JOrdan


 

 

7iber organized a debate last night that could fall under many categories, social media, activism Jordanian reform, and/or revolutions. They all intersect and because they do a lively discussion was had. Like in any debate you have the people who discuss the topic at hand, the ones that go off on tangents, the ones that bridge the ideas together and the ones that have no clue. Yet everyone had something to say.

 

I was surprised, and happily, with what was said. People discussed the influence of social media tools on organizing and everyone was aware and quickly moved on that these are tools. Yet some of the more poignant questions were: Is social media taking the debate to the next level? Is social media raising the ceiling for traditional media? And Is social media going to spark the next revolution?

 

But discussion that really interested me was one that was about Jordanian reform and political activism. I was pleasantly surprised to hear about political youth movements that have been active since 2006 and the political activity of Jordan in the 1950 and 1960 which had died down after 1967. It was amazing to hear about our first parliament and the political diversity and opposition movements in Jordan of that era, that spoke of anti- monarchy and elected government ideas and such; Ideas that are not new today and have been in our history for over 50 years.  It was bluntly said that 1967 had killed us, put us in a coma. One person went on to say that he grew up in the 80s and 90s with two central ideas Making Jordan a better place and the Palestinian Cause and the two just get so messed up in one’s head after a while.

 

So what happened, other than 1967 and the loss of Palestine? Where did all that political engagement go? Why do we not know about it? It’s right there in our history books and the media archives if we cared to look. Why didn’t we care to look? Speaking to a friend today  about what transpired in the debate, she said  “I was politically disengaged because it so disheartening and defeatist”.  That may capture how people were feeling , alongside many factors such as state propaganda, educational systems that fed us rote memorization and glorification or the system, the lack of political parties, the emergency/ martial law we lived under until the end of the 80s and other factors deaden us to political engagement. The few that did voice their opinions were marginalized and ignored by the media and so nobody really heard of them. Like the Youth groups that staged many a protest since 2006, or the hundreds of strikes and protests that took place just last year in Jordan.

 

But things have changed, and I think that change, that shift goes back to the Gaza Massacres. When Israel was razing Gaza, people mobilized and went out and voiced themselves. This was mostly in the form of humanitarian assistance, volunteerism and vigils and protests. But something clicked in the psyche of the people.  They felt they had a voice, and somewhere to pour their energies outside the shisha bars and cafes, away from television and computer screens.  A lot of what we did see in the past two years is social activism; People wanting and working on social change within their communities. A lot of initiatives old, new and newer became more visible as more and more people found them and engaged with them and thus with the various communities around the country and especially in the capital. And once again regional events have resonated and continue to resonate in Jordan.

 

The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have meant that the social has become political in the Jordanian context. It has sparked a different kind of debate and people have raised the ceiling and are talking about things that they would not have before without their eyes shifting and looking over their shoulders. I think the timing has a huge effect, now after two years of social activism and social work people know they have a voice, know they can make a difference, have seen people in action and are ready to go to the next level. This is where all the reform talk is coming from and this is where our energies need to be spent.

 

The #hashtag debates  are a great way to take the discussion offline and start bringing people who were invisible before into the discussion sphere and make us more aware. It is also time for more opposition voices and reform voices to come online and garner support to their demands online. The #hashtag is one of many things that need to happen.  I am optimistic about the process as we are talking and we are not afraid to speak and point the light at our issues and shortcomings and problems. We are crossing the first of our hurdles and that is the ostrich pose, our denial. What happens next is yet to be seen, and as always I am optimistic.

 

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Yesterday I went to the solidarity demonstration in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Amman. It was a very interesting experience as the crowd was already large at the start and just kept growing. But what was more interesting was the atmosphere, the crowds and the chants. It was something that I don’t think anyone of us would have witnessed a few years back let alone a month ago.

The crowd was mixed in so many ways whether it was age, gender, class, and there was a sprinkling of varied nationalities too. Everyone chanted, mingled and well was in good spirits. The interesting thing for me was the chanting, people were not only saying things in solidarity of the Egyptian uprising but also anti government, anti peace treaty, anti Israeli in the most explicit of ways. They were even taunting the Mukhabart to record in their notebooks that the people are here to make change and are the decision makers.  Maybe I haven’t been to many Jordanian protests before, but I really felt this was different. There was boldness in how and what people were saying. It was as if a muzzle was somewhat removed. This is the second time I see something like this happen to Jordanians (the first being post Gaza Massacres in 2008). Jordanian’s are slowly and in small numbers waking up and finding their voice and it’s a beautiful thing. We need a political awakening and awareness. We need to get out of our comfort zones or fear zones and work towards a more just and equitable society for all. There is a lot of talk of reform and ways to address it from government change to electoral reform and educational reform. This discussion needs to step away from the few and be taken to the streets. This is slowly happening; it will not be the same approach as that of Tunisia or Egypt, not today at least. But these are interesting times and change is coming. We can either be ostriches and ignore what is happening around us or be proactive and actively participate in any which way we can for social and positive change in our society and in the arena where we are most affective.

