Posts Tagged With: Jordan

Jordanian thirst of revenge on terror might curb freedom of expression

(The German version was originally published in WOZ Die Wochenzeitung)

Amman (JORDAN), Februay 9, 2015- The media frenzy that followed the broadcasting of the brutal execution of the Jordanian pilot Muaz al-Kasasbeh at the hands of the Islamic State (IS) suggested a simplified equation between public outrage and widespread support for the kingdom’s involvement in the war in Syria and Iraq. At the moment, the Hashemite monarchy reaps the fruits of a clannish thirst of revenge over the soldier’s death; but once the smoke of ‘celebrations’ will fade away, the ruling elite will have to cope with the internal opposition to the NATO campaign. On the background of the war trumpets, dissidents and journalists warn against a military court whose extensive powers are derived from the Anti-Terror law.

Officially, the Jordanian government seems to have unified the masses behind its war cry.

“Unity has been reached between the official position on the ‘war on terror’ and the people’s views,” Ashraf al-Khasawna, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told WOZ in a phone interview. Khasawna spoke of “a state of national awareness”, while stressing the spontaneous nature of the recent anti-terror demonstrations.

Nevertheless, until the Kasasbeh affair, popular opposition to the Jordanian participation in the NATO coalition was noticeably widespread, as the US is perceived to lead the campaign for its own interests and there are concerns about a jihadist backlash in Jordan. The major opposition force, the Muslim Brotherhood, which holds no seats in the Parliament as a result of its boycott of the last elections, views the intervention as part of the US imperialist schemes. Before the execution of the pilot, hundreds took the streets of his hometown al-Karak, calling on the Government to quit the coalition.

“The Government has been in crisis since Kasasbeh got kidnapped and most people opposed the Jordanian involvement in the NATO strikes, but the video changed the equation,” said Tamer Khorma, the Palestinian-Jordanian deputy editor-in-chief of the news website Jo24, smoking a cigarette at the table of Jadl, an association named after dialectical anarchism. Jo24 is a recently-established independent voice among Jordanian opposition media.

“The State resorted to the tribal narrative of revenge…This is how it earned temporary support for its war [on IS],” continued Khorma.

On a military level, the Jordanian army escalated its offensive against IS: on February 8, it boasted about the destruction of 20% of the organization’s fighting capabilities since the beginning of the strikes. In the near future, the region might witness the formation of a Jordanian-trained Iraqi Sunni armed corps, that is the long-debated déjà vu of the Awakening Councils (Sahawat) set up by the Americans in Iraq to counter al-Qaeda

“There are talks about setting up a National Guard (al-Haras al-Watani) tied to the Iraqi army in order to fight IS and cause defections within its ranks,” Ibrahim Gharaibeh, a researcher at Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies, told WOZ in a phone interview, “it will be something similar to the Sahawat, though enjoying more recognition.”

According to Gharaibeh, the Jordanian army might participate in the National Guard’s training, while its elite troops might carry out special operations in Iraq

The Jordanian FM’s spokesperson Ashraf al-Khasawna declined to comment on “military issues” such as the creation of the National Guard.

On the inner front, in Khasawna’s words, Jordan vows to fight terrorism “regardless of its source”. However, the Hashemite kingdom and its allies might venture to capitalizing on the existing drifts between some jihadist organizations.

“It is absolutely likely that the Government will start differentiating between al-Qaeda and IS to the extent of facilitating the former against the latter: look at the space given on media to Qaeda figures like al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada,” researcher Gharaibeh told WOZ. Both Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada al-Filistini have been critical of the Islamic State.

“But the Government should beware of the ideological threat posed by al-Qaeda, since it might attract the Jordanian youth and turn them into radicals without resorting to violence,” warned Gharaibeh.

Political dissidents and journalists are predictably more worried about the war on terror’s repercussions on freedom of expression rather than on internal stability.

