Jordan History


 History

At the crossroads of the Middle East today's Jordan has seen numerous civilizations like the Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, the Persians, the Seleucids, and the Greeks. In biblical times the Jordan territory contained three kingdoms: Edom in the south, Moab in central Jordan, and Ammon in the northern mountain areas. The growing importance of the trade route from Arabia boosted in the southeast the Nabataean kingdom with Petra as capital. In 106 AD it became part of the Roman province of Arabia. The Romans finalized in 114 the Via Nova Traiana, an important trade route, linking the port of Aqaba with Bosra in the north. Cities like Umm Quais, Jerash and Amman took advantage from the close location to this route. With the division of the Roman Empire in east and west in the 4th century, Jordan passed to the Byzantine Empire. As the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, many churches and chapels had been also built on Jordanian territory. The prosperity of this period finds it expression in mosaic art, still can be seen in Madaba.

In 636 the Jordan territory was conquered by the Arabs, establishing the Umayyad dynasty with Damascus as capital. The 11th and 12th centuries were characterized by the conflicts between the Christian Crusaders and Islamic forces. In 1116 the Crusaders controlled most of Jordan, till in 1187 sultan Salah ad Din conquered the area. Salah ad Din and his successors ruled from Cairo till the late 12th century until they were displaced by the Mamluks. In 1517 the Ottoman Turks took over Jordan and 4 centuries of general stagnation begun. In 1908 the Hejaz Railway opens, running from Damascus to Medina, passing through Jordan and gave room for some economic development.

The Hejaz Railway was repeatedly damaged during the Arab Revolt, particularly by the guerrilla force led by the British T. E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia. After World War I the Ottoman Empire was broken, the major Western powers distributed the territories among themselves, the area east of the Jordan River fell to the British.

In December 1920 Transjordan was established as British mandate; Abdullah Bin Al Hussein, born in Mecca, ruled as Emir the country. In May 1946 Transjordan became independent and Abdullah acted as first king. Two years later the country participated in the First Palestinian War against the new state of Israel. At the end of the war Jordan controlled the West Bank. In July 1951, King Abdullah I was shot dead by a Palestinian in Jerusalem while visiting the Al Aqsa Mosque. King Abdullah's eldest son, Talal Ibn Abdullah, was proclaimed king but he was deposed in 1952 because of health reasons. During his short reign he was responsible for the formation of a liberalized constitution for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, ratified in January 1952.

His son, Hussein, ruled as king from 1953 for 46 years as a pragmatic ruler. He successfully navigated the country through several wars, crises and pressures from major powers like USA and USSR, various Arab states and Israel. In the 1967 war with Israel Jordan lost the West Bank and had to cope with a dramatic increase of Palestinians refugees. The following years showed the rising power of Palestinian militants in Jordan. They constituted a growing threat to the sovereignty and security of the state, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. In July 1971 the Jordanian forces won a decisive victory over the Palestinian guerillas. In 1974 Jordan recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole represen-tative for the Palestinians. In 1988 it gives up all claims on the West Bank, declaring it Palestinian territory. In 1991 Jordan joined the Middle East peace talks with Israel. Three years later King Hussein and the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a treaty ending 46-year official state of war. The agreement improved Jordan's relations with the USA and moderate Arab states.

A domestic issue for democratic development had been in 1991 the end of martial law, existing since 1967. The signing of a national charter by King Hussein and leaders of the main political groups meant, political parties were permitted in exchange for acceptance of the constitution and the monarchy. Following the legalization of political parties in 1993 Jordan held free and fair parliamentary elections.

King Hussein died in February 1999 and his son Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussein ascended the throne. Since, King Abdullah II has continued his father's commitment to creating a strong and positive moderating role for Jordan within the Arab region and the world, following a pragmatic, non-confrontational line in foreign relations.

King Abdullah focuses moreover on economic growth and social development. Under his reign, Jordan was admitted to the World Trade Organization, and ratified agreements for the establishment of a Free Trade Area with the United States of America, the European Union, the European Free Trade Association countries, and sixteen Arab countries. King Abdullah II has also been involved in the drive for national administrative reform, as well as governmental transparency and accountability. Also, he supported the necessary legislations that guarantee women a full role in the kingdom's socio-economic and political life. Abdullah actively encouraged information technology, democracy, liberal economic policies and integration with the rest of the world.

The parliamentary election in June 2003, the first parliamentary elections under King Abdullah II, resulted in a majority for the king's supporters, win two-thirds of the seats. Parliamentary elections last took place in November 2007 with independent, pro-government candidates winning the majority of seats.

 
 Constitution & Government

The Constitution of 1952 declares Jordan a hereditary monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. The constitution stipulates the separated powers of the state: executive, legislative and judicial. The king is the most powerful figure in the country; he is the head of state, the chief executive and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The king signs and executes all laws. His veto power may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the National Assembly. He appoints and may dismiss all judges by decree, approves amendments to the constitution, declares war. Cabinet decisions, court judgments, and the national currency are issued in his name.

The king appoints the cabinet/council of ministers, led by a prime minister, who is the head of the government and a multi-party system. The king may dismiss other cabinet members at the prime minister's request. The cabinet is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies on matters of general policy and can be forced to resign by a two-thirds vote of "no confidence" by that body.

The Chamber of Deputies and the House of Notables (Senate) constitute the legislative branch of the government, and the two chambers are the National Assembly. The Chamber of Deputies has 110 members, 104 elected for a four year term in single-seat constituencies and 6 female members by a special electoral college. Of the 110 seats, Christians are reserved 9 seats and Chechens/Circassians are reserved 3. The Senate has 55 members appointed by the king for an 4-year term.

The judicial branch is an independent branch of the government. The constitution provides for three categories of courts: civil, religious, and special.

 
 Geography

Jordan shares borders with Syria to the north, Iraq to the north-east, the West Bank and Israel to the west, and Saudi Arabia to the east and south. All these border lines add up to 1,619 km. The Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea also touch the country, and thus Jordan has a coastline of 26 km. It shares control of the Dead Sea with Israel, and the coastline of the Gulf of Aqaba with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. The kingdom has an area of 92,300 sq km, much of Jordan is covered by desert.

Jordan consists of arid forest plateau in the east, with highland area in the west of arable land and Mediterranean evergreen forestry. The Great Rift Valley of the Jordan River separates Jordan, the West Bank and Israel. The highest point in the country is Jabal Umm al Dami, it is 1,854 m above sea level, while the lowest is the Dead Sea with 420 m below sea level.

 
 Demographics

In a July 2008 census, the estimated population of Jordan was 6,198, 677. 95-98 percent of Jordan's population are Arabs, Palestinians, the remaining non-Arabs of the population are mainly Circassians, Chechens and Kurds.

 
 Religion

The population consists of 92 percent Sunni Muslims, 6 percent Christian (majority Greek Orthodox), and 2 percent other religions like the Druze. The percentages vary slightly in different cities and regions, for instance the south of Jordan and cities like Zarqa have the highest percentage of Muslims, while Amman, Madaba, Salt, and Kerak have larger Christian communities than the national average, and the town of Fuhais is Christian.

 
 Economy

Jordan is a small country with limited natural resources and a lack of water supplies. Just over 10% of its land is arable. The principal crops are vegetables, wheat, citrus fruits and olives, mostly grown in the Jordan Valley. Main exports are phosphates, potash and pharmaceuticals. The service sector accounts for around two-thirds of total output and covers wholesale and retail trading, finance, transport and tourism. Jordan depends on overseas remittances and foreign aid from its oil-rich neighboring countries. The economical development had been undermined by the regional instabilities. For instance, Jordan suffered adverse economic consequences from the 1990/91 Gulf War. The number of tourists reduced and 300 000 returnees from the Gulf countries increased Jordan's unemployment rate to 30% this year. Jordan's economy has been liberalized through connecting it with partnership agreements, the World Trade Organization and Arab and foreign trade areas. Jordan is a member of various pan-Arab economic bodies, notably the Council of Arab Economic Co-operation and the Arab Monetary Fund. Jordan has a free trade accord with the USA and an association agreement with the EU. Since King Abdullah has taken throne, he has worked very closely with the IMF, been careful when implementing monetary policy, made considerable progress with privatization, and relaxed the trade regime just enough so that it has assured Jordan's membership in the World Trade Organization. The economic reforms helped Jordan become more productive and put it on the foreign investment map. Jordan's main goals are to reduce its reliance on foreign aid, lower its budget deficit, and increase incentives to invest in order to encourage job creation.

 
 Education

Education has played an important role in the development of Jordan from an agrarian, subsistence economy to a predominantly urban, industrialized nation. All citizens in poor and remote areas shall gain access to education. The government gives good attention to education to keep up with the demands of global economy.

The structure of the educational system in Jordan consists of a two-year cycle of pre-school education, ten years of compulsory basic education, and two years of secondary academic or vocational education. Access to higher education is open to holders of the General Secondary Education Certificate who can choose between private Community Colleges, public Community Colleges or universities. Most universities in Jordan follow the English-American education systems. Bachelor's Degrees normally take four years, for some subjects like Dentistry five years. A Master's degree is awarded after a further one to two years' study following a Bachelor's Degree. A Doctorate Degree is awarded after three to five years of further study and the submission of an original dissertation.

 
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