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World : Asia : Jordan

The land that became Jordan is part of the richly historical Fertile Crescent region. Its history began around 2000 B.C., when Semitic Amorites settled around the Jordan River in the area called Canaan. Subsequent invaders and settlers included Hittites, Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arab Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Mameluks, Ottoman Turks, and, finally, the British. At the end of World War I, the League of Nations as the mandate for Palestine and Transjordan awarded the territory now comprising Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem to the United Kingdom. In 1922, the British divided the mandate by establishing the semiautonomous Emirate of Transjordan, ruled by the Hashemite Prince Abdullah, while continuing the administration of Palestine under a British High Commissioner. The mandate over Transjordan ended on May 22, 1946; on May 25, the country became the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. It ended its special defense treaty relationship with the United Kingdom in 1957.

Transjordan was one of the Arab states which moved to assist Palestinian nationalists opposed to the creation of Israel in May 1948, and took part in the warfare between the Arab states and the newly founded State of Israel. The armistice agreements of April 3, 1949 left Jordan in control of the West Bank and provided that the armistice demarcation lines were without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines.

In 1950, the country was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to include those portions of Palestine annexed by King Abdullah. While recognizing Jordanian administration over the West Bank, the United States maintained the position that ultimate sovereignty was subject to future agreement.

Jordan signed a mutual defense pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated in the June 1967 war between Israel and the Arab states of Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Israel gained control of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. The U.S. Government considers the West Bank to be territory occupied by Israel and believes that its final status should be determined through direct negotiations among the parties concerned on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population--700,000 in 1966--grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan. The heavily armed fedayeen constituted a growing threat to the sovereignty and security of the Hashemite state, and open fighting erupted in June 1970.

No fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf war of 1990-91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a peace treaty in 1994. Jordan has since sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors.

Today, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy ruled by King Abdullah II bin Hussein since the death of his father, King Hussein bin Talal, in February 1999. The Constitution concentrates a high degree of executive and legislative authority in the King, who determines domestic and foreign policy. In the King's absence, a regent, whose authority is outlined in the Constitution, assumes many of the King's responsibilities. The Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet are appointed by the King and manage the daily affairs of government. The Parliament consists of the 40-member Senate, appointed by the King, and a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies which is elected every 4 years. A new election law enacted by the Government in July increased the size of the lower house from 80 seats to 104. The lower house exerts influence only intermittently on domestic and foreign policy issues. The 1997 parliamentary elections were marred by reports of registration irregularities, fraud, and restrictions on the press and on campaign materials. The King dissolved Parliament in June and postponed elections scheduled for 2001 until no earlier than summer 2002. According to the Constitution, the judiciary is independent, and during the year 2001, the Government took steps to strengthen the Judiciary's independence; however, in practice it remains susceptible to political pressure and interference by the executive.


In the wake of the June 1967 War, Hussein's government faced the critical problems of repairing a shattered economy, providing for the welfare of the refugees, obtaining external aid, readjusting foreign policy, and rebuilding the armed forces. Internally, however, the major problem was the continuing confrontation with the several Palestinian guerrilla organizations.

The Arab League heads of state met in Khartoum at the end of August 1967. The conference reached four major decisions generally considered to represent the views of Arab moderates: resumption of oil production, which some oil-producing states had suspended during the war; continued nonrecognition of and nonnegotiation with Israel, individually and collectively; continued closure of the Suez Canal and the elimination of all foreign military bases in Arab territory; and provision of financial subsidies aid to Egypt and Jordan by Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Kuwait. The total annual subsidy promised for the indefinite future amounted to the equivalent of US$378 million, of which Jordan was to receive about US$112 million. Donor states at first regularly paid their shares in quarterly installments, but Libya and Kuwait withdrew their support to Jordan during the 1970-71 war between the Jordanian government and the fedayeen.

In addition to the Khartoum subsidies, Jordan also received grants from Qatar, and the shaykhdom of Abu Dhabi, and a special grant of US$42 million from Saudi Arabia for arms purchases. Aid also came from Britain and West Germany, with whom Jordan had resumed relations. Although direct United States aid had been terminated, substantial long-term government loans were extended to Jordan for emergency relief, development, and military assistance. In February 1968, the United States resumed arms shipments to Jordan. Jordan narrowly averted financial disaster.

After months of diplomatic wrangling, on November 22, 1967, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242 as a guideline for a Middle East settlement. The principal provisions of the resolution proclaimed the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by war; withdrawal of Israeli forces from areas occupied in the June 1967 War; termination of all states of belligerency; acknowledgment of the sovereignty of all states in the area--including Israel--within secure and recognized boundaries; freedom of navigation on all international waterways in the area; and a just settlement of the refugee problem. Jordan, Egypt, and Israel all accepted this resolution in principle but each country interpreted it differently.

King Hussein has been the most consistent advocate of UN Resolution 242. He viewed it as the most viable means by which the Palestinian problem could be resolved while also preserving an important Jordanian role in the West Bank.

The intractability of the Palestinian problem has been due in large part to the widely differing perspectives that evolved after the June 1967 War. For the Israelis, in the midst of the nationalist euphoria that followed the war, talk of exchanging newly captured territories for peace had little public appeal. The government of Levi Eshkol followed a two-track policy with respect to the territories that would continue under future Labor Party governments: on the one hand, it stated a willingness to negotiate, while on the other, it laid plans to create Jewish settlements in the disputed territories. Thus, immediately following the war, Eshkol stated that he was willing to negotiate "everything" for a full peace, which would include free passage through the Suez Canal and the Strait of Tiran and a solution to the refugee problem in the context of regional cooperation. This was followed in November 1967 with his acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 242. At the same time, Eshkol's government announced plans for the resettlement of the Old City of Jerusalem, of the Etzion Bloc (kibbutzim on the Bethlehem-Hebron road wiped out by Palestinians in the 1948-49 War), and for kibbutzim in the northern sector of the Golan Heights. Plans also were unveiled for new neighborhoods around Jerusalem, near the old buildings of Hebrew University and near the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus.

The 1967 defeat radicalized the Palestinians, who had looked to the Arab countries to defeat first the Yishuv (the Jewish community of Palestine before 1948), and after 1948 the State of Israel, so that they could regain their homeland. The PLO had no role in the June 1967 War. After the succession of Arab failures in conventional warfare against Israel, however, the Palestinians decided to adopt guerrilla warfare tactics as the most effective method of attacking and defeating Israel. In February 1969, Arafat (who remained the leader of Al Fatah) became head of the PLO. By early 1970, at least seven guerrilla organizations were identified in Jordan. One of the most important organizations was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) led by George Habash. Although the PLO sought to integrate these various groups and announced from time to time that this process had occurred, they were never effectively united.

At first by conviction and then by political necessity, Hussein sought accommodation with the fedayeen and provided training sites and assistance. In Jordan's internal politics, however, the main issue between 1967 and 1971 was the struggle between the government and the guerrilla organizations for political control of the country. Based in the refugee camps, the fedayeen virtually developed a state within a state, easily obtaining funds and arms from both the Arab states and Eastern Europe and openly flouting Jordanian law.

As the guerrilla effort mounted, Israel retaliated quickly and with increasing effectiveness. In March 1968, an Israeli brigade attacked the Jordanian village of Al Karamah, said to be the guerrilla capital. Although the brigade inflicted damage, it was driven back and in the process suffered substantial losses. The incident boosted Palestinian morale and gave the PLO instant prestige within the Arab community. In reprisal, Israel launched heavy attacks on Irbid in June 1968 and on As Salt in August. It soon became obvious to the PLO that the generally open terrain of the West Bank did not provide the kind of cover needed for classic guerrilla operations. Moreover, the Palestinian population residing in the territories had not formed any significant armed resistance against the Israeli occupation. By late 1968, the main fedayeen activities in Jordan seemed to shift from fighting Israel to attempts to overthrow Hussein.

A major guerrilla-government confrontation occurred in November 1968 when the government sought to disarm the refugee camps, but civil war was averted by a compromise that favored the Palestinians. The threat to Hussein's authority and the heavy Israeli reprisals that followed each guerrilla attack became a matter of grave concern to the King. His loyal beduin army attempted to suppress guerrilla activity, which led to sporadic outbursts of fighting between the fedayeen and the army during the first half of 1970. In June 1970, an Arab mediation committee intervened to halt two weeks of serious fighting between the two sides.

In June Hussein designated Abd al Munim Rifai to head a "reconciliation" cabinet that included more opposition elements than any other government since that of Nabulsi in 1957. Although the composition of the cabinet maintained a traditional balance between the East Bank and the West Bank, it included a majority of guerrilla sympathizers, particularly in the key portfolios of defense, foreign affairs, and interior. But the king's action did not reflect a new domestic policy; rather, it indicated Hussein's hope that a nationalist cabinet would support peace negotiations generated by a proposed UN peace mission to be conducted by Gunnar Jarring. On June 9, 1970, Rifai and Arafat signed an agreement conciliatory to the fedayeen. According to its provisions, the government allowed the commandos freedom of movement within Jordan, agreed to refrain from antiguerrilla action, and expressed its support for the fedayeen in the battle against Israel. In return, the commandos pledged to remove their bases from Amman and other major cities, to withdraw armed personnel from the Jordanian capital, and to show respect for law and order.

Small-scale clashes continued throughout the summer of 1970, however; and by early September, the guerrilla groups controlled several strategic positions in Jordan, including the oil refinery near Az Zarqa. Meanwhile, the fedayeen were also calling for a general strike of the Jordanian population and were organizing a civil disobedience campaign. The situation became explosive when, as part of a guerrilla campaign to undermine the Jarring peace talks to which Egypt, Israel, and Jordan had agreed, the PFLP launched an airplane hijacking campaign.

Within the space of two hours on September 6, PFLP gangs hijacked a TWA jet, a Swissair jet, and made an unsuccessful attempt to seize control of an El Al airplane. About two hours later, another PFLP group hijacked a Pan Am jet and forced the crew to fly to Beirut airport, where the airplane landed almost out of fuel. The next day the airliner was flown to the Cairo airport, where it was blown up only seconds after the 176 passengers and crew had completed their three-minute forced evacuation.

