Jordanian Observations #2 [Ironic Street Names]

The new General Intelligence Department (aka mukhabarat) – the most feared security apparatus by the average Jordanian, is actually located on a street called “The People’s Street”.


  • Yes, I was called in there once “to have tea” because they “wanted to get to know me better”.

    Viva el pópulo! Long live the people. 3aish al sha3b!

  • Mohanned: yeah, the GID is right behind and actually (even more ironically perhaps) situated at the very end of “the people’s street”

  • I never understood what they do. I was just often told not to criticize the government, king, or queen in public because “they are always listening”


  • I wonder if they actually have missions with dedicated operatives that do anything besides blending with the college crowd and reporting back “no one said anything uncool today, we’re good.”

  • looks to me like the government is playing a spoof-naming game like that of George Orwell’s “Ministry of Love” and “Ministry of Truth”!

    How did you manage to take the pictures though?!
    have you hidden the camera somewhere?? 😉

  • On the security of a more virtual kind: Nas, have you been taking an interest in the “new”, much publicised DNS exploit? I recently arrived back in Jordan, and upon checking, found that my ISP’s (Umniah) DNS servers STILL aren’t patched.

    As I understand it though, most if not all ISPs in Jordan use a central system of resources from Batelco; meaning that the entire country would be vulnerable to this readibly available, easy-to-exectue exploit. Say it isn’t so!

    You can check your DNS servers here, — click “Check My DNS” on the right hand side. A work around is to use OpenDNS’s servers: — although a better solution would be for, you know, the ISP’s to actually show a degree of professionalism and actually fix the problem. Crazy, huh?

    More information on the patching effort can be found here: — and on the actual exploit:

    Sorry that this is slightly off-topic, but I think it’s important that more people in Jordan are aware of this issue.

  • Umm daoud, they never actually used those new buildings for the mukhabarat.
    they sold the property as soon as the project was over. so I doubt you were called in there to drink some ‘tea’.

  • So what the heck is it anyway? It is probably the best built thing in Jordan. My friend went there with the University to see the construction and all the workers (or many) were imported and the methods of construction were better than what is normally done here. So whatever the heck it is, it is well built.

  • The GID are my client at work and I have met some nice people there. The security man at the first check point before the COOP (el jam3eiyah) knows when Im coming to visit ! Also some of our comopany staff stayed there for a few nights without giving any reason on their stay over, though they were doing a 1 hour support visit. But hey we all priase the security we have in Jordan

  • Very off topic “but on street names”
    It is more ironic (i think) to change the name of the Jordan university street, “shari3 el jaam3a” to another name. If I were her I wouldn’t have agreed, she gave a lot but the Uni gave more to this country.

  • Greetings
    Why is it so easy to generalise and level ‘blanket adjectival descriptions’? How can one say that GID is the “most feared security apparatus by the average Jordanian”? Isn’t such a cliche taken out of some sensational article misleading to some who might not know Jordan or GID? I guess if one is a terrorist or wants to harm or threaten the security of our nation then he or she has every reason to fear not just GID but ALL average Jordanians, who enjoy their peace and security and will do anything to preserve it. And if one is indeed an “average” person who has not done anything wrong, then why would he or she fear GID? Let’s be fair and objective my friends. No one or no entity is perfect, but let’s give credit where it is due. And let’s thank God for the peace and security we enjoy in Jordan.

  • Dear Nasser Judeh: Thank you for the comment as I truly appreciate it when members of the government and policymakers take the time to read and/or participate on the Black Iris.

    Just to point out a few things. Yes, it is a generalization, but, I don’t think I can be blamed for making one. I think you and I both know that the description of the GID as the “most feared security apparatus by the average Jordanian” is fairly accurate. Anyone who does not know Jordan needs only to spend a few weeks here before discovering this fear amongst the average Jordanian. It is there. It’s been there for generations. It is the unavoidable elephant in the room.

    Now, whether this fear is rational or irrational is a whole other subject. It has nothing to do with whether the “average” Jordanian feels he or she has done anything wrong, it is simply a fear that exists. It is partly hereditary – be it through culture, peers, family, etc – and it is partly observational, based on firsthand stories that people hear and/or experience themselves.

    To be fair and objective (from my personal point of view), I would agree with you that no entity is perfect, and I would also agree that the GID is largely responsible for the peace and security we happen to enjoy, and for that I give them credit for and do indeed thank God for.

    Nevertheless, the fear of the GID still exists on the street level amidst the overwhelming majority of the population and I think, at this point, it is largely due to the realization (especially from my generation’s standpoint) that this peace and security comes at a cost. In my opinion – and perhaps you can empathize with this as it is your particular field of expertise – it may also be due to the fact that there is fairly poor communication between the GID and the people, hence it remains this ghostly entity, isolated and removed from the common man, like an abandoned home down the street that has the neighborhood kids convinced is haunted. No one knows what the GID is all about except from what we hear from our parents, friends, relatives, coworkers, etc. Everything anyone knows about the GID is that they call people in and hassle them. Out of the roughly dozen stories I know firsthand that are related to the GID in any way, only two of those are positive “reviews”. Add to this the documentation of foreign organizations such as the Human Rights Watch (for instance) who seem (or at least claim) to know more about the GID’s practices than we Jordanians do.

    Although I won’t claim to fully understand the exact reasons for this fear, this is just an observational post on realities that already exist. I may not entirely agree with those realities, but I nonetheless understand them.

    Thank you again for your comment!

  • @ Amer,
    “I wonder if they actually have missions with dedicated operatives that do anything besides blending with the college crowd and reporting back “no one said anything uncool today, we’re good.””

    Consider that Jordan is about the safest place to live in within all its neighbors and then consider criticizing the GID for not doing their job…

    @ Nasser Judeh
    It’s great to see officials actievly participating with the pub;ic in such a way! 🙂
    “And if one is indeed an “average” person who has not done anything wrong, then why would he or she fear GID? ”
    Simply because the general consensus is that anyone who publicly criticizes the government, which should be allowed, would be sent to “dar khalto” to never be heard of again…So yeah, that would get the “average” law abiding citizen scared from the GID.

  • Dear Mr. Judeh,

    There’s a very blurry grey area between what wrong and what isn’t when it comes to our perception and observation of what GID does. Can the GID provide us average Jordanians with clear and detailed list of rules so that we know not to do anything wrong?


  • Naser Judeh,

    Before I immigrated out of the country, I had to get a security clearance from the GID in the 3abdaly area! Dude, I never felt as humiliated in my whole life. I mean even the guys who check you in on the main gate have horrible attitude! They just treat people as they were traitors of some kind. I had nothing to fear, but I couldn’t stop praying that I wouldn’t make a wrong eye contact with anyone, or run into someone with a cranky bad mood that morning.
    I understand that government employees in general have this attitude, but it’s only at such places you can show how civil, developed and classy is a country. So if there is anyone from the guys up there reading this, please, please, please work on this. Train the guys to show more respect to average people, who has no wasta of any kind.

  • Dear Mr. Nasser Judeh,

    You said: “I guess if one is a terrorist or wants to harm or threaten the security of our nation then he or she has every reason to fear not just GID but ALL average Jordanians, who enjoy their peace and security and will do anything to preserve it.”

    What I and many fail to grasp is the idea of “threatening” the security of our nation; the loosely defined term leaves the room open for many interpretations. For example: What do we mean by the nation? Is it the average Jordanian you referred to? Or is it the governing system? Is it the stability of the system or the stability of people’s lives? And what are the nation’s interests and who sets them? Is it the appointed government or the “elected” MPs? How representative of the people’s will our governing model is?

    The blurred term of nation’s security needs to be defined in absolute terms that leaves no room for interpretations, we need to know where the “red” lines are, we need to know who sets those red lines, we also need to know how compatible those lines are with the King’s vision? We also need accountability and transparency, we need a meritocracy.. The list is long.

    No one is dismissing the great role and enormous responsibilities the GId bears, therefore when discussing such issues the goal is not defending or attacking the entity, but rather bringing controversial issues to the forefront of the national debate.


  • Whats great about officials leaving comments on blogs? :s

    When will we reach the point where what matters most is the transparency and authenticity of whats said from a governmental representative compared to whats done rather than adding a new empty circle of personalizing relations with what ever said on blogs to actually overpass criticism by making relations personal through our famous attitude of “takhjeel”.

