Showing posts with label Jordan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jordan. Show all posts

September 2, 2017

The Bashing of Gays in Jordan

My.Kali May/June 2016 magazine cover. In July 2017, the Jordanian Media Commission opened an inquiry into the queer-inclusive online magazine and blocked access to its website for allegedly violating the Press and Publication Law.
My.Kali May/June 2016 magazine cover. In July 2017, the Jordanian Media Commission opened an inquiry into the queer-inclusive online magazine and blocked access to its website for allegedly violating the Press and Publication Law.
© 2016 My.Kali

High-level Jordanian officials have used a recent inquiry into the legality of a Jordanian online magazine to issue statements against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. By doing so, they are exploiting the inquiry to target the already-marginalized LGBT community in Jordan. 
It all began with a July request from an Islamist member of parliament, Dima Tahboub, to the Jordanian Media Commission to open an inquiry into the website My.Kali, a Jordanian queer-inclusive social affairs online magazine published since 2007. The commission concluded that same month that the magazine had violated the Press and Publication Law and issued instructions to block access to its website in Jordan.
Under the Press and Publication law, online publications have been required to register with and obtain a license from the Jordanian Media Commission since 2012. The law defines online publications subject to the licensing requirement as those that “engage in the publication of news, investigations, articles, or comments that have to do with the internal or external affairs of the kingdom.” These vague provisions allow authorities to arbitrarily use the law to limit free expression.
To make matters worse, authorities’ responses stoked the widespread animus against LGBT people in Jordan. In response to Tahboub’s inquiry, which remains private, the ministers of justice and interior wrote separate official letters to the minister of political and parliamentary affairs declaring their broad intolerance of LGBT people and making it clear that the government would not defend the rights of LGBT Jordanians.
In his letter, the interior minister, Ghaleb al-Zu’bi, wrote, “Jordan has not and will never endorse any charter or protocol acknowledging homosexuals—known as the LGBT community—or granting them any rights as it is considered a deviation from Islamic law and Jordanian Constitution.”
Although Jordan decriminalized same-sex behavior in 1951, the justice minister, Dr. Awad Al-Mashagbeh, offered similar remarks, contending that LGBT people’s “sexual deviance violates...the state’s general system and decency.”
What’s more, all of this—Tahboub’s inquiry, the commission’s review, the ministers’ letters—was completely unnecessary. The commission had blocked My.Kali since July 2016!  It was unclear why Tahboub sought to block access to a site that was already closed or why the commission issued a new order. Whatever their intentions were in reigniting an inquiry in July 2017, the result was a wave of negative attention toward My.Kali and the LGBT community generally.
It is for this exact reason that Khalid Abdel-Hadi, founder and creative director of My.Kali, had tried his best to keep the commission’s censorship of the magazine quiet back in 2016.
This was not the first time Jordanian authorities had stoked moral panic at the expense of LGBT people. In 2014, authorities arrested 10 LGBT people for holding a party in east Amman, all of whom were released soon after. In 2015, outrage spread in Jordan when the US ambassador attended an LGBT event organized by My.Kali and LGBT activists. And in both 2016 and 2017, Jordan banned Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese band with an openly gay lead singer, from performing in Jordan.
This time around, not only have the vague provisions of the Press and Publication Law allowed Jordan to threaten free expression, they have also opened the door for authorities to limit the rights of LGBT people in Jordan. Rather than responding to Tahboub by unequivocally stating their support for the fundamental rights of all Jordanians, the ministers of justice and interior chose to exploit her public request for censorship of My.Kali as an opportunity to target Jordan’s LGBT community.
Rather than let such noxious statements go unchallenged, Jordan’s leaders should ensure that ministers and other authorities uphold their international human rights obligations for everyone, including LGBT people. 