King Hussein viewed the hijackings as a direct threat to his authority in Jordan. In response, on September 16 he reaffirmed martial law and named Brigadier Muhammad Daud to head a cabinet composed of army officers. At the same time, the king appointed Field Marshal Habis al Majali, a fiercely proroyalist beduin, commander in chief of the armed forces and military governor of Jordan. Hussein gave Majali full powers to implement the martial law regulations and to quell the fedayeen. The new government immediately ordered the fedayeen to lay down their arms and to evacuate the cities. On the same day, Arafat became supreme commander of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), the regular military force of the PLO.

During a bitterly fought ten-day civil war, primarily between the PLA and Jordan Arab Army, Syria sent about 200 tanks to aid the fedayeen. On September 17, however, Iraq began a rapid withdrawal of its 12,000-man force stationed near Az Zarqa. The United States Navy dispatched the Sixth Fleet to the eastern Mediterranean, and Israel undertook "precautionary military deployments" to aid Hussein, if necessary, against the guerrilla forces. Under attack from the Jordanian army and in response to outside pressures, the Syrian forces began to withdraw from Jordan on September 24, having lost more than half their armor in fighting with the Jordanians. The fedayeen found themselves on the defensive throughout Jordan and agreed on September 25 to a cease-fire. At the urging of the Arab heads of state, Hussein and Arafat signed the cease-fire agreement in Cairo on September 27. The agreement called for rapid withdrawal of the guerrilla forces from Jordanian cities and towns to positions "appropriate" for continuing the battle with Israel and for the release of prisoners by both sides. A supreme supervisory committee was to implement the provisions of the agreement. On September 26, Hussein appointed a new cabinet; however, army officers continued to head the key defense and interior ministries.

On October 13, Hussein and Arafat signed a further agreement in Amman, under which the fedayeen were to recognize Jordanian sovereignty and the king's authority, to withdraw their armed forces from towns and villages, and to refrain from carrying arms outside their camps. In return the government agreed to grant amnesty to the fedayeen for incidents that had occurred during the civil war.

The civil war caused great material destruction in Jordan, and the number of fighters killed on all sides was estimated as high as 3,500. In spite of the September and October agreements, fighting continued, particularly in Amman, Irbid, and Jarash, where guerrilla forces had their main bases. Hussein appointed Wasfi at Tal as his new prime minister and minister of defense to head a cabinet of fifteen civilian and two military members. The cabinet also included seven Palestinians. Tal, known to be a staunch opponent of the guerrilla movement, was directed by Hussein to comply with the cease-fire agreements; furthermore, according to Hussein's written directive, the government's policy was to be based on "the restoration of confidence between the Jordanian authorities and the Palestinian resistance movement, cooperation with the Arab states, the strengthening of national unity, striking with an iron hand at all persons spreading destructive rumors, paying special attention to the armed forces and the freeing of the Arab lands occupied by Israel in the war of June 1967." The closing months of 1970 and the first six months of 1971 were marked by a series of broken agreements and by continued battles between the guerrilla forces and the Jordanian army, which continued its drive to oust the fedayeen from the populated areas.

Persistent pressure by the army compelled the fedayeen to withdraw from Amman in April 1971. Feeling its existence threatened, Al Fatah abandoned its earlier posture of noninvolvement in the internal affairs of an Arab state and issued a statement demanding the overthrow of the Jordanian "puppet separatist authority." In a subsequent early May statement, it called for "national rule" in Jordan. Against this background of threats to his authority, Hussein struck at the remaining guerrilla forces in Jordan.

In response to rumors that the PLO was planning to form a government-in-exile, Hussein in early June directed Tal to "deal conclusively and without hesitation with the plotters who want to establish a separate Palestinian state and destroy the unity of the Jordanian and Palestinian people." On July 13, the Jordanian army undertook an offensive against fedayeen bases about fifty kilometers northwest of Amman in the Ajlun area--the fedayeen's last stronghold. Tal announced that the Cairo and Amman agreements, which had regulated relations between the fedayeen and the Jordanian governments, were no longer operative. On July 19, the government announced that the remainder of the bases in northern Jordan had been destroyed and that 2,300 of the 2,500 fedayeen had been arrested. A few days later, many of the captured Palestinians were released either to leave for other Arab countries or to return to a peaceful life in Jordan. Hussein became virtually isolated from the rest of the Arab world, which accused him of harsh treatment of the fedayeen and denounced him as being responsible for the deaths of so many of his fellow Arabs.

In November members of the Black September terrorist group--who took their name from the civil war of September 1970--avenged the deaths of fellow fedayeen by assassinating Prime Minister Tal in Cairo. In December the group again struck out against Hussein in an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the Jordanian ambassador to Britain. Hussein alleged that Libya's Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi was involved in a plot to overthrow the monarchy.

In March 1973, Jordanian courts convicted seventeen Black September fedayeen charged with plotting to kidnap the prime minister and other cabinet ministers and to hold them hostage in exchange for the release of a few hundred fedayeen captured during the civil war. Hussein subsequently commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment "for humanitarian reasons" and, in response to outside Arab pressures, in September released the prisoners-- including their leader Muhammad Daud Auda (also known as Abu Daud)- -under a general amnesty.

The recrudescent tension between Jordan and the PLO was symptomatic of their differing visions of an Arab-Israeli settlement. Jordan accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for any settlement, including the question of Palestinian national rights. Within this framework, Jordan demanded total Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967; a solution to the refugee problem either by repatriation or compensation; the right of Palestinians to self-determination; and mutual guarantees for peace. The PLO consistently rejected both 242 and 338 on the ground that the Palestinian people are only mentioned in the resolutions as refugees and not as a people deserving a national homeland.

On the issue of self-determination, Hussein agreed with the PLO that the Palestinians had the right to establish "a national and political entity," but he refrained from giving his support to a fully independent Palestinian state, which he saw as a direct threat, particularly if headed by the PLO. Moreover, he believed that if he could neutralize the PLO, the West Bank and Gaza Strip populations would accept an arrangement based on his own federation plan.

Despite his desire to be the primary Arab negotiator over the territories, Hussein also realized that his role in any future negotiations required a clear mandate from the Arab states. He could not deviate too far from the Arab consensus concerning the occupied territories for fear of losing badly needed economic aid or instigating military attacks from Iraq and Syria. As a result, Hussein chose to participate in the proposed October 1, 1977, Geneva Conference on the Middle East as a "confrontation state" but not as the representative of the Palestinians.


The country, with a population of approximately 5 million, has a mixed economy, with significant but declining government participation in industry, transportation, and communications. It has few natural resources and relies heavily on foreign assistance and remittances from citizens working abroad. Over the past 2 years, the Government took steps to increase privatization and to improve the country's investment climate. For example, in April 2000, the country acceded to the World Trade Organization. However, the economy continues to suffer from chronically high unemployment, and per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth since 1996 has stagnated between 1 and 2 percent above population growth rates. Price controls remain on bread, pharmaceuticals, gasoline, and animal feed. Wages remain stagnant. International sanctions against Iraq, historically the country's largest trading partner, continue to inhibit export growth. Ongoing violence in the occupied territories continued to adversely affect the tourist industry and foreign investment. Per capita GDP in 2000 was approximately $1,654 (1,173 dinars). Many families, especially those in rural areas, are unable to meet basic needs to subsist.


More than 90 percent of Jordanians adhered to Sunni Islam in the late 1980s. Although observance was not always orthodox, devotion to and identification with the faith was high. Islam was the established religion, and as such its institutions received government support. The 1952 Constitution stipulates that the king and his successors must be Muslims and sons of Muslim parents. Religious minorities included Christians of various denominations, a few Shia Muslims, and even fewer adherents of other faiths.

Early Development of Islam

In A.D. 610, Muhammad, a merchant belonging to the Hashimite branch of the ruling Quraysh tribe in the Arabian town of Mecca, began to preach the first of a series of revelations granted him by God through the angel Gabriel and to denounce the polytheism of his fellow Meccans. Because the town's economy was based in part on a thriving pilgrimage business to the Kaaba, the sacred structure around a black meteorite, and the numerous pagan shrines located there, Muhammad's vigorous and continuing censure eventually earned him the bitter enmity of the town's leaders. In 622 he was invited to the town of Yathrib, which came to be known as Medina (the city) because it was the center of his activities. The move, or hijra (known in the West as the hegira), marks the beginning of the Islamic era. The Muslim calendar, based on the lunar year, begins in 622. In Medina, Muhammad--by this time known as the Prophet-- continued to preach, eventually defeated his detractors in battle, and consolidated both the temporal and spiritual leadership of all Arabia in his person before his death in 632.

After Muhammad's death, his followers compiled those of his words regarded as coming directly from God into the Quran, the holy scripture of Islam. Others of his sayings and teachings as recalled by those who had known Muhammad (a group known as the Companions) became the hadith. The precedent of his personal behavior was set forth in the sunna. Together the Quran, the hadith, and the sunna form a comprehensive guide to the spiritual, ethical, and social life of an orthodox Sunni Muslim.

During his lifetime, Muhammad was both spiritual and temporal leader of the Muslim community; he established Islam as a total and all-encompassing way of life for human beings and society. Muslims believe that Allah revealed to Muhammad the rules governing proper behavior and that it therefore behooves them to live in the manner prescribed by the law, and it is incumbent upon the community to strive to perfect human society according to holy injunctions. Islam traditionally recognizes no distinction between religion and state, and no distinction between religious and secular life or religious and secular law. A comprehensive system of religious law (sharia--see Glossary) developed gradually during the first four centuries of Islam, primarily through the accretion of precedent and interpretation by various judges and scholars. During the tenth century, however, legal opinion began to harden into authoritative doctrine, and the figurative bab al ijtihad (gate of interpretation) gradually closed, thenceforth eventually excluding flexibility in Islamic law. Within the Jordanian legal system, sharia remains in effect in matters concerning personal status.

