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Jordan rocked by wave of celebratory gunfire after legislative elections

Screengrabs of videos of celebratory gunfire shared on social media in Jordan.
Screengrabs of videos of celebratory gunfire shared on social media in Jordan. © France 24
Text by: Djamel Belayachi
6 min

Videos of Jordanians letting off celebratory gunfire flooded social media the day after the country’s legislative elections on November 10. This traditional practice is deeply divisive in Jordan. While some people were quick to celebrate their candidate’s win by firing at the heavens, other Jordanians – like our Observer – point out that the practice is incredibly dangerous.

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The videos flooding social media show all manner of Jordanians letting off celebratory gunfire. One video, for example, shows a child firing an automatic rifle into the sky, while another shows a woman lifting up a kalashnikov and letting forth a volley of gunfire from her balcony as traditional Jordanian music plays. Yet another shows shots being fired from the midst of an exuberant crowd.

More than 50,000 members of the security forces were deployed across the country’s 12 governorates to assure the smooth functioning of the election and to make sure that people were respecting proper health measures in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, including a ban on gatherings of more than 20 people. But these measures didn’t stop the revellers armed with automatic rifles and handguns who let loose to express their joy at the election results. 

Those running for office in this election included representatives of various tribes, independents and wealthy businessmen. 

This video shows several men firing kalashnikovs. “Mahmoud”, the name of the candidate they support, is written on banners hung up on the hood, windshield and windows of a camouflage-painted truck. Mahmoud is a candidate from the al-Mahamid tribal clan in the Ma'an governorate in the south of the country. 

“I thought it was the Al-Nusra Front,” jokes this social media user, referencing a jihadist group in Syria. 

In this video, a child shoots an automatic rifle into the air. 

This video shows a woman releasing the safety catch from her kalashnikov and firing into the air from her balcony as traditional Jordanian music plays loudly.

“Women’s emancipation”, says this social media user sarcastically. 

This video, which was posted online by our Observer Kadhim Amine, shows a crowd carrying one of the elected officials. The sound of shots being fired is mixed in with the joyful yells. 

Translation: “ [...] The government enacted a curfew for four days to avoid this kind of spectacle but it was in vain.” 

This footage, which is edited together like a video clip, shows supporters of a particular candidate firing their guns into the air as they move along in a convoy of pick-ups. The song playing under the footage was extremely popular in the days leading up to the election. 

“The target is selected and the kalashnikov is ready… prepare the coffins!” says the refrain. 

The man behind the song, a young Palestinian singer from Gaza named Abdallah al-Saaïda, was widely criticised for his lyrics, with many Jordanians saying that he was inciting violence. The singer made a public apology on television, explaining that the song had come out well before the election and that it had nothing to do with it. His video garnered more than six million views on YouTube. 

Translation: “If not for the elections, I would have thought that the Islamic State terrorist organisation had invaded the country”.

Our Observer, Kadhim Amine, is a 29-year-old perfume seller who lives in Amman. He took to Twitter to complain about the tradition of celebratory gunfire. He said that it was rare to see this kind of thing happen in the Jordanian capital:

Most of these incidents didn’t take place in the capital, Amman, but in other governorates where there is more influence from tribal clans, including Irbid and Ma’ane as well as the Badiah Shamaliyah and Badiah Janoubiyah districts, essentially amongst Bedouins. 

Firearms have been circulating within the tribal clans for a long time in Jordan; it’s a tradition. And people will sometimes shoot into the air during a wedding or when a student graduates. 

That said, I have never seen such a surge in celebratory gunfire as what happened over these past few days and there are a lot of Jordanians like me who are shocked and worried about it. 

It’s even more surprising because, in Jordan, you have to have a permit to carry a weapon, by law. Before buying a gun, you have to get an authorisation from the Directorate of Public Safety and the Intelligence Services.

On top of the ban on gatherings of more than 20 people, the authorities also imposed a four-day curfew between 10pm and 6am starting on November 11 to avoid this kind of spectacle. But lots of people violated these regulations, as shown by these videos. 

Jordanian King Abdallah first spoke out about this tradition five years ago and promised that people partaking would be punished. 

“Even if my own son fired bullets, measures would be taken against him,” the King said. However, it seems like no one heeded his words. 

On November 12, the King again condemned this kind of celebration in a tweet, saying that the law applied to everyone, without exception.  

The Jordanian Public Security Directorate announced on Facebook that they would arrest anyone seen shooting a gun in the videos that have been circulating online over the past few days. A total of 98 weapons, several of them automatic, were seized during operations, the directorate's spokesperson said in a statement posted online on November 14. 

In total, 18 Members of Parliament and 324 citizens were arrested, Hussein Hawatmeh, head of the Public Security Directorate, told Jordanian TV channel Al-Mamlaka TV. Thankfully, no one died of an injury caused by a stray bullet, according to Jordanian media. 

Between 1,500 and 1,869 people are thought to have died due to accidents involving celebratory gunfire between 2013 and 2018, according to Al-Mamlaka TV. 

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