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August 29 2012

Jordan: A Black Day to Protest Internet Censorship

Jordanian websites have gone offline today [August 29, 2012] in protest against proposed government censorship plans and new restrictions on the Internet.

Hundreds of websites have gone black, in order to draw attention to the new legislation and its dangers. The sites have a black background, with a note which reads:

You may be deprived of the content of this sire under the amendments of the Jordanian Press and Publications Law and the governmental Internet censorship

First, the government gave the go ahead to block websites. Now, a new Publications Law, which allows for more control and censorship over the Internet, has also been approved as a draft.

According to Al Ghad newspaper [ar], the Jordanian government approved amendments to the Publications and Press Law, which now require the owners of websites to register with the government and obtain a license, “just like any other publication.” Owners of websites will also be made responsible for the content of comments published by readers on their sites.

The draft law will now have to be approved by Parliament to become an actual law.

In response, a new blog named 7or ya net (You are free, Internet) [ar] has been launched to protest against the government's attempt to censor the Internet and spread awareness about filtering and freedom of speech. And this Jordan blackout campaign is one of its efforts to draw attention to the state of the Internet should Jordan be allowed to curtail people's freedom online with new laws.

According to 7or ya net:

The draft was swiftly sent to the Parliament, and it was discussed during the extraordinary session on Sunday 25th of August. A second hearing will be held on Thursday the 30th of August. This is why we’re holding this blackout and need your support.

The campaign is having wide support across Jordanian platforms. Jo24.net says [ar] that more than 750 websites have joined the campaign.

On Twitter, web entrepreneur Ahmed Humeid announced at midnight, just as the campaign started:

@humeid: Over 150 sites in Jordan are going black, including the country's top new sites, to protest laws that restrict internet freedom #blackoutjo

He continued:

@humeid: Not just news sites, but major business sites are joining the internet blackout in jordan. #blackoutjo #FreeNetJo

And Aramran Web TV warned:

@aramram: Support #freenetJO or enjoy #blackoutJO the rest of ur life

Screen shot of the Jeeran homepage in black

Screen shot of the Jeeran homepage in black in protest against new laws which aim to restrict the Internet in Jordan

All day, sites advertised their support for the campaign. Here is one example:

@Jeeran: #Jeeran is supporting the blackout and going black against a censored Web in #JO http://jo.jeeran.com #BlackOutJo #FreeNetJo #Amman

And those who didn't join the campaign will face a backlash from activists.

Web/mobile technologist Razan Khatib tweets:

@razano: I unfollowed @khaberni because they didn't join #BlackoutJo #freenetjo

To follow the story, check out the Twitter hash tags #BlackoutJo and #freenetjo

August 22 2012

Jordan: Say No to Internet Censorship

Jordan is slipping into a black hole, with new restrictions on Internet freedom approved by the government today [August 22, 2012]. First, the government gave the go ahead to block websites. Now, a new Publications Law, which allows for more control and censorship over the Internet, has has been given the go ahead.

According to Al Ghad newspaper [ar], the Jordanian government approved amendments to the Publications and Press Law, which now require the owners of websites to register with the government and obtain a license, “just like any other publication.” Owners of websites will also be made responsible for the content of comments published by readers on their sites.

The draft law will now gave to be approved by Parliament to become a law.

Jordanian blogger Moey shares a series of videos protesting recent moves to censor the Internet in his country.

Moey's post is entitled Say No and the body of the post reads:

Not writing a single word, watch and judge!

Here are the videos:

This is the censored Moey:

Here's a censored Sarah:

And this is Omar, after he has been censored:

On Facebook, Jordan's former ICT minister Marwan Juma addresses a letter to the Jordanian government. In it he says:

I have an obligation to speak up! Not because I ran the first company that brought email to jordan, or was one the founders of Jordan’s REACH initiative, and not because I recently served as Minister of ICT, but because what is taking place in our sector, namely the attempt to censor the Internet, is simply wrong if not bone-headed!

Among the reasons he gives for his refusal of censorship are:

1. It doesn’t work!

Countries who tried to block sites failed and failed miserably! It costs millions and simply doesn’t work!

Juma adds:

2. There are laws in place already!

There is a cybercrime law in Jordan that specifically addresses the issue of promoting pornography to minors with stiff penalties and jail terms! And t

his is the real threat here and it already has been addressed. So why complicate matters now?

And continues:

3. Where do we draw the line?

First it starts with porn and then it could evolve to other sites or issues that are deemed offensive! We are opening a pandora’s box here that will be impossible to close. And if we block sites do we want to block email that contains adult images and videos? Or block satellite TV that contains nudity? Where do we draw the line here?

He concludes:

Let us keep the Internet open and free and maintain Jordan's position as a vanguard in the IT industry and protect our image as a country of openness and tolerance.

Check out the link above for the rest of Juma's arguments.

7or ya net

7or ya net: Jordanian netizens are encouraged to use this image as their profile picture in social media to protest against Internet censorship

Also, a new blog named 7or ya net [ar] (You are free, Internet) has been launched to protest against the government's attempt to censor the Internet and spread awareness about filtering and freedom of speech.

