Society

Jordanian Women Break Workplace Barriers To Gain Independence

In a country plagued by economic crisis, women are entering professions usually reserved for men. Against societal expectations, they are striving for independence.

AMMAN — At the end of the production line at the Combaj factory, Inas Shenawi checks the packaging of detergent bottles. Neither her degree in accounting nor her previous work experience had prepared her to work as a supervisor in a factory. But the 34-year-old Jordanian has no regrets: Shenawi says she is thriving and plans to climb the ladder at the factory in suburban Amman, where she first began working in spring 2020.

The current harsh economic crisis in Jordan made her take the leap into a job not common for women, but one that assures her rights and stability. "I can support my family, ensure our dignity," says Shenawi. As a single woman, her role as family breadwinner became crucial after her father could no longer work because of a heart attack.

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Nothing To See Here, How Arab Monarchies Hold On To Power

When the Jordanian royal family gathered on April 11 to celebrate 100 years since the kingdom's foundation, it was a picture of dynastic unity. Alongside King Abdullah was his half-brother, the former crown prince Hamzah bin al-Hussein, who had only days ago been placed under house arrest, following what was reported in the world's press as a "coup attempt". The king gave interviews assuring the outside world that all was well and that the former heir to the Jordanian throne had offered him his loyalty.

In no other area of the world do royal families dominate politics as much as in the Middle East. Six of the states on the Arabian peninsula are monarchies, as are Jordan and Morocco. Royals not only rule in these states, but in most cases members of the royal family dominate positions of influence in government and business sectors.

This prevalence of absolute monarchies in the Middle East has puzzled scholars for decades. Many somewhat arrogantly assumed that these modes of governance would die out as the states modernised and "inevitably" followed the western model, becoming republics or embracing the constitutional monarchy model. Yet the monarchies have proved to be rather resilient.

During the seismic regional upheaval of the Arab Spring from 2010 onwards, a number of republics were convulsed by revolution. But, while several monarchies endured significant protests, none fell – and few really looked in mortal peril.

Investigating the roots of this resilience has engendered a burst of scholarship. Some scholars have argued that monarchies were culturally or otherwise locally attuned and fit simply into prevalent tribal heritages. Others suggested that monarchies are more effective at controlling opposition or that they oppress their way to relative stability.

But such explanations struggle to contend with the region's history. Any sense of a special predilection in the Middle East for monarchy is undercut by the reality that many monarchies have fallen in the past century or so, as in Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, North Yemen, South Arabia, Libya and Iran.

A more compelling explanation is likely to lie elsewhere. For the Gulf monarchies, it is difficult to get away from the transformative impact of gargantuan levels of hydrocarbon resources.

All monarchies occupy important geostrategic locations

Wealth alone is far from a panacea – just ask citizens in Iraq, Iran, or Venezuela. But the careful and effective distribution of wealth has surely been a critical factor engendering comparative stability in the monarchies. Not only that, but all monarchies occupy important geostrategic locations. As such, they arguably benefit from the support of influential external states in maintaining the status quo – including the US in the case of the Gulf monarchies and Jordan, and France in the case of Morocco.

The kings and emirs of these states are not elected, and criticizing them or their position is usually a bright red line that citizens do not cross. Still, neither are they despots, and they rule with often a surprising degree of support from a range of constituencies.

Indeed, most royal elites created systems to place themselves at the apex of wealth or favor redistribution schemes that are baked into the state's political economy. This means they have created strong and sometimes diverse groups of individuals and structures in society who continue to be dependent on the status quo from which they benefit.

These benefits vary from country to country. Monarchs in the Gulf have long overseen some of the world's most generous welfare state systems, as well as low rates of taxation, sometimes explicit promises of jobs in the government sector, and a litany of subsidies. Similarly, in Jordan it has long been argued that elites used government handouts and patronage to boost support in key tribal constituencies.

This system has worked for decades, but is coming under increasing pressure. Indeed, arguably the central problem that the monarchies face, albeit to varying degrees, is that their economies are classed as rentier economies. This means that, in reality, a comparatively small percentage of the populations are involved with making the majority of the state's income, which tends to come from extractive industries (oil, gas, minerals) or international support.

The obvious issues here are that these resources are finite and subject to wildly shifting demand and prices. The influence of, for example, hydrocarbons on local economies is so pervasive that it tends to inhibit the emergence of an autonomous, functioning economy. Overall, this means that the state's GDP lurches around according to factors well beyond the control of the state, which has long played havoc with governments striving to set a sustainable, clear, long-term budget.

Diversifying these economies away from a reliance on these kinds of basic sources of income has been a goal for generations. The results show that states fail to meaningfully diversify unless they are forced to – and even when the wells run practically dry, they switch, like Bahrain, to relying on other monarchies for financial support.

The recent elite spat and mini crisis in Jordan is arguably rooted in precisely these kinds of economic concerns. But, if recent reports are to be believed, the family squabble has been resolved, order has been restored and – for the time being at least – the status quo appears to have survived.The Conversation

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Exclusive: The Secret Global Data Cell Infiltrating Jihadists

We knew the name: Operation Gallant Phoenix. But now Le Monde has exclusive access to details of the U.S.-led, Jordan-based effort to use digital tools to track, capture and convict some of the most dangerous perpetrators of Islamist terror around the wor

Hidden from view in the quiet heat of Jordan, a vast data war is being waged. Ground zero is an American military base in the heart of the Hashemite kingdom, where for the past five years, a silent tracking system has been developed based on meticulous archives. The goal of this painstaking project? Identifying and consolidating the traces of every kind of jihadist fighter to pursue them in any way possible — including in the courts.

This extraordinary project was long run by the Pentagon and kept completely under wraps. While it remains a confidential operation to this day, it's been mentioned briefly by official sources across the Atlantic and by a few intelligence unit insiders in European media. Yet the undertaking was never disclosed to the public in detail. Today, Le Monde can reveal the origins and the modus operandi of what is known under the code name "Operation Gallant Phoenix" (OGP).

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Petra Peddlers From The Past

The woman and the boy in the foreground were walking toward the members of my guided tour to try to sell knick-knacks. There were only two of them selling souvenirs in front of the Royal Tombs, and my fellow visitors and I had the whole Petra site pretty much to ourselves — which I'm told would be near impossible these days.

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Marta Vidal

In Jordan, A Safe Space For Refugee Fathers

A group in East Amman gives men from Syria and other conflict zones an opportunity to open up and talk through the many ways they struggle.

AMMAN — Each week, a group of 15 or so refugee men meet at a community center in East Amman and sit in a circle. They laugh and cry together while sharing stories they always divide into two phases: before and after the war began.

War and protracted exile have stripped them of their traditional roles and identities as protectors and financial providers for their families. This group is a safe space in which they get to be vulnerable. They realize they're not alone — but most importantly, it's a chance to be heard.

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Jordan
Gil Yaron

The Next Middle East Trouble Spot: Jordan

The longstanding peace accord between Israel and Jordan ensures stability in the region, but King Abdullah II's domestic troubles could change everything.

AMMAN — Israel's government has been rarely so surprised by a close ally. But on the 23rd anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Jordan's King Abdullah II reversed one of the Nobel Peace Prize winner's most important achievements.

On Twitter, the monarch announced that he was annulling an attachment to the peace treaty that his father had signed with Rabin in 1994. The treaty concerns two enclaves that Jordan leased to Israel for agricultural use for 25 years. They were considered a prime example of Israeli-Arab cooperation. According to the agreement, Israelis were given free access to areas that were Jewish privately-owned and farmed before Israel's foundation in 1948.

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SESAME:  A New Accelerator Of Science And Middle East Peace

Modeled on Swiss-based nuclear research center CERN after the 1994 Oslo accords, the idea of the Amman-based facility is to use science as a way to learn to work together in the Middle East.

AMMAN — The muezzin's sends out the last call to prayer in the winter twilight. The cube-shaped houses lined up against Amman's 19 hills take on pastel tones as the sun sets. But a new source of light emerged on Jan. 11 — one that aims to bathe the entire Middle East. They are the first rays of particles circulated at Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, or SESAME. The project has been conceived of as a model of scientific diplomacy, a different way to try to bring about peace.

"Having long been a promise, it's now become a reality," says Giorgio Paolucci, the Italian scientific director of SESAME.

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Jordan
Lora Moftah

How Syrian Refugees Made It To Mecca For Hajj Pilgrimage

There is an economic explanation for why more Syrian refugee families in Jordan were able to make it to Mecca this year.

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP — Ghazia Jaber hasn't had much cause for celebration since the start of the Syrian civil war. The 60-year-old widow and mother of eight escaped with her family from their native Daraa after the southern Syrian city became the target of a bombing offensive in 2013. The family, along with more than 80,000 Syrians, are now living in this overcrowded refugee camp just eight miles from the Syrian border.

But in the midst of this tumult, Jaber got an opportunity she never expected: She was able to leave the camp and all the hardship behind for a week to make the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

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Coffee Break

In between visiting the wonders of the nearby city of Jerash and the desertic Wadi Rum valley, we stopped for the night in Jordan's capital Amman. And scenes like this one in the hotel lobby were as memorable as the country's ancient ruins and wondrous landscapes.

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Go Up Moses

In the Bible, Moses ascended Mount Nebo in Jordan, and from this ridge on the King's Highway, he was granted a view of the Promised Land. Unfortunately, like Moses, I never made it there.

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Rugs And Ruins

Coming across the border after our stay in Syria, our first stop in Jordan was Jerash, the ancient settlement known as Gerasa. Sitting at an outdoor café, we gazed upon the "Pompei of the East" — and the rugs for sale right next to the Roman ruins.

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Trompe-L'Oeil

Although it's close to Petra, one of humanity's architectural wonders, this pyramid in Wadi Rum was actually carved by Mother Nature.

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That's Entertainment

Back when the Jordanian city of Jerash was known to the Romans as Gerasa, the large South Theater was sometimes used for naumachia.

Naumachia is similar to gladiator combat, just that you need to fill the theater with water and add life-size reproductions of warships. The stage was dry by the time we got there, though staring at it you can't help but imagine these ancient naval battles.

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Historical Stopover

Driving from what was then a peaceful Syria, we stopped in Jerash, in northern Jordan, to enjoy the view of the well-preserved ruins of the Greco-Roman city Gerasa.

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Popular Desert

Although it is somewhat cast into the shadow by the world-famous temple of Petra nearby, the Wadi Rum region in southern Jordan is popular among travelers who want to discover the wonders of the desert and its Bedouin heritage.

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Siq View

Before you can behold Petra"s Khazneh (Treasury), you need to walk — or ride a camel — for about one kilometer in the extremely narrow gorge they call the Siq. It's the perfecty theatrical entrance to this truly awe-inspiring temple.

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