18 Year Old Jordanian Gets Two Years For Burning Picture Of King Abdullah

An 18 year old Jordanian burned a picture of the King a few weeks back during a protest, and has since been sentenced to two years by a military court.

A military prosecutor says a young Jordanian activist has been found guilty of “harming the king’s dignity” for burning a street poster of the monarch and has been sentenced to two years in prison. The prosecutor says 18-year-old Odai Abu-Issa torched King Abdullah II’s poster in front of a government office in southwestern Jordan two weeks ago.

The motive remains unclear. Abu-Issa belongs to a small group of young Jordanians who have been demanding Abdullah’s absolute powers be curbed. The prosecutor said the verdict by the military State Security Court was issued Thursday. He insisted on anonymity in line with military regulations. [source]

I understand that burning a picture of the King is offensive to some, along with the flag and other symbols of the country, but there is something seriously wrong with this in my opinion. First off, are we still charging people with “harming the King’s dignity”? Is that the hallmark of a country that wants to pursue reforms and establish a democratic environment? Is the bar for the King’s dignity set so low that an 18 year old can meet it if he simply burns a picture in public? Moreover, and perhaps more importantly to me, why is a civilian, an 18 year old no less, being prosecuted be a military court? Is he a soldier in the military, or is the military simply the body of government in charge with protecting the King’s dignity?

I’m not in favor of burning things in protest, but I’m not in favor of trying civilians through the military courts, or, over such an unreasonable law and its subsequent sentence. There are people who get less time in jail for killing their sisters and declaring it a matter of “honor”, than those who insult the King’s dignity. In fact, this kid also set some public property on fire, the punishment of which is ironically hard labor.

It also appears that he was beaten by police while in jail. If anything, I’d think that beating an 18 year old, and sending him to a military court to be tried and sentenced to two years would probably harm the dignity of the King than the burning of his picture.

There is perhaps the thinking that if this kid receives a harsh sentence it will send a message to protesters that insulting the King will not be tolerated. Actually, I’m quite convinced that someone, some where has probably thought this. Unfortunately, that kind of logic no longer plays out in the context of this Arab awakening. If anything, such sentences, in such a context, might be absorbed as a legitimate form of protest. That law was not a deterrent before, which should say something to the powers-that-be given that there hasn’t been a rash of flag or picture burnings in the past year of protests. But these kind of sentences can easily sway public opinion in the opposite direction. And more often than not, that’s exactly what they do.


  • This is chump bait. Orchestrated so the king will order his release soon and gain popularity. They send a strong message and gain popularity at the same time.
    These tactics are Jurassic to say the least.

  • I was just going to comment that should the king decide to release him people will start quoting the scenario in the comment above.

  • Dear Naseem,
    I am glad to read your post. Maybe it is time for the introduction of “non-violent punishment”, especially for youngster, although the concept is deeply rooted in our faith. How about community service for example as some form of punishment for this kid instead of prison term?

    Few years ago, I came across this few lines inspiring story. It was a good start for me to realize the power of gentle type of punishment. http://www.bereanpublishers.com/Favorite_Stories/power_of_non-violence.htm

  • Throughout Arab history, insulting or defaming an Arab ruler was a punishable offense. Arab Spring or no Arab Spring, that will not change. If the ruler is removed as in some Arab countries these days, what comes later is more of the same, It will not get better, but may get worse. Chaos is the rule, not the exception.

  • العائلة تختلس ثروة الشعب والشعب يصفق ويغني هاشمي هاشمي وعندما يقوم ناشط سياسي بحرق صورة “الملك” يسجن ويعدب خلف قظبان وزنزين ابو حسين، يالا المصيبة

  • I think that the burning act didn’t occur during a protest but rather was a self initiative. The poster was hung on one of the Government buildings in Madaba, and he put it on fire while it was still hung up there. The question to be asked does the punishment fit the crime ? no it doesn’t he could have been fined and put on probation for a misdemeanor act like that.The prosecutor should have never mentioned the King and his dignity in a trivial matter like that. I have a feeling that he will be released much earlier than what his actual sentence calls for, and the whole thing meant to be as a deterrent for other copy cats that may attempt to do the same.I’m looking forward to see what they are going to do with Ahamad Abbadi’s case after he surrenders. According to him in a video interview on Jordan days he is being accused of grand treason to over throw the regime, a charge that may carry stiff sentence.Will Abbadi be charged? Will he be tried and sentenced ? It remains to be seen. One of his supporters vowed on a television screen that there would be a very bloody reaction in the event that Mr. Abbadi is put away.The police don’t seem to be deterred. Last week they sent armored police and armored vehicles to serve him his warrant and fetch him to justice.Anticipating his imminent arrest he went into hiding prior to the police arrival.

  • On the topic of dignity to the King, I believe visuals and positioning like this one from last summer are corrosive to the soul and image of a people, HMK, and country. Yet we continue to focus on the insignificant, sparking a whole new fire.

  • Nassem , these laws are not only unreasonable but draconian, primitive and unethical to say the least .هذه القوانين ليست فقط غير معقولة ومُفرطة، وأنما وحشية وتعسفية وغير اخلاقية

  • When I travelled to Jordan in January 2010, I got the impression King Abdullah is highly respected and honored, especially the further I got from Amman into rural areas. Reading this makes me wonder how authentic those feelings are or was I just meeting a select demographic of the Jordanian population.

  • With all due respect to the author,I would advise you to be more accurate in spreading information because Abu Issa didn’t set fire to the King’s photo during a protest but he did it during the day,out of nowhere.Secondly,I do not agree with the fact that the punishment is “cruel” or “inhuman” as some stated because order must be set. We do not live in a jungle, such uncivilized act should be punished otherwise chaos will reside everywhere not as some claim that the King is aiming at gaining popularity through releasing him later.if he does this its because of his noble ethics as a Hashemite,as we have always known them. Since when is respect a limit to freedom.How would someone feel if his fathers photo was set on fire by a visitor in hs own house? What the hell has happened to our people,they blindly imitate what’s going on around without thinking! Ya 3aib el shoum 3ala sha3eb sar ema3a w ya 7assra! 3afwan ya watani w 3afwan ya sayedi, 3assr el jahelieh yaghzou omatna men jadid

  • Dear Nouf: reading up on it, I see that some reported the burning took place during a protest, and others which say “out of no where”. regardless of the fact of when and where he burned it, the main premise of this post remains true: an 18 year old burned a poster of the king, went to jail, and has been charged by a military court for 2 years. if any of those facts are disputable, then please let me know. otherwise, i dont think im spreading inaccurate information.

    as for your opinion…well you’re entitled to it. suffice to say, i disagree. while i do not support the burning of the King’s photo or the burning of the flag or heck, the burning of anything, but the punishment does not fit the crime. this is indeed a cruel punishment for such a crime, especially in a country where people spend less time in jail for much graver acts.

    and in the context of things, i would say between murder and burning the king’s poster…the former is probably a bigger contributor to chaos.

    but that’s just me.

  • I am actually surprised that the mukhabarat government of Jordan made the sentence public. we all know what torture and humiliation and threats this boy is going through and we all know what treatment would anyone get if they oppose the drakonian rule of the mukhabarat with their leader the self proclaimed king or to be more historically accurate, the British proclaimed “king” of Jordan.

    @Kate: if you’ve visited Iraq at the time of Saddam Hussien you would get the impression that he was also highly respected and honored, same thing with egypt’s Mubarak and Libya;s Gaddafi

  • I honestly believe that the King’s picture should be removed from every inch in this country. It’s a symbol of backwardness and corruption. Some people might not have a problem with the King but seeing his face on every public office, billboard, Taxi, private properties puts the King as the sole responsible person for every F Up in the country. The concept of showing loyalty by hanging a picture is a sad concept. These same people probably are willing to spit, throw garbage in the street and harm others because they feel empowered by their superficial loyalty.

    Ba3dain, what a hypocritical country. If this kid had a tribe of barking dogs like Abaddi does, do you think he would be beaten up or even jailed? It seems to me that these tribes in Jordan are going back to Jahelieh time. They act like all the corruption and abuses and crimes are committed by “outsiders” Palestinian Jordanians or Jordanian of Syrian or Sharkas background and they on the other hand are angels.

    “A3lou Hubal”

  • I should have known at the time the story broke that I would find something on your blog about it 🙂 While this is late, never the less, here is my two cents.
    Does the punishment fit the crime? Absolutely not. This as you said an 18 yr. old who did something silly, and broke a law that should not even still exist in this day and age. Be that as it may though, I don’t understand why a military court. This is so far from what a military court should and is for. Where is his constitutional right to a fair trial? And to then get 2 yrs. in prison, when as you stated “honor killings” offenders are let go is just a preposterous concept.
    This phenomenon of having the king’s (and his son’s) picture everywhere, playing loud “patriotic” music, and thanking the Hashemites for every blessing before God, only seems to grows every day, and it is just ridiculous to me. Members of my own family do it, and they are so passionate and honest about their feelings, that it truly baffles me. No human should be held on a pedestal like this no matter what the reason is. Every soccer match, they thank the king, a new car, they thank the king, a good job they thank king, even when it rains they thank the king. You’d think the king is driving around the country delivering water jugs and good deeds for God’s sake. I couldn’t believe when I read the story that people still think this way, and this kid was so badly punished simply because he exercised his right as a human, no matter how silly the way he did is. I dont gree with what he did by any means (and that goes for burning anything that’s a symbol of any nation) but nor do I with the way the situation was handled.
    Having said all that, I just would like to point out that he is not an activist. If any of you has ever been to Madaba, he is a spit of fire that has a known “thug” reputation at the bus stop (as all thugs) in Madaba. A thug who usually cusses God, life, and a pocket knife is his way of handling most confrontations he comes across.

    Leaves me to wonder, which side arranged this, because it seems to me politics or the best interest of the country is the farthest thing from his mind, so who paid him for this breaking story to take place?

  • To the writer & his “fellowship” :

    What if he was burning the Quran ? or is it now a different story ?
    If you think it’s the same story then I might agree with you as a different opinion worth hearing, if not, I think you are full of BS, real freedom has no limit, NONE, 15 years old boys can f**k and fight in wars, 2 years is not that bad for such an act on the symbol or our country, besides you think 18 years old “men” should be allowed to express their political views and burn pictures, oh but they should be punished like kids ? BS !

  • @ Just wondering.

    While I find the comparison invalid (not sure how the king’s picture can be compared to the words of God), I however, for the sake of the argument will humor you.

    I speak for myself when I say yes. Free speech is free speech. You’re right as a person to express what you believe in, in your way and style, no matter how ridiculous or disrespectful that is to me, while I may disagree with it, is still your right.
    That does include the Quran, the Bible, the Torah, and the king’s picture. Although I strongly disagree that it is or should be a symbol of our country, but you’r entitled to your opinion. The point is that the punishment doesnt fit the crime no matter how old the offender is.

  • Imho, it all comes down to what the boy’s intention. If he was doing it out of fun with the intention of committing vandalism, then he should be punished in an appropriate way (and not through a military court proceeding o’course). If he, on the other hand, did it to express his feelings/opinion (in which I think was inappropriate considering the fact that the general society highly regard the king as a great ruler) on the current political situation, what the gov should have done is take into account what the boy had in mind and reflect upon it. But such a government is perhaps, mythical. btw, there are lots of other, more effective way of letting your voice be heard in today’s modern society, for example, this blog. I’d rather sit down and talk things out than show an unruly behavior of burning things down. We are, of course, in the 21st century. Cheers 🙂

  • Imho, it all comes down to what the boy’s intention was. If he was doing it out of fun with the intention of committing vandalism, then he should be punished in an appropriate way (and not through a military court proceeding o’course). If he, on the other hand, did it to express his feelings/opinion (in which I think was inappropriate considering the fact that the general society highly regard the king as a great ruler) on the current political situation, what the gov should have done is take into account what the boy had in mind and reflect upon it. But such a government is perhaps, mythical. btw, there are lots of other, more effective way of letting your voice be heard in today’s modern society, for example, this blog. I’d rather sit down and talk things out than show an unruly behavior of burning things down. We are, of course, in the 21st century. Cheers

  • honestly, i feel it’s really overdoing to hang the King’s pictures everywhere, including public places and government offices, with different poses. sometimes the Queen and son join together in the picture. it’s ok to put on those pictures for introducing the King to the citizens, but they should be in minimal size, not a large picture that everybody can see miles away. i dunno why, people are more obsessed to Royal family.

  • | Well apparently that obsession is kinda ensuring the stability of the country, at least for the time being.

  • Many Jordanians think the grass is greener on the other side. Not only do they not see far enough to realize there is NO grass at all on the other side, they do not even bother to water there own grass. This is exactly the mindset of the kid that burnt the picture and many who made utterly illogical comments (if history in taken into consideration). They have no clue how bad the alternative is as Arabs do not believe in Democracy. Best example, Lebanon. Just look at Lebanon, the beacon of civilization and westernization and culture and education in the Arab world. When Jordan had no street lights, Lebanon was bustling with Phds, Artists and Parisian like nightlife. Look how badly they performed. Want better from desert nomads and farmers?

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