“The Kasasbeh affair has already affected freedom of expression: Hashim al-Khalidi and Sayfuddin al-Abidat, two journalists from the pro-government news website Saraya [N/A: one of the major news websites in Jordan], have been arrested 10 days ago, after they misquoted the lawyer Musa al-Abdellati saying that the Iraqi prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi [N/A: who was supposed to be swapped with Kasasbeh] had returned to Iraq following her release,” noted the deputy editor-in-chief Tamer Khorma. He also noted that the website has been blocked inside Jordan, following the decision of the State Security Court (SSC). The same military court has issued the arrest order against the two journalists.

According to the Anti-Terror Law, the SSC is charged with prosecuting terror suspects, including people accused of “disturbing [Jordan’s] relations with a foreign state”, “sowing discord” and “disrupting public order”. On the grounds of the clause on foreign relations- which was part of art.118 of the penal code prior to the amendment of the Anti-Terror Law in 2014- politicians and journalists keep being arrested for their invectives against foreign rulers. This is the case of the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy leader Zaki Bani Arshid, currently detained for having attacked the UAE’s foreign policies. It has also been the case of Nidhal al-Fara’neh and and Amjad Mu’ala, the publisher and the editor-in-chief of the Jafra News website, who were detained for mocking a Qatari prince in 2013. In legal terms, they are all considered terrorists.

The Jordanian opposition blames this legal text for restricting freedom of expression, while insisting on the right of civilians to be prosecuted by civil courts.

“The Anti-Terror Law took many of its texts from the penal code, while transferring the jurisdiction of ordinary courts to the SSC, which is a military tribunal not recognized by the international community,” Mohammad Harasis, a seasoned activist known for leading anti-Government demonstrations in Amman’s poor neighborhood of Tafayla, told WOZ. The UN Human Rights Committee has indeed called for the abolition of the State Security Court. Mr. Harasis also noted that the Anti-Terror Law violates freedom of expression, as enshrined in art.15 of the Constitution.

“In 2011, the jurisdiction of the SSC has been restricted to drug trafficking, high treason, [N/A: espionage] and terrorism, but since there is no world consensus on the definition of terrorism, the opposition forces constantly fear being targeted as terrorists,” Abla Abu Alba, the first secretary of the leftist Jordanian Democratic People’s Party, told WOZ. At the peak of the anti-government mobilization in Jordan (2011-12), protesters were regularly tried in front of the SSC.

On the other side, the institutions strike back defending the SSC as the fastest route to preserve internal stability.

“The SCC considers only specific cases related to State security,” affirmed Hussein al-Majali, the Jordanian Minister of Interior Affairs, “It is efficient and quick, (…) whereas the juridical system is wide and it deals with all possible cases.”

The Hashemite regime is waging its war on terror by empowering military courts and bolstering military efforts abroad, but this will not be enough to win an unconditional support for the equation between terrorists, journalists and dissidents, especially when the Kasasbeh affair will cease to ignite emotions.

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UAE strives to leave imprint on humanitarian aid in Syrian refugee crisis

[A heavily edited (i.e. censored) version of this article was published in the Emirati newspaper The National under a different title (“UAE camp cares for the most vulnerable among Syrian refugees”). The first text below is what I originally wrote, the second is the one appeared in The National].

(Zaatari- Mrajeeb al-Fuhud, JORDAN) Jordan hosts a registered population of 622.106 Syrian refugees, only 16% of them, those who cannot afford paying the rent, live in the three camps of Zaatari, Azraq and Mrajeeb al-Fuhud.

There is a blatant difference between the services provided in the giant UN-run Zaatari camp, which officially hosts around 84.000 refugees and the small efficient Emirates Red Crescent (ERC)’s Mrajeeb al-Fuhud camp, which is home to almost 5.000 refugees: in Zaatari residents are struggling to cover their daily expenses and children drop out overcrowded classes, whereas Mrajeeb delivers high-standard services in all fields.

Some humanitarian workers have already questioned the choice of setting up an A-level camp serving such a small proportion of refugees, but the ERC staff vow to maintain the same standards by focusing on a limited number of vulnerable beneficiaries. While the closely monitored residents can hardly find anything to complain about, the Mrajeeb al-Fuhud camp is still bound to remain a drop in the ocean in a country overwhelmed by the refugee influx such as Jordan.

As the Syrian war precipitated into a deadlock with no solution in sight, Zaatari has evolved into a proper settlement with a thriving souq, similarly to the Palestinian camps of the region, though in a no-man’s land in the middle of the Jordanian desert. In such dire conditions, most Syrians keep living up to their own right to return.

“We still hope to go back to Syria,” Lina (33) from Eastern Ghouta (Damascus) told The National, hiding her face covered by tears, “we don’t want our kids to grow up here.”

Lina has repeatedly tried to register her two children in one of the threeschools of the camp, but every time she was told that they had already reached the maximum number of enrolments. It has been two years since they attended the last class.

According to Mahmud Sadaqa (48), a Palestinian Jordanian volunteer, parents are often not supportive enough when it comes to education.

“Ignorance affects negatively education, parents are psychologically unstable, they keep thinking that they will go back to Syria tomorrow,” said Sadaqa.

Nonetheless, some families still encourage their children to pursue their studies and hold on to their dreams.

“I want to become a lawyer to defend the oppressed people,”Ghufran (12) toldThe National,“(…) we’re 60 students in my class… at first I stopped going to school, but then my mother convinced me to go back.”

Food and medicines are available, but all families struggle to meet ends without any source of income, particularly those where the father went missing.
“My husband has been in jail for one year in Syria, (…) the [ World Food Program] vouchers [N/A 20D (103 AED) each month per family member ] are not enough to buy clothes for my five kids,”  said Yusra Yusuf al-Masri (38) from Daraa, sitting on a mattress in front of her container, which was too small to host us.

Her desperate situation would actually comply with the entry conditions of the Emirati camp, which focuses on women, children, big families, orphans, disabled and elderly people, while denying access to single men.

The National visited Mrajeeb al-Fuhud shortly after Zaatari, escorted by a member in a leather jacket of the Jordanian security forces and the ERC staff, who took us on a ‘cruise’ of the camp on a golf cart.

By arguing these measures were taken to preserve our safety, the security agent took notes of the names of the interviewees, departing from us only upon request. However, the refugees denied the existence of any restriction on freedom of speech.

Differently from Zaatari, up to two family members have the right to be employed in the camp, depending on the size of the family.

“I used to be a muezzin before, so they promised me a job as muezzin also here in the camp,” Shafiq Abdul-Bari Mohsen (65) told The National, “at least I can send money back home, since I have another wife with twelve kids in Syria.”

Everything is methodically organized in sectors in the camp. There are around 30 students per class and even the children look incredibly disciplined.

“Children politely approached the ERC staff, as if they had been taught to do so, whereas in Zaatari they did not hesitate to play with us straight away,” noted Estella Carpi, a University of Sydney doctoral researcher in anthropology, who was conducting field work in Mrajeeb al-Fuhud.

That said, the residents praise loudly the meticulous administration of the Emirati camp in comparison with Zaatari.

“In Zaatari there were always tensions due to the lack of any sort of regulation,” Hussein al-Sari (40) from Eastern Ghouta toldThe National.

In Mrajeeb al-Fuhud there are no tents, only containers. Residents enjoy 24/7 hot water and a selected menu.

“The wishes of the refugees come first: the menu is changed according to their preferences,” Omar al-Swaidi, a member of the ERC administration, toldThe National.

On the other hand, the ERC staff do not eat with the refugees, they have a separate canteen, where they are reminded of their high living standards in the Emirates.

“Listen…we’re used to luxury in the Gulf, I spend 24 hours per day here in the camp, but I need to relax while I’m not working and I am not used to eating bamia [N/A:ladies’ fingers] like Syrians do,” said ERC member Said Shami with a peaceful smile.

