Jordanian anti-government protests focus on queen

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

Jordanians appear to want badly to join in the wave of revolutions currently sweeping the region, but as one of the more stable and free Arab societies they simply don’t have much to protest over. So they are focusing on their queen as a point of contention with the nation’s rulers.

Jordan has a population of about seven million people. Over 60 percent of those people are “Palestinian Arabs,” as is Queen Rania. The rest of the Jordanians are of Bedouin stock originating from what is now Saudi Arabia. These are the people of King Abdullah II.

The heads of the 36 Bedouin tribes that make up the backbone of Abdullah’s political support in the country are insisting that Queen Rania downgrade her political and public profile.

Queen Rania “is building power centers for her interest that go against what Jordanians and Hashemites [Jordanians of Bedouin descent] have agreed on in governing and is a danger to the nation and the structure of the state and the political structure and the institution of the throne,” read a statement issued by the tribal leaders.

The Bedouin sheikhs are unhappy that Rania is such a public figure, both at home and abroad, and want the king to nurture a more traditional society where such activities are not the place of women. They are also displeased with the amount of state funds Rania spends on her endeavors, while many Jordanians live in relative poverty.

The Bedouin leaders were careful to not directly challenge the rule of Abdullah, which they do not oppose, but warned that ignoring their petition “will throw us into what happened in Tunis and Egypt.”

Israeli media noted that the petition is very indicative of the mounting tension between the Palestinian and Bedouin halves of Jordan’s population.

Abdullah headed off another potential source of anti-government demonstrations last week when he dismissed the cabinet and appointed a new prime minister, Marouf Bakhit.

This week Bakhit and Abdullah offered government portfolios to various opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. The Islamic group declined the offer, and instead said it would push for early elections with the hope of achieving a Brotherhood-dominated parliament.

While the kind of violence Egypt is currently witnessing is unlikely in Jordan at present, there are clearly forces at work that want to overthrow that nation and help close an Islamist ring around Israel (Lebanon is already now under the control of Islamists in the form of Hizballah).

A Christian source in the southern Jordan port of Aqaba told Israel Today that the Jordanian “street” is getting restless. The source and her family felt a very distinct sense of insecurity for non-Muslims that those who oppose the Islamist agenda.

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