Sunday, September 24, 2006

While Jordan Burned, Irbid 1970

I received a rare copy of the Newskeek magazine printed on September 28, 1970. I know most people, including me, do their best to avoid talking about Black September but it's an event that, despite that nobody is proud of, has changed a lot. It's a cornerstone in Jordan's history.

Newseek covered the story in six pages, I tried to scan the pages and list them here but the size of the documents on top of my extremely poor technological skills could not allow me to do that. Therefore I'll write down myself one of the pages that I found interesting. It's an article written by Newseeks' Loren Jenkins who was in Jordan that time. Remember that this article was written in mid-Spetmeber, before the of the conflict. I do not tend to believe or agree with everything I read but we deserve to read more about it.

I copied the article exactly as it was, didn't make any change.



As the contending forces in Amman were rushing headlong toward undiguised civil war, a little-noticed event took place farther north in Irbid, the second-largest city in Jordan. There, Al Fatah commandos procliamed a "liberated" area and set about creating the first revolutionary city-state in the Middle East. On hand to witness the birth of this Palestenian soviet was NEwseeks' Loren Jenkins. His report:

P ower to the people has long been one of the principal tenets of the Palestenian liberation movement's Marxist fringe. But most outside observers have dismissed such revolutionary sloganeering as the boastful prattle of coffeehouse intellectuals. After what happened in Irbid last week, no one can afford to sneer. The actual take-over of the ramshackle trading community of 150,000 people occured two weeks ago while Jordanian authorities were busily trying to free the hundreds of hijacked passengers held nearby at Dawson Field. After Bedouin supporters of King Huseein massacred 23 guereillas in an ambush near Irbid, local fedayeen-most of them members of Al Fatah and an extremist commando group called the Popular Democartic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDF)- brought the bodies of their dead comrades into the city and displayed them in front of the main mosque. "They were completely mutiliated," one Irbid shopkeeper told me. "Some had their hands with their intestines, others their eyes gouged out or had been dismembered."

Siege : The reaction of the populace was what the commandos had expected-instant outrage. "Those who had never believed us about the barbarity of the army were suddenly awakened to action," said one guerrilla. In a seemingly spontaneous explosion of anger, the Irbidians swarmed out of of the mosque and laid siege to government buildings. But after the initial flare-up there was little blood-shed. Early last week, a hastily-summoned "people's court" condemned nine Jordanian Army officers to death, but since all government troops had already retreated from the city, the sentenceed were meaningless. The governer of Irbid and several score of his supporters who had sought refuge in the central military casern were provided with food and water by the commandos and told that they would be allowed to leave if they surrended their weapons to the insurgentd and renounced allegiance to King Hussein.

By midweek, when I arrived in Irbid, the city seemed surprisingly calm. Shops were doing a brisk business and people were milling around the fly-infested souk (market) or sipping Turkish coffee in side-street cafes. The only outward signs of change were the heavily armed commando patrols which ambled about the city, often with sheepish-looking policeman in tow to prove that guerrillas were willing to make their peace with cooperative government authorities. "Many of the government people have been willing to work for us for the good of the revolution," a young chemical engineer who claimed to be the city's commissar told me. "See for yourself how normal the situation is. We are now ruling here and things are working better than before."

But despite the surface tranquility of life in Irbid, genuine revolutionary activity was going behind the scenes. To replace the city administration, the commandos set up on every street "people's committee's", which in turn elected members to larger district committees. These groups, composed of commandos commissars as well as leading residents of Irbid who support the Palestenian cause, held evening meetings to discuss such matters as the future organziation of the city and preparations for its defence. Although they are similar in structure to the local soviets that the Bolsheviks formed in the early days of the Russian Revolution, the committees seemed to be a relatively spontaneous response to local events with no overt influence from Moscow or Peking. "We have not had enough time yet to crystallize our thoughts," s Syrian doctor who is a member of one committee told me. "Everything is moving so fast that we just try to cope with things as they come up. " Clearly, however, the Marxist leaders of the Popular Democratic Front were more certain about where they were headed. "This week you are seeing the birth of the first Arab liberated area," commendted a commando chief. "You could call it-and I prefer to call it- the first Arab soviet."

Fight: Before I left Irbid, a "people's congress" met in the center of the city and resolved to bar all pro-government officals from the city and to resist any attack by the Jordanian Army. Toward that end, some 1,200 commandos hastily drug trenches along the main routes of attack and set up road blocks to control movement to and from the city. "We are preparing to fight here until the end.," said Lt. Abu Kussai, a burly 30-year-old Palestenian college graduate who is in charge of the city's defenses. "We are a poor nation in a very big struggle, but we are confident of victory."

By the end of the week, however, that confidence seemed somewhat premature. There were reports of skirmishes between between the commandos and untis of the Jordanin Army in the vicinity of Irbid. And it seemed only a matter of time before the army would launch a major assault on the Marxist stronghold. "If Hussein is going to rule his country, he will have to retake Irbid." commendted a Western diplomat based in Amman. "No government can allow such a situation to exist and still pretend to be a government."


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the post. I hope you can get those other pages up soon!

Summer said...

Scan your pages, resize them and post them on a pictures site such as yahoo need a resizing program to do it.
very interesting to read!

Summer said...

i forgot to say that once you upload your photos, post us the link here so we can go and see the scanned article.

Hareega said...

anonymous, i'll post more thread soon

summer, i'll try ! thanx

lammoush said...

well personally i have very very little information about this if not nothing at all! so still reading this page can be unclear in some parts since i dont have the background and the full picture!