 The number of women candidates in the general elections of 1989 was twelve. However, none of them managed to win a seat.
In 1993, a woman candidate, Toujan Faysal, contested the seat reserved for Circassians and won. Faysal’s earlier bid had failed, having alienated the Islamic current. She pointed out in an article (1989) that the Islamists do not respect women, and yet women elect them. Faysal was an active MP. She was, and still is, outspoken and attacks corruption. She failed to keep her seat in the elections of 1997, and accused the government of rigging the elections in favour of her opponent. In 2002, Faysal accused the Prime Minister, Ali Abu al-Ragheb, of changing the law which regulated insurance companies for the benefit of members of his family who own companies in this sector.
Faysal’s allegations were made public on a website based in the US (arabtimes.com). Abu al-Ragheb’s government decided she went too far. She was charged with publishing false news which harmed the prestige of the state, inter alia. Abu al-Ragheb did not have to give evidence in court. She was sentenced to eighteen months in prison. While in jail, she went on hunger strike. Faysal was pardoned by King Abdullah II in June 2002. She was not allowed to run for elections in 2003 because she was treated as having a criminal record.
Although Faysal was pardoned, the government interpreted the constitution in a way that a special pardon does not invalidate the record. Only a general pardon would have that effect. Faysal believes that the effect of the sentence on her ability to run for elections expires at the end five years after her release, and after that she can run. If the government prevented her from running, she said, she would sue the government.7 However, in the elections of 2010, she did not run.
In the elections of 1997, which the MB/IAF boycotted, there were seventeen women candidates, considerably higher than the candidates in 1989. However, they were equally unsuccessful in that round, even though it was boycotted by the MB/IAF. This suggests that the attitude towards women is not restricted to those who support the Islamists.
In 2001, another woman became an MP for a few months: Nuha al-Maayta. A vacancy arose in the HoD after the death of Rashed al-Barayseh. It was decided that there no was need to hold by-elections. It was left to the serving MPs to elect a replacement. The occasion was used to elect a woman. Seventeen candidates were considered, and al-Maayta was selected. When women repeatedly failed to win seats, the government introduced a quota, according to which six seats were added to the HoD and reserved for women. This was in response to recommendations made by the so-called ‘Jordan first commission’. The elections law was amended in 2003 to introduce the women quota, and it spelled out the formula according to which women would be considered elected.
The formula to win through the women quota converts the results achieved by women candidates into percentages based on the total number of votes cast in their respective constituencies. The women candidates who get the highest percentages across Jordan become MPs, provided that the percentage is not less than 5 percent. In the elections of 2003, this formula meant that one woman, Hayat al-Msaimi, running in Zarqa District, became an MP—having secured more than 7,000 votes.
In contrast, another woman, Insāf al-Khawaldeh, running in the Madaba District, became an MP with only 365 votes. There were women candidates who gained votes in the thousands, but the formula did not allow them to be selected. For example, a woman candidate in Irbid, Aminah al-Khasawneh, gained more than 2,000 votes, the second highest amongst women candidates in Jordan. However, she did not become a quota MP because she did not meet the 5 percent requirement.
A woman candidate in Amman-2 constituency would have needed a minimum of 4,167 votes. The governorates are not proportionately represented. The number of seats is not dependent on the number of people. Hayat al-Msaimi ran as an MB/IAF candidate. She nearly won outright, but fell short of a few votes. The failure to win outright is attributed (a) to being a woman, and (b) to being a Palestinian. This episode is mentioned by Samīh al-Maayta as an example of the penetration of nationalism into the MB ranks, something that was not the case before.8 Al-Msaimi said she won outright; however, the government declared the other candidate the winner because she would win through the quota.9
Although the quota system was introduced to improve women’s representation in the HoD, the women I interviewed in Jordan complained about the system. They explained that it had the effect of excluding women candidates in the Amman governorate from winning. The consequence of this is that all women who sit in parliament according to the quota are from outside Amman.
