Republished from the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/feb/15/bedouin-accuse-jordan-queen-corruption
In an unprecedented move the leaders of Jordan’s main Bedouin tribes have published an open letter addressed to King Abdullah II accusing his wife, Queen Rania, of corruption. The text, released on 5 February, is signed by 36 representatives of the main Bedouin tribes. It comes at a particularly difficult time for the king, whose authority has been sapped by the growing discontent voiced by demonstrators.
On 9 February the recently appointed prime minister, Marouf Bakhit, announced a new cabinet including several leftwing figures and an Islamist. But this timid opening seems unlikely to end the unrest.
Until now the monarchy had managed to play on the opposition’s instinctive loyalty. “It is not the king who is to blame,” Hamza Mansour, the secretary-general of the Islamic Action Front (the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood), recently told Le Monde, “but the clique surrounding him.” The outlook seems even more uncertain now that the tribes have added their voice to the tide of criticism.
The letter makes no direct reference to the issue of the country’s fragile ethnic balance, but claims that the queen, of Palestinian parentage, has created centres of power serving her own interests. This trend upsets the agreement on governance between native Jordanians and the royal family, posing a threat for the monarchy.
“We call on the king to return to the treasury land and farms given to the [queen’s] Yasin family. The land belongs to the Jordanian people,” the letter demands.
The king’s council made a counterattack, with the Howeitat tribal confederation publishing several communiqués in support of Abdullah.
The queen often appears on the covers of gossip magazines the world over, with endless comment on her glittering lifestyle, in particular her lavish 40th birthday last August in the Wadi Rum desert.
Jordan “will sooner or later face the flood of Tunisia and Egypt due to the suppression of freedoms and looting of public funds,” the letter warns. It endorses several of the demands expressed by the Islamist opposition.