After Muhammad's death, the leaders of the Muslim community consensually chose Abu Bakr, the Prophet's father-in-law and one of his earliest followers, as caliph, or successor. At that time, some persons favored Ali, the Prophet's cousin and husband of his daughter Fatima, but Ali and his supporters (the so-called Shiat Ali or Party of Ali) eventually recognized the community's choice. The next two caliphs--Umar, who succeeded in 634, and Uthman, who took power in 644--enjoyed recognition of the entire community. When Ali finally succeeded to the caliphate in 656, Muawiyah, governor of Syria, rebelled in the name of his murdered kinsman Uthman. After the ensuing civil war, Ali moved his capital to Mesopotamia, where a short time later he, too, was murdered.

Ali's death ended the period in which the entire community of Islam recognized a single caliph. Upon Ali's death, Muawiyah proclaimed himself caliph from Damascus. The Shiat Ali, however, refused to recognize Muawiyah or his line, the Umayyad caliphs; in support of claims by Ali's line to a presumptive right to the caliphate based on descent from the Prophet, they withdrew and established a dissident sect known as the Shia.

Originally political in nature, the differences between the Sunni and Shia interpretations rapidly took on theological and metaphysical overtones. Ali's two sons, Hasan and Husayn, became martyred heroes to the Shias and repositories of the claims of Ali's line to mystical preeminence among Muslims. The Sunnis retained the doctrine of the selection of leaders by consensus, although Arabs and members of the Quraysh, Muhammad's tribe, predominated in the early years. Reputed descent from the Prophet, which King Hussein claims, continued to carry social and religious prestige throughout the Muslim world in the 1980s. Meanwhile, the Shia doctrine of rule by divine right became more and more firmly established, and disagreements over which of several pretenders had a truer claim to the mystical powers of Ali precipitated further schisms. Some Shia groups developed doctrines of divine leadership far removed from the strict monotheism of early Islam, including beliefs in hidden but divinely chosen leaders with spiritual powers that equaled or surpassed those of the Prophet himself.

The early Islamic polity was intensely expansionist, fueled both by fervor for the new religion and by economic and social factors. Conquering armies and migrating tribes swept out of Arabia, spreading Islam. By the end of Islam's first century, Islamic armies had reached far into North Africa and eastward and northward into Asia. The territory of modern Jordan, among the first to come under the sway of Islam, was penetrated by Muslim armies by A.D. 633.

Although Muhammad had enjoined the Muslim community to convert the infidel, he had also recognized the special status of the "people of the book," Jews and Christians, whose own revealed scriptures he considered revelations of God's word and which contributed in some measure to Islam. Jews and Christians in Muslim territories could live according to their own religious law, in their own communities, and were exempted from military service if they accepted the position of dhimmis, or tolerated subject peoples. This status entailed recognition of Muslim authority, additional taxes, prohibition on proselytism among Muslims, and certain restrictions on political rights.

Social life in the Ottoman Empire, which included Jordan for 400 years, revolved around a system of millets, or religious communities. Each organized religious minority lived according to its own personal status laws under the leadership of recognized religious authorities and community leaders. These recognized leaders also represented the community to the rest of society and the polity. This form of organization preserved and nourished cultural differences that, quite apart from theological considerations, distinguished these communities.

The shahada (testimony) succinctly states the central belief of Islam: "There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his Prophet." This simple profession of faith is repeated on many ritual occasions, and recital in full and unquestioning sincerity designates one a Muslim. The God preached by Muhammad was not a new deity; Allah is the Arabic term for God rather than a particular name. Muhammad denied the existence of the many minor gods and spirits worshiped before his prophecy, and he declared the omnipotence of the unique creator, God. Islam means submission to God, and one who submits is a Muslim. Being a Muslim also involves a commitment to realize the will of God on earth and to obey God's law.

Muhammad is the "seal of the Prophets"; his revelation is said to complete for all time the series of biblical revelations received by Jews and Christians. Muslims believe God to have remained one and the same throughout time, but that men strayed from his true teaching until set right by Muhammad. Prophets and sages of the biblical tradition, such as Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), and Jesus (Isa), are recognized as inspired vehicles of God's will. Islam, however, reveres as sacred only the message, rejecting Christianity's deification of the messenger. It accepts the concepts of guardian angels, the Day of Judgment, general resurrection, heaven and hell, and eternal life of the soul.

The duties of the Muslim--corporate acts of worship--form the five pillars of Islamic faith. These are shahada, affirmation of the faith; salat, daily prayer; zakat, almsgiving; sawm, fasting during the month of Ramadan; and hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca. These acts of worship must be performed with a conscious intent and not out of habit. Shahada is uttered daily by practicing Muslims, affirming their membership in the faith and expressing an acceptance of the monotheism of Islam and the divinity of Muhammad's message.

The believer is to pray in a prescribed manner after purification through ritual ablutions at dawn, midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Prescribed genuflections and prostrations accompany the prayers, which the worshiper recites facing toward Mecca. Prayers imbue daily life with worship, and structure the day around an Islamic conception of time. Whenever possible, men pray in congregation at the mosque under a prayer leader and on Fridays they are obliged to do so. Women also may attend public worship at the mosque, where they are segregated from the men, although most frequently women pray at home. A special functionary, the muezzin, intones a call to prayer to the entire community at the appropriate hours; those out of earshot determine the proper time from the position of the sun.

In the early days of Islam, the authorities imposed a tax on personal property proportionate to one's wealth; this was distributed to the mosques and to the needy. In addition, free-will gifts were made. While still a duty of the believer, almsgiving in the twentieth century has become a more private matter. Properties contributed by pious individuals to support religious activities are usually administered as religious foundations, or waqfs.

The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is Ramadan, a period of obligatory fasting that commemorates Muhammad's receipt of God's revelation, the Quran. Fasting is an act of self-discipline that leads to piety and expresses submission and commitment to God. Fasting underscores the equality of all Muslims, strengthening sentiments of community. During this month all but the sick, weak, pregnant or nursing women, soldiers on duty, travelers on necessary journeys, and young children are enjoined from eating, drinking, smoking, or sexual intercourse during the daylight hours. Official work hours often are shortened during this period, and some businesses close for all or part of the day. Since the months of the lunar calendar revolve through the solar years, Ramadan falls at various seasons in different years. A fast in summertime imposes considerable hardship on those who must do physical work. Each day's fast ends with a signal that light is insufficient to distinguish a black thread from a white one. Id al Fitr, a threeday feast and holiday, ends the month of Ramadan and is the occasion of much visiting.

Finally, Muslims at least once in their lifetime should, if possible, make the hajj to the holy city of Mecca to participate in special rites held during the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. The Prophet instituted this requirement, modifying pre-Islamic custom to emphasize sites associated with Allah and Abraham, father of the Arabs through his son Ishmael (Ismail). The pilgrim, dressed in a white, seamless garment (ihram), abstains from sexual relations, shaving, haircutting, and nail paring. Highlights of the pilgrimage include kissing the sacred black stone; circumambulation of the Kaaba, the sacred structure reputedly built by Abraham that houses the stone; running seven times between the mountains Safa and Marwa in imitation of Hagar, Ishmael's mother, during her travail in the desert; and standing in prayer on Mount Arafat. These rites affirm the Muslim's obedience to God and express intent to renounce the past and begin a new righteous life in the path of God. The returning male pilgrim is entitled to the honorific "hajj" before his name and a woman the honorific "hajji." Id al Adha marks the end of the hajj month.

The permanent struggle for the triumph of the word of God on earth, jihad, represents an additional general duty of all Muslims. This concept is often taken to mean holy war, but most Muslims see it in a broader context of civil and personal action. Besides regulating relations between the human being and God, Islam regulates the relations of one human being to another. Aside from specific duties, Islam imposes a code of ethical conduct encouraging generosity, fairness, honesty, and respect and explicitly propounds guidance as to what constitutes proper family relations. In addition, it forbids adultery, gambling, usury, and the consumption of carrion, blood, pork, and alcohol.

A Muslim stands in a personal relationship to God; there is neither intermediary nor clergy in orthodox Islam. Those men who lead prayers, preach sermons, and interpret the law do so by virtue of their superior knowledge and scholarship rather than because of any special powers or prerogatives conferred by ordination. Any adult male versed in prayer form is entitled to lead prayers--a role referred to as imam.

Despite a strong identification with and loyalty to Islam, religious practices varied among segments of Jordan's population. This unevenness in practice did not necessarily correlate with a rural-urban division or differing levels of education. The religious observance of some Jordanians was marked by beliefs and practices that were sometimes antithetical to the teachings of Islam. Authorities attributed at least some of these elements to pre-Islamic beliefs and customs common to the area.

In daily life, neither rural dwellers nor urbanites were overly fatalistic. They did not directly hold God responsible for all occurrences; rather, they placed events in a religious context that imbued them with meaning. The expression inshallah (God willing) often accompanied statements of intention, and the term bismallah (in the name of God) accompanied the performance of most important actions. Such pronouncements did not indicate a ceding of control over one's life or events. Jordanian Muslims generally believed that in matters that they could control, God expected them to work diligently.

Muslims have other ways of invoking God's presence in daily life. Despite Islam's unequivocal teaching that God is one and that no being resembles him in sanctity, some people accepted the notion that certain persons (saints) have baraka, a special quality of personal holiness and affinity to God. The intercession of these beings was believed to help in all manner of trouble, and shrines to such people could be found in some localities. Devotees often visited the shrine of their patron, especially seeking relief from illness or inability to have children.

Numerous spiritual creatures were believed to inhabit the world. Evil spirits known as jinn--fiery, intelligent beings that are capable of appearing in human and other forms--could cause all sorts of malicious mischief. For protection, villagers carried in their clothing bits of paper inscribed with Quranic verses (amulets), and they frequently pronounced the name of God. A copy of the Quran was said to keep a house safe from jinn. The "evil eye" also could be foiled by the same means. Although any literate Muslim was able to prepare amulets, some persons gained reputations as being particularly skilled in prescribing and preparing them. To underscore the difficulty in drawing a fine distinction between orthodox and popular Islam, one only need note that some religious shaykhs were sought for their ability to prepare successful amulets. For example, in the 1980s in a village in northern Jordan, two elderly shaykhs (who also were brothers) were famous for their abilities in specific areas: one was skilled in warding off illness among children; the other was sought for his skills in curing infertility.

