Jordan’s Prince Hamza bin Hussein pledged allegiance to half-brother King Abdullah II just 2 days after he was placed under house arrest amid accusations of trying to destabilize the country.
Prince Hamza is the oldest son of the late King Hussein and his wife Noor, who had groomed him as a future monarch. He has served in the Jordanian armed forces.
King Abdullah removed Hamza from his position as Crown Prince and heir to the throne in 2004, in a move that consolidated his power.
“I place myself in the hands of his majesty the king… I will remain committed to the constitution of the dear Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” Prince Hamza said in the letter released by the palace, following a meeting with the king’s uncle Prince Hassan and other princes yesterday. Hassan is also a former crown prince.
“The national interest must remain above all else, and we must all stand behind His Majesty the King in his efforts to safeguard Jordan and its national interests, and ensue the best for the Jordanian people,” read the letter that the royal court was signed by Prince Hamzah.
On Saturday the military said it had issued a warning to the prince over actions targeting “security and stability.” Prince Hamza later said he was under house arrest, saying in a video passed to the BBC by his lawyer that Jordan’s rulers are corrupt and put their interests above those of the public.
Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a televised news conference on Sunday that Prince Hamza, liaised with foreign parties over a plot to destabilize the country and has been under investigation for some time.
“The investigations had monitored interferences and communications with foreign parties over the right timing to destabilize Jordan,” said Safadi, including contact between a foreign intelligence agency and Prince Hamza’s wife to organize a plane for the couple to leave Jordan.
Safadi revealed that 14-16 others arrested in connection with the plot will be referred to the state security court for prosecution. The state news agency said the suspects include Bassem Awadallah, a US-educated confidant of the king who became minister of finance and adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; and royal family member Sharif Hassan Ben Zaid.
“Initial investigations showed these activities and movements had reached a stage that directly affected the security and stability of the country,” said Deputy Premier Safadi. He went on to say that even though “His Majesty decided it was best to talk directly to Prince Hamza” in an effort “to resolve the crisis within the royal family,” that “Prince Hamza was not cooperative” in what he called “a break from the traditions and values of the Hashemite family.”
In a voice recording released on Monday by opposition figures, Hamza openly accused Jordan’s leaders of corruption and vowed to disobey orders by the army not to communicate with outside world.
“I am going to escalate and won’t obey when they tell you that you cannot go out or tweet or reach out to people and are only allowed to see the family,” he said.
It is unclear why the kingdom decided to crack down on Prince Hamza now, who has largely been marginalized for years.
He put himself at growing risk with visits in recent weeks to members of the vocal “Herak” opposition, which is active both domestically as well as abroad. The loosely organized group not only openly criticize the king and the government, but have called for protests against corruption in a country hard hit by the impact COVID-19 has had on the economy. Jordan suffered its worst recession in decades in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, and deteriorating living standards has been sparked major civil unrest.
There has also been rising public anger in Jordan since 9 coronavirus patients died when oxygen ran out at a newly-built state hospital that exposed negligence blamed on official mismanagement and corruption. Security forces dispersed subsequent protests were broken up with tear gas.
During condolence calls at the homes of those who died, Prince Hamza was said to have emulated the tone and language of his late father King Hussein – who is revered by many Jordanians. The Royal Palace reacted negatively to what it saw as an attempt to endear himself to impoverished tribesmen in rural and Bedouin areas who are affected by rising unemployment and a shrinking national economy. Officials accused Hamza of trying to upstage Abdullah, who had earlier gone to the hospital himself to defuse anger.
Even though he is not viewed as a direct threat to the monarchy, Hamza’s actions appear to have garnered empathy from the Jordanian public against the government’s accusations. “This is character assassination without evidence,” wrote Ali R. al Tarawneh on Twitter, while someone identified as Razan commented, there is “no good in a country that imprisons its prince.”
Hamza’s mother Queen Noor, who was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby in the United States, also took to Twitter to defend her son. The Queen, who was the fourth wife and widow of late King Hussein, wrote: “Praying that truth and justice will prevail for all the innocent victims of this wicked slander,” adding, “God bless and keep them safe.”
“What Prince Hamza said is repeatedly heard in the homes of every Jordanian,” prominent columnist Ahmad Hasan al Zoubi posted on his Facebook account. “It’s not a secret these same words are used every day in all homes.” He added that, “The authorities should listen to the alarm bells rung from two different sources, from the people and from within the royal family about the real conditions of the country and prevailing corruption.”
