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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Jordan 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Jordan at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism. Do not travel to the border with Syria and Iraq due to terrorism and armed conflict.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Amman does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

Review OSAC’s country-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is minimal risk from crime in Amman. Jordan remains a low-threat crime country. The Public Security Directorate’s (PSD) Criminal Information Department tracks the total number of crimes committed in Jordan annually. The PSD has not released the statistics for 2018; however, there were 22,550 total crimes in 2017, following 22,595 in 2016. The tally includes crimes such as murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, counterfeiting, theft, robbery, conspiracy, kidnapping, and rape were included in the report. Six armed bank robberies occurred in 2018, which is a departure from previous years; there had been no recent prior armed bank robbery in Jordan.

Although criminal events are less prevalent in western Amman, crime remains a concern. Travel in pairs or small groups, and increase vigilance in areas where opportunistic thieves might operate, such as crowded areas and tourist venues. The most common crimes directed against U.S. and other Western travelers are petty crimes, including pickpocketing and bag snatching. When carrying a purse or bag, hold it close to your person by wearing it over your neck and shoulder. Conceal wallets and other valuables and avoid displaying credit cards and cash. Try to maintain a low profile by not drawing unnecessary attention to yourself through behavior, jewelry, or clothing. Jordanian police warn the public to exercise vigilance when leaving banks and ATMs.

Violence at universities continues to be a problem. Several disturbances at universities were incited by disagreements stemming from university elections, tribal affiliations, and perceived grievances and injustices. The U.S. Embassy noted 13 instances of non-lethal campus violence in 2018.

Sexual harassment and assault is a concern for Western women in Jordan, with most cases involving inappropriate staring, cat calling, stalking, indecent exposure, and touching. The Embassy continues to receive sporadic reports of sexual assault and harassment against women. Westerners should be mindful of cultural differences; some Jordanians may see seemingly innocuous behavior such as riding in the front seat of a taxi or even polite conversation with the opposite sex as forward and/or inviting. Women should ride in the back seat of taxis, dress modestly, carry a charged cell phone, and avoid solo travel to unfamiliar areas, especially at night.

In 2018 and consistent with previous years, the U.S. Embassy received several reports of minor thefts at diplomatic residences, to include theft of patio furniture, propane tanks, and diesel fuel. These incidents, particularly propane and diesel fuel theft, can be significant issues for the expatriate community.

Vehicle theft and vehicle break-ins are infrequent but do occur. Travelers should try to park in well-lighted or secured areas, and ensure nothing of value is in plain sight inside the vehicle.

Firearm possession, transport, and sales remained a serious concern for Jordanian authorities. Firearms are not widely available, but have been used by criminal and terrorist elements against police and security personnel conducting law enforcement operations.

The U.S. Embassy is aware of scams in Jordan affecting tourists and Embassy personnel. In the tourist areas of Petra and Wadi Rum, there have been reports of Bedouin males acting as unofficial tour guides attempting to extort money from tourists. Romance schemes have also been reported, in which Bedouin males will try and develop relationships with female tourists in a scheme to solicit money.

Cybersecurity Issues

This year witnessed a growing trend of internet scams, primarily using fictitious social media accounts purporting to be current or former U.S. government officials. These incidents have included fictitious LinkedIn accounts, Facebook posts, and the use of other cyber platforms. Remain vigilant to protect against cyber solicitation, identity theft, and scams. Do not send money to any person or business entity that you do not know personally. For more information on international financial scams, see the Consular Affairs website.

Other Areas of Concern

On multiple occasions in 2018, explosive ordnance landed inside Jordan within 10km of the border with Syria. Avoid Jordan's borders with Syria and Iraq given the continued threat of cross-border activity, including the risk of terrorist attack. Due to ongoing conflicts in the region, anti-ISIS Coalition activity, and border security concerns, the U.S. Embassy maintains a strict travel policy for personnel. All U.S. government employees on official travel must receive prior permission to visit refugee camps and any area within 10km of the Syria and Iraq borders. Embassy travelers must use armored vehicles equipped with tracking and communication devices. Prior to any such travel, the Regional Security Office consults with Jordanian security officials to ascertain hazards and, if necessary, arranges additional security measures.