Back to the demonstration and Egypt, I do want to say that some of the chants were calling for armed resistance and guns and violence. I was very saddened and upset when I heard these chants. The Egyptians out in Tahrir Square are not carrying guns, are not calling for violent resistance and are not building militias. They started and continue to hold up with peaceful resistance. Violence perpetuated in the uprising is initiated and perpetuated by the State and State actors. And if anything  they are perhaps the most conscientious and humorous revolutionaries in history!  We have a lot to learn from the Egyptian protestors, they are not only inspiring, they have started a process of liberation for all of us and to that we must all be grateful.

The past couple of weeks have been very interesting here in Jordan. People are angry but they cant seem to sustain that feeling, or strategically turn it into action. Or thats what it seems like when one day you hear happy honking and then next you hear “angry” discourse. The thing is its the Asian Cup right now and that is smack in the middle of  the planned a day of Anger. Fantastic, but wait we can’t seem to agree to all go out in unity so we are divided. But then forget all of that because our national team has just won a football game. And seeing as how our track record is not the best, this is a big achievement and so everyone is out on the streets celebrating. So how does one have a day of anger and yet had been celebrating the win of our national team? And even if the wave of anger continues, the football team does it again and wins… woohoo GO JORDAN. and we are out celebrating again. I think its very difficult and perhaps even schizophrenic of us to be out celebrating our national team, and be bursting with national pride and yet be angry at our nation state all in the span of 24 hours. And so if the government is to be smart, I would say they would invest in  the Jordanian National Football  and make sure it keeps winning… because nothing puts bread on the table like a good Jordanian goal!

 

And for all those wonderful political analysts out there that will jump at my words and tell me that the situation is more complicated than that… I know this is only one of many factors about what is happening here… and I’m just saying… YAY FOOTBALL!

With everything that is going on around us it is hard for me to stick to my resolution of writing positively. There is so much anger around us. Justified anger, and with it has come violence in a lot of instances.

 

Today in Jordan demonstrations of Anger were reportedly peaceful. To me that is a big and pleasant surprise. Reports of olive branches being given to security forces by demonstrators put a big smile on my face and reminded me of images of flowers in the muzzles of guns in anti war demonstrations. I am happy to see the voices of the people rise. I am happy to see them assemble and march. But I wonder how much change will be affected by this? It is no secret that the marches would not be possible without a security clearance and the government’s approval. So we were “allowed” this freedom of speech today. We were “given” the space and “permission” to march, to chant and to express ourselves about inflation, prices and economy.  I wonder if it would be the same had the issues being protested different.

 

Last night whilst talking with a bunch of friends we said Tunisia is burning, and quickly others replied with and so is Egypt, and Sudan is disintegrating, Lebanon has no government, Jordan is angry and the list is growing. There is a lot of dissatisfaction all around, and with it has come dissidence. The winds of change are here. They are raging storms in some countries and gentle breezes in others. But the wind is gaining speed. You can hear it in people’s conversations and rhetoric and it is about time.

 

 

 

It’s that time again in Jordan when the streets are littered with those photoshoped pictures of middle aged men with mustaches peppered with the occasional female face and salted with the younger faces of men who have inherited the desire to run for a parliamentary seat. But what they all share are the tired old slogans that include nationalism, Palestine, freedom and some sort of economic mumbo jumbo.  What irks me the most is the complete lack of respect for the voters’ intellect and our ability to see right through these slogans.

 

 

For example you have a slogan that reads “نعم, الوطن لجميع’ this translates into “Yes, the homeland is for all”. So what does that really mean? Does that mean as a Jordanian woman I can pass on my nationality to anyone even my Palestinian kids? Does that mean a Jordanian with Palestinian ID no longer has to worry about the arbitrary withdrawal of Jordanian nationality and citizenship? Does that mean a migrant that has been in Jordan for over 20 years, has paid taxes and become part of the Jordanian fabric they can now become a Jordanian citizen and actually vote? What does a homeland for all mean, really mean, on practical terms?

