Jordanians will attempt to stop its citizens from joining jihadist groups in Syria. The lower house of the Jordanian parliament has prepared a controversial bill that would detain without trial anyone affiliated with terrorists. The bill would also criminalize joining, recruiting, funding, or arming such groups outside or within Jordan’s borders.
The government wants the legal standing to defend the country from battle hardened fighters. The goal is to maintain a neutral position with the Assad government. Doing that means stopping Jordanians from joining jihadist groups at the expense of basic press and political freedoms.
Government leaders are concerned that too many of its citizens have crossed over to Syria to fight against the Assad regime. The legislation attempts to curtail Jordanian jihadists and stop their funding of rebel Syrian fighters.
Security officials in Jordan estimated 300 militants have returned from Syrian over the past two months. Most escaped rebel infighting or sought medical treatment.
Hassan Abu Haniyeh, an Amman expert in Islamic movements, there is believed to be more than 2,000 Jordanians fighting in Syria. Many are thought to be with either the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq or their rival the Jabhat al-Nusra.
Since December, authorities have arrested 120 people and accused them of joining rebel groups in Syria. Ninety are to soon stand trial in military courts as enemy combatants. To date, over 40 Jordanians have been convicted under current anti-terrorism laws. The bill to be presented before the Jordanian parliament proposes a legal basis to hinder its citizens from becoming, supporting, and financing groups the government deems as terrorists.
Mohammed Momani, a government spokesman, said that any Jordanian fighting in Syria is arrested upon his return. Such people are sent to court to stand trial. The pending bill in parliament would grant the government the authority to prosecute such cases with a legal statute.
Mohammed Qatatsheh, a parliamentarian from Amman, said he and fellow members are concerned the bill would restrict press and political freedoms. Journalists and average citizens voicing their opinion could be arrested.
Despite the ramifications of the bill, Qatatsheh is more concerned about the growing jihadist threat in Jordan. Given the choice of a clampdown of press and political freedoms verses Jordan being deemed an ally of Syrian rebel groups, Qatatsheh will support the bill when it comes to a vote.
Zaki Bani Rsheid, the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, wants to maintain cordial relations with the current government. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood have taken steps to protect Jordan from extremist. After the Egyptian military coup and a crackdown in Saudi Arabia against Islamic groups, Rsheid fears the bill would result in his party being banned in Jordan.
Abu Sayyef, head of Jordan’s al-Qaeda linked Salafist movement, criticized the bill. The Jordanian government has allowed Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the West to arm and train rebel fighters in Syria. In a fight against a common enemy, the leaders of these countries have the gall to continue calling al-Qaeda a terrorist organization. The recent wave of arrests has not deterred Jordanians from fighting against the Syrian government. Sayyef estimated that over the past two months, 100 Jordanians have crossed into Syria per week.
In order to maintain their neutrality, the Jordanian parliament believes it must take a stand against its citizens crossing into Syria. A bill restricting basic freedoms will soon be brought out for debate and then given a vote. Jordanian parliamentarians have the simple choice of restricting press and political freedoms or stopping its citizens from becoming jihadist fighters in Syria.
By Brian T. Yates