As mentioned, some humanitarian workers have been critical of the amount of resources spent on such a small scale project, but the ERC personnel defended their commitment to support a limited number of vulnerable categories.

“Our goal is to host 10.000 people: rather than expanding the number of refugees, we prefer to focus on the weakest ones,” ERC member Said Shami toldThe National. It is worth noting that upon the inauguration of the camp in April 2013, the announced figure was 25.000.

Whether Mrajeeb al-Fuhud will host 10.000 or 25.000 people, similar figures will not relieve Jordan from the burden of the refugee influx. Asked if the UAE should accept part of the refugees back home, the ERC workers show reluctance to this issue as well as the Western governments.

“If we accept to set up camps in the Emirates, Syrians would escape and cause troubles in our country just like they are doing here in Jordan,” ERC’s Said Shami told The National.

Notwithstanding the UAE undeniable humanitarian efforts, Syria’s poorest neighboring countries are left alone paying the highest price of destabilization.


UAE camp cares for the most vulnerable among Syrian refugees

Zaatari and Mrajeeb Al Fuhud, JORDAN // There are more than 622,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, but only the 16 per cent who cannot afford accommodation elsewhere live in the Zaatari, Azraq and Mrajeeb Al Fuhud camps.

During a recent visit, it was clear that there is a discernible difference in the support available at the giant United Nations-run Zaatari camp, home to about 84,000 refugees in Mafraq province, and the smaller Emirates Red Crescent (ERC) camp, Mrajeeb Al Fuhud, in Zarqa, which has about 5,000.

At Zaatari residents struggle to meet their daily needs and school rooms are often overcrowded.

The ERC camp, on the other hand, delivers high-standard services in all areas. It was set up in April 2013 at a cost of Dh37 million to help ease overcrowding at the Zaatari camp. The ERC opted for a small-scale camp, as it wanted to help those most in need, such as orphans, women, children, disabled people and big families. Single men are not accommodated at the site.

While some humanitarian workers question the decision to set up an A-grade camp that serves a small quota of refugees, ERC staff say they are only able to maintain standards by focusing on a limited number of the most vulnerable refugees.

As the Syrian conflict continues, Zaatari has evolved into a mini-city with a thriving souq, similar to Palestinian camps elsewhere in the region.

“We still hope to go back to Syria,” said Lina, 33, from Damascus. She hid her face and cried as she spoke. “We don’t want our kids to grow up here.”

Lina has repeatedly tried to register her two children in one of the three schools at Zaatari. However, classes are full. It has been two years since her children last attended school.

Despite the fact that the schools are full, there remain parents who are not sufficiently supportive of education for their children, said Mahmud Sadaqa, 48, a Palestinian-Jordanian volunteer at the camp.

“They keep thinking that they will go back to Syria tomorrow,” Mr Sadaqa said.

Nonetheless, some families encourage their children to pursue their studies and their dreams.

“I want to become a lawyer to defend the oppressed,” said Ghufran, a 12-year-old girl. There are 60 pupils in her class, and difficulties at the camp forced her to stop attending at one point. Her mother, however, convinced her to return.

Food and medicine are available, but families struggle to make ends meet without a steady income, particularly those where the father is absent.

“My husband has been in jail for one year in Syria,” said Yusra Yusuf Al Masri, 38, from Deraa. She receives World Food Programme vouchers worth about Dh100 each month for each member of her family, but it is “not enough to buy clothes for my five kids”.

The National was able to visit Mrajeeb Al Fuhud shortly after Zaatari, escorted by a Jordanian security forces member and ERC staff.

In the Emirati camp, up to two family members have the right to work on site, depending on family size, and school class fit between 25 and 30.

“I used to be a muezzin, so they promised me the same job here in the camp,” said Shafiq Abdul-Bari Mohsen. “I can send money home since I have another wife with 12 kids in Syria.”

