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The militarisation of Jordan in the face of the coronavirus pandemic

Security forces are wearing masks during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Amman, Jordan on 10 November 2020 [Laith Al-jnaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Security forces are wearing masks during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Amman, Jordan on 10 November 2020 [Laith Al-jnaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Jordan has taken a number of security and military steps to manage the situation in the country, most notably the National Defence Law. The National Centre for Security and Crises Management has taken on a military character and has become the general manager of the country's affairs, as ministers refer to it to get approval for most decisions before enforcement.

The centre was headed by Brigadier General Mazen Al-Faraya, who later became a major general and then Minister of the Interior in the last ministerial reshuffle after the dismissal of two ministers on the pretext that they attended a dinner party at a restaurant and violated pandemic restrictions. Moreover, a few days ago, Al-Farah also become Minister of Health after the dismissal of his predecessor following the tragedy at the new Salt Hospital when the oxygen supply of a number of ICU patients ran out, leading to their deaths.

Faraya attracted attention by calling for the appointment of commissioners with a military and security background, and authorised by the Ministry of the Interior to monitor hospital affairs. Thus, individuals who may or may not have medical experience will be authorised by the ministry to manage civilian hospital directors. This is a strange precedent that was denounced in parliament, and in demonstrations in several cities with protestors demanding the overthrow of the government. They were disgusted that two ministers were dismissed for having dinner together, while only one minister lost his job after the death of eight patients due to medical and administrative negligence, favouritism and corruption.

The difference between the deaths in Salt and the daily deaths due to medical negligence is that the former victims died in a crime not unlike mass murder with an obvious cause of death. Meanwhile, the victims of neglect and the lack of experience in a number of private as well as government hospitals die in silence every day; nobody cares about them because of the lack of accountability in medical matters. The only saving grace is that there is divine accountability that does not favour anyone.

READ: 8 died in Jordan hospital due to lack of oxygen supplies

The militarisation of Jordan in the way that it is dealing with the pandemic, the repetition of security solutions, and the imposition of strict curfews and fines, are all viewed by observers as a complete failure, represented by the lack of control over the pandemic and the rapid spread of infections. Jordan recently ranked first in the world in terms of the number of cases relative to the size of the population. This prompted a number of scientists and medical experts to resign after their opinions were ignored by the government.

The same applies to the national airline, Royal Jordanian, which is facing huge losses due to the frequent closure of Amman airport and the loss of direct flights to a number of countries. Jordanians who have to travel are forced to use other airlines and book indirect flights, resulting in Royal Jordanian being the only one affected by this strange procedure.

What is stranger is the declaration of a state of emergency in all hospitals after the Salt tragedy. This raises a legitimate question: did we spend the past year confronting a deadly pandemic without being in a state of high alert or emergency?

The National Centre for Security and Crises Management in Jordan has disrupted the return of thousands of Jordanians stranded in different countries during the pandemic, while countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia were sending special aircraft to bring their citizens home, including those who were sick. Such strange decisions to confront the pandemic are still being made. A curfew has been imposed on Friday only, so people are simply moving their social engagements and activities to Thursday or Saturday.

READ: Israel's vaccine apartheid is a violation of international law

The military forcefully disperse protestors using tear gas, but things get more complicated if we ask them to help civilians by, for example, providing oxygen to hospitals, and organising affairs during the pandemic which require serious planning, not militarisation, oppression, bans and prevention. This is said with all due respect for the military and its officers who have an important role to play in guarding the borders.

If anyone has a model of a successful state ruled by military leaders, please speak up. I cannot think of one. I have only seen countries whose conditions have got much worse whenever the military leadership gets involved in running civilian affairs.

This article first appeared in Arabic in on Arabi21 17 March 2021

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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ArticleCoronavirusJordanMiddle EastOpinion
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