This Week in Jordan July 28
Hello and welcome back to This Week in Jordan, a podcast from Radio al Balad and Amman Net. I’m your host, Julia Thomason, and each week I come on here to share the weekly news in Jordan for our English-speaking audiences. This week, I’ll be discussing Monkey Pox, a stabbing in Northern Jordan, the Kings meetings with both Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid as well as Palestinian President Abbas, and finally I’ll share the details of the recent sit-ins, hunger strikes, and movement surrounding the unemployment rate in Jordan. Let’s get started, with the news from this last week in July.
Though Monkeypox has been on the radar for months now, it reentered the public eye recently as a state of emergency was declared. According to the Jordanian Ministry of Health official that heads covid response, Dr. Adel Al-Balbisi, the state of emergency declaration, more than anything, means that the world is more interested in reporting these cases and is ready to confront this endemic, which will require international cooperation and control.
The declaration came from the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Ghebreyesus, and was based on the recommendation of the Emergency Committee, after the meeting of countries and discussing the number of disease cases. Such a declaration often comes after multiple risk factors come into play, the most important factors being QUOTE “the importance of this event and its danger to public health, and if the event was unexpected and unusual, there are great risks of its spread on an international level, in addition to the potential risks of imposing restrictions on international travel” according to Dr. Al-Balbisi. Once at least two of these factors come into play, an emergency declaration is likely.
Dr. Al-Balbisi reiterated that the Jordanian Ministry of Health is QUOTE ‘fully prepared to deal with monkeypox through the means available to it." END QUOTE
Turning inwards, there was another emergency response in the north of Jordan on Wednesday after a man stabbed himself in the Emir Mohammed district of the Zarqa governorate. The details of the event are still being investigated, but it is known that a man in his twenties stabbed himself after entering a home supply store and grabbing a knife from the display. After stabbing himself in the abdomen, he was rushed to the hospital and operated on. He is said to be in moderate condition. The man’s motive and the details of the event are still under investigation and have yet to be released.
King’s Meeting with Abbas
Earlier this week, on Sunday, King Abdullah met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman. The two discussed their ongoing cooperation and common causes and concerns, and Abbas briefed King Abdullah on the latest developments in Palestine and the recent challenging Palestinians are facing as a result of the continuous crimes of the Israeli occupation. King Abdullah reiterated Jordan’s firm support for Palestine and achieving just and legitimate rights for the Palestinian people, both those residing in Palestine and those living in Jordan, who make up a majority of the population.
The two leaders discussed US President Joe Biden’s recent visit, as well as the Jeddah summit, the results of which confirmed the necessity of holding Israel accountable with international legitimacy resolutions.
Abbas and King Abdullah confirmed their commitment to coordination and working for the shared interests of the two countries, a relation they referred to as brotherly. Abbas thanked the King for his unwavering support and clear stance on the rights of Palestinians and their cause in all international settings.
King’s Meeting with Israeli PM
Just a few days later, King Abdullah met with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday in Amman. Lapid has been serving as interim prime minister since the coalition government he helped bring together collapsed in June. The relationship between Jordan and Israel has improved slight since former Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu lost in his bid for re-election last year, who Lapid hopes to again defeat in the election this November, the 5th election in Israel in the last 4 years. Despite the peace treaty signed between the two countries in 1994, their bilateral relations have continued to be fraught as the Israeli occupation continues.
In their meeting, King Abdullah reiterated the necessity of a Palestinian state if peace is to be reached. He urged the Prime Minister to include Palestinians in US-sponsored economic projects meant to increase stability as well as the water-for-energy deals the two countries are considering, which would likely be funded in part by the Gulf countries. The two leaders touched on bilateral projects in the energy, water, transportation, and food sectors and speeding up the movement and cooperation on such projects. King Abdullah also brought to the table the need for Israeli cooperation in protecting holy sites, particularly the Al Aqsa compound, which is under the custodianship of the Kingdom, where tensions have been mounting in recent months.