The Al-Karama border crossing between Iraq and Jordan opened in 2017, and the Jaber border crossing between Syria and Jordan reopened in 2018. The U.S. government warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Syria or Iraq due to terrorism, civil unrest, and armed conflict.

Celebratory gunfire, especially during weddings, funerals, and upon the release of academic results, is also a concern. Additional issues include altercations between tribes, marrying families, honor killings, and retaliatory attacks.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Physical road conditions in urban environments are generally good. Driving conditions in rural areas can be hazardous, as roads are less developed. Avoid driving outside greater Amman at night; poor lighting increases driving hazards associated with unmarked traffic patterns, livestock crossings, construction detours along major highways, and non-traditional (erratic) driving.

Traffic accidents are common and can result in serious injuries/fatalities. Fatality rates are higher than in the United States. Excessive speeding and failure to obey traffic regulations are common. Drive defensively and use extreme caution; always wear seatbelts. Minor accidents may resolve at the scene, although some parties may escalate tensions and demand immediate compensation. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Public Transportation Conditions

Use licensed commercial taxis available at most major hotels. Insist the driver not pick up additional passengers. Although not unique to Jordan, commercial taxis have overcharged foreigners and taken indirect routes to increase fares. This is more prevalent when taking taxis to and from any of the major hotel chains. Ride sharing services such as Uber and Careem are available in Jordan.

Avoid other forms of public ground transportation such as city buses. There were instances where private intercity bus lines were targets of rock throwing and other forms of harassment while traveling throughout Jordan this year.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

In 2018, Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ) and Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) implemented heightened security interviews for passengers at check-in and security screenings, in line with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommendations. This is in addition to enhanced screening of personal electronic devices at the last point of departure gates to the United States. Currently RJ operates regular direct flights to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Detroit Metro Airport, and New York John F Kennedy International Airport, with plans for direct flights to Washington Dulles International Airport in 2019. The U.S. is coordinating with Jordanian authorities to further bolster security at departure gates during 2019.

King Hussein International Airport (AQJ) is close to Aqaba in southern Jordan. AQJ is 175 miles (280km) south of Amman; the drive between the two locations takes approximately four hours. AQJ primarily serves regional commercial passenger and cargo flights, as well as regular flights to and from AMM. There are no direct flights to the United States from AQJ.

Amman Civil Airport (ADJ), commonly known as Marka International Airport, is approximately 3 miles (5km) northeast of Amman’s city center. Primarily a military airport, it also serves as a civil airport for chartered and VIP private flights, as well as air cargo. There are no direct flights to the United States from ADJ.

Jordan’s airports adhere to International Civil Aviation Organization safety standards. Jordanian security agencies control security at AMM and AQJ in coordination with the Jordanian Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission and airport operating companies.

Due to ongoing military activity throughout Syrian airspace, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a Special Federal Aviation Regulation prohibiting flight operations over Syria by all U.S. air carriers, commercial operators, and code share partners with minor exceptions. 

The Jordanian government currently prohibits use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones without approval. Authorities are likely to confiscate drones brought into Jordan without authorization at airports or border crossings; their use in Jordan may draw the attention of the Security Services.  

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is a considerable risk from terrorism in Amman. Local, regional, and transnational terrorist groups/extremists have demonstrated the willingness and capacity to plan and execute attacks in Jordan. Jordan remains a key ally in combating terrorism and extremist ideology. Jordanian security services participated in Coalition military operations and bolstered defenses against terrorist incursions on their borders. Jordan hosts U.S. military personnel for anti-ISIS operations, joint exercises, and training. Jordan has shown itself to be a willing and capable partner in the fight against terrorism.

Below are the most notable terrorism-related events in 2018:

  • In August, an improvised explosive device (IED) placed underneath a Jordanian Police bus killed one officer and injured six others in Fuheis, approximately 12 km from Amman. The following day, Jordanian security forces targeted the suspected terrorist cell in the city of Salt. Security forces exchanged gunfire with the suspects, and the building housing the suspects was destroyed due to a large explosive cache in the building. Three suspected terrorists and four officers died during the operation.
  • In November, the State Security Court (SSC) convicted ten people for their involvement in the 2016 Karak terrorist attack that left 14 people dead and 34 injured. The sentences ranged from three years to life in prison with hard labor.