  • Dear Nas,

    Thank you for your comment and I always welcome a healthy objective debate as long as there is respect for the other point of view, which may well be different. Naturally I respect your opinions as your own. The issue here is not what you believe in, it’s the generalisations and inaccuracies that you feel are ‘givens’. I understand that exaggeration is part of our culture. When you call someone a couple of times and don’t find him or her, the next time you see them you say, “I called you a thousand times yesterday!” Or if you see a crowd outside your office…you say a million people are out there!” 🙂 I do this myself sometimes! But you cannot apply these societal practices to more substantive issues. This is why I feel it’s wrong to say the “overwhelming majority” of Jordanians feel this way. I am sure you and few others you know may feel this way and this is your right in a society where open debate and freedom of expression exist. But I don’t think we can speak for all of Jordan unless we are empowered to, wouldn’t you agree? I am currently abroad and so this response is short, but will be back in a few days and will answer your comments and concerns in a more detailed way. Until then, stay well and thank you ALL for your input.

  • @ Nasser

    I, too, appreciate your time on this forum and am proud to see my home country’s government sharing opinions with the public.

    However, your reply demonstrates that forums are being read by your organization. Business or pleasure, regardless. If an opinion breaking government policy is published, you will probably reply or take action and look into that person.

    If you don’t do this, “intelligence” is not what you do. The difference is, intelligence agencies in many other nations exclude non-criminals. The GID doesn’t. People I know from high school literally disappeared in college after a protest.

    Because everyone is included, fear is a very valid feeling in the crowd you manage.

    Like CIA in this country, the GID offers a life to its employees, not a job. You’re never off the clock and you cannot let a comment you deem inappropriate slip because you’re on vacation.

    The lack of free speech in Jordan, especially about government and royalty, is what made surges of my colleagues immigrate into other nations where we can truly criticize and change our rules on the commmunity level and national level. It also makes us turn into citizens of other nations to free ourselves from that kind of invisible -but very real- control.

    A great example is a recent smoking ban in FL strictly applied by a small group of friends calling the senator. Also a good example is legal gay marriage in California where they found that the gay slice is actualy the dominant one and needs to be satisfied for the state to run optimally.

    I realize none of this is your fault, but I urge you to think about it as A fault.

  • I fear more the rising monthly bills, the taxes, the taxes on taxes, increase of goods, flats, commodoties, now that’s a real nightmare!!

  • It just came to me!……………… They do not listen, they do not care about what we think or believe!!!! It is not political, it is not economical, and it’s not even cultural! It is purely social, ethical and moral! Viewing our problems from any other perspective would do us nothing, but keeping us running in our vicious circles wondering what is the solution?

    I know this might sound like a stupid rant in a wrong place, but would you please look at Naser Judeh’s response!!!! All he cares about is whether the statement is politically correct or not! Which makes me wonder what kind of a comment would he wrote if that general statement did not exist? Ya3ny, if the statement read “the most feared security apparatus by the MAJORITY of Jordanians”! Would he then wonder, ask or even explain the reason!? Would he try to offer a solution?! Or he might say nothing at all?!

