Jordan’s Arab Spring

May 14, 2012

by Ahmad Humeid

I felt totally torn reading this piece by Thomas Friedman who visited Jordan recently. The Jordan he is talking about is my Jordan: The Jordan of entrepreneurs. The Jordan of innovation. The Jordan of uncensored internet access. The Jordan that gives us and others hope of moving into an age of productivity and the creation of great jobs for today’s and tomorrow’s generation

He is writing about the Jordan I intimately know. Some of people mentioned in his article are my friends. One is a former employee of mine and one is a great client and fan of my company.

He is writing about the Jordan that, frankly, kept me in Amman, kept me busy and kept me inspired for the last 22 years (i.e. since I started my professional life!).

An no.. I am not torn because this piece was written by Thomas Friedman, who is disliked, sometimes hated, by many in the region because his stance vis-a-vis the Iraq war. His pro-war stance is not the point here.

When a globally renowned writer like Friedman writes such a glowing piece about my kind of Jordan, shouldn’t I be totally happy, ecstatic even?

Still.. I am torn. And here is why.

Because I am concerned that we are STILL living in a country that has been running on two separate tracks, and that, even after the wakeup call from the Arab Spring, it still seems, by-and-large, to insist to run on two tracks.

We are accelerating our entrepreneurship efforts.. that’s one track. But our youth get into tribal fights everyday at universities across the Kingdom.. That’s the other dangerous track.

We build business parks and incubators to create a productive Jordan. But our parliamentarians give themselves a gift of lifelong pensions at a time the state is quickly descending into financial bankruptcy, only rescued by handouts from Saudi Arabia and Western donors – a disgusting example of a productivity-killing rentier system spinning out of control.

We proudly speak about the uncensored internet in the country, a reality that has been a true miracle in this oppressive region since 1995, yet at the same time a group of citizens is gathering tens of thousands of signatures across the country to pressure the government to censor the internet on “moral” grounds. And the government actually appeases such group with promises to implement some censorship policies. While elsewhere a popular preacher-turned-government-Minister-of-Youth delivers fiery speeches to thousands of young Jordanians equating good citizenship to his conservative definition of “religiosity”.

We convince clever writers like Friedman that we have an Arab Spring 2.0 going on in Jordan.. But what about our version of Arab Spring 1.0? Wouldn’t it be great if Friedman also was also able to report that he witnessed Jordan make a democratic leap towards more representative governments through more just election laws? Shouldn’t we by now have abolished discriminatory laws against Jordanian women and started moving towards real social justice? Shouldn’t we have declared war on the sickening culture of cronyism and “wasta”? Shouldn’t we have moved to transparency instead of all kinds of “shadow governments” pulling the country in different directions?

The Arab Spring 1.0 in Jordan has resulted in a election law that almost all reformers in the country don’t want! It resulted in an ugly attempt to unleash the evil forces of societal divides, dangerously polarizing the country and maybe even taking it to the brink of disaster.

So yes I am torn.

Our entrepreneurship and tech/media innovation is real.
But what is all our entrepreneurship worth if the state, the framework of societal peace and the security start shaking?

What is it all worth, when Spring 2.0 is only felt in small Ammani islands while the rest of the country is angry or confused?

We’re building the Arab Spring 2.0, while disillusioned youth movements call for the return of state control over food supplies and jobs! Not because these youth are stupid or simply misguided, but because, despite all the past promises of prosperity, they really have no hope in their disfigured towns and villages.

I always wanted to believe in the Jordan of the Arab Spring 2.0 of innovation, openness and prosperity and I have always wanted to play my part in that Spring. But today, more than ever I need to also believe in a Jordan that’s stops running on two separate tracks.

Spring 2.0, where innovation and entrepreneurship leads the country cannot happen without confronting Spring 1.0 issues of real democracy, freedom, social justice and equitable/sustainable development with the same courage and enthusiasm.

 لتصلك أبرز المقالات والتقارير اشترك/ي بنشرة حبر البريدية

Our Newsletter القائمة البريدية