Iraqis Facing Discrimination at Jordanian Border?

Jim Geraghty, who just returned to Turkey after a trip to Jordan, was surprised to read Jackie Spinner’s article, “Iraqis Find Travel to Jordan Increasingly Frustrating,” in this morning’s WaPo. Spinner describes a grim situation:

Jordanian border police are turning away hundreds of Iraqi vehicles daily at the Karama border crossing, often without explanation, creating huge parking lots of frustrated travelers in the Iraqi desert. At Queen Alia International Airport, just south of Jordan’s capital, Amman, Iraqi passengers are ushered into a room and interrogated before being allowed to enter the country. And some Iraqis who used to be able to get 30-day visas to Jordan are now being allowed to stay just a few days at a time.

The security restrictions being applied to Iraqis stem from the bombings of three Amman hotels on Nov. 9. The attacks — which killed 59 people, most of them Jordanians — were carried out by three Iraqi suicide bombers; a fourth Iraqi’s explosive belt failed to detonate. Jordanian security officials say the extra measures are necessary to keep out would-be terrorists.

Jordan’s government spokesman, Nasir Judah, confirmed that the country had imposed new border restrictions on Jan. 2 that prohibit vehicles with Iraqi license plates from entering the country. As a result, Iraqi commercial drivers are effectively prevented from taking passengers to and from Jordan, and private vehicles with Iraq’s signature black license plates are stopped at the border. The only Iraqi vehicles allowed into Jordan are those with white license plates, which can be obtained only after the owner puts funds into a trust equal to the value of the car.

The story also contains several anecdotes from frustrated Iraqis, including this one:

Alaa Abbas, 39, who was wrapped in a dark shawl against the evening chill, said she was recently singled out at the airport when she arrived from overseas, and was now headed to Baghdad by car. “They made 100 copies of my passport,” she said. “We are the mother of civilization. Why does everyone treat us like this? I am an Iraqi! I am an Iraqi! I was the only one at the airport they searched.”

The problem, according to Geraghty, is that, while Iraqis may be facing particular scrutiny, they are hardly alone:

I just flew into and out of Amman, and drove all over Jordan. The security is thorough each way and at every step, and I was traveling on an American passport. To get to Amman, Spinner and her correspondents almost certainly flew there; if they’ve driven anywhere around Jordan, they’ve experienced being stopped and having their identification checked at military check points. The soldiers are polite and professional, but clear they have a job to do. There’s no way that the Post correspondents don’t know how Jordan’s airport and road security checks work; there’s no way they can describe Ms. Abbas’ account as accurate. Everybody gets searched. Everybody’s papers get checked. No exceptions.

Not putting this into context is indeed quite bizarre, smacking of sensationalism.

On the other hand, the government has acknowledged putting special restrictions on vehicles coming in from Iraq. This is hardly surprising since, after all, Iraq is ground zero for Islamist terrorism. The irony is that the head terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is Jordanian.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Phil says:

    Spinner got it right. Iraqis get extra scrutiny. The reporter wasn’t talking about difficulties for Americans or Westerners. She talked about the SPECIFIC difficulties on Iraqis. It’s all the buzz in Iraq and Jordan and she clearly heard it, checked it out, reported it as such. I work for another news organization, and I’m just sorry she beat me to it. That is not sensational. That is good reporting. I do agree with you on one point. It is ironic re: Zarqawi. It’s too bad Jordan hadn’t done more to stem the flow of Jordanian terrorists INTO Iraq. Now, all of sudden, they want to stop Iraqis from coming in. It’s a lopsided, parochial policy.