Thursday, May 26

Jordan: From Abdullah to Hamzah, Who’s Who in the Hashemite Royal Family | People

Last weekend a news item threatened to put the already tense situation in the Middle East in an even more precarious balance and to destabilize a family of apparent perfection. Jordan, a kingdom characterized by its stability and the kind face it shows to the world in a region cluttered with complexity, was facing a possible coup against its sovereign for more than two decades, King Abdullah.

The attempt was quickly appeased, but members of the royal family itself were immersed in it. The country’s government accused the once heir to the throne, Prince Hamza, of being behind the attempt. In recent months, the 41-year-old Hamza has met with some of the tribes that wield power in the country because of their dissatisfaction with the political and financial situation there, aggravated by the pandemic. Both the army leadership and the government accuse him of being part of a plot against the country’s security, and in fact the deputy prime minister, Ayman Safadi, even said on Sunday that “communications from Hamzah with an intelligence agency had been intercepted. foreign on plans to destabilize Jordan ”.

King Abdullah himself has tried to calm the waters and wanted to wash the dirty laundry at home. On Saturday he went to Hamza’s palace, his half brother, to resolve the issue with him and ask him not to threaten “the security and stability” of the country. “They spoke directly with Prince Hamzah to prevent him from being manipulated (by third parties),” Safadi said. For his part, Hamzah himself said in a video he recorded for the BBC that he is under house arrest. In the footage, he accuses the country’s leaders of “corruption, incompetence and harassment of dissent”, but denies being part of that coup plot.

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Then-Prince Abdullah and his father, King Hussein, at the young man's wedding to Rania in June 1993.
Then-Prince Abdullah and his father, King Hussein, at the young man’s wedding to Rania in June 1993.Maher Attar / Sygma via Getty Images

The point is, everything is intertwined in Jordan: family, politics and power. The protagonists of this story saw their destinies come together and separate in the mid-1960s, late 1990s, and also in the mid-2000s. But who is who in this story and why are their lives intertwined?

Abdullah II of Jordan is the eldest son of Hussein, who reigned in Jordan from 1952 (when he was still a minor) until February 1999, when he died of lymphatic cancer. Hussein was a well-loved and popular monarch with a long history, who always lived in fear of being assassinated. Hence, he named his brother Hassan, 12 years his junior, as heir. In fact, at the end of Hussein’s life, when he was being treated for cancer in the US, Hassan was regent: from July 1998 to January 1999.

Hussein was married four times and had up to 12 children from those marriages. Of the first, between 1955 and 1957 with Princess Dina, he only had one daughter, Alia. From the second, with Princess Muna (whom he joined in 1961), another four were born. The first was a boy, Abdullah, in January 1962. When the boy was just one year old, Hussein decided to appoint him heir and remove his brother Hassan from the throne. However, in 1965, with an Abdullah still a child, he decided that he would rather have an adult behind him in case he died. And he named Hassan again.

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Hussein divorced Muna and remarried. It was in 1972 with another princess named Alia, like his daughter, with whom he had three children. She died in a helicopter crash in 1977, and then Hussein married his wife of two decades and until her death, the famous Queen Noor. With her he had four children, the eldest being Hamza, who soon became a favorite of the monarchs and for whom Noor always bet for a future succession.

The situation was calm for three decades. In 1992 Hussein considered abdicating in favor of his brother Hassan, but in the end he preferred to wait. Everything got complicated in January 1999. Then Hussein accused Hassan of having slandered his wife and children, of harming the family and the crown, and of having intrigued and abused his power. “In the midst of suffering, bedridden in the hospital, I wondered why you were so interested in reforming the Army,” he came to say in 1999, shortly after leaving the medical center where he was being treated for cancer.

Then it was time to make a decision: although Hamzah was the favorite of the king and Noor, he was still 18 years old, he was studying at the military academy of Sandhurst (United Kingdom) and Hussein did not make up his mind. A year before the monarch had spoken with tribes and local leaders so that Hamzah was the successor, but the pact was not closed and it did not transcend. So the chosen one was, not without surprise, Abdullah.

Hamzah from Jordan and his first wife, Noor, at their wedding in May 2004. Along with them are the bride's parents (left) and the groom's mother, Noor, his sister-in-law Rania and his brother Abdullah.
Hamzah from Jordan and his first wife, Noor, at their wedding in May 2004. Along with them are the bride’s parents (left) and the groom’s mother, Noor, his sister-in-law Rania and his brother Abdullah.Salah Malkawi

Just a week after all these movements, Hussein passed away. Then Abdalá swore before the parliament of the nation respecting, that yes, the wish of his father: that his heir was Hamzah; in fact, the first legal disposition of the already turned king Abdullah II was a royal decree by which he named Hamzah heir.

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However, five years later, in November 2004 (just six months after Hamzah married and began to start his own family), Abdalá withdrew that privilege and opted for direct succession to avoid conflicts and problems. Five years later, in 2009, he formally named his son, named Hussein (after his father), who was then 10 years old and who will be 27 in June.

Noor stayed on the sidelines, but he never liked the decision that Abdullah should be king, nor that Hamzah was later removed from the succession. In addition, over the years his glamorous halo was also overshadowed by that of Rania, the well-known wife of his stepson. Noor had claimed all dynastic rights for his beloved Hamzah. Just as now, when he seems to have tried to betray his brother, he has also raised his voice for him: “I pray that justice prevails for all the innocent victims of these perverse slanders.”

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