The difference between a Tunisian girl and an Israeli girl entering Jordan is that the first comes from a country that set the whole Middle East alight a year and a half ago and the second comes from an apartheid country that has been persecuting the Palestinian people since 1948.
The Israeli girl got through the passport check in Queen Alia airport smoothly in no time at all whereas I had to wait and wait and wait and then be bombarded with endless questions before being given permission to enter the Jordanian territories. I could not believe at first that I was asked to go into the intelligence office and be treated as a terrorist who might disturb the political status quo of Jordan.
My Jordanian visa and the official letter of invitation could not save me from this torpid investigation.” Why are you coming to Amman?” said the officer,” I came to train in social development” I replied - but why, how, why not anyone else, why now, who is inviting you, who is waiting for you? I had to be showered with a flood of questions just for holding a Tunisian passport. I wanted to cry, I felt angry, humiliated and powerless and I felt the fear in the eyes of the investigators who were really disappointed that they could not find a tangible reason for denying me entry. My Egyptian friend went through almost the same experience and was even asked about her political preferences regarding the Egyptian elections!
It turns out that the Arab countries that were not visibly affected by the Arab spring are terrified of the youth from countries that have felt the winds of change. The Jordanian spring seems to be hardly imminent since the protests of people calling for political reform remain small-scale and have done little as yet to mobilize the masses who remain frustrated with the lack of political freedom, the rise of prices and corruption among political officials.
One might offer several interpretations for the relative immunity of Jordan from the impact of the Arab spring. Jordanians seem to agree that they do not want the bloody conflicts of their neighbours to affect their country. On the other hand the element of fear seems to be persistent and overwhelming. While tension and frustration are boiling underground especially among the educated youth, we cannot talk about a really broad mobilization in Jordan.
But change is indeed contagious and the aspirations of the Jordanian people do not differ much from those of the Tunisians and Libyans and all those individuals who decided at some point to break down the wall of fear and claim their rights. Until this dream materializes, what can the Jordanian government do but keep on looking over their shoulders at the people behind the Arab awakening?
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