Residents of Mrajeeb Al Fuhud praised the administration of the camp. “In Zaatari, there were always tensions due to the lack of any sort of regulation,” said Hussein Al Sari, 40, from Eastern Ghouta. There are no tents in Mrajeeb Al Fuhud, only trailers. Residents have access to hot water around the clock, and have food options.

“The wishes of the refugees come first,” said Omar Al Swaidi, a member of the ERC administration. “The menu is changed according to their preferences.”

Fellow ERC member Said Shami said: “Our goal is to host 10,000 people. Rather than expanding the number of refugees, we prefer to focus on the weakest.”

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Jordan pressured to restrict Muslim Brotherhood

I went to Jordan and wrote this article for Al-Monitor without disclosing my identity (I used to be permanently based in the UAE). It deals with the pressure exerted by Gulf countries on the Hashemite Kingdom to restrict the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). However, some argue that the MB will not face a proper crackdown in light of its historically ambiguous relationship with the King. 

jord mb.jpg

(Photo: Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood protesters make the “four-fingered salute” during a protest against Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as they mark the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Amman, Jan. 25, 2014.  (photo by REUTERS/Majed Jaber))

AMMAN, Jordan — The Jordanian authorities arrested on Nov. 20 the local Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Zaki Bani Arshid over a Facebook post in which he had attacked the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) decision to list his organization as a terrorist group. He is due to appear before the State Security Court for “disrupting relations with a foreign state,” a terror charge according to the Anti-Terrorism Law.

In Jordan, like any other recipient of Gulf aid, a wide spectrum of political Islam followers are increasingly watched by authorities. The Muslim Brotherhood cautions about the rise of jihadists on the ashes of their criminalization, whereas the secular parties call for the reduction of the Islamist influence on education to counter extremism. Despite foreign pressures, the Brotherhood is not considered a terrorist organization in Jordan, and the kingdom is not likely to jeopardize its longstanding tacit alliance with the movement.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/02/jordan-muslim-brotherhood-gulf-aid.html#ixzz40pNAMGYh

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Palestinian refugees: UNRWA betrayed mission and the debate on naturalization and right to return

Two articles I wrote for ResetDOCThe first one is about UNRWA, its marginalization and its betrayed mission within the framework of the forgotten right to return. The second one on the debate on naturalization and right to return and how the first option should not come at the expenses of this untouchable right (as this is the discourse implied by those willing to ‘shrink’ UNRWA’s definition of Palestinian refugees). On the other hand, the protection of the right to return should not jeopardize the living conditions of Palestinians in Arab host countries (and this is the definitely the case of Lebanon and Jordan). 

UNRWA: an agency neglected to forget about its mission

Andrea Glioti

In the face of a new exodus from Syria, the assistance of Palestinian refugees is in the hands of a neglected UN agency, sidelined by the marginalization of the only UN-sanctioned route to improve their conditions: the right to return to Palestine. The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Western powers prepared the ground for this scenario through the Oslo Accords (1993).

Out of more than nine million Palestinian refugees worldwide, around five million are registered under the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the PA. According to the UNRWA’s definition of a Palestinian refugee, besides the original residents of Palestine between 1 June 1946 and 15 May 1948, all the descendants of Palestinian refugee males are entitled to receive its services. Palestinians refugees still dream of returning to their homeland and this right is sanctioned by UNGAR 194 (III).

At odds with these aspirations, during an interview with an Israeli TV channel last November, the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the official representative of all Palestinians for the international community (i.e., the West), Mahmud ‘Abbas Abu Mazen, denied his right to live in Safed, the native village he had to leave after the establishment of Israel in 1948. The declarations of ‘Abbas predictably sparked off indignation among Palestinians, since the descendants of those who fled the ’48 territories refuse categorically any resettlement in the PA. “The right of return doesn’t mean being resettled in Gaza or the West Bank,” affirms Yahya, a young refugee from Beirut’s Burj al-Barajneh camp, originally from Acre, “it’s not only a struggle for ourselves, we are also defending the right of return of our sons.”

