The brutally violent incident in Zarqa recently was shocking on all fronts. The level of violence that a teenager has suffered from should trigger deeper analysis of the escalation of social violence in these areas.
Over many years and on several occasions in this column in the Jordan Times, I have highlighted the extreme conditions of the city of Zarqa*. I have discussed the deep problems that the city is facing, and urging consideration not just from the perspective of radicalization, but digging deeper to the underlying issues around quality of life and the economic and social dysfunction that leads to this kind of violence.
In situations like this, it is critical to understand the underlying disease, rather than trying to treat the symptoms on the surface. Further, when a situation has escalated to this level of social violence, addressing the underlying disease must be a priority. When analyzing the social violence in Zarqa, while the extent of the issues may not have previously been known, it is clearly not a new issue to have escalated to this extent. At the very least, this incident should serve as a wakeup call to face the reality of the situation and counter the trend.
It is also important to consider the context of the situation, where people in the regional areas of Jordan have been living with news about violence on a daily basis for many years since the Iraq War. This kind of long-term exposure can have significant psychological effects, including increasing tolerance for violence amongst communities. There has been no systematic humanitarian approach to managing the impacts of war and displacement to promote social solidarity and ensure integration of societies.
The parallel objective of any socio-economic policy process must promote the concepts of tolerance, diversity and recognizing the value of human life. It is critical to overcome the dramatic failure of policies applied in the city of Zarqa, particularly when it comes to providing basic services especially when these are the simplest to achieve, as the first step to solving more complex issues.
From a security point of view, social violence is no longer linked to individuals or special limited cases. Unless these high levels of poverty and economic hardship are addressed, we will see an escalation of organized criminality and gangs. We are in a time when the region is facing many security challenges from both criminal and terrorist groups, and with such fertile ground for violence we could very easily see these challenges evolve into more serious and critical risks.
The wake-up call has come loud and clear; save the city before it is too late. It will not take much for those involved in terrorist activities away from home to shift attention to their place of origin. It is important to deal with the social violence, and criminality the way Jordan has been dealing with the challenges of countering terrorism. Professionalism, discipline, and cultural understanding of the problems must be the pillars of any strategy that aims to face these growing risks.
*Previous articles about Zarqa: (26-Aug-2012 ”A problem that can, and should, be solved”, “ Steps to face radicalism” Aug 30,2015”, “ Changing lifestyle and ideology, Feb 07,2016” , “Government’s role in effecting changes ,Jun 19,2017”, “ Concrete steps to counter radicalization, Aug 05,2018”, “De-radicalization and courage to face realities, Sep 09,2018.”)
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh