AUTHORPatrick Fogerty Patrick Fogerty is a junior in the School of Foreign Service majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs and pursuing a certificate in Arab Studies. Originally from Newport, Rhode Island, he has discovered a passion for the culture...
October 9, 2012
November 1, 2012
The Junior Year Abroad Network (JYAN) connects Georgetown students studying abroad in a variety of cultures. Students share reflections on religion, culture, politics, and society in their host countries, commenting on topics ranging from religious freedom and interfaith dialogue to secularization, globalization, democracy, and economics.
AT THE CENTER
RELATED RESOURCES: IRAQ
Where are all the Jordanians?: A Land of Refugees
November 1, 2012 | 1 COMMENT
My roommate recently shared with me a story that demonstrates this issue. In a conversation with our host-father recently, my roommate mentioned that he had met some more Jordanians recently. “Did they say ‘Ochay’?” asked our host-father, mimicking the unique accent of the Bedouins in the region.
In the urban areas, no one speaks using this accent and it represents how are father does not see himself, or most of the urban residents of Jordan for that matter, as really Jordanian. He automatically assumed that by “Jordanian” my roommate had meant “Bedouin.” And this assumption might be accurate: For the most part, the Bedouins are the only group that I have met that don’t see themselves as from somewhere else.
The root of Jordan’s identity crisis is that it has largely become a land of refugees. Surrounded by the violence-prone states of Lebanon, where a recent car bomb recalled the chaos of the past; Iraq, where the American invasion in 2003 displaced many people; Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s reign of terror has compelled thousands of new refugees to cross the Jordanian border; and Palestine, where the Israeli occupation has caused 65 years of constant emigration from the West Bank, Jordan has become a safe-haven in the region.
Jordan currently has a population of around 6 million people. About 2 million of these people, of 33% of the citizenship, identify as Palestinian refugees. There are also approximately one million Iraqis residing inside Jordan. This means that of those two demographics alone, half of the population of Jordan sees themselves as non-permanent residents. Add in the other refugee groups and only a small portion of the population actually self-identifies as Jordanian. So what effect has this had on the politics of Jordan?
In the last election (2007), only 54% of the population turned out to vote, a number that is expected to decline even more in the upcoming elections at the beginning of 2013. Some of this is prescribed, rightfully so, to the fact that, as a monarchical country, the power of the representatives elected is actually very small. However, I would posit that this also has a lot to do with the demographic situation. As such a large section of the population does not see themselves as true citizens of Jordan, they feel little attachment to the state and as such do not feel the draw to participate as actively in the election process. This is simply a hypothesis; unfortunately, I have not had the time or the resources to do an empirical study of this phenomenon, but I feel that it would be an interesting area to explore.
In short, Jordan’s status as the only really stable country in the region has inadvertently caused it to have an identity crisis from the large number of refugees that have fled the violence of their home countries for the relative safety of Jordan. Only time will tell if these refugee groups truly become Jordanian or continue to feel as though they are not at home.
COMMENT FROM NICOLE FLEURY November 23, 2012
One of my favorite questions to ask in Doha, Qatar has become “Where are you from?” Unlike my previous experiences, this question does not just serve as a temporary icebreaker that only lasts as long as it takes for the other to voice “New Jersey.” No, here answering this question usually entails a short monologue in explanation. If you plan to engage in such activity, however, I advise you not play the guessing game; you will always lose.
Due to the wide range of responses, however, I found myself asking a similar question to Patrick when I arrived in Doha at the end of August: “Where are all the Qataris?” I quickly became familiar with the crisp white thobes and flowing black abayas that many of the Qataris, and others from the Gulf, wear frequently. Perhaps the very fact that I was for the most part able to spot Qataris and others from the GCC states, simply meant I was that much more dumbfounded over discovering how few there seemed to be in the halls of Georgetown SFS-Q and even around the city of Doha compared to a myriad of other ethnicities and cultures.
In contrast to Patrick’s observation that those who had relocated to Jordan were in search of a safe-haven, expatriates in Qatar usually relocate here for a variety of employment opportunities. This population hails from a number of countries and hold a range of positions from laborers to engineers and professors. Such an influx of labor is due to the opportunities available here, a trend that highlights one of the most important and basic differences between the predicaments in Jordan versus Qatar – the international and regional contexts. Jordan represents a relatively stable and close reprieve for peoples of select states coming from tumultuous circumstances. Conversely, Qatar is a country that is rapidly developing and investing in its infrastructure with wealthy means to support such a vast number of initiatives. In both, people relocate for better opportunities, a new life.
Many, in answer to my favorite question noted above, may start to list off countries in which they lived for short periods of time, or some have a more abbreviated narrative, “I was born in Korea, but raised in Yemen.” Most fascinating to me, however, were those who self-identify as part of a non-Qatari nation, but then note they have never even visited said country, and instead were born and lived their entire lives in Qatar. Still, they are not Qatari. This mentality comes from a number of factors, most tangible of which is the fact that these individuals are not considered citizens, for it is extremely hard to attain this status. Due to a combination of this population and those who reside here temporarily for employment, the result is a Qatar that is comprised of approximately 80% expatriates!
It is obvious that everyone is aware of this imbalance. For example, there has even been a controversial push to designate a greater amount of employment opportunities for Qataris specifically, so that they may represent a majority in professional positions within the country of which they are citizens.
I was interested while reading Patrick’s blog by the amount of similarities in our feelings of surprise about the composition of the residents within our respective study abroad countries. However, it is clear that, though there are substantial percentages of the populations within both Jordan and Qatar that consider themselves to be members of a different nation, the context behind the two situations varies drastically.