After reviewing an essay assignment for which I assessed the effects of geography on Jordan’s economy, my professor asked me why I thought there hadn’t been widespread protests in Jordan. Naturally, I was all to happy to explicate. In fact, it’s a question I’ve discussed before in the last month, and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the matter.
I think it’s obvious to most Jordanians, both in the cities and the villages, both the educated elite and the less educated middle and lower classes, that reform actually is happening in Jordan at a fairly rapid pace, and that the king is the primary impetus behind it. They may have their critiques about what the king pushes, how and why, but they can see positive change happening from year to year.
Since King Abdullah II came into power, there have been drastic ongoing improvements in education at all levels, with a focus on an IT economy, and Jordanian Internet entrepreneurs have been among the most successful in the Arab world. The national debt has decreased, the salaries of teachers have more than doubled in the last two years, tourism and medical tourism have steadily increased despite regional instability, and many other factors of economic health have shown obvious evidence of improvement. Freedom of expression continues to expand, and Jordanian bloggers are award-winning. There has also been significant development in infrastructure.
In addition, King Abdullah II has demonstrated repeatedly that he listens to the concerns of his people, and acts decisively to address those concerns whenever possible. I don’t know anyone in Jordan who really believes that a significant segment of Jordanians have any intention of being rid of the king that has done so well by them.
I think it is also worth noting that in a kingdom with relatively low oppression, like Jordan and Morocco, it is neither a surprise nor an imposition when the son of that king is next in line to lead the country. The effect of Presidents Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddhafi in Libya and Saleh in Yemen all conspiring to put their sons in the presidency after them should not be underestimated in determining the reasons for their respective ousters and attempted ousters.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch….
When I arrived at St. Andrews to teach my Arabic class for Somali refugees, the education coordinator said to me, “So the Interior Ministry’s burning down, is it?”
“What?” I asked. “That’s two blocks from my apartment, and I’ve just come from there! How could I not have noticed?” If I’d known, I might not have left home for fear that my road would be blocked off when I came home.
So we turned to the local paper’s Website and found this stunning image. Apparently Interior Ministry employees were also protesting downtown today, and I had no idea, holed up taking classes and doing homework in the AUC dorms in cozy Zamalek – an island in more ways than one!