And on a Serious Note… Am I Jordanian?

الخميس 24 شباط 2011

By Thoraya

It is one month since my 28th birthday and I am having an existential crisis.

If someone told me about this impending crisis a few months ago, I would have guessed it had something to do with whether or not to take the botox plunge. But the Arab Spring is upon us, and suddenly we have politics to worry about.

Real politics.

Not laughing-at-tacky-election-posters politics. Not going-to-vote-for-a-Neanderthal-distant-relative politics. But a chance to be part of something that can affect of all our lives and the future of this country.

A friend just called me to ask whether I would be attending tomorrow’s protest calling for a return to the 1952 Constitution and the revoking of martial law-era amendments. As a self-proclaimed social democrat and anti-colonialist, you would think that the answer would be a resounding: Yes!

But it’s not.

You see, I have a problem. I don’t know if I am Jordanian.

On the one hand, my mother is Jordanian. I’ve lived in Jordan for ten years of my life, three of which I worked in public service. I pay tax. I even own a small business in Amman employing four people (all Jordanians!). But under Jordanian law, I am not entitled to citizenship because my father isn’t Jordanian (he is from Gaza).

And if I’m not Jordanian, then it’s not really my business to be protesting for constitutional change, is it?

Every year, I go through the same soul-sapping experience of renewing my Jordanian residency. This involves countless hours running around from one government office to another, like a rat in a bureaucratic maze from hell. It also involves a very unpleasant trip to a decrepit Ministry of Health office to get a HIV blood test. Every year, I sit in the same dirty plastic chair waiting for a sour-faced nurse to stick a needle in my arm. And I try to convince myself that it’s all perfectly hygienic, although I have serious doubts.

It is small things like that which make me feel like an outsider. Small things like constantly having to explain to people why I don’t have Jordanian citizenship. Like how I was the only person in my office at the University of Jordan who didn’t receive a bonus from the Royal Court (مكرمة ملكية) because non-Jordanians can’t be normal staff.

And over the past few years, during political discussions I’ve found myself saying things like “I don’t care what happens in Jordan anyway. It’s not my country.”

Except that it is the closest thing I have to a country, really. And maybe if the system was fairer, I would be Jordanian. Maybe I would feel like a citizen, rather than an unwelcome foreigner. So maybe I have a right to protest for a fairer system.

But the government says I’m not Jordanian, and many Jordanians would agree. I’m curious to know what other people think. Do I have I right to protest?

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  • Muna

    if you consider it home, then fight for it to become a home, in whatever way you choose. It is retarded that us women cannot give our nationality to our children, for whatever reason that law continues to exist. Fight, and we will fight with you.

  • Mohammad

    I guess yes, you do have a right to protest, and you even have a responsibility to do that as well.

  • I would say that you are Palestinian. And your Palestinian identity is the only thing we have left to return back to Palestine. If you get a citizenship, and every refugee is naturalized in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, it is all lost – legally at least, we wont have cards to play in this struggle.
    That being said, you shouldnt be treated any less. Expats everywhere, working in foreign countries have rights and can file complaints to better service and treatment. I am a Jordanian, living in the UAE and I can vouch for the efficient, hospitable and respectful manner i am treated with. In my opinion, you shouldnt want to be Jordanian, you should protest/complain for better standards of living as an expat and as a temporary refugee.

  • Y_ghr

    Let’s look at the problem from a wider angel , it’s time that jordanian women give nationality to thier children.
    And I think u har the right to speak your mind wherever u are.

  • Jordanian

    Answer: you are not Jordnaian… BUTI
    I give you another question, do you want to be Jordanian or Palestinian?
    If you want to be Jordanian, then protest and fight for your right, and i will support you. If you want to be Palestinian, then fight for the rights for all those other Gazans in your situation to get better rights as Palestinians in Jordan.

    • Some reflections

      Why can’t he be Jordanian AND Palestinian?
      I think Identity is far more complex than a reduction to a single adjective (either jordanian or palestianian… althought this can applly to many contexts)…
      When Identity is mixed with the right to participate in the decisions making where we live…then, I guess it is just an excuse to exclude people. And that is not fair.

  • Basmanabulsi

    why you sold your country ?

    • Jordanian

      SOLD??? how much did she get? come off it. Stop spitting out your parents point of view and get your own! This is real life damn it.

    • Ala’a

      we are all similar here; we both [i assume] have been born and raised in this country, consider this place home and when we are abroad and homesick, it is Jordan that we want to come back to, where family, friends and all our life is.

      your type of argument is fruitless and improper [trying real hard to be selective and “nice” with my adjectives]. some try all kinds of non-sense for arguments to rid us of our mutual rights and to keep pushing us down. i hope they are not many, but sadly enough this is not the case.

    • Ala’a

      we are all similar here; we both [i assume] have been born and raised in this country, consider this place home and when we are abroad and homesick, it is Jordan that we want to come back to, where family, friends and all our life is.

      your type of argument is fruitless and improper [trying real hard to be selective and “nice” with my adjectives]. some try all kinds of non-sense for arguments to rid us of our mutual rights and to keep pushing us down. i hope they are not many, but sadly enough this is not the case.

