Profile: Who is Jordan’s Prince Hamzah?

Prince Hamzah is a popular figure in Jordan and is seen as religious and modest, in touch with the common people.

King Abdullah stripped Prince Hamzah of his title of the crown prince in 2004 [Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

The fate of the former crown prince of Jordan, Hamzah bin Al Hussein, is unclear. Reports suggest he is currently under house arrest.

A Jordanian military official, however, said Prince Hamzah, 41, was only ordered to halt activities “aimed at undermining the security and stability of Jordan”.

Jordan’s ruling family traces its lineage back to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Prince Hamzah was born on March 29, 1980, in the capital Amman. He is the half-brother of King Abdullah II.

When their father King Al Hussein bin Talal passed away from cancer in 1999, Abdullah, 59, was crowned and Hamza was titled the crown prince of Jordan.

The designation was out of respect for King Hussein, who ruled for nearly 50 years and was known to have favoured Hamza the most among his 11 children from four marriages.

However, King Abdullah stripped him of this title five years later and gave it to his own eldest son Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, 26.

King Abdullah said he had decided to “free” Prince Hamzah “from the constraints of the position of crown prince in order to give you the freedom to work and undertake any mission or responsibility I entrust you with”.

But the decision was seen as a move by King Abdullah to consolidate his power.

No open rivalry

Speaking in English in a video passed by his lawyer to the BBC, Prince Hamzah said he was not part of any conspiracy and denounced the ruling system as corrupt.

“[Jordanians’] wellbeing has been put second by a ruling system that has decided that its personal interests, financial interests, that its corruption is more important than the lives and dignity and future of the 10 million people who live here,” he said.

Abdullah and Hamzah have not displayed any open rivalry over the years. In the videotaped statement, a portrait of King Hussein could be seen on the wall behind the prince, who currently holds no official position.

Hamzah is a popular figure in Jordan. He is seen as religious and modest, in touch with the common people and similar to his beloved father, the late King Hussein. He has criticised the government in the past, accusing officials of “failed management” after they approved an income tax law in 2018.

Prince Hamzah is not seen as a big threat to Jordan’s monarchy and has been marginalised for years, but the move against him represents the first such incident involving a close member of the royal family since King Abdullah came to the throne.

The authorities have become increasingly concerned with his efforts to build ties with disgruntled figures within powerful Jordanian tribes.

These people, known as the Herak, have in recent weeks called for protests against corruption in a country hit hard by the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, pushing unemployment to record levels and deepening poverty. The authorities had cracked down on several demonstrations, detaining dozens.

Tribes that dominate the security forces form the bedrock of support for the kingdom’s Hashemite monarchy.

Prince Hamzah is often photographed meeting with tribal figures and is known to be popular, especially among tribal and East Bank Jordanians, for his uncanny resemblance to his father, who was beloved by many in the kingdom.

His recent meetings with tribal leaders across Jordan and posts on Twitter in 2018 that included the rousing words, “Oh my country”, caused a stir in the kingdom. His visits to tribal elders at their invitation were broadly viewed as his way of showing his relevance and closeness to people.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies