New Delhi: Jordan has a fascinating history, in terms of how it came into being because it’s an ancient territory. As a nation state, it’s a 100 years old. But recently, it has been witnessing a royal family feud and an alleged coup.
ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta explains Jordan’s fascinating origins, geography and geo-politics, why it is facing a succession crisis and why it is important to the world, in episode 718 of ‘Cut the Clutter‘.
“Jordan has a Constitution and has an elected Parliament. So it has many pretensions of a democracy. But the monarch is supreme. Criticism of the ruler or the royal family is a very severe crime,” Gupta explained.
King Abdullah II, the current reigning monarch, was already a major-general in the Jordanian army at the age of 37 when he succeeded his ailing father King Hussein in 1999.
In recent months, the country was facing some instability due to an economically hard year and the other prince — Prince Hamza, King Abdullah II’s younger half-brother — became critical of the current administration.
“Prince Hamza was the favourite for a long time of King Hussein,” Gupta said. In 1999, King Hussein fell severely ill owing to cancer which led him to think about his successor.
Rewinding to 1965, Gupta explained that there were several assassination attempts on the royal family which had led King Hussein to name his brother, Prince Hassan bin Talal, as the Crown Prince.
However, after he fell very sick, Hussein went back on his promise and made Prince Hassan issue a decree stating that he wasn’t the crown prince. “Everybody expected, then, that Prince Hamza would be the successor after Prince Hassan. But now that Prince Hassan was out, the king named his oldest son (Abdullah), who is now king,” Gupta said.
King Hussain had promised his fourth wife, Queen Noor, that one of her four children — including Prince Hamza — would be the successor. However, he went back on that promise too.
However, in 2004, King Abdullah II made his own son — Prince Hussain II, who was just nine years old at the time — the Crown Prince.
“News came out earlier this week that Prince Hamza had been put under house arrest or his movements had been restrained. And also, many people close to him had been arrested, including a senior member of the palace,” Gupta revealed.
The ruling family in Jordan descends from King Abdullah I who belonged to the Hashemite family of Saudi Arabia which traces its descent to the Holy Prophet. King Abdullah I was assassinated in 1951 by a Palestenian militant owing to the country’s enmity with Israel. Back then, the country was called Transjordan — administering an area broadly comprising the areas of modern-day Syria and Jordan. It was liberated from the British in 1946 and soon after became Jordan.
Prince Talal took over after his brother King Abdullah I, but didn’t last very long given his ill health. King Hussein then took over in 1952 — by when Prince Talal had given the country a Constitution — and continued to thrive for years to come. “He knew the art of playing all sides at the same time,” Gupta said.
King Hussein married four times and had 12 children. King Abdullah II is one of four children from the second marriage which ended in a divorce.
Tracing the history of Jordan, before it was a country, Gupta explained how the French and British had sparred over the region — much like they did across the world, including Puducherry.
Until 1916, the Ottomans controlled this entire region, when they came under a shadow because of the first World War. That is when the Arab Revolt started from Mecca by the three sons of Sharif Hussein of Makkah — Abdullah, Ali and Faisal. The Hashemite family won the battle of Aqaba, lending them control over a huge territory. The family briefly ruled over Syria but were defeated swiftly by the French, who took over Damascus. In 1917, the Balfour Declaration promised Palestinian territory to the Jews, which caused a complication because the French had control over Syria.
So to pacify the Arabs, the European superpowers promised them an area of their own which is how the kingdom of the Emirate of Transjordan came in and has since been the most stable Islamic country in the region.
“It’s a country that the Saudis, the Syrians, the Iraqi, the Israelis, the Americans and the British count on for keeping stability in the region. It’s the foothold that nobody wants to get forcibly. That’s why everybody’s worried and that’s why the Biden administration was so quick to express solidarity with King Abdullah II,” Gupta concluded.
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