The following are notable terrorist related events in 2017:

 

  • Throughout the year, multiple Vehicle Borne IEDs (VBIED) detonated in and around the Al Rukban refugee camp in Syria near the border with Jordan.
  • In January, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus running from Amman to Ma’an while it was passing Wadi Musa. There were no injuries; authorities never caught the shooters.
  • In June, Jordanian border guards near the Al Rukban refugee camp repulsed an attack from the Syrian side of the border conducted by three terrorists on motorcycles. One border guard was injured and the attackers were killed.
  • In September, the SSC brought terrorism charges against a group of 16 people. The suspects were accused of planning to use automatic weapons to carry out terrorist acts against public security services.
  • In September, the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate (GID) arrested a ten-person ISIS cell planning to attack security forces and tourist locations with explosive suicide belts.
  • In October, police raided a house in Zarqa, finding ‎two homemade explosive devices. Authorities discovered the lone suspect after a bomb he was building accidentally detonated during construction, injuring only him. Charges are pending.
  • In October, the SSC sentenced six people to five years of hard labor for sympathizing with ISIS. They had created Facebook pages to find Jordanian supporters for ISIS and promote terrorist activity.
  • In October, the SSC sentenced a man to hard labor for planning to carry out a terrorist attack against a Gendarme. The man planned to stab the officer at the Ministry of Tourism in order to prove his loyalty to ISIS.
  • Throughout 2017, security officials arrested extremists, many for posting pro-ISIS videos or statements on social media. The government charged them before the SSC for using the Internet to propagate terrorist ideology. 

 

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

Regional issues can inflame anti-U.S./anti-Western sentiment. U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria, as well as U.S government policies on Israel, have fueled anti-U.S. feelings. Certain segments of the Jordanian population view U.S. policy and military operations in the region unfavorably. Recent surveys of Jordanians show that more than 80% of the population holds an unfavorable view of the U.S. government. This sentiment does not extend to U.S. citizens in general, or U.S. culture. Maintain a high level of vigilance, and take steps to increase security awareness. Vary their times and routes to decrease predictability while maintaining a low profile.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

There is considerable risk from civil unrest in Jordan. Political violence has traditionally focused on Arab-Israeli relations, government subsidies, and local grievances (e.g. corruption, access to water, government services). Violence in the West Bank and Gaza has led to demonstrations and anti-government/anti-U.S. sentiment in Jordan. While most instances of political violence in 2018 did not relate directly to U.S. interests, the potential for directed political violence remains high.

Beginning in 2017, protest activity at the U.S. Embassy swelled with the announcement that the U.S. would move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In reaction to this announcement, nightly protests continued outside of the U.S. Embassy in Amman for approximately two months. On the first Friday following the announcement, approximately 5,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Embassy.  As the month progressed, the numbers decreased. All protests outside the Embassy concluded without violence, and included close monitoring from Jordanian authorities.

U.S. Embassy protests of note during 2018:

  • Protests that started in December 2017 against the U.S. decision to move its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem continued through January 2018.
  • In April, activists gathered at the U.S. Embassy to protest U.S. military intervention in Syria. Fewer than 100 protesters participated. The event remained peaceful.
  • In May, activists gathered at the U.S. Embassy to protest the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Approximately 450 protesters gathered, chanting and waving Palestinian flags. The protest remained peaceful.  
  • In October, activists gathered at the U.S. Embassy to protest an as-yet unreleased U.S. Middle East Peace Plan. Approximately 120 activists participated in the peaceful event.


Civil Unrest

There are frequent rallies, demonstrations, and protests. In 2018, the Embassy noted 552 demonstrations. The majority of these demonstrations were small, contained, and non-violent. Of note, large protests occurred throughout Jordan in May 2018 following the release of a draft tax law. All major roads in Jordan closed due to protests.

The number of large anti-government demonstrations has increased this year. During these events, protestors burned tires, destroyed vehicles, blocked roads, shot out electrical transformers, and clashed with Gendarmerie and security forces. Protests regarding government policies and corruption, lost jobs, taxes, wages, reduced subsidies, and other perceived injustices continue to fuel demonstrations.

Demonstrations and protests can escalate to violence or disorder, sometimes resulting in road closures and confrontations with security forces. Demonstrations require permits; security personnel monitor events to ensure public order.  

