Jordanians on Monday took to the streets to celebrate their country’s 74th Independence Day amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.
The festivities followed a three-day lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the killer virus in the country, which has so far recorded 708 cases and nine deaths.
Jordan’s population of almost 10 million people, the majority of them in their youth and belonging to different backgrounds and ethnicities which pride themselves on peaceful coexistence, woke up to national flags fluttering throughout the nation as well as on the Google search home page.
The COVID-19 pandemic has instilled a sense of nationalism and unity as well as confidence in the country’s leadership that has not been felt in years.
Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Mothanna Gharaibeh told Arab News that the virus outbreak had helped to boost Jordan’s digital resilience. “During the crisis, internet traffic grew by 70 percent overnight and yet our resilient internet network was able to take it without any reduction on YouTube or Netflix quality.”
Gharaibeh, the youngest minister in Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s government, said that the private and public sectors had been working together during the COVID-19 emergency to overcome many challenges.
“From security to food delivery and online learning, thousands of Jordanians who were serving global customers continued to deliver quality services from their homes,” he added.
The minister, who was an activist during the short-lived Jordanian spring in 2011, pointed out that despite the economic difficulties caused by the lockdown there had been some positives to emerge from the situation.
“We grew by 700-plus jobs in the last two months by top companies like Cisco, Webhelp, BIGO/IMO, and others relying on the Jordanian solid infrastructure, skills, and work ethics,” he said.
Mahmoud Zawahreh, a young political activist from the city of Zarqa, told Arab News that Jordan was battling on two fronts. “The struggle is against different challenges in dealing with the coronavirus as well as the external political challenges.
“Jordan is being forced to escalate its response due to the dangers from the Israeli intentions to annex Palestinian territories while at the same time it has to deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Maamoun Abu Nawwar, a retired two-star air force general, said the people and leaders of Jordan had succeeded in finding a common ground as a nation. “There is a successful trilateral cooperation between the leadership, the army and the people.
“There is a close-knit atmosphere that has been recently articulated with many Jordanians returning from abroad because of the pandemic and realizing how great their country is and that it takes care of its people.”
He added that Jordan faced a difficult future and that some of its challenges were “existential” and required a holistic approach. “Jordan needs to be more inclusive to all regional neighbors to seek their help and protection from Israel.”
He believes that some of its neighbors have not risen to the challenges facing the country. “There is bitterness in Jordan regarding how much it can count on regional powers to stand with it. At times Jordan feels like it has to stand alone because it refuses to take sides in regional disputes,” Abu Nawwar said.
Tareq Khoury, the former head of the Wehdat Football Club and now a member of parliament representing Zarqa, told Arab News that independence required hard decisions including the cancellation of the Wadi Araba Treaty (Jordan-Israel peace accord).
“Independence requires fighting with the occupying enemy who is targeting our holy places and the Jordan Valley,” he said.
Khoury, a businessman who trades with regional countries, said that a much more robust economic relationship was needed.
Samar Nassar, the first female secretary-general of the Jordanian Football Association, said Jordan had been a sports pioneer in the region, championing women empowerment, and using sports for social change.
“We hosted the FIFA under-17 Women’s World Cup, which was the first international tournament of its scale in the Arab world and we hosted the 2018 women’s Asian Cup final.”