In its latest post, the site says:

في الربع الثاني من عام ٢٠١٢، بدأ الحديث من قبل الحكومة الأردنية ومجموعة من المواطنيين عن نيتهم تمرير قوانيين وقرارات لحجب المواقع على الإنترنت على اساس أن محتواها يشكل خطورة على المواطنيين. وبالفعل قررت الحكومة الأردنية مؤخراً تطبيق سياسة حجب المواقع والوصاية الحكومية بأن أصدرت قراراً لحجب المواقع الإباحية، كمدخل سهل لتمريربسط سلطتها التقديرية في منع مواقع لأسباب “يشكل محتواها خطورة على المواطنيين”
In the second quarter of 2012, the Jordanian government and some citizens started talking about their plans to approve laws which would censor sites on the Internet under the pretext that its content posed a danger to people. In fact, the Jordanian government has lately implemented its policy to block sites and instill the government's custody over people by issuing an order ti block pornographic sites. This is an easy excuse to use its power and block sites “whose contents pose a danger to people.”
قطاعات كبيرة من المواطنيين وشركات تكنولوجيا المعلومات والمحتوى الرقمي ترى أن سياسة حجب المواقع والوصاية والرقابة الحكومية على المحتوى الموجود على الانترنت تعطي الحكومات صلاحيات كبيرة لا يمكن ضمان عدم إساءة إستعمالها ضد مواطنيها وهدر حقك كمواطن في حرية التعبير وتلقي المعلومات والشفافية، والإستفادة من خصائص شبكة الإنترنت في كونها شبكة مفتوحة متصلة ومرفق عام لجميع الناس ليبدعوا ويشاركوا ويتحاوروا مع بعضهم البعض
A lot of people and information technology and digital content companies view the government's censorship, custody, and monitoring of the Internet as an attempt to give it [the government] far reaching powers which we have no guarantee the government would not abuse and take away your right as a citizen to freedom of expression, accessing information, transparency and benefiting from the characteristics of the world wide web, which is an open interconnected web, and a public space for people to share their creativity and engage with each other.

August 08 2012

Jordan: “When Monaliza Smiled” a step towards World Cinema

The makers of the movie “When Monaliza Smiled” presented their cinema experience to the public in a special screening in the Jordanian capital, Amman, recently. The comedy relates a love story between Monaliza, a young Jordanian woman, and Hamdi, the Egyptian courier. It is presented in parallel with other side stories, which reveal the multitude of Amman's layers that have still not been shown in Jordanian movies.

On 7iber website, Jordanian blogger Nasseem Tarawnah express his admiration for the movie:

Without giving too much away, the film tells the tale of a young Jordanian woman named Monaliza who falls in love with an Egyptian office boy, Hamdi. But to cast this as just another love story would be a mistake, for beyond the layers is a woman struggling to free herself from societal pressures, gain independence, escape an impoverished status quo, and find the kind of happiness that could finally draw a smile from her ordinarily resolute face.

لما ضحكت الموناليزا

When Monaliza Smiled - a screenshot from the movie

Fadi Zaghmout also comments on the movie in his blog “The Arab Observer”:

The film that is set to hit local theaters soon is another major milestone that highlights the emergence of a dream to create a film industry in Jordan. The film industry which is still at its infancy, has no pre-set formulas, no expectations and no previous success stories to copy. All what it has is some very well trained and talented young Jordanians who are courageous enough to take on the challenge of doing their own experimentation and carve the stone for generations to come.ا

Naser for his part tackles the movie from another  angle. His blog post is entitled “When Monaliza Smiled and Nayfe Cried.” He writes:

سمحوا لي أن أأجل الحديث عن موناليزا وضحكتها قليلاً وأبدأ بنايفة. نايفة، هي الشخصية المزعجة، الدفشة، اللئيمة، الجبارة في فيلم “لمّا ضحكت موناليزا” […] أشكر صانعي الفيلم، وتحديداً فادي، لكتابة أدوار صادقة، وبالأخص، لإعطاء ممثلتين كبيرتين مثل نادرة عمران وهيفاء الآغا أدواراً معقدة يستطعن من خلالها إظهار معدنهنّ المبدع، بعيداً عن ما تعوّدنا أن نراه من إنتاجنا الأردني. بالنسبة لي، ما أظهرتاه على الشاشة هو تكريم لموهبتيهما، تفوق بكثير التكريمات الرسمية الشكلية.
Allow me to postpone the discussion a little bit on Monaliza and her smile and start with Nayfe. The annoying character, the rude, the villain, the presumptuous in the movie “When Monaliza Smiled” […] I thank the movie makers especially Fady for having written honest characters and especially for having given two great actresses like Nadra Omran and Hayda el Agha complex roles where they can show through them their creative personality which differs from what we got used to seeing in our Jordanian productions. For me, what they did show on screen was a tribute to their talent which is way more important than any official formal honors.

On Twitter, producer Nadia Eleiwat who produced the movie using her own resources, said:

@‬NadiaEliewat:عندما ابتسم الحب بوجه موناليزا ضحكت موناليزا. هل ستقوم بمشاهدته؟#JO.
When love smiled to Monaliza, Monaliza smiled, will you watch it ?

Ola Eliwat praises the movie's music:

@ola_eliwat: And by the way, amazing music!

Hazem Zuraikat is also in awe:

@hazem: فيلم “لمّا ضحكت موناليزا” جهد عظيم وإنجاز أردني يستحق كل الدعم. تحية لفريق العمل وكل من ساهم في إنجاحه.
“When Monaliza Smiled” is a great effort and a Jordanian accomplishment which deserves all support. I salute the work team and everyone who contributed to it.

Reem al Masri also shares this opinion:

‪@‬reemalmasri: Soooooo PROUD of “When Monaliza Smiled” for taking film production in #JO to another level. Cant wait to c it in cinemas

To know more about the movie you can follow its news on Facebook or Twitter and here is the trailer for a taste of what the movie offers:

August 01 2012

Jordan: Internet freedom - the beginning of the end?

Advocating for personal freedoms and a continued open Internet in Jordan, Ahmad Humeid, designer, brand architect and web entrepreneur, blogged at 360east: “Over the past decade, Jordan has been steadily building a reputation in the region as the Silicon Valley of Arabia. Scores of web and mobile start ups are mushrooming in the country. Social media companies are on the rise. A vibrant social conversation is evolving in the country.
But our free internet way of life, which we have enjoyed since the introduction of the commercial internet in the country since 1995, is now under threat. Real threat.”
Read Ahmad's full post here.

July 27 2012

Jordan: The Fate of Syrian Refugees

The situation in Syria has led hundreds of thousands of Syrians to flee the country, and many have gone to neighbouring Jordan. A Jordanian government source has said that officials are preparing for the possible arrival of up to one million Syrians.

The government has given the UN permission to establish up to 22 refugee camps in northern Jordan. Until now thousands of Syrians have been seeking refuge in Jordanian towns and cities, many depending on the support of charitable organisations and individuals.

American journalism students Matt Kauffman and Melissa Tabeek have written about the plight of Syrian refugees in Jordan:

Since March of last year, the number of Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan has increased at an exponential rate. What started as a trickle has turned into a flood; in the past two months the amount of “persons of concern” registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, has leapt from 13,933 to about 24,000 – an increase of about 70 percent. But the real number is closer to 120,000, experts say. While Jordan has long been a safe haven for refugees throughout the Arab world – some estimates say that there are already 2 million Palestinian, Iraqi and Libyan refugees in this country of 6.5 million Jordanians – the situation with Syrians is special. The influx from the north poses a dilemma. The Jordanian government has not officially recognized them as refugees, but rather “guests” of the country. Unlike neighboring Turkey – which is harboring Syrian refugees in traditional tented camps – Syrians in Jordan are finding safety in cities and villages scattered throughout the kingdom, stretching already limited resources in a country that depends on outside aid. Safety does not always spell decency though; Syrian families sometimes numbering in the double digits are confined to a few small rooms inside overrun apartments.

Fawaz Bilbeisi noted:

@fbilbeisi: #Jordan king announced that security along border w/ #Syria is tightened but Syrian refugees fleeing violence will still be allowed 2 enter

The UN Refugee Agency expressed its thanks:

@Refugees: In times like these, we really are grateful that #Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey maintain open borders & that #refugees are being welcomed. #Syria

Syrian Women's Association, Amman. Photo by EskewMe, used with permission.

Blogger EskewMe has visited the Syrian Women's Association in Amman:

Um Eysam, the director of the Syrian Women's Association, in Amman, Jordan says that they have registered around 4,000 refugees since the war began in Syria, and they are struggling to manage serving them with food, residences, water, and medical treatment as it is. They expect that the next wave of refugees coming from Damascus to be the largest and the funding for their stay in Jordan to be the most difficult. At least 100 to 350 refugees arrive at the Syrian Women's Association every night, and the number is increasing every day, another director of the organization said. […] In the building directly next door, a residence also funded by the Syrian Women's Association, another large group of injured Syrian refugees are awaiting medical treatment. Men speak of how they were attacked during anti-goverment protests months ago and why treatment for their injuries have still not been adequately cared for by the Jordanian services. One man is on a pair of crutches after being stabbed in the arm and stomach by government authorities in a village outside of Damascus more than three months ago. Another 16-year-old beside him tells why he has lost the use of his left arm completely, due to the failure to obtain proper treatment. Without much faith that they will receive any treatment in Jordan, they are on both on the waiting list for surgery in other countries, such as Germany and Egypt.

Syrian refugees in Amman. Photo by EskewMe, used with permission.

In this video produced by Melissa Tabeek (MelissaMary52), Syrian refugee children tell their stories:

June 27 2012

Jordan: Women's Basic Rights for Dignity and Social Cohesion

Over 200 people created a human chain in the streets of Amman on the afternoon of Monday June 25, 2012, holding signs demonstrating a stand against crimes in the name of honor, harassment, nationality discrimination against children of Jordanian women, and rapists allowed to marry their victims to avoid prosecution.

Amman, June 25, 2012. Human chain for dignity.<br />Photo by KarmaT.

Amman, June 25, 2012. Human chain for dignity.
Photo by KarmaT.

Your honor is not about me. To each, honor is in the self.
Photo by Andareee.

The human chain demonstration themed زيّي زيّك  (There Is No Difference Between You and Me), included dozens of statements held up confidently demanding change in laws, behavioral change, defining the need for women's rights that impact the cohesion of society as a whole, and asserting a need for urgent and vital transformation in Jordan.

Lead by the grassroots movement Ayna Naqef (Where Do We Stand? a No Honor In Crime campaign), the collaboration included My Mother is Jordanian and Her Nationality is My Right, and Mush Shatara (Not Being Smart), and Against article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code, as well as concerned independent individuals.

In an organizing note, curator Toleen Touq, who ignited the chain reaction wrote:

We are a group of women and men, some independent, and some from community campaigns, jointly planning for a human chain that aims at a communal refusal of all discriminatory practices against women in Jordan.

My mother is Jordanian, her nationality is my right.
Photo by Frekeeh.

On AndFarAway, Roba Al-Assi blogged:

Let me remind you that in our country, the system legally allows a man to go rape any little girl on the street and then get away with his crime by marrying her.

Let me remind you that in our country, over 112 Jordanian women were brutally murdered by their own families for “honor” in the past 10 years. Of course, our penal law happily condones this.

Let me remind you that in our country, the laws are sexist, unjust, and greedy, so my children cannot take on my nationality just because I happen to be a woman.

Let me remind you that in our country, as women, articles 97, 98, 100, 340, and 345 affect our safety and our well-being in our own country.

Let me remind you that in our country, people have turned the word “honor” into blasphemy.

Rozan Khalifeh of No Honor In Crime talks about the human chain in this AmmonNews video [ar]:

Most of those present here today are young women, men, and older mothers and fathers from all walks of our Jordanian society. We are here to reject actions that harm women, and all laws that discriminate against women. We are all here to support each other and take a stand for the movements that support women's rights. Some passersby have also stopped their cars and joined us in this stand. Our calls to action are related to social behaviors as well as laws. Although some of us belong to initiatives and movements that are independent of each other, we have made a point to join forces on specific efforts, like today's human chain, so as to better serve our goals and strengthen our legal voice towards getting heard in the house of representatives.

More in this video report from AlGhad TV [ar].

Take a look at the photos and slogans Roba compiled on her blog, the No Honor In Crime album and Frekeeh's blog album here.

Don't dump your sexual frustration on me (left).
It's not cool to meow me and ogle me (right).
Photo by Saleh Thaher.

May 18 2012

Jordan: Jordanians Say “Thank You!” to Monarchy

Jordanian Twitter users have been using the hashtag #شكرا, or “thank you”, to tweet sarcastically about what the Jordanian monarchy has done for the country.

