Amman’s real estate market booms with Iraqis who have fled their homeland for good

Story and photos by Samantha Laine

AMMAN, Jordan – Tariq Al-Nami, 70, and his fellow Iraqi friend drink tea with mint outside a restaurant in their northwest Amman neighborhood. Nami retired to Rabiah three years ago to find some desperately needed relief from the reality and volatility of his homeland in Iraq.

“The government can’t save themselves, so they can’t save us,” Nami said, gesturing with his hands in between sips. “Here in Jordan, I can walk outside on the street at night. Not like back there.”

A retired furniture vendor, Nami said that when the Coalition forces launched an attack in 2003, the offensive destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure, leaving the country in turmoil. There were frequent explosions. The government cut the electricity for 20 hours a day. Healthcare was suddenly so diminished that Nami, who has colon cancer, had no choice but to seek his life-sustaining treatment in Amman.

This rooftop penthouse in the Abdoun neighborhood of Amman has four bedrooms and five bathrooms for a total of 3,660 square feet. It is currently going for 450,000 Jordanian dinar, or about $635,000.

Nami bought a three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment that measured a little more than 1,600 square feet for 125,000 Jordanian dinar, or about $176,000. Like so many of his wealthy peers who come to Jordan from their war-torn homeland, he paid for his flat in cash.

“The [Iraqis] who come are upper class. They have higher education and most of them worked in the government back in Iraq,” he said.

Today, nine years after the war began, Iraqis are still moving in and buying houses. And the ones already here are sinking even more into the market – buying three and four apartments each. As a result, there’s a boom in Amman’s real estate and housing prices – which is good for landlords, but difficult for locals who now can’t afford to buy their own place.

“Maybe it’s good for the economy, but not good for the people,” said Zuhdi Mahmoud, 30, the managing director at Cityscape, a real estate company located in Amman. “I’m a real estate agent; I will welcome anyone to buy a house. But at the end of the day, I’m one of the people that can’t afford a house.”

From 2000 to 2010, revenue from the annual real estate market increased from $93 million to nearly $381 million – a spike of more than 400 percent. Many of those numbers reflect purchases made by Jordan’s estimated 450,000 Iraqis, who are the No. 1 foreign investors in this country of 6.5 million Jordanians.

In 2010, for example, Iraqis bought about 2,000 houses and apartments – a total investment of more than $286 million. That’s about the same number in one year that the previous three years together produced. (From 2007 through 2009, Iraqis purchased a total of 2,623 houses and apartments and spent about $260 million in Jordan.)

Wael Al-Jaabari, the CEO of Abdoun Real Estate, started his Amman company in 1990. Around that time, he said an American economist told him that if he stayed in Jordan real estate, “he would see money like he’s never seen before in his life.” He said the American was right.

“Since then, there’s been one boom right after the other,” Al-Jaabari said. The Central Bank also contributed to the real estate boom, when in 2006 it began offering 20- to 25-year mortgages instead of the previous five-year mortgages.

“The Iraqis got lucky,” Al-Jaabari said.

In addition, many experts agree that there’s a qualitative difference in the way the Iraqis come in to Jordan. In general, most of them fled flush with cash and as business investors with the intention of staying permanently. Others who come, such as the more recent influx of Syrians and Libyans, are there only because it’s safe; they fled under fire, and above all else, they want to get back home.

Tariq Al-Nami, 70, is one of the 450,000 Iraqis who has found refuge in Jordan. He plans to spend his retirement years in his 1,600-square-foot apartment in the Rabiah neighborhood of Amman.

Ali Mustafa Al-Assaf is an economist and business researcher at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. The center analyzes real estate prices and identifies trends in the market. Assaf said the prices began their drastic increase in 2003, corresponding with the Iraqis’ long-term settlement in Amman.

“They have a lot of money . . . When they came to Jordan, they didn’t come as refugees, they came as investors,” Al-Assaf said. This sudden demand caused the prices to increase. “Take a square meter here in Amman that cost 250 JD (about $350). After the Iraqis came, it went to 500 JD (about $705),” he said.

The real estate market is currently stable, and prices remain high. Fewer Iraqis are moving to Jordan, and yet they are still Jordan’s highest non-domestic investor. As a point of reference: If in 2010, Iraq was responsible for about $286 million in property investments, Saudi Arabians, second in foreign investments, only bought about $43 million in Jordanian real estate.