Their reverence for Islam notwithstanding, Muslims did not always practice strict adherence to the five pillars. Although most people tried to give the impression that they fulfilled their religious duties, many people did not fast during Ramadan. They generally avoided breaking the fast in public, however. In addition, most people did not contribute the required proportion of alms to support religious institutions, nor was pilgrimage to Mecca common. Attendance at public prayers and prayer in general increased during the 1980s as part of a regional concern with strengthening Islamic values and beliefs.

Traditionally, social segregation of the sexes prevented women from participating in much of the formal religious life of the community. The 1980s brought several changes in women's religious practices. Younger women, particularly university students, were seen more often praying in the mosques and could be said to have carved a place for themselves in the public domain of Islam.

Although some women in the late 1980s resorted to unorthodox practices and beliefs, women generally were considered more religiously observant than men. They fasted more than men and prayed more regularly in the home. Education, particularly of women, diminished the folk-religious component of belief and practice, and probably enhanced observance of the more orthodox aspects of Islam.

The 1980s witnessed a stronger and more visible adherence to Islamic customs and beliefs among significant segments of the population. The increased interest in incorporating Islam more fully into daily life was expressed in a variety of ways. Women wearing conservative Islamic dress and the head scarf were seen with greater frequency in the streets of urban as well as rural areas; men with beards also were more often seen. Attendance at Friday prayers rose, as did the number of people observing Ramadan. Ramadan also was observed in a much stricter fashion; all public eating establishments were closed and no alcohol was sold or served. Police responded quickly to infractions of the rules of Ramadan. Those caught smoking, eating, or drinking in public were reprimanded and often arrested for a brief period.

Women in the 1980s, particularly university students, were actively involved in expressions of Islamic revival. Women wearing Islamic garb were a common sight at the country's universities. For example, the mosque at Yarmuk University had a large women's section. The section was usually full, and women there formed groups to study Islam. By and large, women and girls who adopted Islamic dress apparently did so of their own volition, although it was not unusual for men to insist that their sisters, wives, and daughters cover their hair in public.

The adoption of the Islamic form of dress did not signify a return to segregation of the sexes or female seclusion. Indeed, women who adopted Islamic clothing often were working women and students who interacted daily with men. They cited a lag in cultural attitudes as part of the reason for donning such dress. In other words, when dressed in Islamic garb they felt that they received more respect from and were taken more seriously by their fellow students and colleagues. Women also could move more readily in public if they were modestly attired. Increased religious observance also accounted for women's new style of dress. In the 1980s, Islamic dress did not indicate social status, particularly wealth, as it had in the past; Islamic dress was being worn by women of all classes, especially the lower and middle classes.

Several factors gave rise to increased adherence to Islamic practices. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Middle East region saw a rise of Islamic fundamentalism in response to economic recession and to the failure of nationalist politics to solve regional problems. In this context, Islam was an idiom for expressing social discontent. In Jordan, opposition politics had long been forbidden, and since the 1950s the Muslim Brotherhood had been the only legal political party. These factors were exacerbated by King Hussein's public support for the shah of Iran in his confrontation with Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini and the forces of opposition, by continued relations with Egypt in the wake of the 1979 Treaty of Peace Between Egypt and Israel, and by the king's support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

Although Islamic opposition politics never became as widespread in Jordan as in Iran and Egypt, they were pervasive enough for the regime to act swiftly to bring them under its aegis. By the close of the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, government-controlled television regularly showed the king and his brother Hasan attending Friday prayers. The media granted more time to religious programs and broadcasts. Aware that the Islamic movement might become a vehicle for expressing opposition to the regime and its policies, and in a move to repair relations with Syria, in the mid1980s the government began to promote a moderate form of Islam, denouncing fanatical and intolerant forms.

Jordan's Constitution guarantees freedom of religious beliefs. Christians formed the largest non-Muslim minority. Observers estimated in the late 1970s that the Christian community-- comprising groups of several denominations--constituted roughly 5 to 8 percent of the population. The principal points of concentration of the East Bank's indigenous Christians were a number of small towns in the "sown," such as Al Karak, Madaba, As Salt, and Ajlun. Christians also lived in Amman and other major cities.

Overwhelmingly Arabic in language and culture, many Christians belonged to churches whose liturgical languages were, until recently, other than Arabic. With some exceptions, the lower clergy were Arabs, but the higher clergy were rarely so. In the past, Christians were disproportionately represented among the educated and prosperous. With increased access to education for all of the East Bank's peoples, it is the disproportion was less significant in the 1980s.

As of 1989, religious conflict had not been a problem in Jordan. The influence of Islamic fundamentalism that made itself felt in Jordan in the late 1970s and 1980s had not given rise to religious tensions. As a minority in a largely Muslim society, however, Christians were affected by Islamic practices. With the stricter observance of Ramadan in the 1980s, hotels and restaurants were prohibited by the government from serving liquor to local Christians or foreigners. Restaurants that formerly had remained open during the day to serve such persons were closed. The press and television also gave a greater emphasis to religion.

The largest of the Christian sects in the late 1980s, accounting for roughly half of all Jordanian Christians, was that part of the Eastern Orthodox complex of churches that falls under the patriarch of Jerusalem. With an elaborately organized clerical hierarchy, the patriarchate administered most of the Christian shrines in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The parent church of Eastern Orthodoxy was the Greek Orthodox Church, and the liturgical language of the church in the patriarchate of Jerusalem included both Greek and Arabic. The higher clergy, including the patriarch, were predominantly of Greek descent, but the priests were native speakers of Arabic. Because of the typically national organization of orthodox churches, the relatively small numbers of Syrians and Armenians adhering to orthodoxy had their own churches.

The Greek Catholic Church (Melchite, also seen as Melkite; Catholics of the Byzantine rite) in Jordan was headed by the patriarch of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, who in turn was subject to the authority of the pope in Rome. The clergy generally were Arabs, and Arabic was used in most of the liturgy. Most Greek Catholics lived in the West Bank, but one diocese--that of PetraPhiladelphia , the latter an old Greek name for Amman--had its seat in Amman.

The Roman Catholic Church had its own patriarch, who was also subject to papal authority. Several other Catholic groups, each headed by a patriarch who was in turn subordinate to Rome, were represented. These included several hundred Syrian Catholics and Armenian Catholics.

The approximately 11,000 members of various Protestant denominations had been converted primarily from the Orthodox and Catholic churches. Muslims rarely converted to another faith. In the rural areas, conversions from one Christian group to another usually involved an entire kin-based group of some size. Such conversions often caused stress between the converting group and another group of which it was part or with which it was allied. Individual conversions in such areas were rare. The effect of urbanization on this pattern has not been examined.

Protestant communities, generally established by North American and European missionary activities, also were represented by the personnel of various international organizations. Some Protestant groups established schools and hospitals and constructed a few churches. The Christian churches also had their own ecclesiastical courts that decided matters of alimony, divorce, annulment, and inheritance.

Non-Christian religious minorities in the late 1980s included a small community of Druzes who lived in an area near the Syrian border. They were members of a sect that originally had derived from the Ismaili branch of Shia Islam. Ismailis were Shias who believed that Imam Muhammad ibn Ismail (died ca. A.D. 765), the Seventh Imam, was the last Imam, as opposed to others who recognized Twelve Imams. The Druzes, primarily located in the mountains of Lebanon and in southwestern Syria, have many secret beliefs and maintain that Hakim, the sixth Fatimid caliph, was divine in nature and is still alive in hiding. A small settlement of Bahais inhabited the village of Al Adasiyah in the northern Jordan Valley. The Shishans, a group whose origins lie in the Caucasus Mountains, were Shias. Estimates in the early 1980s placed the number of Shishans at 2,000.


The criminal code adopted in 1956, which had been amended many times, contained the bulk of the country's criminal law. In addition, certain codified civil statutes also prescribed penalties for acts such as libel, adultery, and publication of material endangering the security of the kingdom. Individuals could not be punished except for acts made criminal by virtue of penalties prescribed by law. Other than where specified, a person also could not be punished for committing a criminal act in the absence of criminal responsibility or intent, both of which were defined by the code. As a safeguard of personal liberty, the government had the burden of proving both the defendant's commission of the act and the admissible intent of the defendant before guilt could be established.

The criminal code, in traditional French form, divided criminal offenses into three categories according to the severity of the applicable punishments. In English common law these categories equated roughly to felonies, misdemeanors, and minor violations. Punishments for felonies ranged from death by hanging to imprisonment for periods ranging from three years to life. Punishments for misdemeanors included imprisonment for periods ranging from three weeks to three years and a variety of fines. Minor violations could be punished by imprisonment for less than three weeks, small fines, or reprimands by the court. In cases involving misdemeanors or minor violations, a judge also could invoke preventive measures including detention for psychiatric examination, forfeiture of material goods, or closure of a place of business. The criminal code provided for minimum penalties for all major infractions rather than relying on the discretion of the courts.

The death penalty was authorized for murder, arson of an inhabited building, assassination of the king (or attempts on his life), and a broad range of serious crimes defined as threats to the security of the state. These latter offenses included acts such as treason, espionage on behalf of an unfriendly foreign power, and armed insurrection. The act of selling land in the West Bank to occupying Israeli authorities was considered high treason and therefore a capital offense. Some Palestinians had been sentenced in absentia to death under this decree but as of 1989 these sentences had never been carried out. Executions were rare and politically sensitive in Jordan. Three death sentences for murder were carried out in 1985, none in 1986, and only one in 1987. In the 1987 case, the assassin of a PLO Executive Committee member in the West Bank was put to death.

Imprisonment for life was imposed for such felonies as lesser crimes against national security, homicide during commission of a misdemeanor or that resulted from torture, and the more serious forms of theft. Shorter imprisonment was prescribed for these same offenses if mitigating circumstances warranted. Such punishment also was authorized for terrorist activity, membership in subversive organizations, counterfeiting, forgery of official documents, and abduction.

Misdemeanors included such offenses as gambling in public places, bribery, perjury, simple forgery, slander, embezzlement, assault and battery, and disturbing the peace. The influence of sharia was still evident in the imposition of prison sentences for desertion of a child, abortion, marrying a girl under the age of sixteen, openly ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, and breaking the fast of Ramadan. Sharia also was important in the criteria for justifiable homicide. No penalty was imposed for the immediate killing of someone who defiled a person's or a family's honor.

Minor violations covered by the code included traffic violations, seeking redress for a crime without recourse to civil authorities, public drunkenness, and violations of administrative regulations such as licensing and safe housing requirements. These infractions were punishable with or without proven intent. Most minor violations resulted in fines being assessed against the offender.


Detailed criminal statistics were not customarily available but fragmentary data has been released from time to time that provided limited information on the nature and scope of criminal activity in Jordan. According to a Jordanian submission to the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), national criminal statistics recorded 16,215 offenses for 1984. Although it was not clear what offenses constituted this total, the number of cases in the following categories was supplied: ordinary theft (3,859 cases reported), aggravated theft (1,208 cases), breaking and entering (1,164 cases), car theft (178 cases), robbery and violent theft (44 cases), other forms of theft (2,473 cases), serious assaults (437), homicide (70), and rape (24). Frauds numbered 276 and currency or counterfeiting violations numbered 31. Only sixty-five drug offenses were reported.

According to Interpol, the total number of criminal offenses reported by Jordanian authorities constituted a rate of 630 crimes per 100,000 people. This rate was far lower than that reported by most countries of Western Europe but was typical of some Middle Eastern countries, and higher than many countries of the Third World. The validity of this index was linked to the reliability of the reports of criminal activity submitted to Interpol.

The Public Security Directorate released similar data for 1986. In that year, 19,618 criminal offenses were reported. Under the category of thefts and robberies, the directorate listed 4,269 violations. According to the directorate, most such crimes were committed by unemployed males and by low-paid laborers between the ages of eighteen and twenty-seven. There were 549 offenses listed as "moral" crimes, including rape, abduction, and various forms of public misbehavior. A total of 348 cases of fraud and embezzlement were recorded, reflecting a rising trend attributed by the police to poor economic conditions and financial difficulties of individuals and companies. The sixty-four murders reported represented a decline from eighty-one in the previous year. Generally, such crimes were the result of personal disputes, family problems, and seeking revenge. Again, the perpetrators of homicides were predominantly in the eighteen to twenty-seven-year-old agegroup . The police reported that 71 deaths and 513 injuries had resulted from guns fired in celebration or accidentally.

The crime rate in Jordan is very low compared to industrialized countries, with the important exception of murder. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Jordan. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Jordan will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1999 was 6.33 per 100,000 population for Jordan, 1.00 for Japan, and 4.55 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1999 was 2.14 for Jordan, compared with 1.47 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 1999 was 8.16 for Jordan, 3.34 for Japan, and 147.36 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1999 was 14.00 for Jordan, 15.97 for Japan, and 329.63 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1999 was 31.02 for Jordan, 206.01 for Japan, and 755.29 for USA. The rate of larceny for 1999 was 123.27 for Jordan, 1267.95 for Japan, and 2502.66 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1999 was 52.18 for Jordan, compared with 34.01 for Japan and 412.70 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 237.10 for Jordan, compared with 1529.75 for Japan and 4184.24 for USA. (Note: data were not reported to INTERPOL by the USA for 1999, but were derived from data reported to the United Nations for 1999)



Between 1995 and 1999, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 7.2 to 6.33 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 12.1%. The rate for rape increased from 1.01 to 2.14, an increase of 111.9%. The rate of robbery increased from 5.51 to 8.16, an increase of 48.1%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 22.39 to 14.00, a decrease of 37.5%. The rate for burglary decreased from 41.53 to 31.02, a decrease of 25.3%. The rate of larceny increased from 92.43 to 123.27, an increase of 33.4%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 16.26 to 52.18, an increase of 220.9%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 186.33 to 237.1, an increase of 27.2%.



Until the nineteenth century, the only source of law considered to be valid in controlling criminal activity in the region that was to become Jordan was Islamic religious law, or sharia. This law and its application had remained static for centuries, subject only to interpretation by the ulama (pl.; sing. alim, religious scholars) and enforcement by Muslim judges (qadis) in sharia courts. Temporal rulers could not, in theory, legislate rules to govern social behavior; they could only hand down edicts to implement the immutable divine law.

In the mid-1800s, reforms of the system were instituted to enhance Ottoman control of the area. Comprehensive codes of law based on European models became the basis of a new legal system, and in 1858 a criminal code was adopted to support the reform movement. The new code was based on French law, but in effect it complemented sharia inasmuch as the French code was modified to accommodate Muslim customs. For example, the Ottoman criminal code imposed the payment of blood money in addition to imprisonment for acts of homicide or bodily injury, and the death penalty for apostasy was retained.

When the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist after World War I and Britain became the mandatory power for Palestine and Transjordan, the Ottoman laws in force were supplemented by British statutes. In Palestine the 1858 criminal code was replaced by a new penal code and a code of criminal procedure patterned on those used in British colonies. The Palestinian courts, staffed by British and British-trained judges, used their power to apply English common law, and decisions could be appealed to the judicial committee of the Privy Council in London. The influence of English law was weaker in Transjordan, however, where there were no British judges, and common law was not applied in the courts. Instead, the laws that dealt with criminal behavior retained the European flavor of the Ottoman code of 1858.

When the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was proclaimed in 1949, the ancient Ottoman code had been largely modified at the insistence of moderates who believed that the sharia provisions on which it had been based should be supplemented by--and, if necessary, subordinated to--laws that could deal with modern problems. The period of British tutelage did not significantly change the substantive law, but it had the effect of weakening the absolutist traditions of sharia in the field of criminal jurisprudence. In the early 1950s, a committee of leading Muslim scholars and jurists of several Arab countries convened with the purpose of drafting new codes of criminal law and procedure to replace the 1858 Ottoman code, which had been almost entirely amended during the century it had been in force. In 1956 the Jordanian National Assembly adopted a new criminal code and code of criminal procedure. Both were based on the Syrian and Lebanese codes, which in turn were modeled on French counterparts.

Within the realm of criminal jurisprudence, Jordan retained only nominal application of sharia. Although the codified laws were based on Islamic principles and customs, these were largely modified and extended along European lines in an effort to adapt to the requirements of a changing economy and culture.


The concept of public order founded on the supremacy of law has been stressed by Hussein throughout his reign as a prerequisite to internal stability and the achievement of national development goals. In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, public order has been successfully maintained through legally established instruments: comprehensive codes of law enforced by a professional police force and an independent judiciary. The police and the General Intelligence Department (GID), generally known as the Mukhabarat from the Arabic name Dairat al Mukhabarat, a civilian agency, exercised broad powers to monitor disruptive segments of the population. The scope of police and GID powers at times have become a source of contention from a human rights standpoint, although in nonsecurity cases legal norms had been generally observed by police and judicial authorities.

In 1989 primary responsibility for the routine maintenance of law and order was exercised by the Public Security Force, the country's national police establishment. Centralized in time of peace within the Public Security Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, the police were subordinated to the Ministry of Defense and under the control of the army commander in the event of war. Traditionally, the police have been commanded by an officer with the title of director general of public security, usually a senior army general, who reported to the minister of interior. Officers assigned to this important position were personally selected by Hussein on the basis of their military record, leadership qualifications, and loyalty to the crown. As of early 1989, the head of the police organization was Lieutenant General Abdul Hadi al Majali, formerly chief of the general staff.

An outgrowth of the Arab Legion, the Public Security Force was created by law in July 1956, when the legion was separated into distinct police and army elements. During the twenty months of martial law instituted by Hussein from April 1957 to November 1958, the police were again subordinated to army control. As domestic and external threats to Hashimite rule were brought under better control, a new law in July 1958 reestablished the separation of the two security forces.

The strength of the Public Security Force was estimated to be about 4,000 personnel in the late 1980s. A considerable augmentation of the Desert Police Force was reported to be planned in 1988. The relatively large size of the force, combined with the army support, testified to the importance of the internal security function.

The police were classified broadly according to areas of geographic responsibility. The three major divisions were the metropolitan (Amman), rural (small towns and villages), and desert contingents. Police headquarters in Amman provided both an administrative control point for the countrywide system and an array of centralized technical functions that supported police activities throughout the kingdom. A reorganization of the Public Security Directorate announced in 1987 reduced the previous five-tiered structure to only three tiers. Below the central headquarters, with its overall responsibility for police, security, and law enforcement activities, were ten regional directorates. Eight of the directorates corresponded to the governorates, and one covered the city of Amman and its suburbs. The desert region was a separate directorate and was patrolled by the Desert Police Force. Under the 1987 plan, the ten regions were to be subdivided into fifty-nine security centers, each of which typically would be responsible for an area of five to ten square kilometers and serve 50,000 people.

Public Security Force missions included the usual tasks of maintenance of public order, protection of life and property, investigation of criminal activity, and apprehension of suspected offenders. In addition to these basic functions, special elements of the force performed such duties as traffic control, licensing of vehicles and certain business activities, enforcement of trade prohibitions and zoning ordinances, locating missing persons, guarding shrines and other public places, assisting customs and immigration officials in the performance of their duties, and operating the country's penal institutions. In announcing the 1987 reorganization, the director general of public security emphasized an increased social role for the police and strengthened police relations with the local community. He described the police as the conduit through which the public could seek assistance from various government authorities in resolving social problems.

Functionally, the responsibilities assigned to the police were carried out according to a tripartite division of responsibilities at the headquarters level--administrative, judicial, and support operations. Administrative police were charged with prevention of crime and routine maintenance of security and public order. Criminal offenses were under the jurisdiction of judicial police, who conducted criminal investigations, apprehended suspects, and assisted the public prosecutor's office in prosecuting accused offenders. Support police performed budget, planning, training, public affairs, communications, and logistic functions. Insofar as was possible, regional police activities throughout the country conformed to this division of responsibilities. Modern communications facilities connecting regional directorates with the headquarters in Amman provided a direct link to specialized elements such as the Criminal Investigation Department's modern police laboratory, which also assisted regional and local police in their investigations.

The Special Police Force within the Public Security Directorate had principal responsibility for countering terrorism. As part of its antiterrorism program, the Jordanian government cooperated with various international bodies in sharing information and resources. A multimillion dollar project to improve police communications, announced in 1988, was another element of the antiterrorist campaign. In connection with this project, the Special Police Force had participated in bomb detection programs for dogs and their handlers offered by the United States. The Desert Police Force, which had responsibility for detecting and stopping drug and gun smuggling, had also been greatly expanded.