 

 

 

OK let’s move on to another slogan that is about إصلاح or in English reform. Hmmm this guy among others does not say much else on the issue of reform. So my question is with the government already reforming and privatizing so much of its institutions what reform is he talking about? Political reform? I mean some of our biggest problems stem from the fact that as people we do not have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and don’t get me started on the freedom to associate and the new Associations’ Law. Does he want to tackle these issues or is this not reform worth working for?

 
What about the one that calls for a “فلسطين حرة” a free Palestine. Seriously, how will you as an MP work to free Palestine? Will you call for a state boycott on Israeli goods? Will you work to revoke and amend the “negotiated” Peace treaty and create more just and more equitable terms for Jordanians and Palestinians? Or will we wage war? What will you do as an elected MP to Free Palestine?

 

 

 

Another slogan that is interesting and at some level honest “بلا شعارات”  translates into “Without Slogans”. At least this candidate had the decency not to insult us with empty slogans and lofty statements. But even a no slogans campaign is condescending and arrogant for it doesn’t convey the true essence of this candidate’s campaign. When discussing her background it turns out this candidate is a hard core capitalist with a history and track record of working for the Jordan Investment Board and the Chamber Of Commerce which to me are red flags. What agenda will the person who is promising no slogans be pushing and will it be one of social justice and engagement or an elitist, capitalist agenda that will be pushing Jordan further towards a “global economy” whatever that may be?

 

 

 

And don’t get me started on the slogan that drips with religiosity and how it is our religious duty to vote and vote for the right man otherwise condemnation and eternal hell await us!

 

 

 

We as voters need to look critically at these slogans and read, question, and critic the agendas and manifestos of these candidates if we truly want change. Voting for the same mustache, same slogan, and same tired old parliament will bring us nothing but the status quo.  And it is this status quo that got us to disband the parliament we last elected and has us come back to this same place again where we as a nation get to “choose” our representatives.

 

 

 

I would really like to find a candidate that has engaged with the street, the public, on a grassroots level. Someone who has not just intellectually masturbated in political salons about what this country “needs”. I would love to see the day come when I don’t have to try and sift through names I don’t know and read through empty slogans and agendas but engage with an MP that shares my politics, values and beliefs and is able to represent the people and what they desire rather than the will of the government masked as the “voice of the people”. I would love to find a candidate that has started working on issues for the people, is from the people way before election campaigns start. I want a candidate that has tried to instigate positive change within our communities and societies because it’s the right thing to do, and is a way of life for them, not because they aspire to be and Member of Parliament or Cabinet one day.

 

 

 

 

Until that day comes I will vote because it is my political right to vote. As engaged responsible citizens it is our duty to go and vote. Because I count, you count and you count and you count… we all count and when we are counted our voices can be heard. Members of Parliament are our representatives in government. They are the voice of the people. Today we have a choice to make, remain silent and take the day off come Election Day, or go to a polling station and vote. And when we vote we also make a choice we can either choose to make a difference and keep the status quo by voting for someone, anyone even if they don’t carry our message or ideals or desires for a society, a better Jordan, because they are the lesser of all evils present or we can choose change.  But how if we don’t choose a candidate you ask? By voting blank.

 

 
If change doesn’t manifest it’s self in the form of a candidate then you can choose change by voting blank. Write in NO CONFIDENCE, I DON’T WANT ANY OF YOU, Captain Majed from Abtal Al Mala3eb or your own name even, just make sure you have a ballot and you use it. That ballot may or may not be counted in the results but you as voter will be counted towards voter turnout and THAT is a significant message rather than the one of apathy sent by sipping a coffee from the comfort of your home or favorite café. It is a strong message of a politically engaged and aware citizenship that is tired of the same old crap over and over and over again. Because voting for the lesser of all evils is voting for the status quo, and the status quo just won’t do anymore.

 

Last month I was asked to do an iReport for CNN about Breast Cancer Awareness. And as I was thinking about what to say it was clear to me that I also had to write and tell my story in a little bit more than 60 seconds! Breast cancer and cancer in general is not a new or strange concept in our worlds. However if you are anything like me, its something that is in the darkest corner of my mind. I know its there I just pretend not to hear its voice saying “Shalabieh, you need to get checked, for your sake just make sure everything is OK and you are healthy.” I ignore the voice because I feel great, I feel fine but cancer doesn’t work like that.

Jordan Breast Cancer Program

Jordan Breast Cancer Program

Last year the voice got out of my head and when into the real world. I first heard about it on the radio, in a cab heading to the office. Then I saw a massive billboard, and flyers everywhere. It was a national campaign in full force: The Jordan Breast Cancer Program was launched. And it was only a matter of time before I responded to all those ads. I called the support line and learned about free breast exams, subsidized mammograms and where I can get them and how much they were and who the participating doctors are and where their clinics are located. I talked to my colleagues about it and my friends. We all knew the importance of getting checked, but we all managed to somehow put it off.

Our breasts, no matter how prominent they are, are often ignored- especially when it comes to their health. But after ignoring the health of my breasts for a long while (20 years of carrying these babies around), I FINALLY went to my gynecologist and asked her to teach me how to do a self breast exam. It was awkward and strange having my doctor play with my boobs, coz that’s what it felt like. But buy the end of those 10 minutes I was cleared and I had gotten a tutorial! I can now do the exams myself and I get an excuse to play with boobs (not that one needs an excuse)! But on a more serious note I got some very good advice which included:
• The self breast exam should be done monthly
• The best time to do it is after a period
• It is best to do the exam standing up in front of a mirror. But If you have large breasts then you may want to do it lying down
• If you have a fast paced life and no time then you can check your breasts when you are in shower and soaping up
I won’t go into how to do the actual exam as I am not qualified to do so, but I will say this: it’s easy, it’s fast and it can save your life.

My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and she is a survivor, she was lucky she caught it early and is recovering nicely. You can be lucky too, but you will never know unless you go that first time and learn about this disease, and learn how to catch it in its tracks. Don’t ignore your breasts, go play with your boobs and if you need advice then check the The Jordan Breast Cancer Program’s Website for more information. Be healthy, be safe and spread the word you may save someone else’s life too.

I love this city and I love all it has to offer. I don’t believe I need to spend excessive amounts of money to enjoy myself here. And since I am always asked what should one do in the city – well here are 10 ideas that cost less than 10 JD to enjoy. Some of them even cost less!

1- Take any one of tens of stairs leading downtown from the surrounding Jabals- the ones in Jabal Amman are especially charming.
Cost: Zero

2- Enjoy a meal at any one of these restaurants- they have all been around for ages and are considered institutions amongst Ammannis:
• Hashem, downtown- 24 hour service in the heart of the city
• Al Quds restaurant, downtown- great traditional foods- must try the molokhia, & the crème caramel
• The Orient Bar aka Abu Ahmad, downtown- amazing grilled meats – must try the 3arayes
• Habiba, Downtown- Knafeh, knafeh, knafeh
• Tamriet Omar, Second Circle- Tamrieh and other traditional sweets
• Falafel Al Quds, Rainbow Street- Falafel sandwiches
• Shawerma Reem, Second Circle- Meat Shawerma (I’m not a fan but it’s a must to have had at least one if you live in Amman or are visiting)
Cost: Anywhere between 0.300 JD – 8 JD

3- A walk through Jabal Alweibdeh and its galleries. These include: The National Gallery for Arts, Makan, Darat Al Funun, Dar Al Anda, Darat Al Tasweer, and Mo7taref Al Rimal.
Cost: JD 3 entrance to the National Gallery

4- Making a kite in Jabal Al Qala’a- Befriend one of the kids and have them teach you.
Cost: 2- 3 JD

5- Walk through the Jabal Amman neighborhoods around the first and second circles in the cool summer night and smell the amazing jasmine bushes.
Cost: Zero

6- Sit out on a street café on Rainbow street. I highly recommend Duninde Café for the quiet cozy atmosphere and the hustle and bustle is a lot less on that end of the road.
Cost: A cup of coffee is about 3 JD

7- Sit on the hillside of Jabal Alweibdeh (the side facing Jabal Amman and the road leading downtown) and listen to the call to prayer vibrate and resonate through the valleys. Its so beautiful.
Cost: Zero

8- Find a good look out spot to East Amman in Jabal Amman and watch the day end and sunset reflected on the opposite hills. The colors are magnificent.
Cost: 0 – 5 JD depending on your choice of spot and beverage selection.

9- For an explosion of colors, sounds, smells and tastes walk through the vegetable markets of downtown. There are two a covered one and an outdoor one. Both are fun, noisy loud places.
Cost: Zero if you can resist buying the fresh produce!

10- Joining the Fast Walk on a Sunday or Wednesday evening for a power walk with over 100 people! The walks explore the city with 8 different routes leading you through the back streets of Amman on foot.
Cost: Zero

Feel free to share or start your own lists. I’d love to hear how you enjoy this city. Especially if you can do it for under 10 JD 😉

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