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Unemployment in Jordan rises to 18.2%

Image of a refugee camp in Jordan on 3 February 2017 [UK Department for International Development/Flickr]

Image of a refugee camp in Jordan on 3 February 2017

Unemployment rates in Jordan have increased to 18.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year, compared to 15.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Jordan’s Department of Statistics said in a statement yesterday that the unemployment rate among males was 13.9 per cent, compared to 33 per cent among females in the first quarter of this year.

Unemployment among university degree holders was 21.4 per cent.

Read: ‘Jordan cannot deal with more Syrian refugees’

Jordan has struggled to cope with the large influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have taken refugees in the country. The number of Syrian refugees in Jordan has increased to more than 1.3 million.

Last year, Jordan announced its commitment to provide employment to nearly 200,000 Syrians in various economic sectors.

The Kingdom linked this with the financial and economic aid approved by the London conference to assist host countries last year.

(Source / 01.06.2017)

Jordan Executes 15 Terrorists


Amman – Jordan executed 15 people on Saturday morning, including 10 convicted on terrorism charges, according to government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani.

Momani told state media that those executed included those involved in the “Irbid terror cell”, and the terror attack against the General Intelligence Department office in Baqaa refugee camp.

Other crimes included the assassination of columnist Nahed Hattar, terror bomb attack on Jordan’s Embassy in Baghdad in 2003, and the terrorist attack against foreign tourists visiting the Roman amphitheater in Amman.

The men were hanged at Swaqa Prison.

Five of the criminals were involved in an assault by security forces on a militant hideout by suspected ISIS militants in Irbid city in the same year that led to the death of seven militants and one police officer in 2016. They were: Ashraf Beshtawi, Fadi Beshtawi, Imad Delki, Faraj al-Sharif, and Mohammed Delki.

Mahmoud Hussein Masharfa was the executor of the terrorist attack in June 2016 against the General Intelligence Department office in Baqaa refugee camp.

Riyad Ismail Abdullah was executed for assassinating Hattar in September 2016. While, Muammar al-Jaghbir was executed after his conviction in terror bomb attack on Jordan’s Embassy in Baghdad in 2003.

Nabil Ahmad al-Jaoura was convicted for the terrorist attack against foreign tourists visiting the Roman amphitheater in Amman which led to the death of a British tourist in 2006.

Momani added: “This is an attempt to bring justice to the victims of those terrorists who threatened our national security. Anyone who will dare engage in terrorist activities against Jordan will face the same destiny.”

Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the executions by hanging saying they were carried out in secrecy and without transparency.

Samah Hadid, deputy director at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, said, “The horrific scale and secrecy around these executions is shocking.”

Amnesty is against capital punishment regardless of the criminal, his crime or whether he was innocent or not, and the execution method.

Amnesty said in a statement earlier: “Jordan had for years been a leading example in a region where recourse to the death penalty is all too frequent.”

In December 2014, 11 men were executed after the capital punishment had been frozen in Jordan since March 2006.

In February 2015, Jordan executed Sajida Rishawi and Ziad al-Karboli. The two inmates were hanged a day after the release of a video showing the killing of Jordanian pilot Muath Kasasbeh by ISIS.

Rishawi was convicted by the State Security Court in September 2006 of plotting terror attacks against three hotels in Amman in November 2005, which had left more than 60 people dead and around 90 injured.

Karboli was convicted of killing a Jordanian truck driver in Iraq in September 2005, possessing explosives as well as belonging to an illegal al-Qaeda-affiliated organization called Tawhid and Jihad.

Over 100 people, including around 10 women, are currently on death row in Jordan.

Jordan is part of the US-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

(Source / 05.03.2017)

Jordanians call for overthrow of the government

Jordanian people stage a protest in front of Statehouse in Amman, Jordan [Anadolu]

Jordanian people stage a protest in front of Statehouse in Amman, Jordan

Jordanians took to the streets across the country yesterday in protest against price hikes and called for the government and the parliament to be ousted, the Safa news agency reported.

Protesters raised placards calling for ousting the government and the parliament due to the latest decisions which made the life “unbearable.”

One of the protesters in the city of Salt, west of Amman, said: “The new government policy of collecting fees for public services made life unbearable,” stressing that consecutive governments “did not learn lessons from each other.”

Read: Israel destroys UN-sponsored water pipeline in Jordan Valley

“During the popular movements of the Arab Spring, we warned against such policies, but the governments repeat each other’s mistakes… Our debts are big… and our life is difficult.”