While official sources familiar with the situation said that the King Abdullah has been displeased by expressions of support for his half-brother, most politicians believe Prince Hamza will be silenced and it is unlikely he could pose a serious threat to the unshakeable backing the Hashemite dynasty receives from the military and security forces.
Jawad al Anani, the last royal court chief under the late King Hussein, was cited by Reuters as saying that he believes “King Abdullah has confirmed himself in the saddle and his son Hussein has consolidated himself as the heir to the throne.” He nevertheless described the past few days as “a page turner event.”
The first such open rift in the royal family in many years has shaken the Hashemite Kingdom’s image as a haven of stability in the often-volatile Middle East.
Jordan’s neighbors and allies were quick to react to the incident, with all expressing support of King Abdullah across the board. Responses to the incident compiled by Reuters are as follows:
The United States
“We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials. King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support,” US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in an email.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called King Abdullah on Sunday to affirm their support for the steps he has taken to preserve Jordan’s stability and security, state news agency SPA reported.
A later Saudi royal court statement said, “The kingdom affirms its full support, with all its capabilities, to all decisions and measures taken by King Abdullah and His Highness Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, the Crown Prince, to maintain security and stability.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud released a separate statement, vowing “firm and lasting” support of Jordanian stability and prosperity that he said serves as the “basis for the stability and prosperity of the whole region.”
United Arab Emirates
The Ministry of Presidential Affairs stressed the UAE’s full support for all decisions and measures taken by King Abdullah and his crown prince to maintain Jordan’s security and stability and “to defuse any attempt to impact them.”
Senior Emirati official Anwar Gargash said on Twitter that Jordan’s “wise policy to build bridges in a turbulent region was not an easy choice but was, and remains, the necessary direction.”
A spokesman for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi expressed support for King Abdullah and his efforts “to maintain the security and stability of the kingdom against any attempts to undermine it” in a message posted on Facebook.
“His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa affirmed full support to the decisions and measures taken by HM King Abdulla II Ibn Al Hussein of Jordan to maintain his country’s security and stability and defuse all disruptive attempts,” said the state BNA news agency.
“Jordan’s security and safety is a fundamental basis for the security and safety of the Arab world,” Lebanese Prime Minister-Designate Saad al-Hariri wrote on Twitter, adding that, “All the solidarity with the Jordanian leadership and King Abdullah in defending the gains of the Jordanian people, protecting their stability, and refusing interference in their affairs.”
The Foreign Ministry voiced solidarity with all measures taken by King Abdullah and his crown prince, asserting that “the security and stability of the kingdom are that of Kuwait”.
A Foreign Ministry statement said, “The Iraqi government affirms that it stands with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II, in any steps taken to preserve the security and stability of the country and take care of the interests of the brotherly people of Jordan, in a way that boosts their presence, by relying on measures that aim to extend the respect of the state.”
Doha voiced full support of decisions and measures issued by King Abdullah to preserve security and stability, and boost the process of progress and prosperity, reported the state QNA news agency adding that strategic bilateral relations “will remain an honest and strong guard against any attempts to undermine the security and stability in the two countries and the region.”
King Mohammed VI also called his Jordanian counterpart to express solidarity and support for the measures, according to a statement from Rabat’s royal palace.
The state Saba news agency published a statement from Yemen’s internationally recognized government, that “affirms its absolute support and totally stands with all decisions and measures taken by His Majesty King Abdullah aimed at maintaining security and ending any attempts to destabilize the sisterly Kingdom of Jordan.”
The 22-member group posted a statement on Facebook saying that Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed full solidarity with the measures taken by the Jordanian leadership to maintain the security of the kingdom and maintain the stability.” It added that “King Abdullah II has a high and appreciated position, whether among the Jordanian people or on the Arab level in general, and that everyone knows his sincerity and his great role in serving Arab causes,” and “stressed” Gheit’s “confidence in the leadership’s wisdom and its keenness to secure the country’s stability in parallel with the respect for the constitution and the law.”
Gulf Cooperation Council
In a statement, GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah Mubarak al-Hajraf said the bloc affirmed its full support for all decisions and measures taken by King Abdullah to preserve the security and stability of Jordan.
The Palestinians also weighed in, with the official WAFA news agency reporting that, “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that we stand by the sisterly Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the king, the government, and the people.” The statement added support for “the decisions taken by King Abdullah II to preserve Jordan’s security and ensure its stability and unity,” while “stressing that Jordan’s security and stability is a supreme Palestinian interest.”