  • Hi Again

    Sorry for the late response as I just returned from a a trip abroad where i was following the contributions but couldn’t really elaborate too much on my blackberry! I am happy to see so many responses and thank all those who submitted them. The important thing to bear in mind here is that nobody has to agree with anybody so long as we all respect each other’s opinions as ones that differ from ours. Here are some quick points in response to a few of the comments I read. To Nas in his first reaction to my comments (21) I would say yes indeed peace and security has to come at some cost. But we don’t want this cost to be a total and blatant disregard for civil liberties and constitutional rights. Sadly we live in a different world my friend. I remember as a university student back in the late seventies and early eighties i would just get on an airplane in the States and never carry a passport! In fact I once even forgot my university ID card and still managed to get on the flight using only my library card! We saw the heated debates at the time of the Patriot Act, and equally heated debates in the UK when similar legislations and measures were being introduced. Nobody wants to see any form of abuse when it comes to people’s freedoms and I do hope that we don’t have such practices here in Jordan as a rule. As for communication between GID and the people quite frankly I don’t think this is part of their mandate or job description! Perhaps by definition they are meant to be mysterious and “ghostly” although in the case of Jordan they have opened up in recent years with a media department and a website etc. as well as GID officials meeting regularly with journalists and human rights organisations. But for this argument’s sake what kind of communication do we see between the CIA and the people, or MI6 or even (and lets be bold here although I am shooting myself in the foot) the Mossad and the people? These organisations are there to perform their sworn duty to protect their respective nations’ security and I am not even going to begin to mention other examples closer to reality! we may have some issues with accountability I suppose but that will come eventually. To Hameed (contribution 22) I would say that I simply don’t agree. “Anyone who publicly criticises the government is sent to Beit Khalto”? Come now! We are criticsing the government right here on a public blog and I think we spent restful nights in our own homes without hindrance (even though my aunt’s cooking is quite exquisite….just kidding). Take a look at all the weekly tabloids and other forms of expression! To say they publicly criticise the government is probably the understatement of the century! They rip us to pieces in every issue. There is one so called electronic news site that sepcialises in tearing me personally apart simply because the person in charge (a journalist I might add) wanted a job in a department under my jurisdiction, and the Head of that departnent didnt give him the job as he thought he wasn’t qualified. I stood by my department head’s decision and haven’t heard the end of it since, from character assaassination to slander to what have you. To Marwan (contribution 24) all I can say is I am sorry you had a bad experience before you immigrated. Like I said no entity is perfect. But listen and I am sorry to keep talking abut my own personal experiences but they do apply. As a young 14 year old student at school in England I had to go register with the local police station every time I arrived in the UK and before I left. Believe me it was equally humiliating for me in front of all my peers to have to do that and this is back in the mid seventies when the world was generally a safer place. My ten year old youngest daughter was forced to take off her belt, shoes, jacket, and asked some pretty strange questions by airport authorities in Europe just this last week and I was going nuts while this was happening but couldnt do anything about it! To Mohanned (contribution 25) Can you really define any nation’s security in “absolute terms”?? In this day and age? If we had excessive security measures at hotels and restaurants and shopping malls prior to november 9th 2005 (we certainly should have) would not the “overwhelming majority” of Jordanians have complained about it? Did we imagine that three hotels were going to be bombed on one night with so many people tragically losing their lives? Again this brings us back to Nas’s point. This shouldnt come at the cost of liberties but yes there is a cost, here and everywhere I guess. To Laila (contribution 26) nothing is “great” about officials commenting on blogs. In fact it should be the norm not the exception, and trust me this is not a public relations exercise on my part nor is it an attempt at “Takhjeel”. I was doing this believe it or not back in 1995 when internet was fresh out of the oven not just in Jordan but almost everywhere! We had a very useful local forum on Nets called “ask the government” and the exchanges that used to take place were quite fierce and nobody got arrested or beaten up for it! And Amer (contribution 28) how did “I look into any person or take action” against them? You must admit that this is simply not true. And I am no apologist for GID or anyone for that matter but people “disappearing” off the street from college or elsewhere is not a practice that is common in Jordan if you know what I mean! And finally Marwan, I dont have all the solutions! In fact I dont think anyone does. But together, engaging in healthy debates such as this one we can make a difference. I think we all share a common objective; Jordan and its prosperity and progress. Thank you for all your comments and I look forward to more. My apologies if I missed anything from anyone. Keep well.

    Nasser Judeh (Abu Tariq)

  • @ Nasser,

    No, I don’t know what you mean. How is it common? No one knows where they are. They have been missing ever since. Their last electronic messaging or social activities were that week. Their communications with their friends stopped. Their phones are dead. No, I have no idea what you mean.

    And you do look into people who criticize the royal family. Any negative comment, respectfully honest ones included, are assumed slander to royalty and punished. This part of my comment IS assumed – I will admit this. But if it never happened, why are we told that you do it? Where did our parents get that from? And their neighbors and friends and all our friends at school? They just randomly made something that commonly known up?

    I don’t need you to apologize for anyone – a job is a job and I salute you for being able to sleep at night with the level of responsibility on your shoulders.

    I’m just saying, there’s nothing wrong with saying you’re in the intelligence industry and your job by definition is drilling down further on EVERYTHING outside the local norm.

  • P.S. The CIA has college presentations, public annual reports, a press website, and openly recruit. For $150, you can tour their main facility.

    I do understand that this openness is no where around complete but they are not as shut off as they used to be anymore. It’s actually a posted job these days.

  • Hi Amer

    Thanks for your message. I think you misread my comment. I am saying it is NOT common in Jordan. But hold on a second: Are you telling me that you have a friend or relative who just “disappeared” ? And noone knows his whereabouts? Here in Jordan? I think I will need more than that to actually believe it. So if you really want to know if GID had him “disappear” you owe it to him to tell me so that I can look into it. And thats what I do, look into matters not “people”. And I beg to differ: I am NOT in the intelligence “industry”. I am in government which is not an alien concept. And governments by and large anywhere in the world work FOR the people. If we do our job right thats expected. If not we go packing home and still serve our country from wherever we are. That does not mean that I dont have an opinion and I never hesitate to voice it. And so should you and you do. This is great! 150 BUCKS? Wow.. You got me there!


Your Two Piasters: