An Interview with the Jordanian Ambassador to the UK: Mazen Hamoud talks to DU PolSoc

Following Mr. Hamoud’s address to the Durham Union Society on Tuesday the 7th of June, the Jordanian Ambassador spoke to your journal editor and elaborated on the situation in Jordan and the Middle East. The full transcript, which has been lightly edited for clarity, is available below.

Will Jordan be able to cope with the problems of the Palestinian refugee crisis in the long run? How do you think it will manage the related problems such as increased child marriages?

“I am not aware of any child marriages that have taken place in Jordan, and Palestinians in Jordan have been part of our community for the past few decades and have integrated into our society. Part of the final solution to the Palestinian Israeli problem is the right of return and the right of those people who are in Jordan to be able to go back to their newly established Palestinian state and live there, so this is how we plan things to be done, this is part of the peace process.”

In your opinion, has Pan-Arabism failed? Particularly after Sadat signed the Camp David Accords with Israel.

“Pan-Arabism is still very much alive in terms of the Arab League. All the Arab countries are part of the Arab League, every year there is a summit conference that takes place and brings all the leaders together. There is always hope that there are continued operations between the countries, but what I would like to say on this particular issue is that when talking about Pan Arabism as a union of Arab states, the word ‘union’ can mean many different contexts in many different shapes. Before, we used to talk about the [Arab] Union where every country comes under one banner and one leader. What is more important than that (when it comes to the Arab union), is what we can see happening in the EU and generally in Europe, which is a cooperation between countries. As a result, trade between the countries increases to allow freedom of movement within Arab countries. I think that recent history has shown that this is more important for Pan Arabism, so long as the [Arab] Union becomes more integrated and, cooperates on humanities, arts, culture and economically. This is what is really important and that is what the Arabs are working for.”

Apart from the coalition airstrikes, what else is Jordan doing to counter the influence of Daesh?

“We have one of the most prominent security agencies, I would say, in the world, and a very strong army. With the help of our friends and our allies, we protect our borders from any infiltration coming into the country, which is always under threat. We screen all the Syrian refugees coming into the country, making sure that there are no sleeping cells, but I think the most important thing we have to do and what we are trying to do, as I mentioned in the lecture is focusing on the economy, trying to draw in more investments and job opportunities for Jordanians, because by giving opportunities for people to work you give them a choice and they are less vulnerable to extremist ideology.”

Newspapers such as “The Economist” claim that Jordan is balancing its relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran. How does Jordan manage to balance its relationship between two countries that are clearly opposed to each other?

The way that Jordan historically has had a balanced relationship with everyone is that we have an open relationship with all the countries. Of course, Saudi Arabia is our neighbour, historically they are our friends and our brothers, they and the GCC countries and they remain our most important neighbours. I would never compare our relationship with Iran with that of Saudi Arabia or the GCC countries. They are totally at different levels, but I would like just to add on top of this that we have recently asked our Ambassador in Iran to come back to Jordan for consultations and he has not been back to Tehran. We took a very strong stance in retaliation to Iran’s continued interference in the affairs of its neighbouring states, so that’s how we have tackled that issue. We therefore have a balance, but we have to take a stance: we stand with our brethren.”

What is Jordan doing trying to do to become independent from Gulf States? As it is currently quite dependent on them for aid.

“As we said at the beginning, you asked me about Pan Arabism, Pan Arabism is about all of us working together, cooperating in difference places. Economically we are very proud of the support that Saudi Arabia has been giving Jordan. We have recently signed a very important agreement with them that is going to bring a lot of investments into the country, so Saudi Arabia are creating many jobs for Jordanians, as they realise the importance of a stable Jordan. At the same time, the cooperation is that we maintain a very strong and secure country because Jordan lies on the borders of Saudi Arabia, so it is in everybody’s interest that Jordan remains as stable as it has always been.

Josh Moss, Journal Editor of DU PolSoc








Social Media, Free Speech and Global Terrorism: The Battle of Ideas.

How the power of social media is being harnessed by the world’s most feared terrorists. 

Technology has changed our lives. The growth of social media has brought in an era of mass communication and with it mass connection with millions of people around the world.  However with the rise of the internet has come instantaneous and almost untraceable propaganda for terrorist organisations.  In the internet domain governments are struggling to contain the spread of such radical ideologies. We are unprotected from the cyber poison of these groups. The use of globalised social media by IS is one current example of this. The growth of global information sharing has made it harder for dictatorships to keep their people in ignorance, but from events in the Middle East it’s clear to see that is not clear cut. Where states were liberated in the name of democracy and freedom their hope was replaced by instability, civil war and the rise of military factions such as IS, so in reality whole regions have been destabilised and technology and social media has paved the way.  Has the globalised technology sharing failed those in Syria, Iraq, etc? Yes, to some extent technology has provided a way for terrorist groups to profit and flourish.

IS has used the internet unlike any other group before them.  They aim their reach beyond the Arab world.  Only 3.7% of the world’s internet users come from the Middle East and only 40.2% of Middle Easterners have access to the Internet.  It is clear from these statistics that IS use of social media is aimed at Westerners that have greater access to social media rather than the relatively unconnected people of the Middle East. Furthermore, many of the Jihadis murdering for IS are illiterate and ‘educated’ in extremist Madrasas, so they cannot read the tweets or posts.  IS aims are clear – radicalise Western Muslims who feel alienated by the Western culture of equal rights for women, multiculturalism and democracy. It is easy pickings reaching out to kids growing up in the Muslim ghettos of France or Belgium or even the radicalised and illegal schools in Birmingham.  Despite the UK’s online measures against terrorist content that started in 2010 and the removal of 75,000 pieces of content from the internet by March 2015, the UK is the 2nd leading source of radicalised individuals traveling to fight for the Islamic State from Europe. The first is France.

IS are using a variety of highly encrypted apps to spread not just propaganda, but also training materials, advice on how to get weapons and build bombs and how to commit lone wolf style attacks of Jihad.  This covert information sharing is vital to the terrorist operation, but it is overshadowed by IS’s use of propaganda videos.  Only 2% of IS propaganda is brutality the rest is desperately trying to display an Islamic utopia that IS. Although, The 2% definitely makes an impact consisting of executions of women, homosexuals, foreigners, aid workers and journalists. The latest video of supposedly five British spys being executed point blank and with a young boy allegedly from Lewisham, London talking about killing infidels.  It hits hard. The boy embodies IS poison leaching into every pore of innocents. It makes us question of we can stop it.

Terrorist organisations are ahead of the law enforcement agencies and the only way to combat them would be to allow government access to encrypted communications.  Protecting our liberal democracies through illiberal means sacrifices our privacy and data security.  It also brings up questions of free speech on social media by non-sympathisers of IS. Islam unlike any other religion has waged a war on what ‘offends’ it which can be seen in the targeting of France a country that enjoys satire, the jihad on Salman Rushdie and other writers. Should we give up our free speech to try and appease extremists? No. We should tweet up louder.  “Ideologies are not defeated with guns. They are defeated with better ideas,” President Barack Obama said in July 2015. “This larger battle for hearts and minds is going to be a generational struggle.”  Global terrorism powered by social media is the age we live in, but we can share secular information and facts about human rights to minimalize IS’s exploitation of the ignorant and vulnerable on the internet.

By Vicki Lincoln