Mahmoud, the managing director at Cityscape, said that roughly six out of 10 landlords he deals with are Iraqi, and each one owns three or four apartments.

“I know in 2003 and 2004 Amman was booming because of the Iraqis. Now, they still come and buy because they consider Amman their second country,” Mahmoud said. “If they have one property, they will buy another one.”

He also said that the Iraqis who came starting in 2003 now have children who need homes. Since they have settled in Amman, they – the financially supportive parents – continue to buy for their children.

“Say the family has a son and a daughter: The parents will buy properties for both of them. And I don’t think they buy anything in Iraq,” he said, noting that a whole new generation of Iraqi investors will eventually emerge and continue to invest in Amman.

“Traditionally, the parents buy for the kids,” he said. “That’s the Arab culture.”


Journey to Jordan: By the thousands, Syrians are risking their lives to find refuge across the border

Story by Matt Kauffman and Melissa Tabeek

Photos by Matt Kauffman // Video production by Melissa Tabeek

Editor’s note: Reporters Kauffman and Tabeek put together a multi-media presentation of video and photography to show another dimension of what displaced families from Syria have been through on their journey to Jordan. 

AMMAN, Jordan – Sameer Ahmed Darraj thanks God that his family of six made it safely to Jordan after suffering a siege in his hometown of Homs. He’s also grateful he found an apartment in Madaba, a small village southwest of Amman, to shelter his wife, two young children, mother and nephew.

But the trip to their second-floor flat is a struggle for this former Syrian chef-turned-rebel fighter. His legs were blown off by a rocket in April as he fought against President Bashar al-Assad’s army.

“We try to remain strong and try to have a very strong heart,” says Sameer Ahmed Derraj. Despite the horrors they’ve witnessed, the Darraj family finds solace in each other’s company.

Darraj wages a battle still, but now it’s from the flat’s only bed where he recovers from the loss of his legs, severed above the knees and marred with deep, rough, vertical scars.

“When we were crossing the border, we couldn’t speak, we couldn’t make any sounds. When our daughter cried, we had to cover her mouth,” said Sammer, Darraj’s 39-year-old wife, of their escape. “We gave the other [daughter] medicine to make her sleep.”

As Darraj talks about the four-day journey to Jordan carried by comrades across the border, about how his wife kept falling as she lugged their youngest child, about the death of his friend by that same rocket, he speaks for thousands like him. Together, he and they form a new sort of army: Syrians who have fled to fight for their safety and their lives.

Since March of last year, the number of Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan has increased at an exponential rate. What started as a trickle has turned into a flood; in the past two months the amount of “persons of concern” registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, has leapt from 13,933 to about 24,000 – an increase of about 70 percent. But the real number, including Derraj’s six who came illegally, is closer to 120,000, experts say.

While Jordan has long been a safe haven for refugees throughout the Arab world – some estimates say that there are already 2 million Palestinian, Iraqi and Libyan refugees in this country of 6.5 million Jordanians – the situation with Syrians is special. The influx from the north poses a dilemma. The Jordanian government has not officially recognized them as refugees, but rather “guests” of the country.

Unlike neighboring Turkey – which is harboring Syrian refugees in traditional tented camps – Syrians in Jordan are finding safety in cities and villages scattered throughout the kingdom, stretching already limited resources in a country that depends on outside aid. Safety does not always spell decency though; Syrian families sometimes numbering in the double digits are confined to a few small rooms inside overrun apartments.

“There are many cases of two to three families in one apartment and they could have seven or eight kids each. It’s pretty dismal,” says Aoife McDonnell, an assistant external relations officer at UNHCR.

Jawad Anani, a former government official and now private economic consultant, worries about what a continuing onslaught of Syrians will do to the strained resources of this struggling country.

“Jordan’s ability to put up with Syrians is limited. The private sector is paying for it now, but soon the bills will be mounting. We will feel it in the labor market with people looking for jobs. … Time will tell elsewhere where the pressure mounts and where the shoe pinches.”