Palestinian activists and academics understand Abu Mazen’s position in line with the Oslo Accords, which resulted in the marginalization of refugees and cuts on the UNRWA budget. The current outlook is particularly bleak, taking in consideration the massive inflow of Palestinian refugees coming from war-ravaged Syria into Lebanon. Until February 19,2013, 30.000 Palestinians crossed the Lebanese border from Syria; speaking at a meeting of the Syrian Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, the UNRWA General Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, denounced that half of the 500.000 Palestinians living in Syria had to flee their homes. The crisis is intertwined with the marginalization of Palestinian refugees, as a consequence of ‘Abbas’ appeals to the UN to direct Palestinians from Syria to the PA and the renunciation to their right of return to the ’48 territories Israel has allegedly required to accept this. The head of the PA seems to have temporarily rejected this plan, but there is already enough evidence of his willingness to negotiate on the right of return.

Any resettlement of ‘48 Palestinian refugees within the UNRWA’s territories, thus including also the PA, implies a crucial role for the agency. However, the UNRWA appears financially neglected, subject to Western political agendas and actively involved in the marginalization of the right of return.

Over the last two decades, the agency saw its budget drastically reduced. UNRWA’s website states that “at the end of April 2012 the agency’s cash deficit stood at USD 69.4 million and the average annual spending per refugee has fallen from about $200 in 1975 to around $110 today.” While facing a crisis started in the first half of 2012, the UNRWA could not afford to pay the rents of those Palestinians, who fled Syria to settle in the Lebanese refugee camps: only on February 25, a 2.5 million euros agreement has been reached between the EU and UNRWA to shelter in Lebanon Palestinian refugees from Syria (“The contribution to Lebanon is part of a total amount of 7.5 million to UNRWA to assist the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Syria and those refugees who have fled Syria to Lebanon.”).

In a wider picture, the lack of funds is ascribed to the marginalization of the right of return ensued from Oslo. “The right of return has been already put on the backburner by Oslo,” maintains the American activist of Palestinian descendants,  Jacqueline Husary, “the focus has always been on creating a State.”After the Accords, as pointed out by the Oxford professor and former PLO representative, Karma Nabulsi, in her Civitas Report (2006), Palestinians ‘inside [Gaza and the West Bank] received considerable international funding, whilst the political and civic aspirations of those living outside […] were ignored, […] at best they were classified as objects of humanitarian relief.’

Quite predictably, Palestinian authorities hold a completely different view on the relations between the peace process and the condition of refugees. “A peaceful settlement with Israel would empower the Palestinian State to negotiate a solution on refugees,” affirms the UN Palestinian ambassador, Ibrahim Khraishi, “the last talks between Olmert and Abbas [N/A: 2008] proceeded on the right path to agree on compensations and allow the return of some refugees.” On the contrary, this was a partial renouncement to the right of return and Olmert actually wrote in his memoirs that the proposal to take into Israel an annual quota of 1.000 refugees for five years was actually rejected by ‘Abbas.

Moreover, it goes hardly unnoticed that Oslo and the UNRWA share the same Western sponsors:  according to the agency’s website, until the last year, Europe and the US contributed to 42% of UNRWA core program budget. In January 2010, the Canadian treasury, which accounts for 11% of UNRWA’s funding, decided to withhold its support to the agency: it was announced that donations would have been reallocated to projects administered by the PA in ‘alignment with Canadian values regarding democracy, equality and safeguarding Israel’s security.’ Such a move has been understood by conservative pro-Israeli organizations as motivated with the disagreement on UNRWA’s employment of Hamas supporters. The last attack on UNRWA came from the US Congress in May 2012, when a distinction between 1948 refugees and their descendants has been proposed to “shrink” UNRWA’s definition of Palestine refugees.

