Commentary: All Americans cherish free speech in principle — not so much in practice, and perhaps particularly not when the subject is Palestine
AMMAN, JORDAN -- For almost five years now, Ekram Muqdad Aboes has lived in Jordan, scratching out a living as best he can. A photographer, cameraman, graphic designer and actor, the 25-year-old Iraqi refugee left his home in the city of Nainawa in northern Iraq when his 15-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister were murdered after they telephoned the U.S. Army to report seeing a bomb.
His parents are internal refugees inside Iraq, and Aboes said he doesn’t have their telephone number and hasn’t spoken to them for a year. In Jordan, as in most host countries, refugees have few opportunities for legal employment. Aboes has a part-time job at a TV station. It helps, but not enough; he’s taken out loans from neighbors and friends.
Grateful for the safe haven Jordan has offered him, Aboes says he dreams of moving to America. Returning to Iraq is out of the question: “The threat is greater than nostalgia,” he said. He applied for a visa to go to the United States when he came to Jordan. Five years later he’s still waiting for a response.
AMMAN, JORDAN -- Jordan, like Syria, had viewed itself as immune from the political ferment sweeping the Middle East, but in both cases those assumptions have proved to be wrong. Since January, a number of large demonstrations have been held in Jordan, with participants calling for constitutional reform, an end to corruption, and measures to curb rising food prices and unemployment. The broad-based protests have included Islamists, lawyers and trade unionists in addition to students.
“More interesting than the demonstrations is that the king has received a petition signed by many of the tribal leaders demanding an end to corruption, and specifically they were pointing a finger at his wife,” said Murhaf Jouejati, a professor of Middle East Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. “This is unprecedented. In Jordan, the monarch is the arbitrator of conflicts and one major pillar of his power are the tribes. When these tribes complain, he listens.”
DAMASCUS, SYRIA -- Up until recently, it seemed as if the turmoil going on in other parts of the Arab world might pass Syria by. When I arrived for a weeklong visit, Syria was still quiet. When I asked Syrians what they thought of the upheaval occurring in other countries in the region, they told me “The situation is different in Syria.” And then, in a matter of days, things changed.