Published On: Sun, Apr 4th, 2021

EYE ON JORDAN: Controversy Brews: Former Crown Prince Hamza Under House Arrest

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By Janet Ekstract

ISTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – Jordan is in the spotlight with rumors of an alleged coup plot after the detention of former Crown Prince Hamza bin Hussein, the oldest son of the late King Hussein’s fourth wife, Queen Noor and the half-brother of the current King Abdullah of Jordan who stripped Prince Hamza of his title ‘crown prince’ in 2004. The former crown prince is being accused of criticizing the Jordanian government of corruption, incompetence and harassment. In a video circulating worldwide, passed to the BBC by his lawyer on April 3, the former crown prince reported that his internet and phone lines were cut and that he is now under house arrest as part of a crackdown on critics of the Jordanian government.

Prince Hamzah’s detention comes after news of an alleged coup plot and a number of at least 20 high-profile arrests in Jordan. Jordan’s military had denied earlier that he was under house arrest and said the prince was ordered to cease actions that could be used to target what Jordan’s military terms its “security and stability.” The prince raised ire with the government after he made a visit to tribal leaders where according to press reports, he gained a certain level of support. The prince has denied being part of any coup plot and denies any wrongdoing on his part. In the video, recorded on Saturday April 3, Prince Hamza said: “I had a visit from the chief of general staff of the Jordanian armed forces – this morning in which he informed me that I was not allowed to go out, to communicate with people or to meet with them because in the meetings I had been present in – or on social media, relating to visits I had made – there had been criticism of the government or the king.”

Meanwhile, Jordanian Political Analyst Lamis Andoni, interviewed by TRT World on Sunday said that the prince has been removed from his formal titles and connections since he spoke out. A major reason, she said is that he was visiting tribal groups and listening to their grievances against the government.  Andoni added: “There are legitimate grievances but if they get mixed up with royal feuds, the future will be bleak.” She also explained the reason the former crown prince has gained the confidence of tribal leaders is “because he uses the Jordanian dialect as if he is one of the people in those regions” and this is what Andoni said endears him to the tribal people. Andoni admitted that one major tribe issued a statement “condemning the behavior against its leaders.” The political analyst expressed her view on the situation and King Abullah’s actions: “I think it’s not wise to get the military involved for the sake of the country. He cannot take such severe measures because he will antagonize more people.” Andoni emphasized that the king needs to “involve in a process of change” and that “this is the palace’s problem, they are so obsessed” with criticisms and certain people. She added: “Popular demands and popular grievances, in my view, are legitimate.” Andoni had some advice for King Abdullah: “He should concern himself with wider governances and address the economic crisis.” Andoni said that it’s necessary to show that Jordan is “seeking social justice” and she added that the king’s economic ties to Israel have provoked a great deal of anger among Jordanians.

On Sunday, TRT World spoke with several experts on the Middle East about their perspectives. The first, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies and Islamic Politics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, Nader Hashemi, spoke about his viewpoint on the prince’s detention. Hashemi said: “What the crown prince is saying about the King of Jordan and the crown elites is accurate.” Hashemi further added that because the prince has expressed the discontent “and at least has sympathized with this anger, and that’s why he’s been arrested.” Hashemi added that the former crown prince is simply expressing sentiment from Jordanians who have been unhappy with the government for a long time, and it is this, as Hashemi commented, that has “raised ire with the ruling elites in Jordan.”  He added: “They view Prince Hamza as a destabilizing element.” The assistant professor added that the “other countries in the region are corrupt” and explained that those countries want to maintain the status quo in Jordan. In his long-term view, Hashemi expressed what he says is a view long held by Jordanians themselves: “I think the real story here is what’s happening in society, the growing poverty, the growing anger, the growing corruption.”  Hashemi commented: “Jordan has become increasingly authoritarian, increasingly oppressive” and he also said the prince has simply voiced the growing discontent of the Jordanian people: “I think he is expressing views that are very popular in Jordanian society.”

In addition, TRT World also spoke to Khalil Jahshan of the Arab Center in Washington D.C. who explained that there has been “a demand by the authorities of the former crown prince of Jordan to stay home and not participate in meetings.”  Jahshan added: “I doubt, like I said, that there is a coup d’etat in Jordan but a crackdown on people who have been critical of the regime in Jordan, at this time.”  He explained:  “There is an investigation pertaining to national security in the Kingdom and 20 people have been arrested.”  Jahshan added: “Beyond that, the tape confirms not an arrest as much as a house arrest.” As for the former crown prince’s long-term view on his country, he expressed these additional sentiments on his video: “I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, for the corruption and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse…and I am not responsible for the lack of faith people have in their institutions. They are responsible.” He added: “Unfortunately, this country has gone from one that was at the forefront of the region in terms of education and healthcare, in terms of human dignity and freedoms, to one in which even to criticize even a small aspect of a policy, leads to arrest and abuse by the security services. It has reached a point where no one is able to speak or express opinion on anything without being bullied, arrested, harassed and threatened.” The former crown prince concluded his video by saying: “Unfortunately, this country has become stymied in corruption, in nepotism and in misrule, and the result has been the destruction or the loss of hope that is apparent in pretty much every Jordanian. The loss of hope in our future, the loss of dignity, and a life under constant threat because we simply want to speak the truth, or we are trying to express our concerns or our hopes for the future.”

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