The tweets are a reaction to the slowness of the ongoing reform process in Jordan.

While King Abdullah has acknowledged the need for reform in Jordan, he has been criticised for not establishing a timetable for the introduction of governments based on a parliamentary majority. He recently appointed a new government, but it is seen as too conservative and MPs have complained of “elusiveness” in introducing real reforms.

Jordan's King Abdullah II arrives to attend the swearing in ceremony of the new 30-member Cabinet, at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan. Photo by Nader Daoud, copyright @ Demotix (2/5/2012).

Mahmoud Homsi started the hashtag by tweeting:

@Mahmoudhomsi: #شكرا‬‏ على الاستقلال الاقتصادي
Thank you for economic independence

Monther Hassouneh added:

@mhassouneh:#شكرا‬‏ على محاربة الفقر
Thank you for fighting poverty

Nabil Barqawi wrote:

@Bani_2adam:#شكرا‬‏ على بيع كل ما يمكن بيعه
Thank you for selling whatever can be sold

Hadeel Maaitah tweeted:

@girl_brainy:‫#شكرا‬‏ على إختصار وجودنا بلقمة العيش
Thank you for reducing our existence to [chasing after] bread to eat

Saif Abuhazeem said:

@Saif_Abuhazeem:#شكرا‬‏ لالي حكا ماضون بالاصلاح وبعدنا ما شفنا اشي
Thank you to those who said, “We're going ahead with reforms”, while we still haven't seen anything

Mohammad Ziad wrote:

@mohaziad:#شكرا‬‏ لجهاز الدرك العام على جهوده في قمع المطالبين بالإصلاح
Thank you for the existence of the police who suppress those who ask for reform

Anas Elayyan said:

@AnasElayyan ‫#شكرا‬‏ لمجلس النواب انهم بدهم رواتب مدى الحياة و الناس ما معها تآكل
Thank you for the parliament whose members want salaries for life while people don't have food to eat

April 22 2012

Jordan: New Website for Short Stories

Project Pen is an initiative to promote short story writing by Arabs and “encourage a new generation of writers, creating new kinds of stories, for a new kind of readership”. By sharing stories across social media, and by connecting writers with each other, Project Pen intends to bypass traditional publishing and take storytelling “back to a future when stories were carved out on cave walls, and spoken out over the camp fire”. You can find out more at the project's website (in Arabic and English), and on Facebook and Twitter.

March 24 2012

Jordan: One Year On, Tensions Building Up

It's March 24th, 2012 - a year after the weekend that shocked Jordan domestically, further exacerbating a lethargic reform effort. It is the anniversary of the weekend when a diverse group of Jordanians took to the streets of Amman with the intent of open peaceful protest and were met with a counter group that called itself ‘Home Calling' (Nidaa Watan). Nidaa Watan chanted in the name of their allegiance to King Abdullah, branded with symbols of patriotism, carrying pictures of the king as their tone and language grew in aggression. Global Voices curated some reactions from March 24th and March 25th, 2011.

Reflecting on that weekend, Mohanned al-Arabiat wrote last year on the citizen media site 7iber:

I won’t get into their funding and logistical support, but let me just say this: it had government hands all over it.The group set up a page on Facebook. The rhetoric was extremely fascist, with threats of violence and even a holocaust against the March 24 guys. Some commentators even quoted Hitler. The intention to harm was there for all the world to see it. One has to wonder if the state “saw” it.

In real life. The scene was ugly, but ONE thing was clear: One side was peaceful, the other side was not (read here). One side was hurling stones and insults, the other side was not.

Mohanned's observations continued:

Don’t say we are not ready or worthy of liberty and dignity. It is not about democracy, for democracy is but a tool. It is about us. Our humanity. Our innate dignity and God-given right to liberty. Hate and violence spewed by groups formed around the wrong values don’t indict the individuals, for individuals are less likely to hurt and be evil when “alone” or when they are detached from the aforementioned groups. Lets build groups around our rights.

Today, a year later, protests continue, tensions are growing, and Jordan is more fragmented than ever with evident reform talk fatigue. On one end, cases revealing years of rampant corruption are the talk of anyone and everyone. Repetitive failure towards political reform, government mismanagement of the economy and the absence of action-driven engaged public discourse. Occasional youth violence in the streets and on campus resulting in detainment. And a vocal condemnation of anything related to political and economic decisions of the last decade amid the absence of learned and sincere reflection on what worked and what didn't. And on the other end a playing down of these tensions or what seems like a blasé disregard to the need for better listening and to radically change our ways. New chasms surfacing, and the old deepening.

The Public Security Department (PSD), the Gendarmerie (Darak), and the General Intelligence Department (GID) have successfully managed to prevent mayhem with little confrontation and aggression with the street. However, I believe that the tense public discourse and ongoing protests echo a political, economic, social and cultural pressure cooker. The crisis? A failure to communicate.

Reflecting on March 24 and the year, last night Tayseer Al Kloob blogged (Ar):

أين الأردنيين؟ هل اكتفوا من هذا الحلم؟ ما هذه الأعداد التي لا توصل الصوت؟ هل سئم الناس؟ هل اكتفوا؟ هل نسوا؟ هل شبعوا؟ هل تحقق حلمهم؟ أين أبطال الديجيتال بالآلاف على الفيسبوك والتويتر؟ أنا يا سادتي المراقبين لا أحرّض بل أتساءل وأستفسر، فأنا شاب أردني بسيط لا يملك لهذا الوطن من خير أو شر إلا حلما يحمله في قلبه الصغير.
Where are the Jordanians? Have they had enough of this dream? What are these numbers with no voice? Are people fed up? Have they forgotten? Are they satiated? Has their dream come true? Where are the thousands of digital heroes from Facebook and Twitter? I am not provoking, but rather merely asking, as I'm a simple Jordanian and for this nation I hold a dream in my little heart.

This week in Amman, a series of events and debates are planned that aim to take stock of the year and delve into where some civic movements stand. Throughout the week, Global Voices will curate some of these conversations camped on:

- #JoDebate, today evening, March 24, by the Jordan Debate Club on whether the movement that continues to take to the streets is representative of Jordanians.
- #MaqhaAmman, Tuesday March 27th, by Maqha Amman AlSiyasi (Café Politique-Amman) a conversation among participants of last year's Dakhliyeh Circle protests.
- #HashtagDebates, Saturday March 31st, by 7iber.com debating the repercussions of the March 24 protests on the political scene and Jordan's reform movement.

February 19 2012

Jordan: Corporate Twitter Accounts are Stupid

Corporate Twitter accounts are stupid, says Jordanian blogger Roba Al Assi. Click here to learn why.

February 12 2012

Jordan: The Gay Husband

The Arab Observer, from Jordan, posts a letter he got from a reader who discovered that her husband was gay.

October 23 2011

Jordan: Alternative Voices on the World Economic Forum

From October 21 to 23, the Dead Sea, Jordan hosted the World Economic Forum's Special Meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Arab World. Jordan has had a long relationship with the World Economic Forum (WEF) since the mid nineties, and a range of projects have been associated with the forum over the years with lots of glamor and hype.

This year as the Arab world continues to awaken and reshape its existence, a vocal and alternative narrative is growing, taking stock of such WEF associated projects in light of Jordan and the region's current challenges.

Over the past few days, I joined forces with an independent group of Jordanians and we co-authored this post published on the WEF's blog titled Voices from Jordan: An Alternative Narrative where we question Jordan's performance and track record with the WEF.

Through embracing a paradigm that strips economics of its political context, glazes over crucial issues with superficial platitudes, and fails to deliver, the economic dogmas of the past thirty years, promoted at institutions like the World Economic Forum (WEF), have failed to regulate markets or ensure equitable and sustainable economic growth.
As a group of Jordanians whose country frequently hosts the World Economic Forum, we have been reflecting on this involvement. Several critical issues arise: Click to read full post.

On Twitter, nerd Farah Ghneim, asks:

It doesn't matter that Jordan is full of people with potential. Everywhere is. What matters: why does the system fail them? #OccupyWEF #WEF

Urban activist, Raghda Butros, takes stock:

An education initiative was launched in ‘03 with #WEF. Today the quality of education in Jordan is in sharp decline. #OccupyWEF

Economist Ibrahim Saif shared his lack of conviction:

I am not very encouraged about the WEF and what it offers to the marginalized, there is a need for a new thinking. That won't come from WEF.

While attending the entrepreneurship lunch, Dina Shoman, head of branding at the Arab Bank tweeted:

10 years of discussion on #entrepreneurship there is a failure to launch from regulatory and governments side #wef #jo

Her Highness Princess Ghida Talal, chairperson of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation commented and couldn't resist retweeting:

Too funny and too true not to RT “@ThorayaER: Schwab at #WEF introducing all Their Excellencies. So many Excellencies, so little excellence!

For more reactions, follow the conversation on Twitter camped on the hashtags #WEF and #OccupyWEF, and on the WEF blog.

October 17 2011

Jordan: New Government, Expectations and Hope!

Jordan saw the appointment of a new prime minister today after the majority of parliamentarians sent a letter to King Abdullah, pointing out grievances with Dr Marouf Bakhit's government. Bakhit submitted his resignation, which was accepted by the King.

In addition to the MPs letter, Bakhit's ouster was the result of widespread anti-government protests which have been taking place in the kingdom since his appointment. Replacing Marouf Bakhit is Awn Khasawneh, an international judge.

Netizens have already reacted to today's fast paced developments on Twitter. Jordanian Fadi Samara expressed his disappointment with the constant reshuffling in cabinet positions.

@Fadisamara: Woke up to a new Government in #Jordan. Who is this Khasawneh? When will this destructive reshuffling act stop?

Mohammad Abandah is happy and optimistic with the changes. He noted [ar]:

أنا سعيد ومتفائل جدا بتعيين دولة عون الخصاونة رئيسا للوزارء في الأردن فهو شخص شريف مثقف ومشهود له بالإخلاص للوطن الحق والعدالة

@MoAbandah: I'm happy and very optimistic because Awn Khasawnah was appointed Prime Minister in Jordan, he's a honorable person, educated and known for his loyalty to the homeland and to the truth and justice.

Ghiya Rushidat is loving the suspense accompanying all what's going on in the Jordanian political scene. She remarked:

@GhiyaRushidat: Love the suspense of new government & anticipate ministry of culture, education, foreign affairs, interior & social development

Naseem Tarawnah wanted more changes. He said:

@tarawnah: I wonder if aside from these senior positions, whether we'll see massive overhaul of middle-management in Jordan's public sector.

And Anas H. Natour was surprised. He tweeted [ar]:

والله ما نمت غير ساعتين .. صحيت البلد كلها مقلوبة
@AnasNatour: I swear i only slept 2 hours, i woke up finding that the country is upside down!
Thumbnail image of Jordan flag by Flickr user Argenberg (CC BY 2.0).

October 06 2011

Jordan: Prince Hassan Joins Twitter!

Jordan's Prince Hassan joins Twitter, much to the delight of many Jordanian tweeps. He is the son of the late King Talal and Queen Zein al-Sharaf and brother of the late King Hussein and uncle of the present King Abdullah II.

The Jordanian royal, who was Crown Prince from 1965 to 1999, is the third member of the royal family to go on Twitter. The other high profile relatives as Queen Noor Al Hussein, King Hussein's widow, and Queen Rania Al Abdullah, King Abdullah's wife.

Prince Hassan was popular among Jordanian tweeps, who had taken to tweeting his appearances on television and whenever he speaks in public. Now he makes the plunge and joins the Jordanian Twitterati.

akrumidrees tweets the reasons why he is happy Prince Hassan has joined Twitter:

لأنك ترى رجلا يستحق الإحترام يعي ما يقول ويواكب روح العصر ونهجه المعرفي تركة للأردن بأكمله

Because you see a man who deserves respect; he realises what he is talking about and is tune with the spirit of this era and knowledge. He is an asset to Jordan.

