AMMAN, JORDAN (AFP) – Prince Hamzah first appeared in public on Sunday since he was placed under house arrest last week as he and King Abdullah II read the Koranic verses to their ancestral graves. This gesture seems to have been an attempt to show unity at Jordan’s biggest holiday.
Abdulla has tried to indicate in recent days that the situation is under control. But what happened on Sunday was not clear if the king and his half-brother had given up the dispute. The conflict escalated into the most dangerous public unruly family for decades, although Hamza denied any wrongdoing.
Hamzah joined the royal family of Jordan a century after the founding of the Emirate of Transjordan, a British protectorate that preceded the kingdom. The Royal Palace published a picture and video with Abdullah and Hamz to join other personalities at the graves of their deceased father, King Hussein, and the deceased King Talal, grandfather.
There seemed to be a picture and video of the family reciting Surat Al-Fateh from the Qur’an with the aim of sending a message of unity to the country at sensitive times. The salt, known as Al-Fatiha, is traditionally counted in human cemeteries.
It was the first time Hamza had appeared in public since he was placed under house arrest on April 3 on charges of engaging in an “abusive plan” to destabilize the kingdom.
In leaked statements to the media, Hamza denied the allegations and accused the state government of corruption and misconduct. Hamza said his actions stemmed from patriotism. But his past criticism of government policy and his recent interactions with powerful tribal leaders who have criticized the government are seen as a threat to the king.
Abdullah said the authorities had thwarted an attempt to seduce his half-brother and some 18 suspects, while he said he was angry and shocked. Abdullah also pointed out that Hamz’s movements continued to be controlled, saying that the prince was “with his family in his palace, under my care.”
The authorities have issued a general order for any coverage of the royal conflict, indicating how sensitive they are to its perception. Gag’s order and the king’s desire to punish his brother also reaffirmed what the Jordanians understood as the “red line” – an absolute ban on criticizing the king or the royal family.
Hamza’s appearance on Sunday showed that he was safe, but it was not clear whether he came voluntarily or was released from movement restrictions. Hamzah, who wore a suit, a traditional hood, and a blue surgical mask, joined his relatives in prayer but did not comment publicly. It was not immediately known where he was after the ceremony.
Nor was it indicated that the authorities would release up to 18 other detainees, including one of the powerful tribes on which the monarchy had historically relied.
Even before the castle drama, Jordan was experiencing an economic crisis exacerbated by a coronavirus pandemic, with one in four people out of work. Old complaints of corruption and mismanagement have sparked sporadic protests in recent months.
At the same time, the strategic landscape in the region is changing as strong Gulf states seek closer ties with Israel, which could undermine Jordan’s role in the Middle East peace process.
The king, along with his regional allies, gathered in the United States. Jordan has long been considered a relatively stable Western ally in the Middle East in a volatile region. But last year, the coronavir shook the country’s economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism.
Abdullah and Hamza are the two sons of King Hussein, who ruled Jordan for almost half a century before his death in 1999 and is still a widely loved figure. Abdulla had succeeded Hamza as Crown Prince by his succession, but in 2004 he revoked the title and gave it to his eldest son instead.
There are many Palestinians in Jordan, including more than two million refugees from previous wars with Israel and their descendants. The monarchy granted full citizenship to most of them, but has historically viewed them with suspicion. Its main base of support is the strong clans east of the Jordan River, which dominate the security forces.
For decades, the monarchy had close ties with the United States and other Western countries, which they used to form a Palestinian state such as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordan in the 1967 war.
This strategy has reached the wall in recent years as the peace process has stalled. Israel and Jordan reached peace in 1994 and maintained close security ties, but ties have deteriorated during recent diplomatic fighting.
Meanwhile, the Gulf states are working to forge closer ties with Israel due to their shared hatred of Iran, and the ties were announced last year when the UAE agreed to normalize relations with Israel through a US mediation deal. Saudi Arabia sometimes seems to be considering a similar step.
Federman reported from Jerusalem.