So I was asked to post my thoughts on the police brutality and rioting that took place after Wehdat beat Faisaly to go 8 points clear in the Jordanian Premier League.
Some of you might be wondering why were talking about the Jordanian League and not the Palestinian one. Allow me to explain:
Jordan has high a concentration of Palestinian refugees. Many of these refugees hold Jordanian citizenship and played an active role in developing the country after British withdrawal from the region. From 1948 to 1967 the government made an active effort not to differentiate between West Bankers (Palestinians) and East Bankers (Jordanians). A lot of this had to with the fact that King Hussein annexed the West Bank in a very undemocratic and unilateral manner. In order to be seen as the rightful ruler of the land he had to convey that there was no difference between the Bedouin tribes who supported him and kept him in power and the more educated and urban populous he had just inherited.
When Israel annexed the West Bank (Jordan put in a half-hearted effort to defend it) in 1967 there was serious unrest which would be manifested in a civil war known as Black September. Since that moment in time, Palestinians have not been allowed to hold certain positions in the the military and have been at a severe disadvantage when trying to secure government jobs. All this despite the fact that Palestinians make up the majority of the general populous.
Because Jordan is the only country to have granted citizenship rights to Palestinians it is often lauded by organizations such as UNRWA. Unfortunately, there are tensions that are festering beneath an ostensibly calm surface. Many are panicked about a persistent rumor that Israel will expel its entire population to Jordan and allow King Abdullah to annex parts of the West Bank in return. In an effort to quell the rumor, the government stripped 40,000 Palestinians of their National ID cards, effectively turning them into persona non grata within their own country.
On to the football part-
Wehdat is a team based out of the largest refugee camp in Amman and has a large, almost exclusively Palestinian following. Al-Faisaly, is the most successful club in the country and has a large following amongst King Abdullah’s power base. As the two most successful clubs in the country there has always been a rivalry between the two sides. For the most part, the rivalry was somewhat healthy. In recent years, however, it has taken a turn for the worse.
Common chants amongst the Faisaly supporters are:
Fadi Lafi, you have no honor! فادي لافي شرف ما في Fadi Lafi Sharaf Ma Fi!
Divorce Her, Divorce Her! طلقها, طلقها Talegha, Talegha!
Dirt, Dirt, Dirt, F@## your mother Palestine طين طين طين ك امك يا فلسطين
The last chant caused a Jordanian Shield match to be cancelled in 2009 after a wave of football related violence. What caused 250 people to be injured this past weekend wasn’t racist chanting it was a stampede that occurred after the game was finished. Wehdat had won 1-0 (Abdelatif Bahdari started the entire game for Wehdat as did Shareef Adnan for Faisaly, Fahed Attal got in as a sub in the second half while Ahmed Keshkesh was an unused sub).
As Faisaly supporters left the match they threw stones and taunted Wehdat supporters in the opposing section. Seeking to avoid any problems a proper police force should step in, separate the fans, and arrest the trouble makers. In Jordan, however, the police are Faisaly fans so they took the opportunity to rush into the Wehdat section of the stadium and mercilessly beat anyone they saw wearing green. The fans, seeking to escape, ran towards the pitch causing a stampede and breaking a metal barrier in the process.
The government is promising to investigate but refuses to blame the police for their excess brutality in handling the situation.
You can watch the Al-Jazeera English report on the match here.