Depending on their location, the police were armed with pistols, rifles, nightsticks, or light automatic weapons. In Amman and the larger towns, special crowd and riot control equipment and armored vehicles were available. The police force was fully motorized, had good communications facilities, and operated much on the pattern of European law enforcement agencies. Police units in rural areas were assigned less modern equipment, and in the desert areas the traditional system of camel-mounted desert patrols survived, supplemented by improved communications gear and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Police personnel have been recruited throughout the service's existence through voluntary enlistments. The National Service Law of 1976 ensured that most younger members of the force would have had some military training before entering police work. Training for both officers and enlisted ranks was provided primarily by the staff of the Royal Police Academy in Amman, but some recruits received their instruction at the separate Police Training School in Az Zarqa. The school at Az Zarqa also welcomed large numbers of police trainees from friendly Arab countries. In addition to courses in general and administrative police work, cadets at the academy studied the country's legal system, underwent physical training, and were instructed in the use of firearms and other police equipment. Judicial training included courses in criminal investigation procedures, court operations, and the criminal code. As part of efforts to improve the general education level of the Public Security Force, the government announced in 1987 that officer recruits would be required to have university degrees and NCO recruits would be required to be graduates of high schools or vocational schools.

The first Arab country to admit women to its police establishment, Jordan opened a women's police academy in Amman in 1972. Before being assigned to positions in law enforcement, the women recruits completed a four-month classroom course followed by one month of practical training in the field. Assignment opportunities expanded steadily after the program began. Women served primarily in the police laboratory, in budgeting and accounting, public relations, licensing, and in prison operations. Some served in street patrols and traffic control in Amman and in border security.

Ranks and insignia of the Public Security Force were identical with those of the army, although job titles were necessarily different. Police uniforms in the Amman metropolitan area were dark blue in winter and light tan in summer, resembling in style those of the Royal Jordanian Air Force. Rural police wore an olive drab uniform lighter in shade than that of the army but otherwise similar. The Desert Police Force retained their traditional Arab garb. Police pay scales were about the same as those of the army but differed somewhat in the special allowances authorized. The conditions of service were sufficiently favorable to attract and retain enough personnel to staff the force fully.

Internal security, intelligence, and counterintelligence matters were the concern of the police, the armed forces, and the GID, a civilian organization with principal responsibility for dealing with perceived domestic and foreign threats to security. The GID customarily was headed by a high-ranking army officer answerable directly to the prime minister and concurrently a close personal adviser of Hussein.

The GID was a large organization, although its personnel strength was not a matter of public knowledge. Its members were almost invariably persons of proven loyalty to the monarchy and of East Bank origin. It was generally regarded as an effective internal security agency, alert to any evidence of activity that might have subversive implications. Although Jordan had been the target of clandestine operations by other countries, the GID was not known to have a covert branch that engaged in clandestine activity against its Arab neighbors or Israel. The GID was particularly occupied with rooting out Palestinian militant groups and illegal or underground political organizations. It scrutinized activities in the mosques and among student groups. A GID office was located in each refugee camp. The GID's methods and oppressive tactics frequently have been the subject of criticism among Jordanians, although some of its measures, such as checkpoints to monitor domestic travelers, were less obtrusive during the 1980s than they had been in the tense period following the 1970-71 conflict with the PLO.

The widely employed system of identity documents facilitated GID control over the population. A passport was needed both for travel and to obtain employment. Passports could only be obtained by producing other identity documents issued by the Ministry of Interior and had to be authorized by the GID. In addition, a certificate of good conduct from the GID was required for public sector jobs, for many private sector jobs, and for study abroad. A young person studying in a communist country might, on returning for a visit to Jordan, find his or her passport confiscated if the GID harbored suspicions concerning the student's conduct abroad. Furthermore, GID approval was required for public gatherings or activities sponsored by private organizations.

The GID had authority under martial law to detain persons without trial for indeterminate periods, often lasting from several weeks to many months. Such security detainees normally were held incommunicado for interrogation at GID headquarters in Amman. According to the 1988 annual report of the human rights organization Amnesty International, various forms of torture or ill treatment were believed to have been inflicted at GID headquarters on detainees or arrested persons later transferred to ordinary prisons for trial by martial law courts.

As of year 2001, general police functions were the responsibility of the Public Security Directorate (PSD). The PSD, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), and the military share responsibility for maintaining internal security, and have authority to monitor the activities of persons believed to be security threats. Elements of the security forces continue to commit human rights abuses.

The law provides prisoners with the right to humane treatment and provides prisoners the right to an attorney; however, the police and security forces sometimes abuse detainees physically and verbally during detention and interrogation, and allegedly also use torture. Allegations of torture are difficult to verify because the police and security officials frequently deny detainees timely access to lawyers, despite legal provisions requiring such access. The most frequently alleged methods of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings on the soles of the feet, prolonged suspension with ropes in contorted positions, and extended solitary confinement. Defendants in high-profile cases before the State Security Court claimed to have been subjected to physical and psychological abuse while in detention. Government officials deny allegations of torture and abuse.

A number of cases of beatings and other abuse while in police custody were reported to human rights activists during the year 2001. Human rights activists believe that there were many more incidents that were not documented. Allegations of physical abuse by prison guards persists.

The Constitution requires that security forces obtain a warrant from the Prosecutor General or a judge before conducting searches or otherwise interfering with these rights, and the security services generally respect these restrictions; however, in security cases, the authorities at times--in violation of the law--obtain warrants retroactively or obtain preapproved warrants. Security officers monitor telephone conversations and Internet communication, read private correspondence, and engage in surveillance of persons who are considered to pose a threat to the Government or national security. The law permits these practices if the Government obtains a court order. Judges complain of unlawful telephone surveillance.


The security forces arbitrarily arrest and detain citizens. Under the Constitution, citizens are subject to arrest, trial, and punishment for the defamation of heads of state, dissemination of "false or exaggerated information outside the country that attacks state dignity," or defamation of public officials. Criminal laws generally require warrants; however, in most cases suspects may be detained for up to 48 hours in the absence of a warrant. In practice many warrants are obtained after arrests are made.

The Criminal Code requires that police notify legal authorities within 48 hours of an arrest and that legal authorities file formal charges within 10 days of an arrest; however, the courts routinely grant requests from prosecutors for 15-day extensions, which also is provided by law. This practice generally extends pretrial detention for protracted periods of time. In cases involving state security, the authorities frequently hold defendants in lengthy pretrial detention, do not provide defendants with the written charges against them, and do not allow defendants to meet with their lawyers until shortly before trial. Defendants before the State Security Court usually meet with their attorneys only 1 or 2 days before their trial. In April the Parliament passed amendments to the Criminal Code that eliminate pretrial detentions for certain categories of misdemeanors.

The Government detains persons, including journalists and Islamists, for varying amounts of time for what appear to be political reasons. Human rights sources reported that more than 500 persons were detained for security reasons and subsequently released within a short period of time throughout the year. This number likely underestimates the total number of political detainees. Human rights groups report that there are a smaller number of long-term political detainees.

Local governors have the authority to invoke the Preventing Crimes Law, which allows them to place citizens under house arrest for up to a year without formally charging them. House arrest may involve requiring persons to report daily to a local police station and the imposition of a curfew. Persons who violate the terms of their house arrest may be imprisoned for up to 14 days.

During the year, police detained up to hundreds of persons involved in protests against the Israeli Government's actions in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Police did not charge most of the demonstrators and released all of them within 1 day.

The Government uses the threat of detention to intimidate journalists into practicing self-censorship. Before 2000 police typically detained from 5 to 10 days numerous journalists who criticized government officials or policies; some of the journalists experienced abuse. When the Government filed charges, convictions were rare; however, some proceedings lasted several years, with defendants required to appear in court regularly. In June police in Zarqa briefly detained five journalists working with the Associated Press. The reporters were attempting to film a memorial service for the suicide bomber involved in the Dolphinarium Disco bombing in Tel Aviv. Police released all five after a few hours.

The Constitution prohibits the expulsion of any citizen, and the Government does not routinely use forced exile; however, in June the Government attempted to prevent the return of Ibrahim Ghosheh, one of four HAMAS leaders allegedly expelled in 1999. On June 14, Ghosheh arrived unexpectedly from Qatar, and immigration authorities at Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) attempted to block his admission to Jordan. Ghosheh was detained at QAIA until June 30, when the Government admitted him to the country in return for his pledge to cease his HAMAS activities. The three other expelled HAMAS leaders remained outside the country at year's end.


The legal system of Jordan is based on sharia (Islamic law) and laws of European origin. During the nineteenth century, when Jordan was part of the Ottoman Empire, some aspects of European law, especially French commercial law and civil and criminal procedures, were adopted. English common law was introduced in the West Bank between 1917 and 1948, during most of which time the area was incorporated into the British-administered Mandate of Palestine, and introduced in the East Bank during the years 1921 to 1946, when the East Bank comprised the British Mandate of Transjordan. Under the Court Establishment Law of 1951 and the Constitution, the judiciary is independent. There are three kinds of courts: civil courts, religious courts, and special courts. The civil courts adjudicate all civil and criminal cases not expressly reserved to the religious or special courts.

The civil jurisdiction is exercised at four levels: the magistrates' courts, the courts of first instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Cassation (the supreme court of the land). There are fourteen magistrates' courts throughout the country. They exercise jurisdiction in civil cases involving small claims of no more than JD250 (JD or Jordanian dinar; for value of the dinar--see Glossary) and in criminal cases involving maximum fines of JD100 or maximum prison terms of one year. The seven courts of first instance exercise general jurisdiction in all matters civil and criminal. A panel of three judges sits for all felony trials; two judges sit for misdemeanor and civil cases. The courts of first instance also exercise limited appellate jurisdiction in cases involving judgments or fines under JD20 and JD10 respectively.

There is a three-judge panel Court of Appeal that sits in Amman. Its appellate review extends to judgments of the courts of first instance, the magistrates' courts, and the religious courts. The highest court is the Court of Cassation in Amman; its president, who is appointed by the king, serves as the country's chief justice. All seven judges of the court sit in full panel when important cases are being argued. For most appeals, however, only five judges hear and rule on the cases.

The religious courts are divided into sharia courts for Muslims and ecclesiastical courts for the minority Christian communities. These courts are responsible for disputes over personal status (marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance) and communal endowment among their respective communities. One judge, called a qadi, sits in each sharia court and decides cases on the basis of Islamic law. Three judges, usually members of the clergy, sit in each ecclesiastical court and render judgments based on various aspects of canon law as interpreted by the Greek Orthodox, Melchite, Roman Catholic, and Anglican traditions. Appeals from the judgments of the religious courts are referred to the Court of Appeal sitting in Amman. If any dispute involves members of different religious communities, the civil courts have jurisdiction unless the parties mutually agree to submit to the jurisdiction of one of the religious courts. In case of jurisdictional conflicts between any two religious courts or between a religious court and a civil court, the president of the Court of Cassation appoints a three-judge special tribunal to decide jurisdiction or to hear the case.

Special courts include the High Tribunal (or High Council or Supreme Council), which interprets the Constitution at the request of the prime minister or of either chamber of the National Assembly; the Special Council, which may be called on by the prime minister to interpret any law that has not been interpreted by the courts of law; and the High Court of Justice, which is to be constituted when necessary by the Court of Cassation. The High Court of Justice hears habeas corpus and mandamus petitions and may issue injunctions involving public servants charged with irregularities; it is also empowered to try cabinet ministers charged with offenses. There is also a special court known as the Land Settlement Court. After 1976 when tribal law was abolished, tribal matters came under the formal jurisdiction of the regular courts, but adjudication apparently was still handled informally in traditional ways by local intermediaries or tribal authorities.

When the police believed that a person had committed a crime or when someone was caught committing a criminal act, the suspect was taken to the nearest police station for registration and interrogation. Usually a warrant was required for an arrest; however, in cases where delay would be harmful or when a person was apprehended in a criminal offense, the accused could be detained without a warrant of arrest for as long as forty-eight hours. After forty-eight hours, a court order was required to continue detention of the suspect.

A warrant of arrest could be issued by a magistrate only if there was a presumption that the person had committed the offense for which he or she was charged and if there was reason to believe that the accused intended to escape, destroy traces of the crime, or induce witnesses to make false statements. A warrant also could be issued for offenses against national security or other grave acts specified in the criminal code.

The police magistrate first informed the accused of the charges and questioned the accused and any available witnesses to determine if there was a prima facie case against the detained person, who had the right to counsel at this preliminary investigation. If the magistrate found evidence of guilt, the case was transmitted to the local prosecutor for further investigation. A prosecutor was attached to every magistrate's court and court of first instance. The magistrate then could either issue an arrest warrant to bind over the suspect for trial or release the suspect on bail. Release on bail was a matter of right when the maximum penalty prescribed for the offense was imprisonment not exceeding one year and where the accused had an established residence within the country and had not previously been convicted of a felony or sentenced to more than three months in jail.

The right of habeas corpus was provided for under the Constitution, but in practice it had not afforded the same protection as in English common law. The police usually managed to establish the need to detain suspects charged with serious offenses. Persons could be detained pending investigation for fifteen days or longer if the court approved a request by the public prosecutor for an extension. The power of detention had been used effectively by the police to forestall disorder. For example, police occasionally dispersed crowds before a disturbance merely by threatening to arrest those who disobeyed an order to leave the scene.

On deciding that legal action against the accused was necessary, the public prosecutor instituted a trial by issuing an indictment to the appropriate court. The fourteen magistrates' courts handled only those criminal offenses for which the maximum fine was not more than JD100 or the maximum prison sentence was not more than one year. The seven courts of first instance tried cases involving misdemeanors before two judges and major felonies before three judges. Trials were open to the public except in certain cases, such as those involving sexual offenses. The defendant had the right to legal counsel, but defendants often were unaware of this right and failed to exercise it. The court appointed a lawyer for those who could not afford one if the potential sentence was execution or life imprisonment. Defendants had the right of cross-examination and were protected against self-incrimination. There was no jury system in Jordan. The judge, therefore, decided questions of fact, based entirely on the weight of the evidence, as well as questions of the interpretation and application of the criminal law.

Trials began with opening statements by the prosecutor and the defense counsel, followed by an interrogation of the defendant by the presiding judge. After examination of witnesses for the state and for the accused and the submission of documentary evidence, closing arguments by the prosecutor and defense counsel completed the presentation. Decisions were announced in open court and, if the defendant were found guilty, sentence would be pronounced. Either the public prosecutor or the defendant could appeal the decision to the court of appeal and, ultimately, to the Court of Cassation.

A state of martial law, in effect since 1967, gave the government authority to detain individuals without charge and to adjudicate specified crimes in the martial law courts. These courts consisted of a panel of three military officers trained in the law. Designated martial law crimes included espionage, bribery of public officials, trafficking in narcotics or weapons, black marketing, and security offenses. Security detainees could be held without charge or brought before the martial law courts for trial. Detainees did not have the right to communicate with their family or legal counsel.

Although the martial law courts were not bound to observe normal rules of evidence or procedures, in practice these military courts observed the law of criminal procedure and defendants were given most of the rights they were entitled to in civilian courts. Trials were held in public; defendants were represented by counsel and could cross-examine witnesses. It was not customary to grant bail, however, and there was no provision for habeas corpus. Normal avenues of appeal were not open from decisions of the military courts, but such court actions were subject to ratification by the prime minister in his capacity as military governor. The prime minister had the authority to increase, reduce, or annul sentences. Before acting, the prime minister received recommendations on the fairness of a sentence by a legal adviser or the minister of justice.

In its annual report for 1988, Amnesty International asserted that some proceedings in the martial law courts failed to meet international standards for fair trials. It noted that in some cases it appeared that confessions allegedly extracted under torture or ill treatment were accepted as evidence. The United States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1986 observed that the very quick trials and subsequent sentencing of the Communist Party of Jordan leadership suggested that there were politically motivated exceptions to the norms of criminal procedures and rights in the martial law courts.

Military courts also adjudicated all crimes committed by military personnel, applying military regulations promulgated by the Ministry of Defense pursuant to relevant laws. In these cases, the commanding officer of the armed forces was required to ratify the sentence.

As of the year 2001, the Constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary, and during the year 2001 the Government took steps to strengthen such independence; however, the judiciary remains subject to pressure and interference from the executive branch. A judge's appointment to, advancement within, and dismissal from the judiciary are determined by the Higher Judiciary Council, a committee whose members are appointed by the King. In June Parliament passed a law intended to give the Council increased independent jurisdiction over the judicial branch; previously, the council had been subject to frequent interference and pressure from the Ministry of Justice stemming from the Ministry's oversight of the council. The purpose of the new law was to limit the Ministry of Justice's influence over a judge's career and prevent it from subverting the judicial system in favor of the executive branch. There had been numerous allegations in previous years that judges were "reassigned" temporarily to another court or judicial district in order to remove them from a particular proceeding. The Government claims that the Higher Judiciary Council's new independence makes such tampering much more difficult. Despite constitutional prohibitions against such actions, judges complain of telephone surveillance by the Government.

The judicial system consists of several types of courts. Most criminal cases are tried in civilian courts, which include the appeals courts, the Court of Cassation, and the Supreme Court. Cases involving sedition, armed insurrection, financial crimes, drug trafficking, and offenses against the royal family are tried in the State Security Court.

Shari'a (Islamic law) courts have jurisdiction over marriage and divorce among Muslims and inheritance cases involving both Muslims and non-Muslims. Christian courts have jurisdiction over marriage and divorce cases among Christians, but apply Shari'a law in inheritance cases.

Most civilian court trials are open. Defendants are entitled to legal counsel, may challenge witnesses, and have the right to appeal. Defendants facing the death penalty or life imprisonment must be represented by legal counsel. Public defenders are provided if the defendant in such cases

is unable financially to hire legal counsel. Shari'a as applied in the country regards the testimony of one man as equal to that of two women in proving matters of fact. This provision technically applies only in religious courts; however, in the past it has been imposed in civil courts as well, regardless of religion.

The State Security Court consists of a panel of three judges, 2 military officers and 1 civilian. Sessions frequently are closed to the public. Defendants tried in the State Security Court often are held in pretrial detention without access to lawyers, although they may be visited by representatives of the ICRC. In the State Security Court, judges have inquired into allegations that defendants were tortured and have allowed the testimony of physicians regarding such allegations. The Court of Cassation has ruled that the State Security Court may not issue a death sentence on the basis of a confession obtained as a result of torture. Defendants in the State Security Court have the right to appeal their sentences to the Court of Cassation, which is authorized to review issues of both fact and law. Appeals are automatic for cases involving the death penalty.

In the past, defense attorneys have challenged the appointment of military judges to the State Security Court to try civilian cases as contrary to the concept of an independent judiciary. Military judges appear to receive adequate training in civil law and procedure.

In the past, the press routinely carried details of cases tried before the State Security Court, despite 1998 provisions in the Press and Publication Law that prohibited press coverage of any case that was under investigation, unless expressly permitted by the authorities. The 1999 amendments to the Press and Publications Law permit journalists to cover court proceedings "unless the court rules otherwise." At year's end, it was unclear how press-related amendments to the Penal Code passed in October, 2001 would impact coverage of court proceedings. However, there was press coverage of trials in the State Security Court during the year 2001.


The penal system, a responsibility of the Ministry of Interior, was administered by the Prisons Department of the Public Security Directorate. The system was composed of roughly twenty-five prisons and jails. All except Amman Central Prison--the system's major institution--were under the management of regional police chiefs and were sometimes referred to as police jails. In addition to the Amman facility, area prisons were located at Irbid and at Al Jafr, east of Maan in the south-central desert region. The smaller jails were located at or near regional and local police offices. Generally, convicted offenders with more than one year to serve were transferred to the central prison in Amman, those with terms of three months to one year were sent to regional prisons, and those sentenced to three months or less were kept in local jails. Some exceptions were made to this pattern in the case of Palestinian activists or other security prisoners who had been detained for long periods of time in the Al Jafr facility, largely because of its remoteness.

