The recent violence at two universities in Southern Jordan, Mu’tah University and Al Hussein bin Talal, along with clashes taking place off campus, may in fact be a sign that much worse is about to happen in Jordan. But the American news media are not doing much reporting on the story as they focus on the “Arab Spring” and relentlessly cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On March 28, riots broke out at Mu’tah University after the student union elections. A few days later, more violence broke out wherein a 21-year-old student died, eight others were injured, property was damaged, and the university’s classes were shut down until April 6.
Another confrontation erupted there a week later but was curtailed by the university administration before it spread to more students.
On Monday, April 30, the anniversary of the founding of the Al Hussein University, campus violence broke out between students of different clans. During an open house gathering, a young student (who came from another city) sought protection with members of the al-Houaytet Clan against Ma’an Clan members who claimed he had hurt one of them.
The al-Houaytet anger was targeted at both the rival clan members and the security forces trying to stop the riots. The testimony of one university student made it clear that the violence began with stone-throwing, but, with weapons supplied by tribe members, it ended in the killing of four: a university student, a professor, a visiting high school student, and a police officer. Two of the victims were members of the al-Houaytet clan.
However, it did not stop there. Members of the clan brought their fury to the streets with the burning of tires and obstructions on the main road as they stopped vehicles, demanding to see passengers’ ID cards.
Additional confrontations have occurred in several Ma’an towns as young locals continue to block roads searching for opponents from rival tribes. Hundreds of young men, mostly from the al-Houaytet clan, tried to raid a security precinct in Al Hussainiyah, a Ma’an town, and a police officer was shot and rushed to Prince Zaid bin-al-Hussein military hospital.
On Friday, May 3, hundreds of angry Shi’a residents of Karak stormed a building owned by the Shi’ite Bohra sect, a sub-sect of Shi’a Isma’ili Muslims. Some of the rioters set it ablaze, while others prevented firefighters from saving it. These residents are also refusing to allow Bohra visitors into the region and are demanding that another Bohra building under construction be stopped.
The Karak riots seem to be a reaction to the expansion of the Bohra and may appear to be unrelated to the campus violence. However, there is a similarity. The conflicts are between clans, and the number of clan confrontations seem to be growing as King Abdullah II’s inability to control the clan leaderships grows.