Chelmo mother at the heart of a right royal row in the middle east

  Posted: 06.04.21 at 01:05 by Derek Davis

us on Facebook




The grand daughter of a shepherd and former Pin Mill boatyard worker is central to a plot to destabilise the current Jordanian king, which has resonated around the world.

King Abdullah of Jordan is being threatened by his half brother according to security forces that claim Hazham its involved in a “malicious plot” to destabilise the country,

Abdullah's mother, Princess Muna of Jordan, who will be 80 on April 25, started life as a humble young girl in Chelmondiston. The daughter of Doris Stutton who married Walter Gardiner who became a colonel in the British Army and was posted to Jordan in 1960.

It was there that Toni Gardiner met the dashing King Al Hussein bin Talal on the film set of the Lawrence of Arabia. (Lawrence himself went on to live and work in Felixstowe in a role within the RAF.)

Their son Abdullah came to the throne in 1999 when the king, died of cancer. The new king named Hamzah, who was believed to have been the favourite of Hussein’s 11 children, the Crown Prince, making him next in line.

But Hamzah was stripped of his title just five years later and pushed into the political abyss when Adbullah gave the role to his eldest son, 26-year-old Al Hussein bin Abdullah II.

King Abdullah of Jordan

The schism in the royal family that was laid bare in Saturday night’s unprecedented events has been brewing for some time, according to Lina Khatib, MENA director at Chatham House.

“Some members of the royal family have been trying to instrumentalise Jordan’s economic and governance problems to present themselves as reformists who possess the solution to Jordan’s challenges,” said Ms Khatib. “Their narrative seeks to undermine the King, who continues to enjoy wide support in the West.”

The appearance of cracks in the royal family immediately raised concerns over Jordan’s stability in both the West and the Middle East, with world leaders quickly offering King Abdullah II their support.

It remains unclear whether Prince Hamzah will face any charges or will be dealt with by the family internally.

Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein has reigned since 7 February 1999. As a member of the Hashemite dynasty, the royal family of Jordan since 1921, he is a 41st-generation direct descendant of Muhammad.

Humble beginnings in Chelmondiston

Jordan has accused a former crown prince of plotting with foreign and local parties to destabilise the western ally as divisions within the ruling family in the normally stable country burst into the open.

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, told reporters that the alleged plot by Prince Hamzah, a half-brother of King Abdullah and heir apparent until his demotion in 2004, and others had been contained.

Safadi said people around Prince Hamzah had communicated with parties calling themselves “external opposition” and contact had been made with “foreign entities,” according to Petra, Jordan’s state news agency. A man linked to a foreign security service had contacted Prince Hamzah’s wife to offer a plane to fly them out of the kingdom.

“Initial investigations showed these activities and movements had reached a stage that directly affected the security and stability of the country,” Safadi said on Sunday. “The investigations had monitored interferences and communications with foreign parties over the right timing to destabilise Jordan.” He did not elaborate on what he meant by foreign parties and entities.

Safadi’s comments will intensify the intrigue about an extraordinary 48 hours in a normally stable country and staunch ally of the west. Prince Hamzah released a video on Saturday claiming he had been placed under house arrest. Major General Yousef Huneiti, the army chief, denied the former crown prince had been detained but said he had been warned to stop “activities” used to target the nation’s security and stability.

A young Toni with King Hussein who she married and became the popular Princess Muna of Jordan

Huneiti also said Bassem Awadallah, a former finance minister and chief of staff to King Abdullah, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a distant member of the royal family, have been arrested. Awadallah has in recent years been an adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Safadi said 16-18 people had been arrested in connection with the alleged plot.

The events raise concerns about the stability of Jordan, which borders Israel, Iraq and Syria. King Abdullah, who is feted in Washington and London, is also considered to be an important voice of moderation in the Middle East. 

Abdullah began his schooling in Amman, continuing his education abroad. He began his military career in 1980 as a training officer in the Jordanian Armed Forces, later assuming command of the country's Special Forces in 1994, and he became a major general in 1998.

In 1993 Abdullah married Rania Al-Yassin (of Palestinian descent), and they have four children: Crown Prince Hussein, Princess Iman, Princess Salma and Prince Hashem. A few weeks before his death in 1999, King Hussein named his eldest son Abdullah his heir, and Abdullah succeeded his father.

Abdullah, a constitutional monarch, liberalized the economy when he assumed the throne, and his reforms led to an economic boom which continued until 2008. During the following years Jordan's economy experienced hardship as it dealt with the effects of the Great Recession and spillover from the Arab Spring, including a cut in its petroleum supply and the collapse of trade with neighboring countries. In 2011, large-scale protests demanding reform erupted in the Arab world.

Her son King Abdullah II with half brother Crown Prince Hamzah

Many of the protests led to civil wars in other countries, but Abdullah responded quickly to domestic unrest by replacing the government and introducing reforms to the constitution and laws governing public freedoms and elections.

Proportional representation was introduced to the Jordanian parliament in the 2016 general election, a move which he said would eventually lead to establishing parliamentary governments. The reforms took place amid unprecedented challenges stemming from regional instability, including an influx of 1.4 million Syrian refugees into the natural resources-lacking country and the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Abdullah is popular locally and internationally for maintaining Jordanian stability, and is known for promoting interfaith dialogue and a moderate understanding of Islam. The longest-serving current Arab leader, he was regarded by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre as the most influential Muslim in the world in 2016.

Abdullah is custodian of the Muslim and Christian sacred sites in Jerusalem, a position held by his dynasty since 1924.[2]

Jordan has accused a former crown prince of plotting with foreign and local parties to destabilise the western ally as divisions within the ruling family in the normally stable country burst into the open.

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, told reporters that the alleged plot by Prince Hamzah, a half-brother of King Abdullah and heir apparent until his demotion in 2004, and others had been contained.

Safadi said people around Prince Hamzah had communicated with parties calling themselves “external opposition” and contact had been made with “foreign entities,” according to Petra, Jordan’s state news agency. A man linked to a foreign security service had contacted Prince Hamzah’s wife to offer a plane to fly them out of the kingdom.

“Initial investigations showed these activities and movements had reached a stage that directly affected the security and stability of the country,” Safadi said on Sunday. “The investigations had monitored interferences and communications with foreign parties over the right timing to destabilise Jordan.” He did not elaborate on what he meant by foreign parties and entities.

Safadi’s comments will intensify the intrigue about an extraordinary 48 hours in a normally stable country and staunch ally of the west. Prince Hamzah released a video on Saturday claiming he had been placed under house arrest. Major General Yousef Huneiti, the army chief, denied the former crown prince had been detained but said he had been warned to stop “activities” used to target the nation’s security and stability.

Huneiti also said Bassem Awadallah, a former finance minister and chief of staff to King Abdullah, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a distant member of the royal family, have been arrested. Awadallah has in recent years been an adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Safadi said 16-18 people had been arrested in connection with the alleged plot.

The events raise concerns about the stability of Jordan, which borders Israel, Iraq and Syria. King Abdullah, who is feted in Washington and London, is also considered to be an important voice of moderation in the Middle East. 

Jordan is ruled by the Hashemite family, which also ruled the holy city of Mecca for hundreds of years, as well as Iraq and Syria during the 20th century. It was the second Arab state to recognize Israel, almost three decades ago.

Israel has always been concerned about Jordan’s stability, as any implosion could mean having a hostile regime or chaos on its border.

In a rare public dispute within the royal family, Prince Hamza used a six-minute video provided to the BBC by his lawyer to dismiss the accusations against him and slam the government. Saying he was “not part of any conspiracy,” he criticized the government for what he called the “breakdown in governance, the corruption” and “the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse.”

He later said he would disobey army orders to stop going out and communicating with the public, Skynews Arabia reported, citing a voice recording by the prince. He said he’d recorded what the military chief of staff told him and shared it with relatives and contacts “in case something happens.”

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI held a phone call with King Abdullah in which he expressed solidarity and support for the country’s security measures, Morocco’s royal palace said on Sunday.

Daoud Kuttab, director-general of the non-profit media organisation Community Media Network, suggested it was an “internal criticism” issue.

“Former Crown Prince Hamzah has been making the rounds, especially in tribal areas, and that is a kind of a red line for the government and for the king. These are the strongest supporters of the monarchy and the ones who are more courageous in standing up to government corruption. So I think that’s what has really upset people in the palace,” Kuttab told Al Jazeera.

He suggested there likely would not be further detentions. “I don’t think this is a serious case. No security people have been arrested. You can’t have a coup unless there are security people involved.”

*What are your connections to Princess Muna of Jordan, or Toni Gardiner as you may know her. Contact [email protected]

Like this article? Sign up to our weekly newsletter...

Next Shotley news item...

Tuesday's Peninsula Breakfast Briefing

On This Day In 1974... pop group ABBA won the 19th annual Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, Sussex, with 'Waterloo'. The Sw...
Read more...

Share: