Jordan’s estranged Prince Hamzah says he will disobey orders by the army to not communicate with the outside world after he was put under house arrest.
The half-brother of King Abdullah II and former heir to the throne said in a voice recording sent to contacts on Monday and released by the country’s opposition that he would not “escalate” moves after being barred from any activity and told to keep quiet.
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“I don’t want to make moves and escalate now, but of course I’m not going to obey when they say you can’t go out, you can’t tweet, you can’t communicate with people, you’re only allowed to see your family,” he said in an audio recording posted on Twitter late on Sunday.
Jordan’s deputy prime minister said on Sunday that Prince Hamzah, 41, had been liaising with foreign parties in a “malicious plot” to destabilise the country.
On Saturday, the military said it had issued a warning to the prince over actions targeting “security and stability” in the kingdom. Prince Hamzah later said he was under house arrest. Several high-profile figures were detained.
Hamzah – a former crown prince stripped of that title by Abdullah in 2004 – has emerged as a vocal critic of the monarchy, accusing it of corruption, nepotism and authoritarian rule.
In a video he sent to the BBC Saturday, he denied being involved in a plot and said he had been ordered under house arrest by Jordan’s most senior military figure, General Youssef Huneiti.
In the latest recording, Hamzah said: “When the head of the joint chiefs of staff comes and tells you this … I think it’s a bit unacceptable”.
It is unclear why the kingdom decided to take action against Prince Hamzah now, but he has reportedly put himself at risk by making frequent visits to tribal gatherings where some people criticised the king.
Officials said efforts were under way to resolve the crisis within the royal family, in the first such open rift in many years, but the prince was not cooperative.
The palace turmoil has laid bare divisions in Jordan, usually considered a bulwark of stability in the Middle East.
Washington, major Gulf powers, Egypt and the Arab League were all quick to pledge their support for King Abdullah and all his steps to ensure stability.
Jordan has only 10 million people but outsized strategic importance in a turbulent region. It borders Israel and the occupied West Bank, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
It host US troops and is home to millions of exiled Palestinians and more than half a million Syrian refugees.
On the streets of Amman, people on Monday expressed their hopes for an end to the crisis. Residents said they hoped dissent within the royal family is resolved in a peaceful way.
“I was surprised as everyone else with this disturbing news, it really caused pain to everyone,” said Mohamad Abdel-Latif. “We wish for prosperity and progress for Jordan, and for the issues to be resolved as the king called for – within the royal family.”
Another Amman resident Ezziddin Abu-Salah noted the unprecedented nature of the royal turmoil in Jordan.
“We were surprised that this touches higher ranks, [but] there is no dispute over the king, all Jordanians support him,” said Abu-Salah.
“As for the government and the parliament, we disagree sometimes with them. Prince Hamzah surprised us, it wasn’t expected that someone from the Hashemite family [would be involved]. It has never happened before in history.”
Analyst Ahmad Awad, head of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics research institute in Amman, agreed that the unusual events were “a first” in Jordan.
“This is the beginning of a crisis and not the end,” he said. “This shows that there is a need for political, economic and democratic reforms.”