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Jordan: Brawl erupts in parliament during debate on reforms

Lawmakers throw punches and attack one another after a dispute over constitutional amendments turned violent
Jordanian parliament members are separated during an altercation in parliament in the capital Amman, on 28 December 2021 (AFP)

A debate over amendments to Jordan’s constitution related to gender equality descended into a brawl on Tuesday, forcing the session of parliament to adjourn.

Live footage broadcast from state media showed politicians grabbing at each other and throwing punches as colleagues rushed to restrain them. One man falls to the ground in the scuffle, as people in the background can be heard screaming.

According to Jordanian media, the fight erupted over the government’s wish to include the female noun for a Jordanian citizen in a chapter of the country’s constitution entitled, "rights and duties of Jordanians", which relates in particular to the equal rights of citizens. 

Several deputies opposed the move, deeming it "unnecessary", according to the al-Mamlaka channel which broadcast the session.

MP Raed Smeirat said the addition of the female noun would be "shameful".

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The remarks angered Abdelkarim al-Daghmi, the parliament speaker, who demanded an apology from the lawmaker.

At the same time, Daghmi was then taunted by another member of parliament, who accused him of “not knowing anything”. The parliament speaker responded by yelling back at the lawmaker, “shut up and leave the hall”, after which fighting broke out.

Jordan is a parliamentary monarchy, but the king wields the most power and has the final say on what becomes law in the country.

The kingdom's constitution was enacted in 1952 by King Abdullah's grandfather. It has been amended 29 times, in what many critics say are moves designed to increase the power of the king at the expense of the legislature.

A country of 10 million bordering the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Jordan has often been described as a bastion of stability in a volatile region.

However, an influx of more than one million refugees from neighbouring Syria and a stalling economy have put pressure on the Hashemite Kingdom, which is a strong western ally in the region.

Last year the country was roiled by a feud within the ruling family in which the king's brother, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, decried the lack of political freedom and the rise of corruption in the country. 

The Jordanian government has been accused of tamping down on dissent at home and in 2021 slid in the Freedom House Index from “partially free” to “not free”.

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