Although ensuring the return has never been the agency’s mission – it was the goal of the currently inactive UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) – UNRWA was supposed to cooperate with UNCCP and even its foundational resolution (UNGAR 302 (IV)) confirmed the right of return sanctioned in UNGAR 194 (III). According to its mandate, the agency was originally created as a “temporary” solution to the plight of Palestinians, but its activities are motivated 60 years later with the pending ‘just resolution to the question of the Palestine refugees.’ “What is a just resolution?” asks sardonically the Palestinian researcher Mahmud al-‘Ali, who works for the Lebanon-based NGO (‘Aidun), “it means that, to gain support, UNRWA started supporting  the peace process and the focus on the development of the Palestinian Authority.”

Palestinians_right_of_return

Palestinian refugees stuck between naturalization and right of return

Andrea Glioti

The hard daily lives of Palestinian refugees remain stuck between the impossibility to return to their homeland and the difficulties presented by naturalization: all Arab countries oppose it for political reasons and the West is criticized for understanding any new citizenship as a renouncement to the right of return. Naturalization (tajnis) is considered by many Arabs as a preamble to settlement (tawtin), meaning the loss of any claim on the original homeland, even though denying citizenship is often equal to blatant discrimination.

The dichotomy entrenched between naturalization and right of return is extremely relevant to the aftermaths of the Syrian uprising, which is forcing Palestinians outside one of the few countries where they were treated fairly. The runaways found themselves with limited options: most of them stopped in Lebanon, some are still waiting for Jordan to open its borders to Palestinians, others prefer to remain in Syria rather than being discriminated in these two countries.

In Lebanon, Palestinians are not yet allowed to work in at least 25 different professions. Despite law amendments easing access to certain professions in 2010, Palestinians are paid 20% less than Lebanese for the same job. The Lebanese Government has been  criticized for not implementing the amendments and, by law, Palestinians are still not allowed to register properties.

In Jordan, the disengagement from the West Bank in 1988 was accompanied by revoking the Jordanian citizenship of 1.5 million Palestinians living there. Since then, the Hashemite Kingdom kept on stripping other categories of Palestinians of their Jordanian nationality. “There are some 1.25 million Palestinians in Jordan without citizenship rights, that is they lack the basic protections  enjoyed  by citizens in access to education, health services, voting,  movements, ownership,” confirms prof. Jamil Hilal, a sociologist at Ramallah’s Birzeit University.

In Syria, Palestinians used to enjoy equal rights to nationals, apart from nationality and political rights, according to Law 260 of 1957, although Palestinian do also face restrictions on property rights. According to a study conducted in 1999 by the Palestinian NGOBadil, ‘Syria […] serves as an example, which confirms that secure civil and social rights in the host countries can protect refugees from falling victim, for fear of discrimination, to the dangers of re-settlement and loss of their national identity.’  Syria, Lebanon[1] and Jordan have all signed the League of Arab States’  Casablanca Protocol in 1965, which obliges Arab countries to grant Palestinian refugees rights to employment, residency and freedom of movement, while maintaining their Palestinian identity by not naturalizing them. However, Amman and Beirut didn’t live up to their commitments.

In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees aspire to fair treatment, but they remain wary of resettlement and naturalization, as these options have been often interpreted by the West and Israel as a renouncement to their right of return. This regardless of the official UNRWA definition, which qualifies a Palestinian refugee on the basis of his/her lineage and regardless of his/her nationality. “A refugee nowadays chooses to remain in the worst living conditions to preserve his sacred right of return,” affirms Rami Suleiman, a Palestinian activist from Damascus, “this situation would change, provided that the international community starts considering us Palestinians, regardless of our nationality.”  With regards to this issue, Mahmud ‘Aidun, a Palestinian researcher from the Lebanon-based NGO (‘Aidun),  quotes past examples of UN-sponsored quick resettlement without any consideration of Palestinian peculiarities. “After the fall of Saddam, UNHCR turned immediately to the resettlement of Palestinian refugees leaving Iraq[2] in third countries like Brazil, after it realized the return was not accepted by the Israelis,” recalls al-‘Ali. There is no doubt that these Palestinians found better living conditions in Brazil, but in the eyes of al-‘Ali they practically lost their right of return.