They also discussed President Biden’s recent visit to the region, in which he encouraged increased normalization between Arab countries and Israel, a US led project, under the guise of uniting against Iran, that has been increasingly successful in recent years, particularly under the Trump administration, beginning in 2020 when the United Arab Emirates broke the long-lasting statute that Arab countries would not normalize relations with Israel without Palestinian statehood. Bahrain, Morrocco, and Sudan soon followed.
Some slight improvements were noted, as US policy under President Biden shifts back towards a commitment to the necessity of a two-state solution, a change Jordanian officials stated has already eased some of the pressure placed on Jordan.
IOF Arrests young people and demolishes their homes in West Bank
However, all the discussion of cooperation and the goal of peace came less than a day after the Israeli occupation forces demolished multiple Palestinian homes and carried out a raid in the West Bank on Tuesday.
Occupation forces violently stormed the town of Qarawat Bani Hassan, outside of Salfit, with military bulldozers in tow, and forcefully evacuated Palestinians from the neighboring homes. Last April, the Israeli occupation forces arrested the two young men, Yehia Marei, who was 19 at the time, and Youssef Assi, who was 20. Both of their family homes were blown up on Tuesday, as well as another home in the area.
As young men gathered and clashes erupted near Merhi’s home before the demolition, the occupation forces fired tear gas at the men.
On the same day, the occupation forces arrested four young Palestinians after storming and searching homes near Bethlehem. Those arrested include: 20 year olds Laith Al-Atrash and Jad Maali from the Dheisheh refugee camp, south of Bethlehem as well as 31-year-old Alaa Khaled Abu Samour, and 26-year-old Hassan Ali Hassan Taqatqa in the town of Beit Fajjar, south of Jerusalem. They also searched and tampered with the homes of Muhammad Samreen and Muhammad Zayed Al-Abayat in Beit Sahour.
Sit-ins have continued across Jordan this week, particularly in the Ma’an and Tafila governorates as the high rate of unemployment remains unaddressed.
Earlier this week, Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya participated in a job day with the Irbid Chamber of Industry and made a statement about providing 6000 job opportunities for young people in the private sector due to the lack of work in the public sector. He called on young people not to wait for work in the public sector and to go to the private sector to help themselves and their families. This statement was met with much backlash, as it fails to address the overarching problem, and many don’t have trust in these newly promised jobs.
In response to the wave of negative comments from citizens, Al-Faraya replied: "People do not like to hear reality."
The current unemployment rate, which hovering around 22.8%, shows slight improvement from this time last year, however the improvement is very minimal in consideration of the reopening from covid lockdowns that has primarily taken place in the past year.
Lawyer Hamada Abu Najma, who leads the Workers’ House center, considers the sit-ins as a natural consequence of the deteriorating economic conditions and failure of the government to find any solution. Abu Najma clearly states that this issue did not come out of covid, but rather from the way investments are distributed and concentrated in the capital, making unemployment is particularly dire in the remote governates farther from the city, with the highest rate being 29% in the Tafila governate.
Although the Ministry of Labor launched the National Program for Employment in an attempt to reduce these rates, which utilized 80 million dinars to help offset the salaries of 60,000 young men and women, ages 18-40, this program missed the mark. Abu Najma makes it clear that the jobs offered did not meet the needs of the market, and citizens still were not able to find work through this program.
Largely due to these economic conditions, the “Arab Barometer” report indicated that Jordan has one of the highest rates of residents considering leaving the country in the Middle East, coming in at almost 50%. This percentage raises alarm and is a clear indication of economic anxiety and uncertainty about the future, particularly among young people, according to the Head of the Economic and Social Council, Dr. Musa Shteiwi.
While it is clear economic instability and unemployment are a problem being faced by many Jordanians, the issue has become significantly elevated in the public eye this week after protestors were arrested in the sit in in Tafila. The internet has erupted with calls for the release of activist Sumaya Abu Nabaa who was recently arrested, as well as Ali Al-Damani, who has been on hunger strike for 44 days in Marka prison. Many have taken to social media to criticize these arrests, on top of the failure to address unemployment in the country. Both Abu Nabaa and Al Damani remain in custody.
That is it for this week, thank you for joining me in reviewing the news in Jordan from this past week. I’m your host Julia Thomason, and I hope you’ll join me again next week. Until then.