By now, pretty much everyone has heard the talk of the town: the latest suicide attempt in Jordan. Amman is a small town that likes to talk, especially when it comes to an event where the attempted female jumper called the media to cover it, and in the process, tied up traffic on one of the busiest intersections in the capital. Since this is all very recent and with little information out there, you’ll have to forgive me for the following half-baked thoughts.
For a weekend event, it was widely covered by the mainstream media as well as the electronic media. Fellow blogger Roba has a good post on the fiasco that’s worth checking out, and as she points out, most of the onlooking crowds that gathered were generally happy or at least smiling as the event unfolded. Abdel Hadi Raji Majali wrote up a column echoing similar observations. Another dramatic suicide attempt also happened over the weekend, where a man under house arrest threatened to blow himself up.
In the case of this girl, Jihan, media has been quick to dissect her life – because naturally, everyone wants to know why anyone in Jordan would have a reason to commit suicide. She comes from a poor village, she achieved a 73% Tajihi average (scientific stream), went to nursing school, has a dead father, has five brothers and five sisters, and lives in a house where the family pays 80JDs a month in rent. I don’t know how accurate any of this information is, but I’m assuming there is some truth to it.
So naturally, we’re forced to wonder if poverty was the reason behind this suicide attempt, and, if so, is that any indication of how tough life has become for Jordan’s poor, i.e. the majority of this country that is struggling to make ends meet? It wouldn’t be the first time. Al-Ghad has a report dating back to 2005, where a young man tried to commit suicide in the same location as Jihan because of his dire financial situation.
In fact, both jumpers used the very same building!
Hajjaj even came up with this caricature the very next day, taking a quick jab at the government’s inability to provide real political reform or manage inflation (an apparently good reason for suicide in Jordan):
According to rumors I’ve heard so far, Jihan’s attempts to kill herself have ranged from wanting to marry a man who couldn’t afford to marry her, to not being able to afford to go to school. In fact, any rumor about her reasons seem to involve poverty.
One guy has even set a record for the most suicide attempts in Jordan (11). The article also mentions that there are 400 suicides attempts a year in the Kingdom. If that number is accurate then it’s high time the government and the people start taking this matter a bit more seriously. It’s generally being brushed aside as an insignificant issue, much like honor crimes.
That being said, in order to take the issue seriously, the root causes need to be examined, and in many cases it seems suicides or suicide attempts tend to stem from widespread social problems such as poverty or domestic abuse. Even the number of suicide attempts in prison may be an indication of how badly prison reform is needed in the Kingdom. At one point, I remember a story of a man who killed himself in a prison (fairly recently) while on death row. In other words, things were so bad he couldn’t wait to die.
In any case, you know things are bad when people are trying to kill themselves due to poverty or social inequality or abuse. These may feel like isolated cases, but I think they are actually representative samples of a segment of society that is calling out for help.