Last week, Jordanians used social media to express their anger over the government’s decisions and called for boycotting certain public services in protest against the new wave of price hikes.

Read: A year ago, US, Israel, Jordan and Egypt secretly met for ‘peace’

On 9 February, the government approved a number of measures included tax increases and new taxes and fees as part of an economic plan aimed at meeting the conditions of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) grant which the kingdom hopes to attain.

The government also cancelled previous tax exemptions for some services.

(Source / 21.02.2017)

Jordan activists condemn administrative detention of women under pretext of protection

Jordanian women shout slogans as they protest in Amman on January 25, 2014. (AFP/ Khalil Mazraawi)

Jordanian women shout slogans as they protest in Amman on January 25, 2014

Administrative detention of women under the pretext of protection against murder is “illegal” and forms a clear violation of equality principles, activists said on Tuesday.

Mizan Law Group Executive Director Eva Abu Halaweh said administrative governors violate the law when they detain women who are under the threat of murder by their families, those who are tortured at home or those who flee their homes.

Abu Halaweh explained that Article 3 of the Crime Prevention Law authorises administrative governors to practise administrative detention for periods that do not exceed a year against individuals who are found in public or private areas about to commit or assist in committing a crime, those with a record of theft or protecting thieves, and those found drunk in a case that could harm people.

Only in these three cases is administrative detention legal, and none of them includes women under the threat of murder, she explained, noting that when a woman’s life is threatened, the man who might commit the crime is the one who should be administratively detained.

Speaking at a workshop organised by Mizan and the Equal Rights Trust (ERT), Abu Halaweh noted that women in “protective custody” face social stigmatisation, although in many cases they escape domestic violence and rape, adding that the majority of them do not receive family visits.

Meanwhile, she expressed hope that the Constitutional Court would amend laws regulating the issue, as this type of detention violates articles 7 and 8 of the Constitution, which grant personal freedom and ban detention without violating the law.

Abu Halaweh cited figures from the National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR) 2015 report showing that 19,860 men and women are in detention centres, while another NCHR study shows that almost half of detained women are administrative detainees.

Also speaking at the workshop, Col. Ahed Shraideh, the head of the development and training institute at the Public Security Department’s (PSD) Correctional and Rehabilitation Centres Administration, said there are some 13,000 detainees at the Kingdom’s 16 correctional and rehabilitation centres for men and women.

There are 450 women detainees in the women’s detention centre in Jweideh and the women’s department in Um Al Lulu Centre, including 140 administrative detainees, he said, explaining that the figure is made up of 73 non-Jordanian and 67 Jordanian women.

Shraideh noted that non-Jordanian administrative detainees are mostly guest workers, while the majority of Jordanian women are kept for their protection in the absence of a specialised alternative shelter.

“The PSD is a law enforcement authority… We support a legislative amendment that would create a safe environment for women,” he said.

Joanna Whiteman, ETR co-director, said the international law prohibits protective custody even if it is carried out theoretically to help women, adding that in many cases, administrative detention rises to the level of ill-treatment and is sometime considered a form of torture. 

Through administrative detention, the state locks away the problem so that it does not have to deal with it, rather than addressing the root causes of the issue and finding more effective measures to protect women under threat, such as relocation, according to Whiteman.

She added that the UN Special Rapporteur on torture’s report referred to protective custody in Jordan, stating that depriving innocent women and girls of their liberty for as long as 14 years can only be qualified as inhumane treatment and is highly discriminatory.  

Jerash Deputy Wafaa Bani Mustafa said issues of concern to women are usually not considered a priority for discussion in Parliament and for legislative amendment.

She cited “severe” challenges during the term of the 17th Parliament when amending laws that are unjust to women, adding that the demands of women parliamentarians were not fully met, such as efforts to repeal Article 308 of the Penal Code, which allows rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims, and granting civil rights to the children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians.

Bani Mustafa, who is also the president of the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries for Combating Violence against Women, cited combined regional efforts to remove legal texts that allow rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims.

Firas Azar, the president of the Mizan Law Group, said the government should give priority to the implementation of Jordan’s commitment to international treaties that grant equal rights to men and women. 

The government coordinator on human rights, Basil Tarawneh, highlighted the authorities’ keenness on implementing the Comprehensive National Plan for Human Rights, adding that enhancing the conditions of women is an integral part of the plan.

He said the government will consider the recommendations of the workshop, urging civil society organisations to spread more awareness on the issue through official and private media outlets.

(Source / 02.11.2016)

Who are the winners and losers in Jordan’s latest elections?

People walk past electoral posters for parliamentary candidates ahead of the general elections that were held on Sept. 20, Amman, Jordan, Sept. 16, 2016

The results of Jordan’s legislative elections for the 18th Lower House of parliament, held Sept. 20, was a mixed bag of surprises, disappointments and modest breakthroughs. The elections were held under a new law allowing multiple votes for open proportional lists that replaced the decades-old single-vote system, which has been criticized for years by various political players, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood had boycotted the last two elections but decided to contest this year’s poll through its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF). In all, 1,252 candidates ran in 226 lists in the elections.

Managed by an independent commission, the elections were hailed by local and international monitors as mainly free and fair with no government interference, despite incidents that marred the elections process and protests that erupted in many parts of the kingdom following the announcement of results.

So who were the winners and losers in Jordan’s recent elections?

The Islamists

The Muslim Brotherhood, which the government does not recognize as a legitimate entity, contested the elections through an alliance that brought together IAF candidates and tribal, nationalist and Christian figures — the National Coalition for Reform (NCR).

NCR’s program and rallies departed from traditional Brotherhood slogans, especially the famous slogan “Islam is the solution,” and offered a civic, nonreligious approach to dealing with the country’s economic and social challenges. In all, the NCR fielded 120 candidates through 20 lists in various districts including Amman, Zerqa, Irbid and Salt.

When the results were announced, they had won 15 seats of the 130-seat Lower House, of which IAF candidates took 10 and the rest went to their allies. There is no doubt that while this makes the NCR the biggest opposition bloc in parliament, the result is a modest one for the Muslim Brotherhood. They had taken 11.5% of the Lower House seats whilepre-election predictions gave them between 15 and 20 seats in total.

Overall the 20 lists had gathered 160,000 votes — the majority of which were in Amman, Zerqa and Irbid — or about 11% of total votes cast in the elections. Moreover, five of the seats that the NCR had won were part of the quota system, designated for women, Christians, Circassians and Chechens, which usually receive smaller number of votes. Of these, three seats were taken by women.

It is noteworthy that 50% of the NCR lists failed to win a single seat, and that these lists were mostly competing in southern governorates where tribal influence is dominant. Such results will please the government as they indicate a waning in grass roots support for the Brotherhood while allowing them to be represented in the legislature, ending a decade of boycott.

On the other hand, the newly registered Muslim Brotherhood Society (MBS), which was formed last year, failed to win a single seat. It had contested the elections with one list in Irbid’s second district. This dismal performance will focus attention on the future of the MBS and its political viability. The Zamzam Initiative and the Wassat Party each won three seats, and the question now is whether or not their deputies will form a bloc with the NCR.


The election law was criticized by pundits and women’s associations for designating three out of 15 seats, dedicated to women under the quota system, to the country’s most populace governorates — Amman, Zerqa and Irbid — raising further questions over gerrymandering imbalance that favored tribal districts at the expense of the capital, where half of the eligible voters, more than 4 million in total, live. Still, five women were able to compete and win outside the quota system, bringing the number of women in the new legislature to 20. In all, 252 women contested the elections through 218 lists, and they received a total of 266,000 votes, which is considered a new record for women in Jordanian elections. On the other hand, only 32% of eligible female voters cast their vote.

Political parties

The new law was supposed to help political parties do better in legislative elections, but results show that only 22 candidates belonging to seven political parties had made it, out of 215 candidates belonging to 50 political parties. Political parties’ representation in the new Lower House is about 17%, of which almost two-thirds belong to Islamist parties. Not a single nationalist or leftist party is represented and, in fact, independent deputies including businessmen, professionals and tribal figures will make up the bulk of the legislature. At least 50 candidates, who were formerly in the Lower House, were re-elected.

On a brighter side, especially for those who support democratic reforms and an all-encompassing secular state, the Ma’an (Together) list, competing in Amman’s third district, made history by winning two seats. While the victory is symbolic, it underlines a growing debate in Jordan among the political elite on the need to set the foundations for a civic, secular and democratic society to confront both authoritarian and religious driven agendas.

Voter apathy

Perhaps this is the biggest story in this latest election. Of more than 4 million registered voters — 1 million of whom are outside the country and cannot vote — voter turnout was a modest 37%, compared to over 50% in the 2013 elections. Amman was the lowest with only 23% voter turnout, and in its competitive third district turnout was only 18%. Similar low figures were marked for other urban centers like Zerqa and Irbid. Pundits believe middle-class voters had opted to stay home for a number of reasons including lack of confidence in the role of the legislature and its limited influence on government policies.

Election results have triggered calls by political parties and figures to review elections law shortcomings in preparation for the next legislative elections in four years time. Former Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher, a staunch proponent of civil rights and a secular state, told Al-Monitor, “Voter apathy should prompt the government to reform the law to prepare the ground for parliamentary governments, which will not come about without genuine development of political parties.”

He added that the new law has not succeeded in restoring voter confidence in parliament. “We need to reach a stage where elections are held on the basis of voting for party and national lists,” he said.

For now, the government can boast that Jordan’s democracy is thriving and that the elections were a success. But with limited political party participation and a legislature that is still dominated by loyalists, many Jordanians believe that little has changed.

(Source / 29.09.2016)

Watch what you say: 10 Jordanians to be sued for hate speech on social media following Hattar assassination

Demonstrators shout slogans during a demonstration in the town of Fuheis, 20km northwest of Amman on September 25, 2016, denouncing the killing of prominent Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar. (AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)

Demonstrators shout slogans during a demonstration in the town of Fuheis, 20km northwest of Amman on September 25, 2016, denouncing the killing of prominent Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar

The Jordanian government on Sunday said it has identified 10 social media users to be referred to the concerned authorities for reportedly spreading hate speech in reaction to the killing of Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar.

“We monitor social media in general and today we noticed that 10 people were expressing hate speech and inciting hatred and sectarianism through social media and we decided to question them,” a senior government official said.

The government official told The Jordan Times that “the government will continue to monitor social media, and anyone found to be inciting hate speech or sectarianism will be referred to the concerned authorities for further legal prosecution”.

The Criminal Court prosecutor on Sunday charged the man suspected of killing Hattar with premeditated murder, and decided to refer him to the State Security Court.

At the same time, the official added, “the government will remain committed to safeguarding the right to freedom of expression as long as it does not lead to the spreading of hate speech or sectarianism”.

Authorities have identified the shooter, who allegedly shot and killed Hattar on the steps of the Palace of Justice in Abdali earlier in the day, as Riad Abdullah, 49, a resident of east Amman.

Hattar, facing trial for sharing a caricature that was considered insulting to religious beliefs, was apparently on his way to attend a court hearing.

(Source / 27.09.2016)

Why many Jordanians have little stomach for upcoming elections

A man marks his ballot at a polling station in Amman, Jordan, Jan. 23, 2013

AMMAN, Jordan — An astounding 87% of Jordanians said their parliament had not made even one praiseworthy accomplishment during the 2013-16 term, according to an April poll conducted by the International Republican Institute. Faced with such public skepticism, the Jordanian government is campaigning to increase voter turnout for the country’s most important elections, to be held in two months.

The Independent Election Commission has launched a new website in Arabic and in English and has taken to the streets to explain the voting list system enacted in March in a new election law that did away with the previous one-person, one-vote system. “The King, the government and the Independent Election Committee have done all that is possible to prepare the groundwork for the new elections,” said a June 12 editorial in the Jordan Times. Nonetheless, with the Sept. 20 contest approaching, former Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher told Al-Monitor, “There is a noticeable indifference toward the elections.”

The parliament’s May 2 ratification of constitutional amendments was a worrying development for citizens who want an independent legislative branch. The new amendments gave the king absolute power to appoint the head of the paramilitary police force, members of the constitutional court and the crown prince. Before the May 2 decision, the king required the prime minister and certain ministers to recommend these critical nominees.

The changes were passed overwhelmingly in only about two weeks by 123 members of parliament out of 142 who attended the session, and with little public debate. Rana Sabbagh, the director of the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism and former editor-in-chief of the Jordan Times, told Al-Monitor that many Jordanians view parliament as being a “rubber stamp” for the king’s policies and not operating as a strong independent body monitoring the executive branch. “Jordanians don’t believe that this parliament is actually stopping wrongdoing in the system,” she said.

A poll by the Civil Coalition for Monitoring Elections published July 10 said a larger share of Jordanians (39.5%) intend to “boycott” the elections than those who plan to vote (31.5%). Suspicions of dishonesty in the legislative branch have fueled mistrust about the elections.

In April, the Jordan Times reported that hundreds of parliamentarians’ relatives had been appointed administrators at the legislature. “MPs cannot risk rejecting ‘wasta’ [obtaining privileges through connections] requests from people in their constituencies, because they fear losing them as voters,” said Tarek Khoury, a parliamentarian. “This is a big problem for the lower house.” With representatives themselves acknowledging their unethical behavior, it is no surprise that citizens are less than enthusiastic about taking the time to legitimize the legislative branch.

Previous instances of electoral fraud are also behind Jordanians questioning the utility of voting in September and staying away from the polls. In 2007, a former intelligence chief acknowledged falsifying parliamentary election results. In addition, the newspaper Al-Arab al-Youm exposed multiple cases of vote buying in the 2010 elections, with candidates’ campaigns offering citizens more than 100 Jordanian dinars (about $140) per vote. During the last parliamentary contest, in 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood accused the government of fraud.

Despite these issues, Sabbagh noted that given the current violence and turmoil across the region, there are voices in Jordan who believe that holding elections is a positive sign for the kingdom. The elections might benefit from the fact that the original Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), is participating this year after boycotting the previous races in 2010 and 2013. The IAF’s decision to compete in September lends legitimacy to the elections.

Given the challenging financial conditions facing Jordanians, it is difficult to divorce the weak economy from attitudes about the parliament and therefore the elections. According to the International Labor Organization, youth unemployment stands at approximately 28%, twice the international average. The government’s decision in June to raise fuel priceshas further strained the resources of many with already limited means.

“People feel manipulated, and they see [elections] as repetition of the same thing and done for someone else’s benefit,” Naseem Tarawnah, author of the popular Jordanian political blog Black Iris, told Al-Monitor. Because economic conditions are not improving, many in the kingdom view regular elections as “putting lipstick on the pig and dressing it up in different ways,” Tarawnah said. With average Jordanians struggling to support their families, participating in elections that appear to have a limited impact on their daily lives is not a priority.

Mohammad Momani, the minister of state for media affairs and government spokesman, declined Al-Monitor’s request for comment on the public’s attitude toward the elections.

Sitting at a cafe near the University of Jordan, student Abdalshaheed Abu-Khalil said he would not vote in the September race. “The elections are a big show,” he remarked. “The last parliament failed.” Lana Abu-Joudeh, however, is more hopeful. She explained to Al-Monitor, “It is important for all of us to be part of elections because we want Jordan to be a better place to live.” She said that while the last elections were “dishonest,” she nonetheless intends to vote in September.

King Abdullah II touted the new electoral legislation as a “milestone in our national reform process.” There appears to be a major divide, however, in how the Royal Palace and the people view the law. According to the International Republican Institute poll, 58% of Jordanians know nothing about the legislation, which requires candidates to run on multi-candidate lists. Voters select one list and then select candidates from that list. This process replaces the single, non-transferable vote system — “sawt wahid” or one vote — which had reduced opposition parties’ representation after the 1989 election in favor of tribal loyalists. In 1989, the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies won about one-third of the contested seats and became the largest parliamentary bloc, an unwelcome development for the monarchy. The Sawt wahid system created heavily gerrymandered districts that were disadvantageous for the urban areas where many Jordanian-Palestinians who supported the Brotherhood lived.

Although the purpose of the legislation was to create strong parliamentary political blocs, Muasher was cautious about the bill’s potential for success. “It is clear in most districts that lists are not going to be formed according to ideology but rather by tribal affiliation,” Muasher said.

Some of the attacks against the legislative branch are rooted in the country’s restrictions on political speech. “You can’t criticize the king and the upper echelons of power,” Tarawnah said. Therefore the legislative branch becomes one of the few government institutions that citizens can attack, causing “parliament to be the scapegoat,” he added.

The ongoing economic problems, previous cases of electoral fraud and consolidation of the king’s power have pushed many Jordanians to consider staying away from the ballot box in September. “People feel that parliament is not an effective decision maker or a voice that is representative of most Jordanians,” Muasher noted. “There is a big trust gap between citizens and the government in Jordan.”

(Source / 27.07.2016)

Jordan’s King Abdullah Dissolves Parliament, Names Caretaker PM


Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour speaks to the media after the swearing-in ceremony for the new cabinet at the Royal Palace in Amman March 30, 2013

Veteran politician Hani Mulqi was appointed as prime minister by Jordan’s King Abdullah after dissolving parliament by royal decree on Sunday; which comes following the end of its four-year term, and charged him with conducting new elections by October.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour’s resignation was approved by the monarch, as is accustomed under the constitution, before appointing an interim head of government.