Penal institutions were used to detain persons awaiting trial as well as prisoners serving sentences. Convicted offenders were usually housed separately from those yet to be tried. Major prisons had separate sections for women prisoners, as did a few of the police jails in the larger communities. A juvenile detention center in Amman housed young offenders who had been convicted of criminal offenses. When juveniles reached the age of nineteen, if they had further time to serve, they were transferred to one of the larger prisons for the remainder of their sentences.

All institutions operated in accordance with the provisions of the Prison Law of 1953, as amended. This law provided for decent treatment of prisoners and included comprehensive regulations governing the facilities, care, and administration of the prison system. Jordan was one of the first Arab countries to recognize the theory of rehabilitation, rather than retribution, as the basis for punishment of lawbreakers. This concept emphasized that crime was caused by human weakness resulting from poor social conditions rather than by willfulness and immorality. As such, the approach was in many ways alien to the traditional Muslim custom of personal revenge by the family of the victim, which demanded that the culprit pay for his crime. Although Jordan's penal system was designed to provide punishments suited to bring about the rehabilitation of the wrongdoers, in practice these efforts were hampered by the lack of facilities and professionally trained staff. Some effort was made to provide literacy and limited industrial training classes to prisoners in Amman Central Prison, but few modern techniques of rehabilitation were found in other penal institutions.

According to the annual human rights reports of the United States Department of State, prison conditions were harsh but not intentionally degrading. There appeared to be no discrimination according to religion or social class in treatment of prisoners. Crowded conditions in some prisons were relieved by a royal amnesty in 1985 that resulted in the release of more than 1,000 inmates. In 1986, a new central prison, Juwaidah, was opened in Amman. It replaced the obsolete and cramped Al Mahatta prison, which was scheduled to be closed.

In its 1988 report, Amnesty International cited a number of cases of apparent mistreatment in prisons, notably at Al Mahatta and at the Az Zarqa military prison. The report also questioned the authorities' motives in forcing four students and a writer convicted in the martial law court of membership in illegal leftist organizations to serve their sentences under the harsh conditions found at Al Jafr.

In year 2001, prisons and local police detention facilities were Spartan, and on the whole severely overcrowded and understaffed; however most prisons met international standards. Human rights groups and prisoners complained of poor food and water quality, inadequate medical facilities, and poor sanitation in certain facilities. In 2000 the Government opened a new prison facility in an attempt to alleviate to some extent the problem of overcrowding.

The Government holds some persons who are detained on national security grounds in separate detention facilities maintained by the GID. The Government holds other security detainees and prisoners in regular prisons. Conditions in GID detention facilities are significantly better than general police detention facilities. The security prisoners often are separated from common criminals; however, conditions for such prisoners do not differ significantly.

With some exceptions, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is permitted unrestricted access to prisoners and prison facilities, including GID facilities. In 1999 the Government formally granted the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to prisoners. Local human rights monitors are allowed to visit prisons, but complain that the authorities require them to undertake a lengthy and difficult procedure in order to obtain permission for such visits.


Violence against women is common. Reported incidents of violence against women do not reflect the full extent of the problem. Medical experts acknowledge that spousal abuse occurs frequently. However, cultural norms discourage victims from seeking medical or legal help, thus making it difficult to assess the extent of such abuse.

Abused women have the right to file a complaint in court against their spouses for physical abuse but in practice familial and societal pressures discourage them from seeking legal remedies. Marital rape is not illegal. NGO's such as the Jordanian Women's Union, which has a telephone hot-line for victims of domestic violence, provide assistance in such matters. Wife- battering technically is grounds for divorce, but a husband may seek to demonstrate that he has authority from the Koran to correct an irreligious or disobedient wife by striking her.

The Criminal Code provides for leniency for a person found guilty of committing an "honor crime," a violent assault with intent to commit murder against a female by a relative for her perceived immodest behavior or alleged sexual misconduct. Law enforcement treatment of men accused of honor crimes reflects widespread unwillingness to recognize the abuse involved or to take action against the problem. Fourteen such murders were reported during the year 2001, in which the victims were strangled, stabbed, or shot several times. The actual number of honor crimes is believed to be significantly higher. Human rights monitors believe that many more such crimes were committed but not documented as honor crimes. Moreover, most crimes of honor are not reported by the press One forensic medical examiner estimated that 25 percent of all murders committed in the country are honor crimes. The police regularly imprison women who are potential victims of honor crimes for their own protection. There were up to 40 women involuntarily detained in such "protective custody" during the year 2001.

According to Article 340 of the Penal Code, a "crime of honor" defense may be invoked by a defendant accused of murder who "surprises his wife or any close female relative" in an act of adultery or fornication, in which case the perpetrator of the honor crime is judged not guilty of murder. Although few defendants are able to meet the stringent requirements for a crime of honor defense (the defendant personally must have witnessed the female victim engaging in sexual relations), most avoid trial for the crime of murder, and are tried instead on the charge of manslaughter; even those convicted of murder rarely spend more than 2 years in prison. In contrast to honor crimes, the maximum penalty for first-degree murder is death, and the maximum penalty for second-degree murder is 15 years. Such defenses also commonly rely on the male relative having acted in the "heat of passion" upon hearing of a female relative's alleged transgression, usually without any investigation on the part of the assailant to determine the veracity of the allegation before committing the assault. Defenses in such cases fall under Article 98 of the Penal Code. Women may not invoke these defenses for murdering a male relative under the same circumstances, nor may they use them for killing men who attempt to rape, sexually harass, or otherwise threaten their honor.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a procedure widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, rarely is practiced. However, one southern tribe of Egyptian origin in the small village of Rahmah near Aqaba reportedly practices FGM. One local Mufti issued a fatwa stating that FGM "safeguards women's chastity and protects them against malignant diseases by preventing fat excretions." However, the Mufti also stated that as FGM is not a requirement of Islam, women who do not undergo this procedure should not be embarrassed.

Under Shari'a as applied in the country, female heirs receive half the amount of male heirs and the non-Muslim widows of Muslim spouses have no inheritance rights. A sole female heir receives half of her parents' estate; the balance goes to designated male relatives. A sole male heir inherits both of his parents' property. Male Muslim heirs have the duty to provide for all family members who need assistance. Men are able to divorce their spouses more easily than women. Marriage and divorce matters for Christians are adjudicated by special courts for each denomination. Married women are ineligible for work in the diplomatic service, and, until recently, most women in the diplomatic corps automatically were assigned to administrative positions. There are six female judges in the country.

The law requires a married woman to obtain her husband's permission to obtain a passport. Married women do not have the legal right to transmit citizenship to their children. Furthermore, women may not petition for citizenship for their non-Jordanian husbands. The husbands themselves must apply for citizenship after fulfilling a requirement of 15 years of continuous residence. Once the husbands have obtained citizenship, they may apply to transmit the citizenship to their children. However, in practice such an application may take years and, in many cases, citizenship ultimately still may be denied to the husband and children. Such children become stateless and, if they do not hold legal residency, lack the rights of citizen children, such as the right to attend school or seek other government services.


Although the problem is difficult to quantify, social and health workers believe that there is a significant incidence of child abuse in families, and that the incidence of child sexual abuse is significantly higher than reported. The law specifies punishment for abuses against children. Rape or sodomy of a child under 15 years of age carries the death penalty.

The Family Protection Unit of the Public Security Department (PSD) works with victims and perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence. The Unit deals primarily with child and spousal abuse, providing multiple in-house services, including medical treatment for patients. The Unit cooperates with police to apprehend perpetrators of domestic violence, facilitates participation in education and rehabilitation programs, and refers patients to other facilities.

Illegitimate children are entitled to the same rights under the law as legitimate children; however, in practice they suffer severe discrimination in a society that does not tolerate adultery or premarital sex. Most illegitimate children become wards of the State or live a meager existence on the fringes of society. In either case, their prospects for marriage and gainful employment are limited. Furthermore, illegitimate children who are not acknowledged legally by their fathers are considered stateless and are not given passports or identity numbers.

The Government attempts to safeguard some other children's rights, especially regarding child labor. However, although the law prohibits most children under the age of 16 from working, child vendors work on the streets of Amman. The Ministry of Social Development has a committee to address the problem and in some cases removes the children from the streets, returns them to their families or to juvenile centers, and may provide the families with a monthly stipend. However, the children often return to the streets. Declining economic conditions have caused the number of these children to increase steadily over the last 10 years. Selling newspapers, tissues, small food items, or gum, the vendors, along with the other children who pick through trash dumpsters to find recyclable cans to sell, sometimes are the sole source of income for their families.



Jordan is a transit country for illicit drugs, due to its geographical location between drug-producing countries to the north and drug-consuming countries to the south and west. Jordanians themselves neither produce nor consume significant amounts of illicit drugs. Jordan's increasing openness to tourism and trade has increased drug use, but drug abuse in Jordan is still modest. The preferred drug of abuse in Jordan is hashish. The Jordanian National Police have reported a sharp decline in seizures of hashish in the last three years, attributed to the sharp reduction of cultivation in Lebanon as a result of the Lebanese and Syrian authorities' eradication efforts. Jordan is a party to the 1998 UN Drug Convention, enforces strict anti-drug laws, and receives excellent cooperation from bordering states in narcotics interdiction efforts. Equipment and training provided by Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States increase the effectiveness and efficiency of Jordan's anti-drug efforts.

Jordan is likely to remain an insignificant player in narcotics production and abuse. However, Jordan remains vulnerable to illicit drug smuggling through its vast desert areas. The lack of manpower and equipment for its enforcement forces continues to hamper Jordan's interdiction efforts. The peace treaty with Israel has led to cooperation between the two countries in anti-narcotics investigations, but the open borders and increased trade between the two countries have made Jordan more accessible to the large market for narcotics in Israel. Jordan's financial system is open to abuse because Jordan does not have adequate money laundering laws.

Religious and social norms inhibit the use of illegal drugs in Jordan. The PSD has initiated a program to publicize all major drug seizures and arrests in an effort to deter narcotics trafficking. The PSD along with the Ministry of Health continue their drug-awareness program in public and private schools.

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Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University