Ahead of his appearance on AmmanTT (Amman Tech Tuesdays) where the Prince was scheduled to give a session about “Continuity, Innovation and Change: Building a Knowledge Economy,” he created his Twitter account (@HRHPrinceHassan), which attracted hundreds of followers within hours.

Prince Hassan's official Twitter account

The prince announced on his official Facebook page that he's entering the world of Twitter:

So after hearing and reading a lot about twitter, i was prevailed upon to open an account… please bear with me: https://twitter.com/#!/HRHPrinceHassan @HRHPrinceHassan

When followed by Prince Hassan, YazAmro tweeted:

This is the greatest email I ever received: (HRH Prince El Hassan (@HRHPrinceHassan) is now following you on Twitter!) may God bless you YRH.

wara23inab was also happy, she tweeted:

Heartfelt welcome to your Highness @HRHPrinceHassan, so delighted to have the chance to interact with you in this virtual yet intimate space.

RHammouri said:

it is great to be able to read your thoughts here your highness, this gives a better meaning for twitter. thank you sir.

Arab World: RIP Steve Jobs

The Arab world is mourning the death of Steve Jobs, Apple's visionary leader. Tribute is pouring on social media as netizens wake up to the news.

From Saudi Arabia, Aziz Shalan tweets (Ar):

شكراً ستيف، ماقدمتة لنا ليس منتجات ربحية، بل فرصة لتغير عالمنا #Stevejobs #StevejobsAR
@Azizshalan: Thank you Steve. What you gave us is not profit-based products but an opportunity to transform our lives

Egyptian Ahmed Naguib notes:


@ahmednaguib
: The Internet today is all about Steve Jobs. That's how influential he was. #SteveJobs

And Shaden Fawaz, also from Egypt, adds:

@shadenfawaz: “Steve Jobs was born out of wedlock, put up for adoption at birth, dropped out of college, then changed the world. What's your excuse?”

From the UAE, Saleh Al Braik writes:

@FearlessinDubai: #ThankYouSteve for giving my generation the motivation to never give up on our dreams. #RIPSteveJobs

But if religion was not imposed into this, it wouldn't be the Middle East.

Egyptian Bassem Sabry informs us:

شخص شبه معروف على تويتر كتب تويت بيطالب المسلمين بعدم الحزن او الدعاء لستيف جوبز لأنه غير مسلم. المهم انه كتب تلك التويت من iphone…

@Bassem_Sabry
: Someone semi-famous tweets calling on Muslims not to be sad or pray for the soul of Steve Jobs because he is not Muslim. What is important is that he sent his tweet from an iPhone

Dalia exclaims:

@Daloosh: Dear #Salafi: if you're going to tweet a fatwa against mourning Steve Jobs then for the love of God don't do it from an Iphone. #RIDICULOUS

For Jordanian blogger Roba Al Assi, the loss is more personal. She blogs:

A while ago, a friend asked me if I would ever cry over a celebrity death. I said, “Of course I would not”.

But this morning, I woke up to the terrible news of Steve Job’s passing.

And I cried.

Steve wasn’t a celebrity. He was a man who changed the world.

I didn’t just cry over the loss of a brilliant man. I also cried over death. Death by cancer. Death by liver cancer. And he was only 56. I don’t think I ever mentioned it here, but we lost our father three years ago to liver cancer as well. It was sudden. He was only 53. Another brilliant, kind man, lost forever.

RIP Steve Jobs.

September 23 2011

Jordan: MPs Wage Battle Against the Youth

This week's House of Representatives parliament sessions in Amman, Jordan, have been the center of public discontent, especially among the youth community. One topic open for discussion was a proposed constitutional amendment to lower the eligibility age required to run for parliament from 30 to 25 years. True to form, 20 MPs were absent, 49 MPs voted in favor of the proposed amendment, while 49 rejected it, and 2 abstained. A loud and heated debate took place under the dome around this proposal, where some MPs expressed strong disapproval to support the engagement of a younger age group in a country where 70% of the population is under 30 years of age. The amendment did not pass.

Ahmad Zatari summarized some of the offensive comments from the MPs:

علي الخلايلة “شباب الحراك تقودهم أمريكا وفرنسا وتحركهم بإرادتها، كما قال أثناء التصويت على سن 25 عاماً للترشح “ما ظل بالخم إلا ممعوط الذنب
@AhmadZatari: Ali Khalayleh: the active youth are being mobilized by the US and France who manipulate them as they wish.

And he commented on the proposed minimum age of 25:

“None left in the coop but the unfeathered chicks” (Arabic idiom that means none left but the dregs of society)
النائب محمد الذويب بمداخلته خلال التصويت على سن 25 عاماص للترشح بقوله “ما بدنا يجونا سكرانين
@AhmadZatari:
MP Mohammad Thweib's intervention while voting on the proposed minimum age of 25 said: “we don't want them to come in drunk”

Hazem Zureikat, a Jordanian transport planner and economist, tweeted the intervention of another MP:

طلال الفاعور: ” هؤلاء حديثو السن وعديمي الخبرة .. وموجهون من فرنسا والغرب ؟؟ هؤلاء صغار لا خبرة عندهم
@hazem: Talal AlFaour: those are young in age and inexperienced…motivated by France and the west…they are young without experience.

And this Jordanian, whose Twitter handle means the facade of corruption, asked:

لماذا يستسهلون اهانة شعب باكمله او جيل كامل و لكن يخافون حتى من انتقاد رجل واحد او امرأة واحدة في صنع القرار
@FacadeAlFasad: Why do they easily insult an entire nation or generation, however fear and refrain from criticizing a single male or female decision maker?