Avoid large crowds and demonstrations while taking measures to avoid areas where these are most likely to occur (e.g. city centers, universities, refugee camps, government buildings), particularly during periods of increased tension.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

According to a 2018 UNHCR report and Jordanian government reporting, Jordan’s population is approximately 10 million, including 3 million non-citizens. In addition to Palestinian refugees, Jordan hosts approximately 678,000 UNHCR-registered Syrian refugees (though government officials report as many as 1.3 million Syrians live in Jordan) and 66,500 Iraqi refugees. This influx has strained government resources, as the country confronts its own socio-economic challenges including unemployment, rising inflation, and increased costs of basic necessities.

Tribal affiliations or other associations exacerbate tensions and fuel unrest. Simple disagreements often lead to clashes between tribes, with violence escalating until Jordanian security forces intervene. Some 2018 incidents continued for several weeks, with large areas and parts of cities on lockdown until sufficient restitution or mediation between parties occurred. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The region experiences regular seismic activity. The Jordan River Valley, which marks Jordan’s western border, constitutes the northern section of the Great Rift Valley. None of the recent small-scale seismic tremors caused significant damage. Historically, large earthquakes have damaged many of Jordan’s archeological sites.  

Flash flooding continues to be a concern. The areas around the Dead Sea, Jordan Valley area, and Wadi Musa experienced heavy rainfall in 2018 resulting in flash flooding. In October 2018, flash flooding in the Zara Maeen Hot Springs area near the Dead Sea resulted in at least 18 deaths; many of those killed were students on a school trip. Search and rescue personnel launched a major operation, rescuing 34 people.

In November, heavy rains and flash floods throughout the country caused 12 deaths. At the popular tourist site of Petra in Southern Jordan, authorities evacuated nearly 3,500 tourists to safe areas due to severe flash flooding.

In January 2017, an avalanche occurred on a mountainous area near the Naemeh Bridge outside Irbid, causing a landslide. The landslide destroyed parts of the major road that connects Amman to Irbid. There were no reported injuries or deaths.

To inform the public of severe weather conditions, the Jordanian government instituted a nationwide emergency SMS alert broadcast in Arabic to all cellular devices in the country.

Jordan suffers from a lack of water, and drought is a major concern; the country may experience six months or more of no significant rainfall.

Economic Concerns

In 2018, the economic situation in Jordan was the cause of multiple protests. In May and June 2018, Jordanians angered over and in opposition to a new income tax law took to the streets and protested in numbers not previously seen in Jordan.  Upwards of 5,000 demonstrators converged on critical traffic hubs and the Prime Minister’s office (Fourth Circle) in Amman, forcing the government to address the protesters’ demands. In response, the King called for a new government and replaced the Prime Minister, along with many other ministers.

In November 2018, Parliament passed a controversial new tax law. At the onset, public disapproval was relatively muted; protesters gathered near the Prime Minister’s Office in small numbers to voice their disapproval. On the evening of December 13, protest tactics changed when more than 1,000 protesters converged on a vacant parking lot near the PM’s office. As some protesters tried to move towards the location of the May and June protests (Fourth Circle), altercations erupted between the protesters and security forces. In an effort to contain the protesters and keep major roadways open, the police deployed tear gas (which is not a common tactic in Amman within the last few years).

Piracy of digital media and counterfeiting of computer software is prevalent, despite efforts by the government to stem the flow of counterfeit products.

Counterfeit currency has also been seized in numerous arrests over the last several years, often in conjunction with illicit drugs and firearms. In 2018, Jordanian authorities arrested 201 suspects for counterfeiting Jordanian dinars, U.S. dollars, and Euros.

Personal Identity Concerns

Gender plays a significant role in Jordanian society. Be cognizant of gender-specific norms, and mitigate gender biases and cultural insensitivities.

Jordan is largely tolerant of religious minorities, but proselytizing is illegal; those who the government believes to be engaging in this activity are subject to deportation or non-renewal of a visa or residency permit, sometimes with little or no advance notice. Religious differences can exacerbate any arguments or disagreements, sometimes causing Jordanian authorities to intervene and/or deport individuals for their own protection. Due to regional tensions, practitioners of certain faiths may experience increased scrutiny and unwelcome attention. For more information, review OSAC’s Report Putting Your Faith in Travel: Security Implications.