The elections of 2010 produced a surprise in Amman. The Palestinian leftist, Abla Abu Elbeh, won in Amman on the basis of the quota. The 5 percent requirement was calculated per single constituency within a multi-seat constituency, rather than per governorate as before. This made the more than 1000 votes she received exceed the 5 percent threshold. Had the old formula been used, she would not have won, and the argument that women cannot win Amman would have been validated.
Another woman, Reem Badran, won outright in Amman. Therefore, she rejects the view that women do not vote for female candidates. However, women activists believe Badran’s case is exceptional. As Emily Nafa explains, ‘that Badran won outright did not come as a surprise’.10 She is the daughter of Mudar Badran, a former PM.
As mentioned earlier, there are arguments about the constitutionality of the quota allocated for women. However, women argue that according to the single vote law, they have no chance of winning.
To conclude the analysis of data of this question, one can say that Jordan does not meet the international standards of civilian and political rights. The international declaration of human rights stipulates that restrictions on rights must be ‘necessary in a democratic society’. In such a society, criticism of the head of state is not a criminal offence. Comedians mock politicians, including the head of state. However, in Jordan, there is a law which makes it an offence to criticize the king. This is euphemistically referred to as ‘extending the tongue’. In September 2010, King Abdullah II pardoned eighteen individuals charged with this offence.
1.4: Economic and Social Rights
The overarching question (Q4S, Q26L) asks: ‘Are economic and social rights equally guaranteed for all?’ All twenty-four respondents answered the question. The lowest mark given is 1; the highest 9. The mean is 5.3.
Social, economic and cultural rights have their own international covenant. These rights include equality of men and women; rights related to work; trade associations; social security; family, mothers and children; physical and mental health; and education. The proponents of these rights argue that they are closely linked to the civil and political rights.
Jordan offers free education for twelve years, from the elementary level to the secondary education after which the students are eligible to enter universities to specialize in the subjects for which their marks qualify them. According to the official Jordanian statistics (2007), there are 1.207 million students in basic education (first nine years of education, 6-15 years old). This is equivalent to one-fifth of the total population (5.7 million). In the same year, there have been 184,000 students in secondary education—a level for 16-18 year olds.
Although education is free, a private education sector prospers. Some private schools are well reputed, and charge a great deal of money. The government makes an effort to distinguish some of its schools for both girls and boys, such as the Hussein College, Raghadan College, Zain al-Sharaf, Sukayna, and Samir al-Refai Comprehensive School. Moreover, during times of economic downturns, some families cut expenditure by taking their children out of private schools and send them back to government-funded schools.
In the long questionnaire, five of the six assessors answered the question. The marks given are 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. The mean is 6, which is higher than the mean of the marks given by the twenty-four respondents. The difference in the means suggests that the six assessors have a more favourable view of the economic and social rights in the country. However, the difference is not significantly high to suggest a discrepancy worthy of further investigation.
= = =
(1) A lecture I attended in Jordan on 23/6/2009 at the Royal Cultural Centre, Amman.
(2) Article’s date is 27 April 2009 as published in ‘allofjo.net’. The site publishes his articles, which sometimes were published in the Lebanese daily, al-Akhbar, or the Jordanian daily, al-Arab al-Yawm.
(3) King Hussein married an Egyptian, a British, Palestinian, and an American. Prince Hassan married a Pakistani. King Abdullah II is married to a Palestinian. Prince Ali married an Algerian.
(4) By discrimination I mean less favourable treatment, as in the British Race Relations Act (1976).
(5) Using the influence or recommendation of an influential person; literally means an intermediary.
(6) Personal interview. Amman, 24 June 2009.
(7) Personal interview. Amman, 6 June 2009.
(8) Personal interview. Amman, 23 June 2009.
(9) Personal interview. Amman, 25 March 2010.
(10) Personal interview. Amman, 18 November 2010.
Adli Hawwari (2020). Reluctant Liberalisation: A Democratic Audit of Jordan, 1989-2019. London: Ud Al -Nad Ltd.
- Jordan: A Democratic Audit