When Jordan’s Prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein relinquished his title on April 3, official media retailers remained silent, cautious of stepping out of line with the nation’s authorities.
King Abdullah II’s half brother was the primary royal within the kingdom’s historical past to make such a transfer, which got here a 12 months after he was accused of plotting in opposition to the king.
For the reason that announcement, by which Hamzah stated his “private convictions” had been “not in line” with Jordan’s present establishments, confusion has lingered among the many Jordanian public, with rumours that he was compelled to signal an apology letter that was revealed by the Royal Court docket a month in the past.
Hamzah’s announcement got here as Jordan experiences a wave of public dissatisfaction, a crackdown on dissenting voices, and censorship of media retailers, the vast majority of which have nonetheless not been reported by the media.
“Our silence proved once more that we’re managed, we work inside a sure agenda, that we’re not impartial nor partial,” Khalid Qudah, an Amman-based political commentator, informed Al Jazeera.
Hamzah’s criticisms of the Jordanian authorities hit a uncooked nerve, notably as lots of these against King Abdullah II, however supportive of the establishment of the monarchy, noticed him as a substitute.
The sensitivity of the subject is subsequently clear, and in a media panorama the place the safety companies incessantly strain journalists to not publish articles on sure subjects, few have dared to the touch the topic.
“The Jordanian authorities need to silence opposition voices and that is terrifying,” stated Mohammad Ersan, the editor-in-chief of two Jordanian media retailers. “Particularly if you’re an impartial journalist – you are worried on daily basis that somebody will knock in your door to arrest you.”
The Jordanian authorities has just lately cracked down on activists, journalists, and union members, finishing up “preemptive” arrests. Whereas silencing political dissent has turn into routine follow, arrests based mostly solely on intent are seldom seen within the kingdom.
“Now, there’s a new technique of arrests, not based mostly on what they [those arrested] do, however relatively on their intent of doing one thing,” stated Qudah, who can be on the board of the Jordan Press Affiliation. “That is extra harmful; it’s a large transformation.”
At the least 150 folks had been arrested within the month previous Hamzah’s assertion, in response to a latest report revealed by Democracy for the Arab World Now, a regional NGO. The report famous that the arrests had been tied to the federal government’s efforts to forestall anti-government protests.
Maisara Malas, an engineer and union activist who was arrested on March 24 on the anniversary of a protest 11 years earlier, informed Al Jazeera that he was arrested on the doorstep of his home and detained for 12 hours.
“Actually, I didn’t know the explanation,” Malas stated, noting that he “forgot there was a protest that day”.
“Jordan has by no means handled a scenario like this,” he added. “I really feel like I’m residing in a merciless system, not one based mostly on authorized or constitutional legal guidelines.”
Jordanian authorities have been unsettled ever since Hamzah publicly criticised Jordan’s “governing construction” and accused it of corruption and incompetence.
Whereas Hamzah stated he had been positioned below home arrest on the time, the federal government tried to place a line below the matter, cautious of his recognition and proof of a divide between Jordan’s elite.
Hamzah’s informal manner and resemblance to his father, the late King Hussein, have lengthy introduced him assist – notably amongst Jordan’s tribal populations, who had been amongst King Hussein’s core supporters, and whose backing is now key to the regime’s stability.
“It’s his approach of speaking, his modesty,” a Jordanian from a tribe outdoors the nation’s capital, Amman, who spoke on situation of anonymity, informed Al Jazeera. “[When Hamzah visited us] he got here with out guards or something, he was simply driving a truck … That is how the folks of Jordan love their leaders.”
Throughout the Arab Spring-era demonstrations, pushed largely by financial discontent blamed on King Abdullah II’s financial liberalisation and privatisation insurance policies, some protesters had vocalised their preferences for a transition to Hamzah’s rule.
King Abdullah II’s insurance policies have threatened Jordan’s tribal populations, who profit from patronage schemes and public sector jobs. It was amongst these populations that the pro-reform Unified Jordanian Hirak motion emerged on the onset of the Arab Spring, and the place love for Hamzah runs deep.
“I like all the Hashemite household [the Jordanian monarchy], however what I like about him [Hamzah] is that he’s very humble and he’s nearer than the opposite princes and princesses to the residents,” stated a Jordanian from a tribe in Madaba, who additionally spoke on the situation of anonymity.
“The persons are nearer to Hamzah’s narrative. It’s on the aspect of individuals; it speaks about them and displays their emotions,” stated Qudah, who can be on the board of the Jordan Press Affiliation.
Starvation and corruption
The Pandora Papers and Credit score Suisse’s leaks of King Abdullah II’s hundreds of thousands in offshore accounts added to many Jordanian residents’ criticisms of high-level authorities corruption, leaving the royal household on skinny ice with an already annoyed populace.
“The Jordanian folks, we reached a degree now the place we’re actually annoyed by the best way the nation is being dominated,” stated Hind al-Fayez, a former MP from one in all Jordan’s largest tribes, and who’s now a Hirak member.
However, she informed Al Jazeera, “It’s not that we’re not pleased with the best way King Abdullah is ruling the nation, so we’d like his brother. No! We wish the folks to rule.”
“It’s concerning the large hole between them [the royal family] and the folks. The insecurity,” al-Fayez added.
In a latest public opinion ballot, solely 36 p.c of Jordanians surveyed had belief within the present authorities.
Unemployment charges in Jordan have reached unprecedented ranges, with almost half of Jordan’s youth – the most important and rising section of the inhabitants – unemployed.
“The Jordanian folks don’t have anything to lose,” stated al-Fayez. “We’re hungry.”
“Folks used to knock on my door, asking for monetary assist, for jobs,” she added. “Now, persons are asking for one meal – for a sandwich. They’re hungry. It is a bomb that may explode at any time.”
The modifications to the 2022 electoral legislation, which might enable for the formation of political events, can be the federal government’s “final likelihood of encouraging democracy”, al-Fayez stated, noting that there must be more room in Parliament allowed for Hirak representatives.
“In any other case, there will probably be a revolution,” al-Fayez added. “It’s about time now, the folks ought to snap out of it and say, ‘now we have the precise to rule our nation – cease sucking our blood.’”