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memri
May 24, 2001 No.
221

Tribal Tensions in the Jordanian Parliament

A violent confrontation broke out recently between two Jordanian parliament members, during which Ahmad 'Uweidi 'Abadi bit and ripped off part of the ear of his colleague, Mansour Murad.[1] This confrontation sheds light on the tribal and political tensions amongst the Jordanian population.

'Abadi, a Bedouin member, is the author of an encyclopedia on the history of the Bedouin tribes in Jordan, and is known for his hatred of the Palestinians living in the Kingdom. In the past he has even demanded their expulsion from Jordan.[2]

Parliament member Murad, on the other hand, is a Circassian whose family comes from Kafkaz. Murad, who has long been associated with the PLO, participated in a 1970's El Al airplane hijacking in Athens.

The biting incident was the climax of a long conflict between the two tribes that has escalated over the past weeks. The events began with an attempted rape of a Cirassian girl, by three of the 'Abadi tribe, which resulted in confrontations between the two tribes.

Both tribes turned to their representatives in the parliament, demanding action. 'Abadi set up a tent in a highly populated Circassian region, and in accordance with Bedouin custom, demanded their expulsion from the region...

Murad, on the other hand, related a memo to the speaker of the Jordanian House, demanding to revoke 'Abadi's immunity so that he might be tried for "disintegrating" national unity and creating a conflict between Circassians and Bedouins who have lived in the same region for the past 50 years. Murad also accused 'Abadi of being an agent of the Israeli Mossad and claimed that he "visited Israel twice" and "often visits the Israeli embassy in Amman."[3]

Another Circassian member of parliament, Naif Mula, added that 'Abadi "is still proud of the fact that he invited the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, to visit his home, often makes pilgrimages to Israel and meets with Israeli officials, in addition to his frequent visits to the Israeli embassy in Amman, which proves that 'Abadi has a dangerous plan to disintegrate Jordanian national unity, with the support of the Israelis."[4]

'Abadi responded that he visited the Palestinian Authority and not Israel. "I am a Muslim, an Arab, a Jordanian and a Bedouin," he added, "and I met with the Palestinian people who are struggling against Israel with all its might..." "I am a nationalist and my positions are known. I am a Jordanian from a large tribe whose roots are deep and who has lived in Jordan for thousands of years. My family fought against Nebuchadnezer and the invaders who have come to Jordan from the Dark Ages and until the Turks. My family also fought against the Jews."[5]

Tujan Al-Faisal, the former Circassian Member of Parliament, explained what happened has only to do with the elections. "Parliament member Murad neglected the rights of the Circassians when a number of youths from the 'Abadi tribe tried to rape a young Circassian girl. As a result, he was fiercely criticized by the Circassians. Fearing that he would not be elected in the coming elections, he mobilized to save himself, politically."[6]

'Abadi explained the biting incident: "Member Murad arrived to the parliament accompanied by three Circassian bodyguards and they began cursing me and the Arabs. They attacked me, but I managed to get away, because I am an expert in wrestling." All of a sudden, "one of the bodyguards bit his boss' ear."[7]

The Jordanian leadership hopes to reach a compromise between the two sides. However, Murad disagrees, claiming that it is a "national problem".

Amad Al-Rab'i, columnist in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat., wrote sarcastically: "The ear, for Arabs, is an organ which has stopped functioning. Arabs talk a lot, but they do not listen."

"The Arabs suffer greatly from the inability to listen. If they used their ears, we would be spared crises, disasters and wars. I would not be exaggerating if I said that one of the reasons for the delay of democracy amongst the Arab world is the inability to use their ears and their neglect of this sensitive organ in favor of the tongue, which is used by the Arabs, since the days of Suq, of the prophet Muhammad and until today, in a way that silences the other organs, in particular the mind and the ear."8

Parliament member Hamada Fara'na summed up the incident, saying: "What happened between members 'Abadi and Murad, happens in Parliaments around the world."9


[1] Al-Hayat (London), Al-Sgarq Al-Awsat (London), Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 14, 2001.

[2] Al-Quds (PA), July 26, 1998. "They must pack up their things and return to their country because they have become a burden on the natural resources of the kingdom".

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 15, 2000.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 15, 2001.

[5] Al-Sharq AlAwsat (London), May 15, 2001.

[6] Al-Sharq Al Awsat (London), May 15, 2001.

[7] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 14, 2001.

8 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 14, 2001.

9 The Jordanian Times, May 14, 2001.