Consensual same-sex conduct is not illegal; however, societal discrimination against LGBTI persons is prevalent, and LGBTI persons are sometimes targets of abuse. Conservative cultural and religious norms restrict Jordanian LGBTI persons from being open about their sexual orientation. Same-sex displays of affection in public may elicit severe reactions. Authorities may use laws forbidding adultery or breaches of modesty against LGBTI travelers. In previous years, some parliamentarians and public commentators called for the arrest/expulsion of U.S. diplomats who voiced public support for LGBTI rights.

While making strides to accommodate individuals with disabilities, Jordan does not have uniform mechanisms to accommodate persons with wheelchairs and other disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

It is illegal to use and/or distribute drugs in Jordan. Authorities make arrests for possession, use, or simply being in the proximity of drugs. Penalties for drug offenses are severe; authorities view them as threats to state security. Authorities may delay consular access to U.S. citizens arrested for drug offenses pending further investigation.

Captagon (fenethylline), heroin, hashish, and marijuana are the predominant drugs in Jordan. In 2018, Jordanian authorities seized 47 million captagon pills, 2,093 kilograms of hashish, 155 kilograms of synthetic cannabis (also known as “joker”), 74,738 kilograms of marijuana, 10,557 kilograms of heroin, 1,693 kilograms of cocaine, and 820,790 various other pills.

Jordan’s geographic location between drug producing and drug consuming countries makes it a primary transit point for smugglers. Jordan’s northern border with Syria is an area of concern; Jordanian border guards have responded to illegal crossings for those seeking to smuggle drugs and weapons. Lethal force is authorized to prevent anyone from crossing into Jordan from Syria.

Kidnapping Threat

The threat of kidnapping is a concern. There were no kidnappings of U.S. citizens in 2018; however, kidnapping plots have targeted U.S. citizens and foreigners in the last several years. For example, in November 2017, authorities arrested and charged five people with plotting to kidnap and kill foreign tourists from the Roman amphitheater; two received five years hard labor and three received to three years hard labor. For more information, review OSAC’s Report, “Kidnapping: The Basics.”

Police Response

The Jordanian Public Security Directorate (PSD) is proactive and responsive when dealing with criminal activity. The PSD is the primary law enforcement entity that responds to emergencies in Jordan. Jordan has a nationwide 911 system.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. citizens in police detention should immediately request to notify the American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy (962-(0)6-590-6000). The Embassy can provide a list of local attorneys, visit detainees, and contact family and friends. Jordanian authorities may treat Jordanian-Americans as Jordanian and not notify the Embassy promptly. In such cases, a family member should contact the Embassy on the detainee’s behalf.  In 2018, the Embassy was aware of at least two cases of detained U.S. citizens for whom Jordanian authorities restricted due process and access to lawyers.

Crime Victim Assistance

If you are the victim of a crime, contact the U.S. Embassy Consular Section at 962-(0)6-590-6000 for assistance.

For local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Police/Security Agencies

The PSD is responsible for law enforcement, protection of visiting dignitaries, routine crime prevention, traffic control, locating missing persons, and protecting public venues. The Director General of Public Security heads PSD and reports to the Interior Minister. 

The General Directorate of the Gendarmerie is primarily responsible for maintaining internal security, to include riot control and the protection of diplomatic missions. The Gendarmerie also supports other security agencies as needed.

The Directorate of Military Security (DMS) is subordinate to the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF), and is the military’s primary security and counterintelligence element.

The General Intelligence Directorate (GID) is considered one of most important and professional intelligence agencies in the region.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

SOS Air Ambulance: +44-20-8762-8008

Insurance Guidance

All visitors should have insurance coverage for hospitalization and medical evacuation (medevac).

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Jordan.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Amman Country Council meets intermittently. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa Team with any questions or to join.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation:

The U.S. Embassy is located on Al-Umawiyeen Street, Abdoun District, Amman.

The Embassy is open Sunday-Thursday, 0800-1700.

Embassy Contact Numbers:

Telephone: +962-(0)6-590-6000

After-Hours Emergencies: +962-(0)6-590-6500

Website: https://jo.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to Jordan should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resources

Jordan Country Information Sheet

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