Ahmad Alhuwwari joked:

خبر عاجل: تأسيس جمعية ممعوطين بلا حدود، فمن يرغب بالاشتراك يعمل ريتويت
@huwwary: Breaking: we're establishing an unfeathered chicks without borders society, if interested in joining please retweet :)

And the Palestinian poet and author, Mourid Barghouti, tweeted a question I often wonder about myself when I hear youth bashing:

عدو الممعوطين كيف يعامل أبناءه؟
@MouridBarghouti: This enemy of the unfeathered chicks, how does he treat his own children?

A photograph of a sign held by a young Jordanian from the protest outside the parliament yesterday. The sign reads: If the whole world is against me, I'm an unfeathered chick. I love a challenge. Photo by @Eman on Twitter.

Ahmad Zatari tweeted about an organized protest:

إذا شعرت بالإهانة من النواب، انضم/ي إلى اعتصام اليوم أمام المجلس، الساعة 5:30
@AhmadZatari: If you felt offended by the MPs, join the protest September 22 in front of Parliament, 5:30pm.

Activist Eman Jaradat mocked:

هل انت سكران و ممعوط و موجه من امريكا و فرنسا؟ اذا كنت فتاة هل انت مفرعة ايضا؟ و بتنزلي على المظاهرة مع صاحبك؟ اذن انت شاب اردني
@Eman: Are you drunk, an unfeathered chick, influenced by the US and France? Are you a bare armed female? Do you go out to protests with your boyfriend? Then you are a Jordanian youth.

Batir Wardam, an environmental communicator, asked:

هل يمكن أن نستنتج من تعليق النائب المحترم حول “ممعوط الذنب” أن مجلس النواب هو خم؟

@batirw: Can we deduct from the respectable MP's comment about the unfeathered chicks that the House of Representatives is a coop?

Aya Almusa spoke out against the offense:

يجب حل الخم الذي أهان جيل بكامله بوصفهم ممعوطين الذنب. هيك نواب ما بمثلوا حدا
a href=”https://twitter.com/#!/Andareee/status/116420388707254272″>@Andareee: We must dissolve the coop that insulted an entire generation calling them unfeathered chicks. These MPs do not represent anyone.

And the pièce de résistance is that the House of Representatives decided to delete the insults from the session's minutes, offering an apology. Deleted from the minutes, perhaps, while videos on the Internet like this JordanDays recording (video Ar) ensure that authentic, untampered, archived documentation lives on.

July 17 2011

Jordan: Photos and Audio of July 15 Protest

Reform protests in Amman picked up some heat on Friday after a relatively quiet few weeks. Here's a summary of part of the day as witnessed by Lina Ejeilat, multimedia journalist, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Jordanian citizen-media platform 7iber.com.

May 28 2011

Jordan: Debating Economic Policies and the Road to Reform

The state of Jordan's economy, specifically discussing economic policies since 1989 and the national debt, were the highlight of the 7iber #HashtagDebates. Held at Makan House in Amman, the conversation hosted prominent Jordanian economists Ibrahim Saif and Yusuf Mansur, and was streamed with aramram.com for an online audience. The 7iber #HashtagDebates are part of a vital and ongoing conversation on reforms in Jordan.

Here's a summary of the conversation from Twitter:

Mahmoudhomsi notes:

Awesome from the beginning no bullshit Ibrahim Saif says we are in the same situation as 89! (The 1989 economic crisis in Jordan)

Linashannak adds:

Dr Saif: if the state seeks to impose taxes, then it should be held accountable.

And hazem continues:

@ymansur: Since 1990, public sector employment has been increasing at about 6% a year

tarawnah reports:

Seems government spends more on employee salaries than paying down the debt. What a vicious circle. @ymansur

hazem tweets:

@ymansur: 70% of govt expenditures go to salaries. Capital expenditures rely primarily on foreign aid.

and tarawnah continues:

We are one of the few countries where sales tax is higher than income tax. @ymansur

rimasaifi quotes Dr Saif saying:

Dr Saif: in order to pay back debt, state tends to reduce expenditures on education & health

hazem adds:

The 800-pound guerrilla: Defense & security expenditures - higher than exp on education, health & infrastructure combined.

And tarawnah continues:

@Ibrasaif touching on the lack of transparency & ability for parliament to discuss expenditure on security apparatus.

hazem adds:

@ibrasaif: Private sector also partly to blame. Much of that sector has gotten used to relying on govt ‘grants'.

Meanwhile, Ayman Rashdan asks:

why do we want to the government do everything for us while we sit back and wait, the private sector is more to blame

And hazem quotes Mansur:

@ymansur talks about the “superman model”, in which we put more trust in individuals rather than institutions.

Back to Saif, tarawnah quotes:

If you want to see an economically competitive #JO, you need an educational system that yields capable people - @Ibrasaif

And tallouza asks:

Is there any danger on the Jordanian dinar…devaluation in particular?

Yusuf Mansur expressed his confidence in the Jordanian Dinar, pointing to his recent analysis posted at UrdunMubdi3, “Nowadays, the dinar could not be safer.”

On the issue of corruption which has erupted over the recent months in Jordan, @ymansur shared:

lina18

هناك مبالغة في الحديث عن الفساد ولكنها مبالغة مشروعة بسبب غياب المعلومة الدقيقة
There is exaggeration when speaking of corruption, but this exaggeration is inevitable in the absence of accurate information.

Lina18

@Ibrasaif we don't want to wait till there's an imminent threat

tarawnah

We criticize because we want reform & a better situation. We need to start accepting it as being good for the country said @ymansur

May 25th, is Jordan's Independence Day, and 7iber's fourth anniversary. The #HashtagDebates ended with an invite from Naseem Tarawnah, one of the 7iber founders:

Wrapping up the #HashtagDebates for the night. For those of you here, stick around for some cake to celebrate our 4th anniversary :) #JO

yshomali concludes the event with a birthday wish:

Also Happy Birthday @7iber and thanks for organizing a great discussion today #hashtagdebates.

May 22 2011

Technology for Transparency: Final Report

The Technology for Transparency Network is proud to announce the release of its final report, Global mapping of technology for transparency and accountability.