March 4, 2015

A US Friendly Kingdom gets better Results with obtaining intelligence than Anyone Else


In the campaign against the Islamic State group, Faisal Al Shoubaki might be the most important spy in the world.
Haven’t heard of him? We forgive you. When we think of powerful spy agencies, we tend to think of the CIA, Israel’s Mossad or, in years past, the Soviet Union’s KGB. But it turns out that Jordan, the little Hashemite Kingdom in the Middle East, has developed a valuable cloak-and-dagger operation of its own. It’s called the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), or Mukhabarat, and its particular forte is shoe-leather, clandestine operations. That’s right, forget the drones: What makes the Mukhabarat so effective — and valuable to allies like the United States — is its ability to gather human intelligence. 
The Mukhabarat finds itself in a pivotal position in the fight against the Islamic State, which has committed a string of barbaric murders — including, in February, the immolation of a Jordanian pilot, which attracted global attention. The agency’s director, Al Shoubaki, reports directly to King Abdullah; its security services receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the U.S. and its footmen have decades of institutional knowledge and connections throughout the region. For the United States (which is reluctant to get sucked into the Middle East), Jordan and its Mukhabarat are the most reliable ears and eyes in the region. 
The United States and Jordan have been working closely ever since civil war inflamed Syria in 2011. Tucked in the Levantine heartland to the south of Syria, east of Israel and west of Iraq, Jordan is a U.S.-friendly oasis whose location has enormous strategic value. The country has served as a central staging ground for U.S. military and special forces operations. The CIA has trained U.S.-approved opposition fighters on Jordanian soil too: first to counter Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, and then to launch attacks against the rising Islamic State group. 
 Jordan’s assets are more than geographic, though. While American spies have high-tech trappings that can help them to track terrorist movements via satellite and to intercept cellphone calls, their lack of on-the-ground contacts puts them at a major disadvantage. So-called “human intelligence” is “where Jordan brings a lot to the table,” says David Schenker, formerly a top policy aide at the Department of Defense. It helps the agency track flows of fighters across the border to foment jihad in Syria. 

Critics — and there are many — point out that the kingdom devotes much of its intelligence resources to spying on its own people. Its secret police apparatus hasn’t earned Jordan any gold stars in the human rights department — the Mukhabarat is regularly accused of torturing prisoners and silencing dissent. That hasn’t stopped the U.S. from partnering with it. Unlike other Arab spy agencies, the GID has an easy rapport with the CIA, says Reuel Marc Gerecht, a onetime Middle East specialist at the CIA who now works at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank. “That’s not true in many, many places in the Arab world,” he says, where communication is “less than ideal.”
Collaboration isn’t always successful: Jordan’s spy agency was partly to blame for one of the most devastating CIA setbacks in decades.
The roots of the U.S.-Jordan intelligence relationship stretch back to the 1950s, when the United States began supplying the kingdom with economic and military aid, a reward for its Western-friendly policy. The CIA also began underwriting Jordan’s spy service. In his memoir, the kingdom’s onetime CIA station chief Jack O’Connell recalls his first meeting with Jordan’s King Hussein, shortly after arriving in Amman: “I then asked if I could meet the head of his intelligence service to establish a working relationship,” O’Connell writes. “‘You are looking at him,’ the king said.” 
It wasn’t until the 1990s, when Jordan renounced Saddam Hussein and signed a peace treaty with Israel, that the modern-day partnership really took off. Through Sept. 11, the Iraq War and now the battle against the Islamic State group, the two countries and their spy services have been almost completely aligned, intelligence experts say. When U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in 2006, it was the Mukhabarat director who had provided the tip, according to multiple reports at the time. Collaboration, of course, isn’t always successful. Jordan’s spy agency was partly to blame for one of the most devastating CIA setbacks in decades: introducing the CIA to the Jordanian triple agent who eventually blew up a CIA outpost in Afghanistan, memorialized in a harrowing scene in the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty.
In the wake of the Islamic State group’s very public and very violent execution of Jordanian pilot Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, the question lingers: Just how far is Jordan willing to go now? Yes, the country has been pounding Islamic State group strongholds in Syria from the sky and rallying other Arab partners to join the fight. But Jordan’s leaders continue to insist that they have no intention of using ground forces in Syria. That, says Schenker, would be a key turning point and one that would really require stepped-up levels of spycraft. Gerecht agrees, but says that it’s ultimately up to the United States, not Jordan, as to whether the coalition takes this fight against the Islamic State group to Syria. 
That doesn’t seem likely under President Obama, even as the U.S. Congress debates his new request to go to war against the extremists. Gerecht certainly doesn’t anticipate it, “unless something surprising happens.”