  • You not only have the right to protest, but you also have the right to fight with all your might, if you want it. There will be a day, sooner rather than later, where Jordanian women will give their nationality to their kids. If you want that, roll up your sleeves with others who have the same goal and take the system to the mattresses. It’s your right, for human dignity, and for the Jordanian in you.

  • Muhammed Nazzal

    Your “Jordanianness” is not measured by the No. of generations your family lived in Jordan, but by how much value YOU add to Jordan. @Hamzah Nassif

  • Madian

    I see many Jordanians run to Canada, the USA and Australia for citizenships and they are given full rights…the same ones that probably argue against your right to be Jordanian.
    Jordan needs to be proud of the fact that it has become a wonderful melting pot of many backgrounds..we have the tribes, the Palestinians, Circassions, Druze, Christians, Muslims, of half western backgrounds, Iraqis, half other Arabs, and it goes on and on. I think this diversity is what shapes a Jordan and should be celebrated.
    Thoraya..I say, put your foot down and fight for your right to be Jordanian. If You love being here, and have committed to here…Here, is what you are.

  • Cold Water

    @ Madian, We should also be proud that anyone expelled by Israel can become a Jordanian thanks to people who think like you. WE ARE NOT CANADA we are a country that was thought to be part of Greater Israel. Now they think we should become Palestine.

    Im sorry Thoraya the Israelis are ruthless colonial murderers that have stolen your land and prevented the Palestinian passport from becoming a worthy document to travel around with. Let Holding on to being Palestinian as much as it gets you through hard times and annoying HIV checks is the least you can do to face Israels constant attempt at erasing Arab presence in Palestine. As much as all you said is annoying it is nothing compared to what Palestinians face on a daily basis in the occupied lands.

  • NermeenMurad

    Thoraya..I am a Jordanian mum with two kids who are one day going to grow up and find themselves asking the same question you are I have decided to take on the system and fight for my dignity and respect as a Jordanian citizen equal to any other male citizen but also for my children whose identity will grow naturally with their environment and then will be stolen from them because of gender bias, archaic laws and xenophobic ideologies. I and other women activists and social workers are currently working to advocate against this bias. We love voices like yours because they articulate the issue. This is your country, my country and my children’s country.No law is going to rob us of that..

  • The answer to whether you should protest or not lies in the fact that if our Government had equal rights for both sexes and you were given the right of citizenship, would you take it? If so you should be the first one protesting. As Nadine said; ‘there will be a day’ that dignity & respect is given to the other half of us. I feel ashamed we even have to fight for women’s right of citizenship in this age.

  • khaledi

    To me you’re as much a Jordanian as I am.

  • Ali

    home is where the heart lives!

    I am from the Hashimate family of Iraq and I could easily have a Jordanian nationality like most my relatives did after the coup but… I don’t feel Jordanian!
    I don’t think i belong here so i never really tried.

    now to your case if you want to be a Jordanian then you are one! no matter what any paper says!
    and as a Jordanian, not only you can say your opinion about the country but you MUST!

    I am not a Jordanian but I always say what I feel like… not because of my family and that “I know people” but because I am a Human being despite what the bureaucracy says we are all the same!

  • Ala’a

    my thoughts exactly, except that i am Jordanian – of Palestinian origins- [needless to say that i take pride in both] lately i have been reading articles and hearing statements that “bluntly” refer to over 65% of Jordan’s population as “Palestinian Refugees” – one could only imagine how this would leave me [and my likes] feeling after living our entire lives in this country, not only paying our taxes, but also having been so dedicated to all our duties towards our country as full fledged citizens, to be recognized with this at the end, ridding us of all our rights and leaving us with no identity regardless of how we feel or know. so the dilemma is: are we regarded as Jordanians? till when are we going to be referred to as “Palestinian Refugees”!?

    Naturalization in so many countries over the world grants nationality upon birth on their land: i get that – it also grants nationality upon completion of a continuous duration of living within the country’s borders – i lived in Jordan for full 28 years, so i get that too.

    it is so frustrating to be second-class citizen in your own country. i am so sick and tired of this, if we are not Jordanians then why are we obliged to pay our do diligence and never get any exemption of any kind; having to do everything and anything the hard and most expensive way! and we never complained – we are denied access [hiring and such] to many sectors in the country and yet we never complained – we are denied proper, adequate presentation in the many houses of representatives yet we rarely complained – and now we are not citizens and they expect us to not complain!

    • Faisal86

      Man! oh man! you have said what all my palestinian-origin mates told me! sad, but true

    • TheDudette

      My feelings exactly *sigh*

  • Faisal86

    “one month since my 28th” since? are you sure since?! since is used with very long periods (years!)

  • TheDudette

    Great article!
    I think you should protest. Everyone should. We all have to make our voices heard no matter what our backgrounds are.
    Unfortunately, the problem does’t only lie in the political system but in the minds of the people themselves who look at us as second-class citizens. What a shame