Most Arab Governments stopped naturalizing Palestinians in 1952, despite a $200 million offer from the UN Refugee Rehabilitation Fund to find ‘homes and jobs for the refugees’, since they rejected any project that could be interpreted as promoting resettlement. “If we can achieve a status like the one enjoyed by Palestinians in Syria, without any need of being naturalized, it would be enough,” says Yahya, a young Palestinian refugee in Beirut’s Burj al-Barajneh camp.

But even now, as the craved refuge in Syria is vanishing, Palestinian officials in Lebanon seem keen on belittling the grievances of the newcomers and reassuring Lebanese authorities about the absence of any resettlement purpose. “The figures of Palestinians coming from Syria are not so high yet,” told me the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbur, on November 26, “and we need to take in consideration that, God willing, they will remain for a limited period.” Dabbur stressed also his gratitude for the Lebanese Government for helping Palestinians arriving from Syria, even if they were facing tribulations to extend their residency permits, while living in overcrowded refugee camps. While the ambassador was speaking, the Yarmuk Palestinian neighborhood in Damascus was under heavy shelling: on February 19, UNRWA’s General Commissioner Filippo Grandi denounced that only 20.000 of its 150.000 Palestinian residents are still there. Palestinian and Lebanese authorities cling to the idea of a community bound to return, the focus is not on improving its conditions, but on ensuring ‘that it doesn’t feel at home’.

In Lebanon, the real political and sectarian reasons behind the refusal of the naturalization of Sunni Palestinians have been masked behind an ethic adherence to the right of return. “The denial of political and social rights is justified under the slogan of persevering the right of return to Palestine,” notes prof. Hilal, “such claims hide practice of exploitation- Palestinians provided cheap labor for decades in Lebanon and other places of refuge- political petty mindedness and discrimination.”

In Jordan, Palestinians are denied political and civil rights under the guise of preserving their right of return and support their struggle for self-determination. Among the excuses given by the Jordanian kingdom for stripping Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship, there is the aim to keep Palestinians in Palestine, to stop the indiscriminate expansion of Israeli settlements. The ‘alternative homeland’ vision of the Israeli right-wing, that is the belief that Palestinians should move to Jordan, is thus used as a pretext to violate their human rights. Naturalizing over one million stateless Palestinians in a country of around 6.500.000 inhabitants, which is home to almost two million Palestinian refugees, has clear political repercussions. Jordan. Needless to say, political calculations should not come at the expense of human rights.

[1]Even if Lebanon added some reservations on the articles related to freedom of movement and employment.

[2]UNRWA has never been allowed to work in Iraq, as the country is not a signatory of the 1951 Geneva Convention on to the protection of refugees. This is the reason why Iraqi Palestinians have been registered under UNHCR after 2003

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Exiled Razaniyyat

Personal observations of myself, others, states and exile.

Diario di Siria

Blog di Asmae Dachan "Scrivere per riscoprire il valore della vita umana"

YALLA SOURIYA

Update on Syria revolution -The other side of the coin ignored by the main stream news

ZANZANAGLOB

Sguardi Globali da una Finestra di Cucina al Ticinese

Salim Salamah's Blog

Stories & Tales about Syria and Tomorrow

invisiblearabs

Views on anthropological, social and political affairs in the Middle East

tabsir.net

Views on anthropological, social and political affairs in the Middle East

SiriaLibano

"... chi parte per Beirut e ha in tasca un miliardo..."

Tutto in 30 secondi

[was] appunti e note sul mondo islamico contemporaneo

Anna Vanzan

Views on anthropological, social and political affairs in the Middle East

letturearabe di Jolanda Guardi

Ho sempre immaginato che il Paradiso fosse una sorta di biblioteca (J. L. Borges)