Darraj, like so many who have come here, feels that pinch. Unable to work, he relies on the generosity of Jordanian strangers to pay his rent. These sympathizers also bring him food and supplies, such as clothes and blankets. He’s clearly grateful, but still, to him, Jordan is just a safe place to heal. He will not stay here.

His mother Salma sits quietly in the corner of the tiny room, emotionless, looking over at her disfigured son. In another corner, on their mother’s lap, are his two young daughters, both in pink tank tops and leggings. They too are staring at him, waiting.

“I am against the evil Bashar,” he says. “If they fix my fingers, then I will go back,” says Darraj.

His wife looks at his mother, a glance Darraj notices. To them, to everyone, he says again: “I want to fight again with the Free Army.”

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Activists in Jordan disappointed Arab Spring did not bring about a freer press

Story by Bri Hollis // Photo by Anthony Savvides

Osama Al-Rbeahat, a 26-year-old customs and border-control agent for the Jordanian government, is trying to get a message across. He has actively and fervently participated in political demonstrations for the past year, calling for constitutional reforms that place the majority of the power with the people.

But despite frequent Friday gatherings with fellow demonstrators, his message is being falsely portrayed, Rbeahat said. And he blames the media.

Rana Sabbagh, head of a journalism watchdog group based in Amman, addresses a group of journalism students about the importance of thorough investigative reporting in the Arab world, where a free press is not supported.

“They pass the negative image of the citizens or ignore the fact[s] and the truth,” he said through a translator. “The newspapers [give an] incorrect testimony that did not happen in the demonstration.” Or, they don’t acknowledge the protests at all, he said.

Rbeahat calls himself a victim of what others would describe as a state-run media. Characteristic of much of the Arab world, the press in Jordan is widely influenced and monitored by the government. In fact, the government owns all of the country’s official television stations and 70 percent of Jordan’s Al-Rai newspaper, which is a sister paper to the country’s most popular publication, The Jordan Times.

“The media is heavily state-run and most of the major publications people read are owned by the government,” said Fateh Mansour, program manager for the Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists in Amman.

But after the Arab Spring – a series of political uprisings that began in December 2010 in Tunisia and spread through the Arab world –press restrictions in the Middle East were supposed to loosen because governments were promising to be more open to the people. At least that’s what people thought would happen.

“People were enraged about the things the government was hiding,” said Rami Kouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. “[The government] said it would strive to make its actions more public, make itself more available.”

However, that’s not how it has played out. Jordan is merely giving an impression of having a freer press, media watchers say. Prominent publications – including The Jordan Times and JO Magazine, with a circulation of about 9,000 copies a month – over the past year have finally begun to publish in-depth pieces about controversial topics such as the influx of Syrians fleeing their country and heading to Jordan.

But fear of criticizing the parliament among other issues such as fear of being black-listed among public officials or even fined for criticizing Islam, still exists. That tends to drive away the media from reporting stories in their full form, as in Rbeahat’s case.

“They need to report the truth,” he said.

Jordan is currently No. 128 on an index that ranks how free a country’s press is. Finland leads the pack. The United States stands at 47, according to the 2011-2012 press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, a US-based organization that strives to protect and defend journalists’ rights internationally.

The level of media freedom in Jordan’s neighboring countries – Syria is ranked No. 176, Iraq No. 152 and Saudi Arabia No. 158 – contributes to the image of Jordan having a freer press than it actually does.

“Jordan has a good amount of freedom compared to other Middle Eastern countries,” acknowledged Cory Eldridge, features editor and staff writer for JO Magazine in Amman, an innovative, English-language social and cultural publication. “It’s just not necessarily free in the Western sense.”

Because people are freely talking about the protests – as well as the governments in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen ousted because of them – some think they have more of a voice here. As a result, journalists are responding despite the risks.

Said Eldridge: “It’s like you’re in a dark room. You take small steps because you’re scared the red lines are going to hit you in the face. Now people are walking farther. Before everyone wanted to stay away. They’re taking a few more steps and realizing they’re not really hitting the red lines yet – there’s more willingness to touch them.”

Electronic media plays a part in this as well, and its use has expanded among both journalists and the general public since Arab Spring began. With a newfound fearlessness, citizens are posting their religious, political and social opinions. This has “raised the ceilings” for journalists, said Mansour, because journalists know that such critiques exist in cyberspace and therefore feel more comfortable formally commenting on similar issues.

