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Middle East

Jordanian MP: 'What you see as violence is only defending our country'

Jordan's Islamic Action Front claims to be a moderate party, but is it creating a welcome atmosphere for violence and discrimination in the country? MP and spokeswoman Dima Tahboub is on Conflict Zone this week.

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Dima Tahboub on Conflict Zone

"We totally condemn violence," Jordanian MP and spokeswoman for the Islamic Action Front Dima Tahboub told DW's Tim Sebastian. 

The Islamic Action Front (IAF) is the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. It officially renounces violence, as does the Muslim Brotherhood.

But after campaigning to stop a gay singer appearing in Jordan and welcoming the release of a child murderer, are the IAF's moderate credentials wearing thin?

'Island of Peace' massacre

In March, a former Jordanian soldier was released from prison after serving 20 years for the murder of seven schoolgirls in 1997.

Ahmad Daqamseh opened fire on the children while they were visiting a park on the Israeli-Jordanian border. He claimed they had mocked him while he was praying.

Jordan's late King Hussein visited Israel in the days after the massacre to apologize and pay respects to the families of the victims.

The IAF welcomed Daqamseh's recent release in a statement, saying: "We congratulate Jordan and the family of the hero Ahmad al Daqmaseh [on] his release from prison."

Conflict Zone host Tim Sebastian asked Tahboub how a killer of schoolchildren could be celebrated as a hero.

Sebastian: Why do you have so little humanity on the death of seven unprotected Israeli schoolgirls? 

Tahboub: This is your part of the story, Tim. You're accusing me of it. 

Sebastian: It's the truth, isn't it? You're making a hero out of the man who shot them.

Tahboub: No it is not the truth. There are always two sides of the coin. You're looking to your side of the coin and accusing upon that. 

Sebastian: Tell me how that looks good: a man opening fire on unprotected 13 and 14 year old schoolgirls?

Tahboub: No, they were not only schoolgirls, OK? They're not only schoolgirls. They were people who mocked our country, who mocked our religion.

Daqamseh was sentenced to life imprisonment and avoided the death penalty after he was judged to be mentally unstable.

"I saw him and he is not mentally unstable to us," said Thaboub. "He's not mentally unstable to a lot of the Jordanian people."

Al-Aqsa violence

More recent violence has increased tension in the region following the murder of two Israeli policemen on 14 July, which resulted in thetemporary closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to Muslim worshippers.

Palästina Demonstration (Picture alliance/Zumapress/A. Amra)

Demonstrators in Gaza protest new security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, introduced after an attack killing two policemen.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a holy site for both Muslims and Jews, though Jews are not permitted to pray there. Palestinians argued the closure violated their religious freedom and protesters have clashed with Israeli police.

Did the Islamic Action Front MP glory in the bloodshed of the attack?

"Well, actually, it is different from the way we see it, because we see the Israelis as aggressors. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is a holy site for Muslims. They shouldn't be there in the first place. So they are the aggressors," said the MP.

Was the party therefore promoting violence?

"Not at all. This is your term, you are using 'violence'. As I said, I see it as trying to free our country, trying to free the most holy sites of Muslims which is Al-Aqsa Mosque. Yesterday, the Jordanian parliament has supported what has happened in Al-Aqsa Mosque. Can you say that all the Jordanian parliament is also supporting violence?"

The perpetrators, three Israeli Palestinians, were also killed in the firefight that followed the killing of the two officers.

Jordanien Arabischer Gipfel (picture-alliance/abaca/Balkis Press)

King of Jordan Abdullah II reportedly condemned those who “undermine security and stability”, following the attack at the Al-Aqsa Mosque

The Jordanian parliament was reported to have stood for prayers for the attackers, while its speaker blamed "Israel's continued and serious crimes … for lighting the fire of revenge".

The attack was condemned by Jordan's King Abdullah in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

'Palestinians are only retaliating'

But as the cycle of violence continues, Tim Sebastian asked Tahboub whether she was willing to follow the difficult road towards peace.

Sebastian: You know that this will end, when it does end, at a negotiating table, not in bloodshed on the holiest site. But you don’t want to do the difficult thing which is to unify the Palestinians and make peace. You just want to kill.

Tahboub: Who initiated the violence? The Palestinians did not initiate the violence. The Israelis initiated the violence by occupying Palestine, by transgressing on a holy site for Muslims. They initiated the violence. You should blame them for starting it. The Palestinians are only retaliating.

[…]

Sebastian: You’re an armchair terrorist, aren’t you? 

Tahboub: No, not at all. Not at all. This is the way you term it, you see it as violence. I see it as a freedom fighter trying to …

Sebastian: Plenty of the world does see it as violence. Plenty of the world does.

Tahboub: Ok. But the majority of people who want to free Palestine, who still call for freeing Palestine, see it as retaliation, as they see them as freedom fighters. So what you see as violence is only defending our country.

The Jordanian MP also went on to question whether blood was being shed for nothing: "Yielding to the Israelis did not get us any step further. The settlements are still there, they're still expanding. No rights, no human rights whatever for the Palestinians. So it didn't get us anywhere also to negotiate with the Israelis."

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