Iraqi blogger ordeal at Amman airport

Two Iraqi bloggers recently began talking about a similar subject related to Jordan: the treatment of Iraqis upon entry to the Kingdom. The two are veteran blogger Omar from Iraq the Model and Fayrouz from Fayrouz in Beaumont (who posted a story from her friend in Basra). After reading their posts, I realized that the situation at Jordan’s entry point — particularly when it comes to Iraqis — is far worse than I thought. Not only that, but the tension between these two Arab nations on an individual level seems to be on the rise. I came to this conclusion mostly after reading the last two paragraphs of Omar’s post:

On the next day in the early afternoon, I boarded the plane that was returning to Baghdad with about a dozen other Iraqis. The kind stewardess was apparently familiar with cases like ours and noticed how tired we were so she immediately welcomed us with bottles of cold water and some kind words to comfort us, "There’s a few of you this time, yesterday we returned 75 passengers!" she added.

The guy sitting to my left said "There will be a day when they [Jordanians] will beg us to let them enter Iraq". No, the guy sitting to my right objected. "They were mean to us and they hurt us, but if we do the same we’ll have sunk to their level. Let’s instead hope that one day our country will become a better place."

Jordanian blogger Hamzah added a comment to this post that is worth highlighting in order to get the Jordanian side of the story:

Not only Jordanians, but all Arab nationals were denied entry to Iraq in at least two periods between 2005 and 2006, with the second one being the longest. And the funny thing is, during those periods, only Arab nationalities were denied entry into Iraq. So it’s really not they way the article makes it sound like in the end. Iraq too has played this game in the past, and actually before Jordan, and today, it is Jordan, not Iraq, that has hundreds of thousands of the other country’s citizens living in it.

And when you think about it, it might as well have been a Jordanian saying that quote a couple of years ago about Iraqis, and what happened to you and your friends, was that day that that Jordanian talked about!

The current situation needs to be amended. If Jordan is overwhelmed handling the number of Iraqi visitors to the Kingdom then the international community needs to step in immediately to help Jordan establish a more efficient and humane manner of handing the influx. Fayrouz’s friend ended her post by saying:

I wonder about what’s behind what happened to us in Amman. Isn’t it a violation of human rights to keep us in custody for no reason? Is it humanely proper to keep a child in custody for two days without reason? I just wonder.

Jordan, with the help of the international community, needs to act soon to amend the current situation. My two cents.

Update: Here is a comment from Fayrouz:

It wasn’t me who traveled to Amman. As my post states clearly, it was my friend from Basra who traveled with her family and co-workers to Amman. Every word in the post needs to be attributed to her.

My bad. I amended the post accordingly.

‘Invisible money’ hindering Mideast independent media development

Last week, I got the chance to attend a lecture in Washington, DC delivered by Alghad newspaper CEO Mohammad Alayyan on "Developing Media as a Business Model in Jordan." Alayyan raised some very intriguing points while focusing on what he called the "invisible money" hindering the development of independent media. Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote on the lecture:

Mohammad Alayyan Publisher and CEO of the Jordanian independent daily Alghad, Mohammad Alayyan, cited what he referred to as "invisible money" as one of the major obstacles hindering the progress of independent media outlets in the Arab World. Alayyan who is planning to launch Jordan’s first independent terrestrial and satellite TV station, Al Ghad TV, on June 1 made his remarks during a lecture entitled "Developing Media as a Business Model in Jordan" in Washington, D.C., United States, on March 28.

"Historically, investment in media has not been that great because governments have always invested in the media. People were afraid of opening up media [outlets], so basically it created insufficient funds [for] the development of independent media," Alayyan told the audience at a talk at the Human Rights Campaign building. But this has changed since 2001, according to Alayyan, as investments in the media have dramatically increased in the past few years.

However, Alayyan argues that investments are not made in a transparent way. "A lot of invisible money is going into the media and I think this is one of the major obstacles facing independent media in the Arab World," he said.

Source: [International Journalists’ Network]

You can read the full article here.

Ruba Saqr speaks out on music censorship

I just finished watching a fairly recent interview with Jordanian singer Ruba Saqr, during which she talks about the censorship of musical expression in the Middle East. I enjoyed the interview a great deal, as some points she raised were spot on. I also enjoyed hearing her perform her song I’m a lantern, which is, as I understand it, dedicated to the city of Amman. Ruba’s voice is still just as beautiful as I remember from back in the days when I used to hear her perform in Amman.

Here is a blurb about her and her views.

Having worked as a reporter for several years, Ruba Saqr has written several articles to different Jordanian publications about the need to support underground musicians, and the need to change perceptions of musicians, in particular Arab female musicians in her part of the world. Ruba Saqr believes that female musicians are often reduced to being performers or singers and are seldom acknowledged by producers as full-fledged musicians who can write their own lyrics and music. She has experienced that some female musicians are pushed away from the music scene by society because it is not viewed as a "respectable" vocation, especially in traditional circles.

You can read more here. And you can hear more of her songs along with singer Ramzi Rais here. I love the improvisations on the song Gulli walla tahbaeeh ya 3ein. You can listen to it here. According to the website, Ruba is working on her debut album, which she expects to finish by the end of 2007. I wish her the best of luck.

Jordan retracts limits on ‘single women’ tourists

An outcry from Jordanian tour operators has compelled Amman to backtrack on a controversial new regulation that was intended to limit the entry of single eastern European and North African women into the country. Tour operators throughout the country were notified earlier this week of a new visa regulation issued by Jordan’s Ministry of Interior. The directive stipulated that women traveling alone to Jordan from several eastern European and North African countries would be required to obtain special entry visas.

The ministry notice gave no reason for the new regulation. But tour operators said the conservative government was trying to clamp down on the growing trend of prostitution in Jordan imported by women from these countries.

Source: [The Media Line]

Phew! What were they thinking? I’m glad that if my Moroccan friend Soumia or my Tunisian pal Leilouta ever decided to visit Jordan — on their own — they won’t need a "special entry" visa.

It reminds me of my attempt to get a visa to Dubai from Doha, Qatar a few years ago. I went there with Jeff, but for some reason did not mention that I was married. I just simply requested a visa. The woman in charge of visas at the embassy gave me a hard time, asking me to do a tedious amount of paper work that really baffled me.

However, when I mentioned my husband and pointed to him, she told me: "You should have told me you are married to the American. You can pick up your visa tomorrow." I was later told that Arab single women (along with few other nationalities) applying for a visa to the Emirates usually face some "special" restrictions. The logical explanation I was give for this was the country’s quest to curb prostitution.

I guess somehow being married or maybe being married to "the American" made me much less likely to spread moral corruption. Dangerous, dangerous me!

Quick rant: East Bankers vs. West Bankers

I really do not understand why, in this day and time, there are some people that are still hung up on the issue of East Bankers vs. West Bankers. I’m talking about a comment I received yesterday by someone calling themselves "Fairfax Boy." Here is Fairfax Boy’s contribution to the discussion about Amman’s urban development.

Palestinians built Amman from the ground up. you East Bankers have a lot to learn.

Will we ever evolve beyond this endless and pointless argument? Geez!

King Abdullah: Three potential civil wars

From His Majesty King Abdullah’s interview with the ABC network’s "This Week":

"We could possibly imagine going into 2007 and having three civil wars on our hands," he said, citing conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and the decades-long strife between the Palestinians and Israelis.

I’m not optimistic either. The situation in the Middle East is getting gloomier by the day. I frankly do not see any light at the end of the dark tunnel we are currently going through. No wonder I am reading only fiction these days. Everything else is depressing.