The Economics Of Unprecedented Jordanian Crimes

On Monday, it was reported that a three year old in east Amman was kidnapped in the early morning with the kidnapper demanding 50,000JDs as a ransom. Ammon is reporting this as the first case of its kind in Jordanian history. Supposedly, the kidnapper had some sort of financial dispute with the grandfather in the field of 12,000JDs but the grandfather denied knowing him.

Interestingly enough, it took the police in east Amman only several hours to get the girl back to her family by the end of the day. I have to admit, that’s pretty impressive, no?

Crimes in the past two years or so, are becoming incredibly unique in their nature. Putting the traditional honor crimes aside, many crimes that we never thought could happen in Jordan are beginning to evolve, with many seemingly financially-driven. And in part, I feel that these crimes are relative to the dire financial status people are having to endure these past few weeks, months and years.

When I was a child, Jordan was deemed as a safe haven. I’m not talking about international reputations or regional contrasts, but on a social level. Jordanians percieved their streets and neighborhoods to be safe, if not innocent. And so kids could be seen playing hide-and-go-seek at 11pm or football after dinner. It’s symbolic. It really is a social measurement of how safety is percieved.

Today, things are different.

Yeah, sure, kids don’t play outside as often as they used to, what with all the Sony playboxes and Internets. Nevertheless, there’s something to be said about changing social attitudes. I’ve seen people installing several deadbolt locks on their door, compulsively checking to make sure things are all locked up before retiring for the night. People used to keep their doors open before. Not unclocked, but wide open. At least, these are my memories of a Jordan in the early 90’s.

Parental attitudes have changed. Personal attitudes have changed. The feeling of Jordan, and specifically Amman, being a completely crime-free, safe zone is eroding. And comparitvely, both the capital and country are much better than their regional counterparts. Nevertheless, I can’t help but observe those changing attitudes. Sometimes I wonder if these crimes were taking place all the time but just under-reported, which is a distinct possibility that I was reminded of when reading that Ammon headline today. But somehow I feel there’s a slim chance of that happening considering the public and the media’s shared love for crime-related stories.

But to highlight my point:

Recently, an Egyptian man who had been working in a Jordanian factory since 1994, killed his boss, cutting off his legs and arms, after he refused to raise his salary. Another Egyptian man in a story I blogged about recently, killed a young Jordanian woman, just to rob her store of a couple of cell phones and SIM cards.

In another case, a West Bank resident who had financial problems with a Jordanian man, killed him and his wife in front of their child in Amman. Meanwhile, a 29-year old killed his tailor after discovering he had been cheated for 30JDs.

One burglar robbed so many homes in west Amman that when he was finally caught, the total amount of gold he had stolen amounted to 500,000JDs.

Other crimes seem to center around love and jealousy, with a slew of murders happening in the past few years revolving around a 20-something year old killing or raping a girl he claims to be in love with, or killing someone else for getting in the way.

And yes, honor crimes are still a big deal.

On December 1st, a 21-year-old man received seven-and-a-half-years for murdering his married sister in Jerash, and the very next day, a 42-year-old man also received seven-and-a-half-years imprisonment for murdering his married niece, in front of the Deir Alla governor’s office no less. The day after that, December 3rd, a 32-year-old man received three years and nine months after attempting to murder his married sister in the name of family honor. He stabbed her several times but she managed to survive while he was busy turning himself in.

It is possible that these crimes were all together unreported years ago, but I’m more inclined to believe that crime has simply increased in Jordan.

My parents are always making me check to lock the doors and I do so reluctantly because I’ve never experienced crime, and more importantly, never felt there was a reason to be afraid in Jordan. I never even understood the need for people to put up all those steel window guards on their homes. Interestingly enough, my parents recently told me that a number of apartments in the neighborhood have been robbed and so now I’m beginning to subconsciously check the doors.

Moreover, I am also under the impression (which might be completely off) that increased poverty tends to push people to their more conservative and/or extremist tendencies, which may impact the rise in related crimes like those pertaining to honor.

I could be wrong about this whole connection between a tougher financial situation and a subsequent rise in crime, but in the meantime, I’m still going to check that my doors are locked at night.


  • That is interesting. I think there is a connection here. But that is also only my humble opinion.
    When I first arrived in Amman, I believed it was a very safe place, and all people are protective over eachother, and everything is just fine and dandy.
    6 months in, I do not take a cab after dark, and if it is absolutely necessary and I have to leave my house after dark, I walk around like I’m being followed, the walking process quickly morphs into a jogging process that includes compulsive behaviour of looking behind me and around me. I don’t think I am being paranoid, because it is way more complicated than that. I have to dodge ‘funny’ guys who mess around and attempt to run me over as a joke, never mind creepy cab drivers and pervy men.
    It is really sad that my roommates and I can’t go for a walk, can’t enjoy some fresh air, and prevent ourselves from enjoying nightlife in Amman.
    I know we are missing out, Amman/ Jordan is such a beautiful place, its a pity that we can’t make the best out of it!
    This does not relate to crime and poverty, but I think it is a real issue here as well that women do not feel safe in a nation where men are naturally overprotective over women.

  • I still think Jordan is a safe heaven.

    For my family, even in the early 90’s, we used to lock our doors.

    I think that Ammon is now taking the place of shihan 15 years ago. At that time the crime reporting jornalism became a fashion. Remember abu shakoosh? At some point, I really felt insecure and was worried on my dad.

    What about statistics? Is there official crime statistics? It is understandable if there is a slight increase in crimes because the we have increased in numbers, but all in all I think Jordan is still as safe as it has been 20 years ago.

  • I have a friend who was recently broken into in west Amman. The robbers seemed to be familiar with the layout of the house. They suspected their new driver, he never showed up for work the next day.

  • I believe that crime has increased in Jordan, this shouldn’t be surprising when we look at what our country has been going through during the last couple of decades, I see it somehow normal..

    But what makes me wonder is our awareness to the surroundings, I mean, people do not (and don’t even give a heck to) know simple things or information that might help in avoiding crimes anymore, like knowing the neighbors, the private teachers for the kids, the people who get into their homes for any kind of reasons. They don’t even care to check on their maid who lives between them! what if she’s not so innocent as she looks when a copy of a key is missing or a backdoor is left open during the night?

    Some good number of indoor crimes could have been avoided with a little bit of curiosity, it wont hurt to get into details, or ask another 2-3 questions as a change, unless we’re fulfilled with data! or simply just too busy texting SMSs..

    People started to care for numbers I guess.. how much to pay this and how much to get from that, is it linked with financial failure? I bet it is.

  • When my Syrian cusine visited me, in Irbid,from Damascus. He was amazed how every one in Irbid was talking about this guy who was ran over by a car and died. Where ever we went people were talking about the same incident. My cusine was shocked how come this was the only conversation in town (i.e., Irbid). Yet, that was 1987. Alas!

  • I remember in the 1980’s we used not to lock our car doors! But things have changed, the poor has become poorre, the rich has become richer and the middle class is vanashing. When a cup of coffee is costing 4jds at Starbucks and Java U and a box of childer’s milk is costing more than 8 jds then we should expect that. Ofcourse starbucks and Java u are not the standard. Anyways Jordan is still considered safer than Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and for sure Syria.

  • Nas, what an interesting post. In your personal case, you are experiencing a loss of innocence in the way you view the world. When I think back to my (obviously) idyllic childhood, I have experienced a similar loss. When I was a child in the US, at age 6 it was safe for my brother and me to walk 5 blocks to the store by ourselves. Nowadays I wouldn’t allow that, there or here. Innocence lost. I also grew up not worrying about locked doors very much.

    Much of this is changing times (there really IS mre crime here and there), but alot is the changes in yourself. As you become an adult and see the world through adult eyes, perspective is a bit different, isn’t it? Wait until you have kids, talk about a mental shift!

    But I do think that your initial example of the kidnap for ransom is WAY beyond the normal. I never would have expected such a crime in Jordan… I will also say that generally I feel rather safe in Jordan. Non-violent crimes (with the notable and shameful exception of dis-honor crimes) are more the norm which makes for a safer feeling I think. I actually feel rather safer in Amman than many American cities…

  • Last summer i was staying late at my friend’s house in amman, he slept early and i stayed late till around 4am and when i decided that i want to leave i discovered i had no keys and i didn’t want to wake up my friend so my friend has an automatic door but i have to run quickly outside of the house if i switch it on because it is supposed to be used from inside.
    so i ran went to my car drove to my house which is on a 5 min drive away, parked the car and as i was heading to my house an undercover police car approached me ( ba7th jena2i) they asked about my ID and where do i live and then THEY ASKED ME WHY DID YOU RUN AWAY FROM THAT HOUSE!! and it turns out that they were following me all the way and suspected that maybe i could be a thief!!
    I MEAN THATS 1st Class security, i believe in these guys and i still think jordan i a safe heaven…..

  • I think what Mommabean said makes a lot of sense. And I also feel much safer here than in most American cities. Yet I am very wary of letting the kids out anywhere alone ever and I keep my eye on them when we are in public. The biggest threat I feel in my neighborhood are the Ghajar or the Nawar people. I have been attacked by the teenage girls several times and no one has ever come to my rescue or defense even when others were within sight… I think something should be done to remove them from the city or to police them.

  • Coming from England, Jordan feels positively delightful.

    The crimes I do hear about in Jordan hold no particular threat to my person: I’m not a girl, so I doubt I’m going to be the victim of an honour crime anytime soon. I don’t pay anyone, I don’t run a shop. I’m not involved in any kind of love triangle. Locking every possible entry point is just a force of habit coming from the U.K, plus there are much easier/nicer places to rob around here. :p

    I don’t mean to sound indifferent to these crimes or callous to their victims, but I find Jordan to be amazingly safe. There are millions of people here, many in dire financial straits with little hope of upwards mobility, and we only here about these few crimes? Even if many are brushed under the rug, it still leads to an outstandingly safe society.

    Jordan is the Japan of the Middle East.

    In contrast to England, I don’t hear about random stabbings and shootings. I don’t hear about people randomly getting the shit kicked out of them at 7PM just because they were at the wrong bus stop at the wrong time. I don’t hear about kids who’re making a nuisance suddenly turning around on protesting adults and thrusting a sharp object into their skull. I don’t hear about teenagers regularly being holed up in alleys being told to “empty your pockets”. I don’t hear about people having a guy or two jump into their car’s with cocked guns and being ordered to ‘drive’. I don’t hear about the elderly being robbed for a measly few quid.

    And surely this was the best situation for Jordan’s ‘first kidnapping’? The guy was caught incredibly quickly. I’m sure news of how he was dealt with will be made known, discouraging others. The victim wasn’t harmed. Overall, I think this’ll work positively for Jordan’s security.

    All in all, despite rising news of crimes even since I arrived in Jordan just a couple of years ago, I feel amazingly safe here: which, I’m assured, is in no small part due to the good work of the security services.

    So, thanks guys!

    (@Nas, can you please remove the P.S paragraph from comment #4 in your “Eid Al-Adha & Economic Sacrifices” post? Thanks!)

  • Jordan is safe. Even as a woman I feel safe here, compared to Ukraine, which has I guess European level of crime. I’m annoyed with shouting from men towards me, I had even once a man grab me, but all in all, no one really approaches me, and only shouts. Coming from Ukraine I never trust police – it being so corrupt back home. But in Jordan I developed a trust, when a police investigated a case and found a robber, after the robber broke into our house (stealing only few small things) – I was impressed, as I did not think that police would generally care; when police found a laptop that my boyfriend left ON THE STREET; when a taxi driver beat the hell out of a random dude on the street, who was following my visiting relative (female). Yes, my boyfriend (Jordanian) is not happy if I’m out after 11 pm by myself, but I’ve used to walk in Jabal Amman at midnight and I felt safer than 8 pm in Ukrainian capital.
    Jordan is still VERY Safe.

  • Jordan is still so much safer than most places – esp capital cities–anywhere in the world. Yet, I also have the impression that crimes are more nasty, random and anonymous.
    Someone told me yesterday about a young person getting his face slashed with a knife as he exited a private night club (ostensibly by someone who was refused entry to same club)…I don’t know if it’s true or an urban myth but surely it’s not the kind Amman used to generate.
    I’ve lived here for almost 20 years and never had anything taken from me – until last weekend, someone stole the bag of Fakhreddin (paid for) food off the top of my shopping cart at Cosmo while I was in the next aisle…it wasn’t worth much but when did people start doing that here? Maybe they were hungry but they also took all my hour-long shopping and put it back in the shelves…out of stupidity or meanness, I don’t know. I hope it was only a tired and hungry staff person.

Your Two Piasters: