Amid rumors of a coup and the former crown prince under house arrest, Jordanians fear a new crackdown – The Washington Post
After investigations carried out by security forces found that the activities of the men had reached a level that “directly” touched the security and stability of the country, security forces proposed the case be referred to state security court, said Safadi, but the king would discuss the matter directly with detained prince.
In a clear message that no dissent or criticism against the king would be tolerated, the head of the parliament, Faysal al-Fayez said earlier in the day that the “the king is a red line” and the country would stand against “any trembling traitorous hand that aims to mess with out security and stability.”
Jordanians woke Sunday filled with questions after several — and a popular prince put under house arrest — in what may have been the crushing of a coup attempt.
Those arrested in the Saturday roundup included Sharif Hasan, a member of the royal family, and Bassem Awadullah, a former senior official in Jordan’s Royal Hashemite Court who had also served as special Jordanian representative to the Saudi government.
Most dramatic was the apparent house arrest of the popular former crown prince Hamzeh.
“Praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander. God bless and keep them safe,” tweeted his American-born mother, Queen Noor, on Sunday.
Yasser Majali, head of Hamzeh’s office, Sheikh Sameer Majali, and several other senior members of the influential Majali tribe who serve in prominent positions in the Jordanian government and military, were also detained Saturday.
In a statement released Sunday, the Majali tribe described the arrests as “unlawful,” and the event as a “black day in the history of Jordan.”
Hamzeh, 41, the ruling king’s half brother, served as Jordan’s crown prince for four years until 2004, when the title was transferred to the king’s eldest son, Hussein.
Hamzeh has held multiple positions within the monarchy, including in the army, where he holds the rank of brigadier general. He commands a loyal following in Amman and, with his trim mustache and checkered kaffiyeh headdress, often styles himself after his father, the late King Hussein, a revered figure in Jordan.
On Saturday evening, Jordanian army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yousef Huneiti issued a statement saying Hamzeh had not been detained but instead was “asked to stop movements and activities that were being employed to target Jordan’s security and stability,” adding that “all the procedures were conducted within the framework of the law and after extensive investigations.”
Several hours later, Hamzeh passed on a video to the BBC in which he said that he was forbidden from communicating with people or using Twitter after being told that he had participated in meetings in which the king was criticized. The rare video blamed the government for corruption, incompetence and intolerance for public dissent and was viewed as a scathing critique of the ruling monarch — though King Abdullah II was not mentioned by name.
“I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, 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,” he said. “It has reached a point where no one is able to speak or express opinion on anything without being bullied, arrested, harassed and threatened.”
Since the news broke Saturday, #Prince_Hamzeh has trended on Twitter, along with messages of solidarity with the prince from followers in Jordan and abroad.
Amid rumors of “foreign” involvement in the alleged plot, Jordan’s regional neighbors were quick to voice support for the monarch.
“The kingdom affirms its full support, with all its capabilities, to all decisions and measures taken by King Abdullah and His Highness Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, the Crown Prince, to maintain security and stability,” the Saudi royal court said in a statement.
Emirati official Anwar Gargash said on Twitter that Jordan’s stability was a priority for the region, and that the country’s “wise policy of building bridges in a turbulent region was not an easy choice but was, and remains, the necessary direction.”
The United States, which considers Jordan a critical ally and has partnered with the country for years on U.S.-led counterterrorism operations, said that Abdullah had its “full support.”
Egypt, Bahrain, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Morocco and other regional governments also quickly expressed support for Abdullah in what was seen in part as a testament to Jordan’s strategic significance in the region.
“A strong, thriving Jordan is an Israeli security and economic interest and we need to do everything we can to assist them,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday. “As far as the internal developments there are concerned, that is a domestic issue.”
Jordan, which is currently under a nightly covid curfew that is set to expire in mid-May, has been hit hard economically by the coronavirus pandemic as well as by the fallout from massive waves of refugees from neighboring Syria.
Last month, the Jordanian minister of health resigned after seven covid-positive Jordanians died due to a shortage of oxygen supplies at government hospitals.
The following day, protesters defied the nighttime curfew and took to the streets to call on the government to resign. “Oh Hamzeh, son of Hussein, the country is lost, where are you?” they chanted, referring to the former crown prince.
For activists who have long protested against systemic Jordanian corruption, the events of this weekend singled that more repression could be ahead.“What was whispered in closed circles is now out in the open,” said Daoud Kuttab, the director of the Amman-based community media network, who said that low-level protests in the capital city have been met with outsize punitive measures in recent months. “The official media is totally silent and we know that there is much more to the story that we are not seeing.”
Abdullah has ruled the country since his father’s death in 1999. He has cultivated strong ties with several U.S. administrations, but, in recent years, sparred with former president Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over proposed Israeli plans to annex the West Bank and bypass the Palestinians in a bid for Israeli normalization with the rest of the Arab world.
“If things spin out of control it will be difficult for Israel to contribute to helping that, especially since Israel has not managed its bilateral relations with Jordan very well and has, in fact, added completely unnecessary tensions,” said Asher Susser, a senior fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.
In Jordan, that news of the alleged coup has gone public by way of brief statements and virtual silence from the local press has spurred several political observers to speculate that the coup may be a cover story for another political maneuver, said Jordanian political analyst Amer Sabaileh.
“There is a lot of confusion, but in Jordan everyone is asking for reform, not to topple the government. I don’t see the elements for a plot,” said Sabaileh. “What we do know is that there are some mediocre people who are running the show when it comes to politics and, after yesterday, the government is under even more pressure to make themselves seem credible.”