Read more: 

February 6, 2015

Jordan’s King Vows Revenge Against ISIS for Pilot’s Slaughter


Jordan's King Abdullah has vowed to take tough action against Islamic State militants following the group's gruesome killing of a Jordanian pilot captured after his plane went down during a mission targeting the militants in Syria.
The murder of pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh triggered international condemnation and prompted Jordanian authorities to execute two Iraqi prisoners, failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi and al-Qaida operative Ziad al-Karbouly.
King Abdullah stressed that Jordan would be "relentless" in the war against Islamic State.
"We are waging this war to protect our faith, our values and human principles. And our war for their sake will be relentless and will hit them in their own ground," he said.
Jordan hanged al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing in Amman, and l-Karbouly, another Iraqi with ties to al-Qaida. 
The Islamic State group had demanded al-Rishawi's release as part of a prisoner exchange, but Jordan refused to move forward without proof that pilot al-Kaseasbeh was still alive.
A video emerged online Tuesday purporting to show the pilot locked inside a cage, then a militant lighting a trail of gasoline that traveled to the cage and burned him to death.
"The U.S. intelligence community has no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video," said Brian P. Hale, director of public relations for the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Jordan said the pilot was apparently killed a month ago. He was captured in Syria after his plane went down while flying as part of the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against Islamic State targets. 
"This is cowardly terror by a criminal group that has no relation to Islam," a grim-looking King Abdullah told the Jordanian people from Washington on Tuesday. "The brave pilot gave his life defending his faith, country and nation, and joined other Jordanian martyrs."
President Barack Obama, who met briefly with King Abdullah, said the video is just one more indication of the Islamic State's "viciousness and barbarity."
"And it, I think, will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of a global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated," the president told reporters.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the pilot's murder and said Islamic State is a terrorist group with no regard for human life.
Jordan's participation in the airstrikes against fellow Muslims has been unpopular within the country.
But General Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the coalition fighting the militants, said Tuesday Kaseasbeh "served his country courageously and honorably," and was an important member of the team fighting the Islamic State group.
Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh signed a memorandum of understanding under which the U.S. will provide $1 billion a year to Jordan through 2017.
Kerry said the U.S. also is adding to the $467 million it already has contributed to help Jordan care for refugees from both Syria and Iraq.

December 25, 2014

Islamic State Group Captures Royal Jordanian Pilot

An image from Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Islamic State fighters with what is believed to be a captured pilot, center, in a white shirt, in Raqqa, Syria, Dec. 24, 2014.
An image from Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Islamic State fighters with what is believed to be a captured pilot, center, in a white shirt, in Raqqa, Syria, Dec. 24, 2014.
A captured Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot is the first casualty of the U.S.-led coalition airstrike operation against the hard-line Islamic State group known as ISIS or ISIL.
Islamic State extremists claimed to have shot down the the Jordanian F-16 fighter jet over their Syrian stronghold of Raqaa on Wednesday and to have captured the pilot. But a U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) statement said "evidence clearly indicates that ISIL did not down the aircraft."
The CENTCOM commander, General Lloyd J. Austin III, said, "We strongly condemn the actions of ISIL, which has taken captive the downed pilot. We will support efforts to ensure his safe recovery, and will not tolerate ISIL's attempts to misrepresent or exploit this unfortunate aircraft crash for their own purposes."
U.S. officials said the cause of the crash wasn't known.
However, Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani told al-Arabiya TV that a “missile fired from the ground” caused the plane to go down. He added that “efforts to rescue the pilot were unsuccessful.” He stressed that he hoped “intelligence work would succeed in gaining the pilot's release.”
The militants have shot down Syrian government warplanes and helicopters in the past, in addition to Iraqi government helicopters.
Social media images
News of the capture spread quickly over social media, where images were available of a young man being pulled half naked from water and surrounded by armed men.
The Islamic State claimed the man was the pilot and released pictures that it said showed its fighters holding him. One picture showed the man surrounded by more than a dozen fighters, some of them masked. A photograph of his military identification card was also released.

The Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, released a photograph of the Jordanian military identity card of pilot Mu’ath Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh in Raqqa, Syria, Dec. 24,The Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, released a photograph of the Jordanian military identity card of pilot Mu’ath Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh in Raqqa, Syria, Dec. 24,

Arab TV channels said that the pilot was pulled out of the Euphrates River after ejecting.
Relatives, saying they had been notified of the incident by the head of the Jordanian air force, confirmed that the man in the photos was First Lieutenant Mu'ath al- Kasaesbeh, 26. The army separately confirmed his name.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged the pilot's Islamic State captors to treat him humanely, his spokesman said.
The secretary-general "calls on his captors to treat the pilot in accordance with international humanitarian law,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Raqqa, SyriaRaqqa, Syria

Both the Syrian government and the U.S.-led coalition set up to fight Islamic State regularly bomb Islamic State targets in Raqqa province.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, up to December 15, partner nations Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been responsible for 65 airstrikes in Syria. The United States has conducted 553.
The airstrikes are part of the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve, which aims to defeat the Islamic State, help Iraq defend its borders and prevent another group like ISIS from forming.
Between August 8 and December 14, U.S. and partner nations flew some 12,850 sorties over Iraq and Syria. Only 1,276 of those have resulted in airstrikes. Partner nations are responsible for approximately 14 percent of all strikes across Iraq and Syria.
Search for targets
Air Force Colonel Edward Sholtis told VOA in an email that many of the strikes involve dynamic targeting, "which basically means strike aircraft fly around areas near where enemy forces are operating and look for targets."
Finding, identifying and tracking those targets until approval is received to strike requires specialized equipment and training, so "frequently they do not result in a necessary strike on ISIL forces, equipment or facilities."
Andrew Liepman, a senior policy analyst with the RAND Corporation, said  Washington and its allies are trying at all costs to avoid collateral damage. 
"It's a lot harder to identify, to distinguish between the communities and ISIL, so we are being extremely careful, I suspect," Liepman told VOA.
"The tolerance for collateral damage in both Syria and Iraq is really, really low. We do not want to accidentally drop a bomb on the wrong guys," he added. "So that means a lot of planes are coming back to base without having dropped their munitions."
According to the Department of Defense, from December 5 through December 12, airstrikes destroyed some 14 Islamic State fighting units and positions and hit another 15 in Syria, and destroyed four such units and hit another 14 in Iraq.
The airstrikes also destroyed a number of IS-controlled buildings, bunkers, fortifications, guard towers, vehicles, excavators, bulldozers and a front loader.
Liepman says no one should underestimate the value of destroying bulldozers and excavators. "Those things they use for protection, for digging trenches, for threatening villages, for doing lots of things," he said.
$1 billion so far
The total cost of one week of operations: roughly $65 million. Defense officials said the operations have cost more than $1 billion since August 8, when U.S. began its airstrikes. That cost, Liepman said, is easily absorbable.
When asked about how many Islamic State militants had been killed in the campaign, a spokeswoman for Operation Inherent Resolve said it was not clear.
"We are not providing enemy body counts. Any estimate would be speculative and extremely imprecise due to our limited ability to verify such counts," spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Peggy Kageleiry said in an email.
The CIA estimates that the Islamic State currently has between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters.
According to IHS Jane's Intelligence Review, there has been "no significant change in the tempo of Islamic State operations since the airstrikes began."  Rather, the group has shown an ability to quickly adapt its tactics and replace senior commanders killed by Iraqi forces and airstrikes.
Although the strikes will limit the militants' mobility, IHS said, those strikes on their own are unlikely to weaken the group's grip over urban areas, and will enable the Islamic State to exploit its "war against Islam" narrative to recruit more fighters.
Karl Mueller, a senior political scientist for RAND, said the fight would be a long one.
"ISIS is a particularly nasty manifestation of a political and ideological movement that's not going to go away just because ISIS is destroyed. So this is a particular fight within this larger arena of the struggle against Islamic extremism," Mueller told VOA.
Edward Yeranian in Cairo and Jeff Seldin in Washington contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.

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