An initiative started by a group of Jordanian entertainers aims to fight racism in the region and even questions the borders that divide the modern Middle East.
In light of a recent violent clash between supporters of rival football clubs in Jordan that raised tensions between Jordanians of Bedouin descent and Jordanians of Palestinian descent, various local actors, entertainers, and online personalities have come together under the hashtag #تحدي_العنصرية (#Challenge_Racism), posting videos on social media calling for an end to the discord and violence that has sometimes plagued Jordan.
“Since 1948 we’ve been living together, why are we acting like this?” Asked Mo’ath Essam al-Omari in the video that begin the campaign. “Why are we letting a game of football divide us?”
Heightened tensions came after an August 26th football game between Al-Wehdat FC and Ar-Ramtha FC. Al-Wehdat’s supporters are mostly Palestinians and Jordanian-Palestinians, whereas the city of Ar Ramtha lies on the border with Syria-quite removed from the country’s ethnically Palestinian population. Fans of both clubs stormed the field, and the Gendarmarie (Jordanian military police) was dispatched to break up the brawling ultras.
“I’m not Jordanian, nor am I Palestinian”, said actor and performer Ahmed Srour in a video posted to his Facebook page. “I’m Jordanian-Palestinian. Together. No, not from Palestinian roots. I’m Jordanian-Palestinian. This is how I am.”
Some brought the borders of the Middle East into the discussion. “People ask me: are you Palestinian or Jordanian? So I ask do you mean before or after Sykes-Picot?”, said Amman-based comedian Nicholas Khoury in a video on his Facebook page. “Our grandfathers are older than these borders! … Whoever says anything else is a servant to Sykes-Picot, not to his nation.”
Violence and racism across ethnic lines is not a new phenomena in Jordan. After a two waves of Palestinian migration in 1948 and 1967, demographically-speaking over half of Jordan is Palestinian or of Palestinian roots according to Jordan’s most recent census. The worst came in 1970, when the country experienced a brief civil war as the Palestinian Liberation Organization fought an armed conflict with the Jordanian Monarchy.
Nevertheless, decades of intermarriage and integration into Jordanian society has improved relations.
“It’s gotten to the point that we can’t even tell who is from east of the [Jordan] river and who’s from the west of the river anymore.”, says al-Omari in the campaigns opening video. “So why? Why all of this fighting?”