Thursday, August 2, 2012

Photo Journalism Continued: Orphans in Jordan

So about a week ago I accompanied my Journalist friend to duar Abdoun, which is considered one of the most expensive and richest places of Amman. We went there because a group of orphans were protesting the way that the Jordanian government treats them. To read about more, click here for the AlBawaba article... I took the picture featured with the article. When we were at the circle, we spoke with several of the orphans' 'leaders.' Most of these orphans are actually no longer considered 'orphans' anymore because they are over the age of eighteen. However, as stated by the article, the government highlights their orphan status in society, making it very hard for them to obtain a job and socially integrate. One girl we spoke with in particularly stuck out in my mind. Her hair was cut extremely short so that she would look like a boy. She told us that she gets less harassment when she is sleeping on the streets. She told us of the terrible treatment she received by the care center that she lived in until she was old enough for them to kick her out. Another thing that struck me was the fact that these orphans were sleeping on the circle (they have been traveling from circle to circle for the last several years protesting their forced and separation from society at the hands of the government)... many were huddled in sleeping bags on sparse patches of grass. When one orphan was explaining to me what protest signs they had hung up at the circle said, he also pointed out a group of men hanging close to the protest. "Those are the mukhabarat," he told me in Arabic. "Take a picture." The Mukhabarat are the secret police in Jordan. One of the things that shocked me most was the fact that all of these orphans were of Palestinian descent, a fact that speaks to the government's continual discrimination against and victimization of Palestinians who live on Jordanian soil.

Fighting to Empower

As I mentioned in my previous posts, Tamkeen has been facing issues with the Jordanian government denying their ability to receive funding from foreign organizations. Not only is Tamkeen pursuing action by writing letters to the Prime Minister to reverse the decision, but also other media outlets and international organizations are picking up their pens to write and spread awareness about the Jordanian government's decision to both interfere with and more tightly control civil society.  Human Rights Watch released a wonderful article that not only provides an analysis of the situation, but also a historical background of the legal framework that allows the government to hold so much influence over a sector of society that is supposed to act as the government's watchdog. To read this article, click here. The Jordan Times, a daily newspaper in Jordan that is generally considered to be pro-government, likewise released an article about the government's restriction. This article is particularly interesting because it includes pieces of an interview with the Director of Tamkeen in which she describes services that Tamkeen wants to provide to migrant workers with the help of foreign funders, but cannot because the government is barring the way. To read this article, click here.

Not only does the actions of the Jordanian government restrict Jordanians' rights to freedom of association, but they likewise even further alienate migrant workers, who, as Christopher Wilcke said at the end of the Human Rights Watch Article, "are among the most vulnerable people in Jordanian society." Although the Human Rights Watch Article emphasized the fact that the government denied Tamkeen's access to foreign funding 'without giving reasons,' from what I have heard and experienced working with Tamkeen, the reasons, while not expressly stated, are perfectly clear. The Jordanian government does not want the fact that human trafficking exists (and to a shockingly high degree) in Jordan to be common knowledge among the international arena. Tamkeen, who expressly states that human trafficking does exist in Jordan and tries to create stronger and more transparent relationships between stakeholders and migrant workers to stop it, blatantly challenges the facade that the Jordanian government has created for the international community. The government simply wants to be able to point to all of the international conventions it has adopted on human rights, and be able to say 'Look! Look! We are champions of democratic values,' without having to actually create and develop the institutions that support, protect, and actualize those values in society. Many government officials, security officers, employers, and sponsors benefit from the exploitative and corrupt system that currently exists in Jordan. They want to mask the fact that Jordan both legally and socially allows human trafficking within its borders. They would lose money if people were actually treated like human beings, and given the rights that Jordan has publicly said they deserve.