The missing Jordanian: one man quickly turning into a diplomatic nightmare
Nearly two months ago, Khaled Natour, a Jordanian youth activist, was stopped at Riyadh airport. Natour had been protesting outside the Saudi embassy in his home country weeks before but traveled to the desert Kingdom on a legitimate work visa.
Since then, the young demonstrator has simply disappeared from sight. His father was reportedly frantic and crying when he called Saudi authorities and received no response.
But the case has since widened and looks to turn into a diplomatic incident with foreign ministry officials and members of parliament getting involved.
"If he (Khaled) was a Saudi resident or Qatari or an American or any other nationality, he would have been released much quicker, in hours maybe," says Natour’s local MP, Samir Oweis.
Oweis has campaigned on behalf of his constituent for the past 55 days, including approaching Jordanian prime minister, Abdullah Ensour, directly. He claims that not only have Natour’s family been left entirely in the dark but that the issue is not merely about one man outside an embassy.
"Just because Jordan is tied to Saudi Arabia with economic aid, it doesn't mean our government can't put pressure on them," he adds.
Oweis is referring to the billions of dollars that the Saudi government sends to Jordan every year. And the MP is not the only one coming up against a brick wall. On Monday, spokesperson for the Jordanian foreign ministry, Sabah Rafie, told AP that despite direct pleas from the foreign minister and the Jordanian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, they had so far heard nothing.
The reason may have more to do with what Natour was protesting, than the demonstration itself. The young activist decided to stage his protest outside the Saudi embassy to draw attention to the Saudi-led military force that put down protests in neighboring Bahrain.
It is a sensitive subject for the Saudi Kingdom’s leaders, who are keen to support Bahrain’s Sunni government against their Shia majority. However, the constant reports of police and army brutality in Bahrain are a potential stain on the Saudi image.
But for Oweis and his campaign team, the most important thing is to get news of the missing activist and they have no intention of giving up yet.
“"We are planning to escalate our efforts, today we are heading to the National Center for Human Rights. Next we are going to protests in front of the Parliament and after that we are planning to protest at the Saudi Embassy," he tells us.
By Helen Brooks and Salem Husseini
Will it turn into a diplomatic incident? Is Jordan too reliant on Saudi money to do anything about it? Tell us what you think below.