Reviving Activism in Jordan

The Movement Against Israeli Gas

by Curtis Ryan
published in MER281

In January 2011, hundreds and sometimes thousands of Jordanians began protesting like clockwork on Friday afternoons; they continued to do so for nearly two years. The crowds were small compared to those in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain, but the turnout was sustained and marked a significant uptick for Jordan, where peaceful protest had not been uncommon. But by 2013 the demonstrations declined in both size and frequency. The regime weathered the main storm of the Arab uprisings, and without having resorted to violent repression. Many in the regime credited top-down reforms, including a revised constitution and amended laws on parties, public gatherings and elections.

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Sudanese and Somali Refugees in Jordan

Hierarchies of Aid in Protracted Displacement Crises

by Rochelle Davis , Abbie Taylor , Will Todman , Emma Murphy
published in MER279

In late 2015, hundreds of Sudanese staged a sit-in outside the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Amman, Jordan. Their hope was to obtain recognition of their rights as refugees and asylum seekers, and to receive better treatment from the agency. A previous protest in 2014 had ended when Jordanian police persuaded (or compelled) the Sudanese to leave the site. This time, however, after the Sudanese had camped out for a month in the posh neighborhood of Khalda, the police arrived in force in the early hours of a mid-December morning. They dismantled the camp and transported some 800 protesters and others—men, women and children—to a holding facility close to Queen Alia International Airport.

Putting Refugee Work Permits to Work

by Vicky Kelberer
published in MER278

For decades, humanitarian experts and international organizations have called upon host countries to give more work permits to refugees. Permits are posed as a way to alleviate the poverty of refugees and lessen their dependency on aid. Host countries have traditionally shunned the notion, however, fearing the creation of permanent populations of refugees in competition with citizens for jobs. Most host countries, in fact, have done the opposite, blocking access to work and deporting refugees found working illegally.

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Oasis in the Desert?

Coproduction and the Future of Zaatari

by Denis Sullivan , Charles Simpson
published in MER278

From the summer of 2012 through 2014, there were rapid influxes of refugees from Syria into the Zaatari camp in Jordan. The camp’s population spiked in early 2013—from 56,000 in January to a peak of 202,000 just four months later—overwhelming the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Jordanian government officials who were trying to maintain order. Such runaway growth would have been difficult to manage in an established city in a developed state, much less an ad hoc community of tents in the desert.

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NGO Governance and Syrian Refugee “Subjects” in Jordan

by Sarah A. Tobin , Madeline Otis Campbell
published in MER278

The typical image of the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan is one of suffering. Journalistic account after account introduces spectacular stories of devastation and loss. While perhaps dramatized, these tales are not false. Syrian refugee camps have forced hundreds of thousands of strangers to live together in austere, unequal and artificially constructed communities, which are subject to new national laws. To live in the camps is indeed to endure or have endured some form of suffering—but also to be part of a collective of survivors. As M.

Jordan Drops the Pretense of Democratic Reform

by Jillian Schwedler | published April 28, 2016 - 11:19am

In September 2012, King ‘Abdallah II of Jordan stopped by “The Daily Show” to chat with Jon Stewart about his commitment to democratic reform in his country. In the wake of the uprisings across the Arab world, he said, “We changed a third of the constitution. We did a lot of different things—a new constitutional court, a new independent commission for elections,” all in preparation for a transition from monarchical rule to meaningful parliamentary governance. “This is the critical crossroads for Jordan to get it right, these next four years,” the king concluded.

Losing Syria’s Youngest Generation

The Education Crisis Facing Syrian Refugees in Jordan

by Reva Dhingra | published March 2, 2016

Hasan bounces in his chair, pencil tapping against the table as he bends over the first page of a math exam. He hesitates, before stretching his hand frantically into the air as he waits for help from the program facilitator busy with one of the handful of other boys scattered across the classroom. Hasan is a student at one of over 90 Non-Formal Education Centers opened in Jordan by the education NGO Questscope in partnership with the Jordanian Ministry of Education, funded by a grant from UNICEF. The program, aimed at providing tenth-grade equivalency certificates for refugee and Jordanian children who have spent years without formal schooling, has witnessed a dramatic expansion since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

Water Blues

by Lizabeth Zack
published in MER276

Two quiet but revealing developments related to Middle East water were announced in the spring and summer of 2015. On February 26, Israeli and Jordanian officials signed an agreement to begin implementation of the long-awaited and controversial Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project. And, on June 9, a civil society-based coalition led by EcoPeace, a regional environmental NGO, released the first ever Regional Master Plan for Sustainable Development in the Jordan Valley. The two schemes represent very different approaches to solving water problems in the region—the first is an old-school engineering fix requiring massive new infrastructure, while the second is a river restoration project rooted in sustainable development principles.

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Regional Responses to the Rise of ISIS

by Curtis Ryan
published in MER276

Regional responses to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, have varied depending on regime perceptions of threat, not only from ISIS itself, but also from other potential rivals, challengers or enemies. Despite the jihadi group’s extensive use of violence in Syria and Iraq and its claims of responsibility for bombings and attacks in Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen—as well as France in mid-November—it was not necessarily the top security priority for any of these states.

Seeking Shelter in Jordan’s Cities

Housing Security and Urban Humanitarianism in the Syria Crisis

by Vicky Kelberer | published November 5, 2015

Umm Anas’ four-room apartment rings with the muffled laughter of children told to hush. Her six sons and daughters and four neighborhood children huddle around a tiny, rickety television in the otherwise unfurnished living room. Arabic-dubbed episodes of the “How to Train Your Dragon” television series play in the background while the little boys chase each other around the room with plastic toy guns. Umm Anas’ two-year old daughter clings to her mother’s skirts and watches as humanitarian workers survey the broken doors with no locks and the jagged remnants of windowpanes. The toilet behind the house is open to the rest of the complex, and the family’s water tank allows them only 20 gallons per week for seven people.