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Jordan: Country Profile

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Jordan: Country Profile

Basics:

Official country name: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Area: 35,637 sq miles (92,300 sq km)
Population: 6 million (2007 est.); as of Dec. 2006, 1.9 million registered Palestinian refugees lived in Jordan, 328,000 of them in refugee camps. Overall, Palestinians, including non-refugees, comprise an estimated 55% to 70% of the population.
Median age: 23.5
Ethnic Groups: Arab 98 percent, Armenian 1 percent, others, 1 percent
GDP and GDP per capita: $14.3 billion and $2,488 (2006 estimates)

Government and Politics:

Jordan is a hereditary, authoritarian monarchy ruled by the same family of Hashemite kings since 1921. King Abdullah II, in power since 1999, runs foreign and domestic policy and appoints the prime minister, who appoints a cabinet with the king’s approval. Jordan’s National Assembly, or Majlis al-'Umma is a bi-cameral legislature. The Senate’s 55 members are appointed by the king to four-year terms. The 110-seat Chamber of Deputies is popularly elected to four-year terms, with six seats reserved for women. Opposition parties have severely limited representation.

Religion:

Islam is the constitutionally recognized state religion, but the Jordanian Constitution also safeguards “the free exercise of all forms of worship and religious rites in accordance with the customs observed in the Kingdom.” Roughly 92 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, 2 percent is Shiite or Druze, 6 percent is Arab Christian, including Greek Orthodox, Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox and Coptic Christians.

Economy:

The Iraq war produced a small economic boom for Jordan as Iraq’s professional class migrated there, and oil-rich Gulf states invested there. The economy grew at an average of 6.4 percent between 2002 and 2006 while inflation remained around 3 percent. Jordan’s exports of chemicals and manufactured goods aren’t enough to outpace imports of oil and other commodities and goods. Jordan has a general sales tax of 16 percent, and a progressive income tax rate that tops off at 25 percent. Since 2000, Jordan has received a total of $2.78 billion in U.S. economic assistance (not including debt relief or military assistance).

Military:

Tribal Jordanians form the backbone of the Jordanian military, an 88,000-member all voluntary force (conscription ended in 1994). Jordan has a Public Security Force of 25,000, a Civil Defense Brigade and a feared intelligence service. The military focuses on internal threats such as terrorism, unrest from fundamentalist Muslims or the restless Palestinian majority, which opposes the Hashemite regime’s close alliance with the United States. Since 2000, Jordan has received $1.9 billion in U.S. military aid, which Jordan used to buy 70 to 80 F-16 fighters and Black Hawk helicopters, among other U.S. military hardware.

Human Rights, Civil Rights and Media::

Jordan has a poor human rights record. Its prisons are notorious for torturing detainees—-and being part of the U.S. rendition program. “Jordanian jailers routinely subject prisoners to illegal beatings that sometimes turn into torture,” Human Rights Watch reported in August 2007. “Guards hit prisoners with electrical cables and truncheons, and hang them in iron cuffs for hours on end.” Jordanian journalists practice self-censorship to steer clear of laws punishing reports “harmful to the country’s diplomatic relations” or to the king and the royal family.

History:

Jordan was historically dominated by Arabs since the Islamic expansion of the 7th century. Jordan was under Ottoman rule until the early 20th century, when it was carved up into its present-day boundaries by the British mandate. Britain installed King Abdullah in 1921. Jordan won its independence in 1945, and lost the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War with Israel. Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and has been an ally of the United States in the “war on terror” since 2001.

Current Issues:

Jordan’s internal problems are more serious than threats from abroad. A majority Palestinian population is restless and unhappy with Jordan’s close alliance with the United States. The Muslim Brotherhood is active in Jordan, but integrated in the political process. Terrorist acts have punctured Jordanian stability four times since 2002. An influx of 500,000 to 750,000 Iraqi refugees has been an economic advantage but also a burden on the state. In a January 2007 interview, King Abdulllah said Jordan was “actually looking at nuclear power for peaceful and energy purposes. We’ve been discussing it with the West.”
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