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Overseas Security Advisory Council
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Jordan 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Amman. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Jordan. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Jordan country 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.

Travel Advisory

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. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Amman as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Jordan remains a low-threat crime country. Although criminal activity targeting Western expatriates is uncommon, foreigners should exercise vigilance at tourist sites and crowded locations. Common petty crimes, include pickpocketing and bag snatching, have targeted foreigners in the tourist areas of Amman’s city center. 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. Travelers can increase their personal security by traveling in pairs or small groups and by varying routes and times in daily activities. Jordanian police warn the public to exercise vigilance when leaving banks and ATMs to avoid targeting from opportunistic thieves. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind,The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud, and Taking Credit.

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 individuals acting aggressively as unofficial tour guides attempting to extort money from tourists. Romance schemes have also occurred in which local men attempt to develop relationships with female tourists to solicit money.

Sexual harassment and assault are concerns for women in Jordan, including Western and foreign women, with most cases involving inappropriate staring, verbal harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, and touching. The Embassy continues to receive reports of sexual assault and harassment against women. Foreigners 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. To avoid any misunderstandings, 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 2019 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.

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

Firearm possession, transport, and sales remain a serious concern for Jordanian authorities. Criminal and terrorist elements have used available firearms against police and security personnel conducting law enforcement operations. Although against Jordanian law, celebratory gunfire, especially during weddings, funerals, and upon the release of academic results, is common and a concern. Additional issues include altercations between tribes and retaliatory attacks.

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. In some instances, those perpetrating the fraud have claimed to be U.S. embassy employees offering jobs or visas to the United States. 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. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Other Areas of Concern

In 2019, the Syrian regime regained control of land in southern Syria near Jordan’s northwest border, which had been held by opposition forces. On multiple occasions in 2018, explosive ordnance landed inside Jordan within 10km of the border with Syria. Travelers should 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 and border security concerns, the U.S. Embassy maintains a strict travel policy for personnel. All U.S. government employees must receive prior permission to visit refugee camps and any area within 10km of the Syrian border, and all areas east of Ruwayshid toward the Iraq border. Embassy personnel must use armored vehicles equipped with tracking and communication devices for travel to these areas. 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 against travel to Syria or Iraq due to terrorism, civil unrest, and armed conflict. Lethal force is authorized to prevent anyone from crossing illegally into Jordan from Syria.

Transportation-Safety Situation

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 Amman city limits at night; poor lighting increases driving hazards associated with unmarked traffic patterns, livestock crossings, construction detours along major highways, and erratic driving.

Traffic accidents are common and can result in serious injuries/fatalities. Excessive speeding and failure to obey traffic regulations are common. Drive defensively, wear seatbelts, and use caution. Drivers may resolve minor accidents at the scene, although some parties may escalate tensions and demand immediate compensation. It is typical for drivers in Jordan not to signal for turns or lane changes. Drivers tend to be aggressive, and cars operate very closely together on highways.

Jordanian roads are particularly treacherous during the rainy season, which runs from October to March. Heavy snowfall can occur in winter months (December to February), making many roads – even major highways – impassable for several days. Driving in Amman also is hazardous in the summer months of June to September when Jordan experiences an influx of visitors from other countries in the region. Highway traffic is heavy around the Muslim holidays, when Jordanian expatriates return to Jordan for family visits.

The Desert Highway outside Aqaba, as well as the Dead Sea Highway from Amman, both popular tourist routes, are dangerous because they are narrow, winding, steep, and crowded with trucks. Avoid using these roads at night. When driving in both urban and rural areas, beware of unmarked speed bumps and livestock, including camels, sheep, and goats. Collisions with livestock are common.

Drivers must have a valid Jordanian license or a valid foreign license with an International Driving Permit to drive in Jordan. U.S. visitors who intend to drive should obtain an International Driving Permit before travel to Jordan. Temporary visitors may use their valid U.S. driver's licenses only to rent green-plated rental cars.

Drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts. All cars must have a fire extinguisher and warning triangle in the vehicle. Child car seats are not required by law. Fines for speeding can exceed $140. Cameras enforce speeding laws on many roads. Talking on a cell phone while driving is prohibited. If police stop you, you may face a fine. Police may pull over speeding drivers, as well as those believed to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Licensed drivers must carry local third-party insurance with sufficient coverage for accidents resulting in injury or death. Drivers involved in an accident should remain at the scene and immediately call the police and emergency personnel in case injuries have occurred. Police frequently hold the driver’s license or passport to prevent the driver from fleeing. Drivers may recover identification documents at the police station. It is common for foreign drivers to receive blame for accidents, regardless of the actual circumstances. Following an accident, the other party may file criminal or civil charges to seek damages. Police have occasionally detained U.S. citizen drivers as a result. 

