One interesting story floating under the radar these days, past the looming shadow of a tragic football game and its impact on national identity, is ironically linked to that very topic. Or, at the very least, to the broader issue of crime and punishment in the Kingdom.
On November 9th, Tahir Nassar, a 45 year old Jordanian lawyer from Rusaifa, ran for a seat in his electoral district of Zarqa during the parliamentary elections. Nassar lost, but things got worse as about 18 days later, Nassar found himself detained in a prison in Salt, awaiting trial in the military-bound State Security Court. What was his crime? Nassar published a manifesto for the purposes of his electoral run that, according to Human Rights Watch, stated the following:
“…the discrimination between citizens on the basis of the birthplace by which this nation without equality distinguishes itself… in all states of the advanced world the scientific degree is the basis for obtaining jobs in the public sector, whereas in Jordan the basis is a birth certificate.” [source]
And with that in mind, Nassar called for “the equal treatment of all Jordanians under the law, as provided in the constitution,” a crime that has been deemed by the state as “undermining national unity” and “stirring up sectarian strife,” thus open to be tried by the State Security court; the same judicial body that is made up of military judges and tries people for crimes like treason and terrorism. HRW has claimed that the authorities waited until international election monitors left the country before “clamping down on a candidate that sought reform.”
Nassar lawyer says she has been stopped several times from visiting her client in prison. In the same article, the head of the Associations’ Freedoms Committee, Fathi Abu Nassar, says that the state security prosecutor has claimed he, and the court, should have no jurisdiction over this case as it is a matter for the civil judiciary (as opposed to military). This would make Nassar’s detention for nearly three weeks now, a trampling on his constitutional rights.
While this case is no different than the many Jordanian civilians who have experienced a state security court for stirring sectarian strife, Nassar’s one advantage here seems to be the fact that he’s a member of the lawyer’s association, and in times like this, it’s good to have a lot of lawyers on your side. The lawyer’s association has continued to ask why Nassar’s case has remained in the hands of the state security court despite the court’s prosecutor having concluded that he didn’t have jurisdiction. It seems the court file was yet to be transferred, a process that managed to keep Nassar behind bars in the meantime. In Nassar’s case, his words were printed and subsequently seem to have fallen in the unfortunate trappings of the infamous Press and Publications law, which has had a tradition of stifling public opinion over the years.
So here’s the question that begs itself in light of recent events: if someone calls for an end to discrimination between citizens and claims that all citizens should be equal, a claim that is guaranteed by the country’s own constitution, why is this person being tried for inciting sectarian strife? Is to simply speak about discrimination and the identity issue an attempt to stir sectarian strife? Does merely discussing this qualify as a crime?
Why are any attempts to grapple with this issue deemed to be incendiary by the state? Why, even in an election where a candidate’s materials is supposed to be subject to public discourse, are we stifling any opinion that claims we have a problem with the identity issue? In doing so, does the state not automatically demonstrate that we quite clearly do indeed have a problem with this issue?
*Photo source: free tahir nassar facebook group.
whats with this reincarnation of jordanian/palestinian sectarianism ? is there a reason for us to worry, you think?
It’s a bottle-neck. To end the discrimination you may have to change the law, to do this you need to speak out, when you do it you are imprisoned for undermining national unity. Jordan is stopping change at the first step, shame on them. The only option left is a top-bottom change…
Is this our mirror where we reflect US to the world by which calling for freedom of speech is only cover but whats hidden inside is worse..never and never will we ever evolve to be real humans better be called savage animals..
accept my respect and admiration for writing this post
We have a big problem in Jordan, and I think the Arab world. Intellectual debate is often taboo, controversial topics become heretic, and talking about our flaws and problems becomes an unforgivable sin. I don’t understand, but I have certainly seen this as a general trait in some parts of our culture.
Its a shame, really. That we have Governments and bodies that strive to achieve self-improvement, but cannot accept self-criticism.
I don’t think its intentioned malice or hypocrisy. I think its a behavior that rings true in many people’s personal lives and attitudes. But I hope they’ll see the hypocrisy in that.
post this inn arabic and you will find yourself sleeping in the same cell
something is cooking up in the region,arabs are uneducated,chaotic,selfish,violent,merciless,stop blaming others of your fault
Nasim, Day after day I admire your courage in posting such sensitive yest important articles. Personally I do not know the person but I have confidence that there is a lot of people having the dignity and passion to do what is right for this country and for Jordanian rights, a lot of them are within the system be it Security, government or others. Part of the responsibility of a true media reporter is to bring the issue to the light so the right people take the necessary corrective action which is exactly what you have done. For all what you know whoever has taken a decision to detain this gent could simply have someone overriding his decision and doing what is right.
As a Jordanian, I’ve been hearing about discrimination between east-bank and west-bank Jordanians for years now, and I personally witnessed multiple episodes of discrimination based on origin in Jordan from both sides of the equation. For some reason, the discrimination against west-bankers by government bodies is talked about and discussed a lot, but no one seems to mention the other side of the problem. A lot of east-bank jordanians are frequently discriminated against in business institutions, a lot of Jordanian businesses (typically controlled by east-bank Jordanians) prefer to employ Jordanians of west-bank origin and not employ east-bankers, but no-one seems to open up that subject ever. I personally believe that this rift should no longer continue, but people have to know that both sides are suffering from it one way or the other, and that east-bank jordanians are suffering from it as much as west-bankers are.
actimg like there is discrimination on both sides is not true and only serves to shut the victim from voicing his pain, your argument put Nassar in jail. The public sector is shut in the face of jordanians from palestinian oriigin while the private sector is open for both. It is no longer true the th private sector is controlled by JFPOs it is a myth used in the discrimination discourse of racists.