Jordan is one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, receiving billions of dollars in US aid and hosting thousands of US troops.
Hamzah bin Hussein, Jordan’s former crown prince, has reported that he has been placed under house arrest as part of a security sweep targeting critics of the government. Yousef Huneiti, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the Jordanian army, denied that the prince had been put under house arrest.
The situation surrounding the reported detention of Jordan’s Prince Hamzah remains shrouded in intrigue, with official statements and media offering conflicting versions of what has taken place. Here’s what we know so far.
- Jordanian state media reported Saturday that that multiple officials had been arrested and that Prince Hamzah, former Crown Prince and half-brother to King Abdullah II, had been asked to cease “movements and activities” threatening to undermine “security and stability” amid an ongoing security investigation. Hamzah, 41, has no formal position in government, having been stripped of his status as crown prince in 2004, five years after being appointed to the role by his half-brother on the advice of his late father, Hussein of Jordan.
Among the officials Jordanian media said had been detained for “security reasons” were Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family and envoy to Saudi Arabia, as well as Basem Ibahim Awadallah, a long-time aide to the king, a former head of the royal court, and former finance minister. Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, and unnamed “others” were also arrested. An unnamed Jordanian palace advisor told the Washington Post that as many as 20 officials were arrested in an alleged coup plot involving members of the royal family, security officials and tribal leaders.
- A front-page editorial on Sunday in the Jordanian government-owned Al-Ra’i newspaper called Saturday’s “security operation” an “expression of a red line that must not be crossed or even approached, and which is linked to the supreme interests of the kingdom, its security and stability.” The newspaper denied that a coup attempt had taken place, and called efforts to implicate Prince Hamzah in such a plot “sick fantasies.” “All that happened was that some of the prince’s actions were used to target Jordan’s security and stability,” the editorial said.
- Joint Chiefs chairman Huneiti denied that Prince Hamzah had been detained or placed under house arrest, promising Saturday that the results of an ongoing investigation would be revealed “in a transparent and clear form” in time.
- However, in a video passed to the BBC by his lawyer, Prince Hamzah indicated that he had been visited by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the armed forces, and told that he was “not allowed to go out to communicate with people or to meet with them. Because in the meetings that I had been present in, or on social media relating to visits that I’ve made there’s been criticism of the government or the king.”
— Mohamed Ashi (@AshiLive) April 3, 2021
- Hamzah went on to say that he personally was not implicated in criticizing the king, but that Huneiti’s visit was a warning from the military, police and security services that he could not leave his home, barring visits to family, that he could not tweet or communicate with others. The prince confirmed that a number of his friends had been arrested, that his security had been removed and that his internet and phone lines had been cut.
“As I said to the chief of staff when he came, I am not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, for the corruption, and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years, and has been getting worse by the year. And I am not responsible for the lack of faith that people have in their institutions…Unfortunately, this country has gone from one that was at the forefront of the region in terms of education and healthcare, in terms of human dignity and freedoms to one in which even to criticise a small aspect of a policy leads to arrest and abuse by security services. And it’s reached a point where no one is able to speak or express an opinion on anything without being bullied, arrested, harassed, and threatened,” Hamzah said in his appeal. He denied being part of any conspiracy, nefarious organisation or foreign-backed group, suggesting that such terms are used to target those who speak out.
- The United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf sheikdoms, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Morocco, the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, and the Palestinian Authority expressed support for Jordan’s king following in the wake of Saturday’s arrests. In a statement late Saturday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price called King Abdullah II a “key partner of the United States” who “has our full support.” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz called the arrests an “internal Jordanian issue” and emphasized Tel Aviv’s close security ties to Amman. Riyadh, meanwhile, issued a statement by the royal family in which it “affirmed” its support “to all decisions and measures” taken by the Jordanian royals “to maintain security and stability.”
- Iran’s foreign ministry expressed opposition “to any internal instability and foreign interference” and said that “all internal affairs of the countries should be pursued within the framework of the law.” The ministry added that any “internal tension and instability in the West Asian region would be in favour of the Zionist regime,” claiming “there are always traces of this regime in any sedition in Islamic countries.”
Queen Noor, Prince Hamza’s mother and American-born widow of the late King Hussein of Jordan, dismissed the allegations against her son, tweeting that she was “praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander,” without elaborating.
Praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander. God bless and keep them safe.
— Noor Al Hussein (@QueenNoor) April 4, 2021
- The wave of arrests has taken place against the background of reports of beefed up security inside Amman’s Dabouq neighbourhood – home to many royal palaces and Jordan’s other powerbroker families.
— ZaidBenjamin زيد بنيامين (@ZaidBenjamin5) April 3, 2021
- Jordan is one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, receiving billions of dollars in US aid and hosting thousands of US troops. In 1994, the country became the second Arab country after Egypt to establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel. Lacking any major deposits of oil or gas, the country depends on the exports of phosphates and potash, tourism, remittances and foreign aid for its economic well-being.
- Jordan formally declared independence from Britain in 1946. The British protectorate of the Emirate of Transjordan was established on 11 April 1921, and the country has been ruled by the Hashemite royal family ever since.