Jordanian king announces war against celebratory gunfire

A rising civilian death-toll sparked government action.

By DAVID E. MILLER / THE MEDIA LINE
August 18, 2010 17:17
2 minute read.
Jordan's King Abdullah gestures while speaking dur

Jordan King Abdullah 311. (photo credit: AP)

Jordanian King Abdullah II has decided to personally tackle the issue of festive firing, a common Middle Eastern practice for expressing joy during public celebrations.

The King's intervention came after two citizens were killed and 13 others injured as a result of celebratory gunfire during last week’s announcement of scores from the Tawjihi, the country’s final high school examination.

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Following the deaths, the King convened a high-level meeting with Prime Minister Samir Rifa'i, General Intelligence Director Muhammad Rakad, Chief of Police Hussein Al-Majali and other ministers to discuss methods of combating the lethal phenomenon.

"We have decided to tackle the issue on three fronts," Ayman Al-Safadi, an advisor to King Abdullah II told The Media Line. "Firstly, implement the law on anyone who breaks it. In Jordan it is illegal to shoot in weddings. Secondly, look at current legislation and check if is sufficient and if there is enough deterrence. Thirdly, increase awareness of the problem."

Al-Safadi said that awareness campaigns have been launched before through the media, schools and lectures, but results have not been satisfactory.
   
"This is a traditional society,” he said. “When you shoot in the desert, nothing happens; but when you shoot in a densely populated city - everything that goes up will come down."

Mohammad Al-Eitan of the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy said celebratory gunfire has disastrous social ramifications.

"This custom turns happy occasions into disasters," he told The Media Line. "Often a father, who is the sole breadwinner, is hit by a stray bullet and his family is left to fend for itself."

Al-Eitan recounted a personal tragedy that recently afflicted his family.

"My brother-in-law was driving in a car with a friend when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his thigh. He looked down and noticed blood. When he got to the hospital it turned out he was hit by a bullet from an AK-47, no less."

According to statistics published on the King's official website, 106 cases of festive firing have been recorded in Jordan over the past four years, resulting in the deaths of five people and the injury of 57 others.

A report in the Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi estimated a higher death toll, reaching "at least ten deaths a year as a result of joyous gunfire in weddings."

Eric Berman, managing director of Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based research center, said that the phenomenon of celebratory gunfire was not limited to the Middle East.

"This is not unique to the Arab world, but it seems more prevalent there," he told The Media Line. "We try to engage the Arab League to address arms violence and illicit trafficking, but with limited success."


Mohannad Al-Eitan said he believed severe punishments were key in tackling the problem.

"The security forces should deal with a few cases in a very harsh manner, to deter others," he said. "The Jordanian mentality is to express happiness through shooting, and this is a mistake. The time has come to change this mentality."   


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