The election should be held within four months under the constitution and after the lower house made an amendment to the electoral laws in March, government sources and political analysts say it is expected that more candidates from political parties shall be vying for votes with traditional tribal and family allegiances.

However, the Muslim Brotherhood movement, considered as the key source of Jordan’s main political opposition to the government, is dealing with growing legal restrictions on its activities, thus having mostly pro-monarchy parties and some independent Islamists and politicians left to compete in the elections, the sources say.

In 2011, under pressure from the popular protests across the Arab world, Jordan’s parliament endorsed constitutional changes that devolved some of the monarch’s powers to the parliament.

However, political analysts say tribal lawmakers who dominated the last parliament resisted any change which they saw undermining their influence and maintained a system that favors sparsely populated tribal regions which benefit most from state patronage and the support of the monarchy.

(Source / 29.05.2016)

Jordan parliament bans property deals with Israelis in Petra

AFP file photo shows the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.

File photo shows the ancient city of Petra in Jordan

Jordan has banned the sale and rent of properties to Israelis in the kingdom’s ancient city of Petra, local media report.

Jordan’s parliament passed the law, prohibiting Israelis from buying or renting real estate in the entire Petra region, al-Rai newspaper said on Tuesday.

The law, however, allows foreign investors to invest in areas located outside Petra Archeological Park.

The legislation came as reports revealed that an increasing number of Israelis were purchasing land in the city.

The law was proposed by two MPs, Mahmoud Kharabsha and Assaf Shubki, as an amendment to the Petra Development and Tourism Authority law.

On Tuesday, MPs passed the proposal after describing Tel Aviv as their “enemy” and “the oppressing entity.”

Shubki said that he was seeking to expand the law to prevent Israelis from buying or renting any property across Jordan.

“Our national sovereignty is more important than foreign investments and I will work together with my colleagues in parliament to enforce the law in all the regions in Jordan and not only in Petra,” he said.

“The Zionist enemy contaminates the Palestinian territories and does not respect any international humanitarian treaty. This law is a victory for the Palestinian people and it is the least we can do for them,” Shubki added.

Jordan and Israel have had official diplomatic relations since the signing of a peace accord in 1994.

(Source / 18.03.2016)

Jordan military unveils border surveillance with Iraq, Syria

Members of the Jordanian border guard, left, stand behind a table where various devices for first detection of possible chemical or biological weapons materials are displayed for visitors at their headquarters near the city of Zarqa, Jordan on Monday, June 8, 2015

Jordan’s military on Monday unveiled a new phase of a border surveillance system that U.S. officials say provides an effective defense against infiltration attempts, including by Islamic State militants.

The kingdom plays a high-profile role in the U.S.-led military coalition against the extremists, who control large parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq.

Militants pose a potential threat to the security of Jordan, a staunch Western ally, and previously have attacked border points.

The border security system, partially funded by the U.S., includes radar and surveillance towers that enable Jordanian forces to spot suspected infiltrators several kilometers (miles) before they reach the border, said Col. Robert Paddock, defense attache at the U.S. Embassy in Amman.

“Here, they can see anywhere along the entire border, what is going on, and then they can take appropriate action,” Paddock told The Associated Press at the command center.

With the completion of the second phase, marked by Monday’s event, the system now operates along all of the Jordanian-Syrian border, Paddock said. Work along Jordan’s border with Iraq is underway and is to be completed by the end of the year, he said.

Alice Wells, the U.S. ambassador to Jordan, said the surveillance enhances Jordan’s security significantly.

“I don’t think anyone is talking about an invasion of Jordan (by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants), but what we are talking about is the ability of individuals to try to infiltrate the border and this is a highly effective defense against that,” she told the AP.

Sunday night, Jordanian border guards shot and killed two suspected infiltrators from Syria, the state news agency Petra said, without elaborating.

The eastern side of the Syrian-Jordan border also has become the main pathway into Jordan for Syrian refugees fleeing four years of civil war. Human Rights Watch said last week that Jordan has gradually tightened entry restrictions over the past two years.

Jordan says it has worked out entry procedures with international organizations and, in principle, maintains an open border.

(Source / 08.06.2015)