The report is being published by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (@TAInitiative) along with a over a dozen other reports on the global transparency movement. The reports focus on three key research areas: Impact and Learning, New Technologies, and Policy Innovations.

Many thanks go to the Transparency and Accountability Initiative for supporting our work, to our amazing team of researchers, and to David Sasaki, who launched and directed the initial phase of the Technology for Transparency Network, which laid the groundwork for this report.

Get the report

Executive Summary

This report contains the key findings from having reviewed more than 100 projects and having interviewed dozens of practitioners in Central and Eastern Europe, East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Sub-Saharan Africa who use new technologies as a means to increase transparency and accountability. This summary helps to ‘take the pulse‘ of the Technology for Transparency and Accountability movement and suggests both exciting possibilities for scaling impact as well as important caveats and challenges.

For practitioners in the transparency and accountability space, it is useful to frame the potential for leveraging technology towards transparency and accountability initiatives in at least four ways:

  • Bringing projects and interventions to scale.
  • Bringing citizens closer to the policymaking process through new and improved channels of participation as well as citizen monitoring of government.
  • Identifying policy priorities and service delivery challenges through ‘data mashing‘ and other visualisation and data manipulation techniques of both government and private datasets.
  • Improving the efficiency of civil society organisations working in the transparency and accountability space through adoption of best practice technology platforms.

Additional Findings

The majority of projects we studied focus on the executive or legislative branches of government.  A smaller number of projects focus on the judicial branch, the media, the private sector, and donors.

Nearly half of the projects focus on monitoring elections.  While many of these use Ushahidi, some have developed their own approaches, including aggregating elections news from multiple sources on a single site and tracking official election monitors’ reports on Google Maps.

Projects in multiple regions focus on transparency in the legislature, often tracking legislative bills and posting profiles for each representative that include biographies and voting records. Some also include profiles of political parties or records of legislative spending.

Data visualization and navigation tools are a key feature in more than half of the projects we documented, as are diverse forms of data collection from citizens. Approximately one third of the projects use mobile phones in some way, most commonly by allowing citizens to submit or receive information via text messages.

What's next?

The Technology for Transparency Network website will remain open as a place where we can share projects, tools, and ideas, as a meeting point for successful initiatives and those who want to learn from the work others have done. You can subscribe to our mailing list, read or contribute with specialized articles on Global Voices Online, and follow us on Twitter (@techtransparent) and Facebook. This field is just beginning to emerge, and we look forward to helping nurture global efforts through collaboration and communication across borders.

May 17 2011

Jordan: Debating a Possible GCC Union

The announcement that Jordan and Morocco might join the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) caused an immediate shockwave of reactions.

The GCC was founded in 1981 by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait in order to encourage economic integration and security coordination between Gulf states. Stock markets across the GCC reacted positively to news of GCC expansion.

While reactions from citizens of GCC countries were often against the potential addition of Jordan and Morocco, many Jordanians were elated at the news. Ghada al-Kurd described potential economic benefits:

Flags of the original Gulf Cooperation Council GCC members. Image by Flickr user abcdz2000 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Flags of the original Gulf Cooperation Council GCC members. Image by Flickr user abcdz2000 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

@Shusmo Supply #JO & demand #GCC, market penetration &reach, emplymnt, venture invstmnts #Amman #JO, better Economy part of #ReformJO

Amar Majali, after a series of jokes, concluded:

Joking aside, this could be really good economically. No taxation is the GCC way. Jordanians can do with no taxation. #JOGCC

Not all were so convinced. 7iber.com, a social dialogue site, asked its readers to post their thoughts on the idea. Responding to those commenting on economic benefits for Jordan, Mahmood wrote:

umm seriously ! so you dont think this move is just a stunt by KSA to balance the scale and set egypt back ! KSA hates the idea that EGYPT is back as the leader of arabs !

bottom line they the GCC is shopping for voting power and we happened to be the cheapest on the market as usual !

Mohammed Husa wrote, in part [ar]:

من ناحية استراتيجية وعمق استراتيجي دول الخليج هي المستفيد الاكبر لمواجهة النحدي الايراني ولاعادة صياغة محور الاعتدال بعد الاهتزازات الكبرى وخصوصا في مصر

2-من ناحية اقتصادية انا متأكد انه ستكون هناك تحفظات وشروط تعجيزية من ناحية حرية الحركة للاردنيين كما هو الحال مع موضوع تركيا للدخول للاتحاد الاوروبي

In terms of strategy and strategic depth, Gulf states are the biggest beneficiary in the the face of the Iranian threat and strengthening the moderate allies after major reverberations, especially in Egypt.

Secondly, in economic terms I am sure that there will be reservations and burdensome requirements in terms of freedom of movement for Jordanians, as with the issue of Turkey's accession to the European Union.

Rasha Khalifeh tweeted sarcastically [ar]:

انتهت مشكلة اردني فلسطيني صرنا كلنا خليجي #GCC #JOGCC

The Jordanian-Palestinian problem is over - all of us are Gulfi

Lina Ejeilat wrote humorously:

who needs good governance, democracy, and human rights when you can have oil money? Woohoo! #JOGCC

And some were undecided. Photographer EHamdallah commented on her need to learn more about the situation:

I need to know more about this whole #JO joining #GCC thing! I am not getting it! #ReformJO #JoGCC #GCCJo

Hanan Abu-Shamat jokingly reprimanded those who said that Jordan's addition to the GCC would not bring the GCC any benefit:

Now a country of the #GCC has snow in winter! This is something and you say #Jordan adds no value! Tsk tsk tsk! Hehe. #JOGCC #GCCJO

Maha Mousa remained undecided in her post on 7iber:

It is still up in the air and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done… by the way for those who were asking why the Jordanians were not consulted: I believe that the GCC people should have been consulted of what they think about this issue… don't you think so??

For more reactions to Jordan's possible entry to the GCC, follow the hashtag #JoGCC on Twitter, and read comments on 7iber.com.

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