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

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

Embassy personnel may not ride on public buses due to security and safety concerns. In recent years, individuals targeted private bus lines with rock throwing and other forms of harassment throughout Jordan, primarily on the Desert Highway between Amman and Aqaba. The are no restrictions on Jordan Express Tourist Transport (JETT) buses for Embassy personnel. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

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 to the United States. Currently, RJ operates regular direct flights to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The U.S. coordinates with Jordanian authorities to further bolster security.

King Hussein International Airport (AQJ) in Aqaba 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 civilian airport for chartered and VIP private flights, as well as for air cargo. There are no direct commercial flights to the United States from ADJ.

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.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Amman as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The threat of terrorism across Jordan remains high. Local, regional, and transnational terrorist groups/extremists have demonstrated a willingness and capacity to plan and execute attacks in Jordan. Jordan is a key U.S. ally in combating terrorism and extremist ideology. Jordanian security services participated in military operations of the Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and bolstered defenses against terrorist incursions on the country’s 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. Jordanian authorities have taken proactive measures to secure tourist sites. However, it is prudent to maintain a level of vigilance and awareness of your surroundings.

Below are the most notable terrorism-related events in Jordan in 2018-19:

In November 2019, a lone actor attacked tourists with a knife and cleaver at a popular archeological tourist location in Jerash. The attacker wounded eight people, four of whom were foreign tourists. Jordanian authorities arrested the attacker and conducted an investigation to determine the motive for the attack.

In August 2018, 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 responsible terrorist cell in the city of Salt. Security forces exchanged gunfire with the suspects, destroying the building housing the suspects. Three suspected terrorists and four officers died during the operation.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Amman as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Political violence has traditionally focused on Arab-Israeli relations, government subsidies, and local grievances (e.g. corruption, access to water, government services, and jobs). 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 unrest in 2019 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 featured appropriate security force presence.

Violence at universities continues to be a problem. Disagreements stemming from university elections, tribal affiliations, and perceived grievances and injustices incited disturbances at universities. The U.S. Embassy noted 11 instances of non-violent campus demonstrations in 2019.

Civil Unrest

There are frequent rallies, demonstrations, and protests in Jordan. In 2019, the Embassy noted over 1,000 demonstrations throughout the country. Most of these demonstrations were small, contained, and non-violent. Of note, several large protests occurred in Amman due to economic concerns.

The number of large anti-government demonstrations has increased this year throughout Jordan. During these events protestors burned tires, destroyed vehicles, blocked roads, and clashed with Gendarmerie and security forces. Government policies and corruption, few job opportunities, 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 closely monitor these events to ensure public order.

Avoid large crowds and demonstrations and exercise particular vigilance in areas where protests are most likely to occur (e.g. city centers, universities, refugee camps, government buildings), particularly during periods of increased tension. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Due to the Syrian refugee crisis, Jordan hosts the second-highest share of refugees per capita in the world. According to a 2019 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 654,000 UNHCR-registered Syrian refugees (though government officials report as many as 1.3 million Syrians live in Jordan) and 67,000 Iraqi refugees. Since the reopening of the Syrian border in October 2018, approximately 34,000 Syrian refugees have returned to Syria. The refugee influx has strained government resources as the country confronts its own socio-economic challenges, which include unemployment, rising inflation, and increased costs of basic necessities.

Clashes between feuding tribes, clans, or families can exacerbate tensions and fuel unrest. Disagreements can lead to violent clashes without notice and often involve the use of firearms. Violent clashes have escalated to the point where Jordanian security forces intervened.

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. sentiment. 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. According to surveys, this sentiment does not generally extend to unfavorable views of U.S. citizens or U.S. culture, though U.S. citizens should always maintain a high level of vigilance.

In 2019, five protests took place in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy. All protests were small in scale and remained peaceful. The protests were in opposition to U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The region experiences regular seismic activity. Recent small-scale seismic tremors have not caused significant damage.

Flash flooding continues to be a concern throughout Jordan. 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 2018, heavy rains and flash floods throughout the country caused 12 deaths. At the popular tourist site of Petra, authorities evacuated nearly 3,500 tourists to safe areas due to severe flash flooding.

To inform the public of severe weather conditions, the Jordanian government instituted a nationwide emergency SMS alert broadcast (911) 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.

Seasonal dust storms that envelop the country for days or weeks each spring may significantly aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma or sinus problems.

Economic Concerns

Throughout 2019, the economic situation in Jordan continued to be the cause of protest activity. Beginning in September, the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate organized a nationwide strike and large numbers of demonstrations calling for increased salaries. As the protesters began to organize, authorities attempted to prohibit the protestors from gathering by blocking traffic thoroughfares into Amman and the desired protest site near the Prime Minister’s office. As a result, small-scale protests erupted in areas leading to the location. The authorities resorted to the use of tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. On October 5, the government addressed the protesters demands and agreed upon a tier pay raise for the teachers.

In May and June of 2018, Jordanians angered over a new draft 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. However, in November 2018, Parliament passed the controversial new tax law. At the onset, public disapproval was relatively muted, but altercations soon erupted between the protesters and security forces. To disperse the protesters and keep major roadways open, the police took the uncommon step of deploying tear gas.

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

Authorities have seized counterfeit currency in numerous arrests over the last several years, often in conjunction with illicit drugs and firearms.

Personal Identity Concerns

Gender plays a significant role in Jordanian society. Be cognizant of gender-specific norms and cultural insensitivities. The U.S. Embassy is aware of cases where U.S. citizens have been subject to domestic violence and abandonment by their spouses, including incidents of restrictions of movement through travel holds, loss of custody of children, or forced marriage. Women and children should pay particular attention to any warning signs, including husbands or other family members withholding money or travel documents after arrival in Jordan. Report cases of domestic violence to the Family Protection Department. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

Jordan is largely tolerant of religious minorities, but the Jordanian government considers proselytizing to Muslims (including the distribution of religious material) illegal. Those who the government believes to be engaging in this activity are subject to deportation or non-renewal of visa or residency permits, 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. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.

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. Gay and lesbian Jordanians frequently hide their sexuality, even from family members. Family members who discover that a relative is LGBTI+ may target them for “honor” crimes. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

While making strides to accommodate individuals with disabilities, Jordan does not have uniform mechanisms to accommodate persons with wheelchairs and other disabilities. Outside of a few of the more upscale hotels in the capital, individuals with disabilities will find almost no accessible accommodations. Similarly, there are very few accessible restaurants, shops, or historical sites. Transportation is not accessible and sidewalks and crosswalks, even in the main cities, are not accessible. Handicap-accessible toilets and bathrooms, even in major hospitals, are generally not available. However, at least one local NGO has created an on-line service reporting accessibility of tourist sites and other locations in Jordan. Travelers who rely on accessibility assistance should research before planning travel to Jordan. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crimes

It is illegal to use and/or distribute drugs in Jordan. Jordan has strict drug laws and authorities make arrests for possession, use, or simply being in the proximity of drugs. Penalties for drug offenses are severe; authorities view drugs as threats to state security. Captagon (fenethylline), heroin, hashish, and marijuana remain the predominant illegal drugs in Jordan.

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.

Kidnapping Threat

The threat of kidnapping by terrorist and criminal groups is a concern. In recent years, Jordanian authorities have foiled plots targeting U.S. citizens and foreigners. In November 2017, authorities arrested and charged five people with plotting to kidnap and kill foreign tourists from the Roman amphitheater in Amman; the five received multi-year prison sentences involving hard labor.

Other Issues

Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.

The Jordanian constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, with some restrictions. Insulting the King or members of the Royal Family may lead to detainment or imprisonment. Review OSAC’s report, Lèse Majesté: Watching what you say (and type) abroad.

The Jordanian government currently prohibits use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones without approval. Authorities at airports or border crossings are likely to confiscate drones brought into Jordan without authorization; their use in Jordan may draw the attention of the security services. Read the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.

Police Response

The emergency line in Jordan is 911, with services in Arabic, English, and international sign language. 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. 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. For local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

In December 2019, the King of Jordan called for the General Directorate of the Gendarmerie and Directorate for Civil Defense to merge under PSD. 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 Civil Defense is responsible for fire, natural disaster, and hazmat response.

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 one of the most important and professional intelligence agencies in the region.

Jordanian authorities may treat Jordanian-Americans as Jordanian citizens, and not promptly notify the Embassy. In such cases, a family member should contact the Embassy on the detainee’s behalf.

Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Medical Emergencies

Modern medical care and medicines are generally available in Jordan’s main cities, but not always in outlying areas. Facilities can handle most acute and chronic medical conditions appropriately. When called, ambulances are often slow to arrive, and personnel generally have only a basic level of training. For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Most hospitals in Jordan, especially in Amman, are private. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment or a high deposit for services. Because serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States could cost more than $150,000, the U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas. All visitors should have insurance coverage for hospitalization and medical evacuation (medevac).

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

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad

OSAC Country Council Information

The Amman Country Council meets intermittently. Contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa Team for more information or to join.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

Al-Umawiyeen Street in the Abdoun neighborhood of West Amman.

Hours of Operation: 0800-1700 Sunday to Thursday.

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

Embassy Operator: +962-(0)6-590-6000

Emergency calls after normal business hours: +962-(0)6-590-6500

State Department Emergency Line: +1-202-501-4444

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

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