But many obstacles still exist for journalists, and most in the industry don’t hold out hope that it’s going to get better.

“I doubt a free press according to Western standards will ever exist,” said Eldridge, who graduated from the University of Oregon in 2007 and can readily compare west to east standards. “Even if journalists do push,” he said, “if the government doesn’t want to loosen press restrictions, they won’t do it.”

For now, though, it looks as though they’re not pushing. According to a 2011 survey by the Center for Defending the Freedom of Journalists, 87 percent of a pool of 500 media practitioners in Jordan said they still heavily self-censor their work.

“Too many journalists are too scared, too unprofessional,” affirmed Rana Sabbagh, a longtime journalist in Jordan and executive director of the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit organization designed to promote fearless, credible reporting. “They’re afraid to criticize, to push. They don’t go the length journalists need to go to, to get the truth…to get the right story.”

For example, in early February, it was revealed that more than 51 journalists had succumbed to the bribes of former chief of the General Intelligence Department Mohammad Dahabi.  According to published reports, he allegedly paid them to refrain from publishing information regarding a money laundering operation he was accused of being involved in.

Another roadblock to a free press is access to pertinent data to support the pieces journalists want to write, some reporters said.

“One of the biggest obstacles for journalists today is getting information,” said Rana Al Husseini, a practicing journalist for 18 years who writes primarily for The Jordan Times. She is best known for tackling the very controversial issues of violence against women in Jordan and specifically, the brutal murders of women who are killed by their families in the name of honor. “It’s not very easy to find information. I think this causes a huge problem.”

Because the government isn’t budging, journalists are hampered from fulfilling their duty to the public of providing them with full, adequate reports. Fear to move forward stems not only from fear of violating press law, but physical and verbal threats as well. There is a general lack of punishment for such acts, which enables these apprehensions, experts say.

This is something Mansour and others at the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists are trying desperately to change.

“[A] major problem is that journalists’ press rights aren’t only being violated,” said Mansour, “but their human rights as well. Many are threatened, physically attacked, and the [courts] are doing little to stop them.”

Jordanians to Obama: You broke your promise and did nothing for us

Story by Anthony Savvides // Photo by Matt Kauffman

AMMAN, Jordan – This November, the United States will elect a president, and while many American pundits believe Obama will remain in the White House for a second term, some in the Middle East would welcome a change.

Many here believe that Obama has been a disappointment, failing to deliver on early promises to push for a policy shift in the region.

Prince El Hassan bin Talal spoke to a group of students during a press conference about Jordanian politics and social issues. He touched on the problems in Jordan concerning the influx of refugees and the Palestinian issue, as well as President Obama’s position toward the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“The Arabs have been very disappointed with him because when he [became] president, the first thing he said when he was sworn in was that he was going to set up a Palestinian state,” said Rana Sabbagh, executive director of Amman-based Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism. “Then he had the Cairo declaration, and we all thought he was going to make a difference, but nothing happened.”

In Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, entitled “A New Beginning,” he tried to reestablish strong ties between the American and Arab worlds. Many in the region were hopeful – for change, a new attitude toward the Arab-Israeli conflict and, indeed, a new beginning. But people here wonder why that “new” approach never seemed to become a reality.

As the years passed, the tide shifted back to mistrust. Obama famously said in his Cairo address that the US would not “turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.” But Arab observers say that Obama never followed through, and policies in the region have remained as they always have been: pro-Israeli.

“I don’t believe in liberal theories of the person as president,” said Sara Ababneh, professor of political and international relations in the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. “The US is an imperial power, and that’s how they act [in the region]. As a superpower, [the US] does what it needs to do.”

Distrust of the US has deep roots: The American government supported the establishment of the Israeli state and, over the years, offered its support with billions of dollars and political muscle. There have been efforts to mediate peace, some more dramatic than others. In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton coaxed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yassar Arafat to shake hands during a ceremony. The moment, hailed at the time, is now considered no more than a symbolic snapshot of an unrealized hope for prolonged peace.

But the Obama administration has made attempts to achieve progress in the region. The US has pressured Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and to release Palestinian refugees. In a speech in May 2011, Obama spoke of the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

This angered Israeli leaders, who have resisted these calls. In the Middle East, though, Obama’s unexpected declaration was seen as something else: not enough.

“A lot of [Arabs] didn’t believe he has the inclination to change anything,” said Majd Muhsen, 36, a Palestinian-Jordanian who works as a freelance translator for the United Nations and various organizations in Amman. “Most of us don’t believe in the 1967 borders, anyway. All of Palestine, which is now Israel, should go back to being Palestine.”

The lack of follow-through from the United States has left many in the Middle East questioning whether Obama can really bring about change. Protests in the area have spread since 2010, when the Arab Spring began.

“The good thing about the Arab Spring is that it didn’t matter what the US was saying,” added Ababneh. The people of the Arab world wanted change in their lives and the way in which they are governed, and foreign intervention was inconsequential.

As another election draws near, the Arab world is watching, waiting for a result. The general public in Jordan believes that America will not reelect Obama, and are ready to embrace Mitt Romney as a new player on the international level. Of course Romney has already spoken of reaffirming America’s support for Israel and toughening the country’s stance on Iran. He also has a friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dating back to the mid-1970s.

In that spirit, some in the Arab world argue that despite who wins the White House in November, American politics toward the region are static, and stagnant.

“Jordan is held hostage – hostage by the Israelis, with the Palestinian issue, the Americans are holding us hostage, and the Saudis also are holding us hostage,” said Ayoud Abu-Dayyeh, a civil and structural engineer in Amman who does work to lobby against nuclear power in Jordan.

Obama has let the Arab world down, according to many in Jordan. His administration and actions over the course of his term have inspired a different kind of hope in the region—the hope of change.

“Nothing happened in the past four years but a stalemate in the Arab-Israeli conflict, so I believe that Obama will not and cannot do anything in the future concerning the Palestinian issue,” concluded Abu-Dayyeh. “Therefore, I think anybody else that comes in his shoes will not do any worse. It will either be the same or it will be better. That’s why I think a change is important.”

Some in Jordan, though, are hopeful of Obama’s prospects as a second-term president.

“I think that President Obama went a very long way [on the Palestinian issue]. Only time will tell if he’s reelected, as a second-term president, a last-term president, to restore that moral high ground of tearing down the walls in the minds of others,” said Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal, regarding the wall in the West Bank. “But to judge a country like the United States in terms of the multitude of challenges, both foreign and domestic, as having succeeded or failed on a foreign policy issue, is not a wise thing to do at this stage.”

Activists launch campaign to keep rapists from marrying their victims

Story by Melanie Dostis

Women’s rights activists are rallying against a law in Jordan that allows rapists to marry their victims to avoid jail time for their crime.

Named Crime 308 after Article 308 of the Jordanian penal code, the campaign attacks what’s become known as the “marriage-rape law” – a relic of the Old Testament that declares a raped woman marred for life.

Activists in Jordan have launched a campaign called 308 to fight a part of the penal code that allows rapists to marry their victims to avoid jail time.

The flashpoint case in the campaign involved a 14-year old girl who was raped in a tent for three days in April by a 19-year-old boy. He was taken to jail and convicted. She was put into a holding cell for her protection, as rape victims from more rural regions are often in danger of being killed by their own relatives in an attempt to keep the family’s name honorable.

The girl in this case was soon released from her cell, but not because her attacker had been sentenced. Rather, she was given to him as his wife – signed over by her father to avoid the shame that comes with having a daughter who has engaged in premarital sex.

“308 should be changed. Maybe there was reason to it in the early days,” said Samir Abu Hamdiah, a legal consultant at the Justice Center for Legal Aid, a nonprofit organization near Rainbow Street offering legal aid to the underprivileged in Jordan. “In the current day, we as a region have to raise our voice, support this protest to make change, and to let the woman have a life.”

In Islam, it is required that women keep their virginity until they marry. To engage in sexual activity, even if it is forced, is to violate the teachings of the Quran, which is akin to a criminal act here for many.

The law does not specifically allow for honor crimes, but the penal system does not seriously dissuade attackers either. Murder is punishable by death in Jordan but reports of honor crimes resulting in lighter sentences are highly publicized. For example, last year a man convicted of killing his 16-year-old niece received only a 10-year sentence. The victim’s family urged leniency in what was initially a life sentence. His crime: He fired 30 machine-round shots at the girl after learning of her rape, killing her instantly.

A marriage between victim and attacker would have avoided that outcome, but at a terrible cost to the woman, experts say.

“He attacks her, he destroys her and then she is forced to marry him just because her parents are afraid of the scandal,” said Hadeel Maaitah, 39, a coordinator for the campaign and a lecturer on management at the Hashemite University. “This is the hush-hush culture we have here.”

Since forming Crime 308 this spring, the organizers of the campaign meet twice a month at Negresco, a modern villa-turned-restaurant and bar in the posh neighborhood of Jebel Weibdeh. They sit for hours at the outside patio to set out their goals and discuss the flood of messages they have received from others offering help.

Like so many social activist campaigns, the group launched a Twitter feed and Facebook group to trumpet its cause; since April, they’ve acquired 1,000 Facebook members and 145 Twitter followers. They’ve also created an online petition that so far has 2,000 signatures. Experts familiar with the case, as well as the cause, say they believe this sort of vociferous reaction is likely going to have an impact on the code that allows the practice. Their hope is that it could also have an impact on the attitudes behind it.

“Society needs to care more about its responsibilities. [The rape victim] should still be able to feel part of her society. Society needs to help her heal herself, physically and psychologically. It is their duty to help her overcome,” said Abu Hamdiah with JCLA.

What Abu Hamidiah calls for is not an easy task. In a conservative Islamic culture, women’s rights and desires are not emphasized or sometimes even recognized. Women can vote, but they are largely absent from the parliamentary and judicial processes. Even when committees are established on the parliamentary level to deal with women’s issues, there are often not any women in the group.

“The woman is not the priority. The victim is not the priority,” Abu Hamidiah said.

One of the most difficult things to change about the code is to get a country behind the idea that its behavior toward women is primitive and even barbaric.

“They thought the raped woman should be thankful to her abuser for marrying her, and not leaving her alone,” explained Iman Aqrabawi, gender-based violence-unit manager at the Jordan River Foundation, an organization aimed at the wellbeing of Jordanians and chaired by Queen Rania Al Abdullah.

Salah Jaber, of the Justice Center for Legal Aid, says punishment for crimes of rape has to be more strict, or violators won’t take it seriously and will continue preying on women.

Still today, women who have been raped are cast aside as “damaged goods,” said Juliana Turjman, the woman complaint office coordinator at the Jordanian National Commission Center for Women in Amman. “Even if she didn’t do anything wrong,” added Turjman, “she is blamed. She must have seduced him – that is why she is abused, is the thinking.”

Because she has to shoulder this, a rape victim has few options for recourse. She can hide the crime, which is the most common tack, experts say. She can try to prosecute her attacker, which will still bring shame on her family. His sentence could range from 15 years to death, depending on the age of the victim. Her sentence could likely be an indefinite stay in a jail cell to protect her from her own family’s murderous intentions. Today in Jordan, there are a dozen women in prison, waiting for when their fathers, uncles, brothers or cousins will no longer seek their death to preserve the family’s honor.

Or, she can marry him, which will both save her family’s honor and keep him out of jail. An attacker must remain married to his victim for five years to avoid his sentence. After that, whether he stays married or not, he has avoided all punishment.

Because the last option – the marriage – preserves the family’s honor, the preferred path is to force a marriage between the two, even if the victim is a young girl. “It is better for her to be seen as a divorced woman than a raped woman,” explained Maaitah.

In that case – if she’s under 18 – her father will have to sign a marriage license to give her away, according to Jordan law. This in particular angers activists.

“As parents, you want to search the world for the perfect man for your daughter. Why on earth would you trust her with him? [Her rape] is a not a hiccup in her life. Even if she is married, even if she gets divorced, she has still been raped,” said Maaitah, the 308 campaign activist.

While historical conventions dominate Jordan, rape specialist Salah Jaber, a legal consultant at the JCLA, said Campaign 308 has hit like a “bomb” and with the waves it has sent, it is only a matter of time until pressure builds on the government.

“We have to change it and make the punishment harder so men will have that in mind when they look at a girl and think of doing something,” said Jaber. “We have to protect the victim.”