After royal condemnation, will Jordan’s celebratory gunfire stop?
Whether a wedding ceremony or a relative passing the notorious tawjihi exams, firing rounds into the air is a reoccurring mode of celebration
Jordan’s King Abdullah has once again strongly condemned on Sunday the use of celebratory gunfire after a video surfaced online of a man accidentally shooting a young boy at what appears to be a wedding.
Whether a wedding ceremony or a relative passing the notorious tawjihi exams - Jordan’s schooling equivalent to the SATs - firing rounds into the air is a reoccurring mode of celebration - but is illegal.
“It is illegal according to the penal code and other laws governing the matter,” Jordan’s Minister of State for Media Mohammad Momani told Al Arabiya News.
Five years ago Jordan’s King Abdullah spoke out against the potentially deadly tradition in 2010, but the practice has continued despite its illegality and deadly consequences.
“It’s illegal for Jordanians to acquire firearms, pistols, and to use them, yet because of the difficulty of going to every celebration and every wedding all over Jordan, it has been difficult for the security agencies to enforce the law in every place,” Momani added.
“Therefore, the phenomenon spread in the latest period to such a degree that an infant was killed as a result of a person using firearm in a wedding ceremony,” he said in reference to a viral video that has sparked outrage in Jordan.
While often heard in the capital Amman, the tradition is louder and more prominent in the remote and more tribal areas of Jordan.
“For the tribes, festive firing is not that taboo and it’s common all across the country that during weddings and celebrations, people use their guns, and their machine guns sometimes,” Raed Omari, a Jordanian journalist and political expert, told Al Arabiya News.
In a video uploaded to his official YouTube channel on Sunday, King Abdullah makes it clear that there will be a zero-tolerance policy in dealing with celebratory gunfire.
“Even if it is my own son, I will ask the appropriate authorities to deal with him,” he said before explaining that there would be no favoritism.
Often, when someone is involved in celebratory gunfire, “there will be members of his relatives who would ask for forgiveness and he will be given a waiver or a small punishment,” Momani said.
“Now his majesty saying no more, everybody will be punished according to the law, and that nobody will be exempt from that punishment.”
Is this time likely to be different?
This is not the first time festive firing, as some refer to it in Jordan, has claimed a life nor is this the first public outcry against the frowned upon tradition.
But the government seems intent on putting an end to the deadly phenomenon.
In addition to expanding security measures and making arrests, which authorities plan on making visible, the Jordanian government is launching a media campaign to tackle the problem at its root, explaining why celebratory gunfire does not fit with Jordanian traditions.
“We are following these [security measures] with a media campaign to make those who are acting this way lose their social status and make them look like they are against the values of the Jordanian society,” Momani said.
“As well as making the arrests and the security measures taken visible so we can create some sort of deterrence for others not to do that.”
Another major difference that is expected to help quell the phenomenon is the newly appointed interior minister Salameh Hamad.
“I think with this man he is very strict and he promised he would go ahead and crack down on festive firing until it’s completely eliminated,” Omari said, referring to Salameh’s handling of recent unrest in the southern city of Maan.
“He was an iron first in dealing with the situation there,” he added.
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