AMMAN—Individuals who are more monster than human do horrific things to undeserving people and then broadcast the acts of brutality with the intention of frightening the world into submission. Sometimes that strategy works, but sometimes it does not. Sometimes it has exactly the opposite effect. This was the case in Jordan last week.
Last week, Daesh, also known as ISIS, released a video that includes a rant against the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group and shows captured Jordanian pilot, Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, burning in a cage.
Some friends and I were studying at a cafe on Tuesday night after the video was released, when we received a text from our program director saying that, as a precaution, classes had been canceled the next day and that we were not to leave our homes. My roommate and I had a very tense cab ride home. We were not sure what the reaction would be to three young women, two of whom were foreign, on this particular night. Once home, we watched the news with our host mom for the next few hours and I was able to call my family to reassure them that everything was fine.
When I woke up the next day, I was not sure what the atmosphere would be like. Would we be unable to leave our homes during the weekend? Would the Jordanian government’s reaction incite riots? Would we have to be evacuated? I was afraid of what would happen. I was playing right into Daesh’s plan, and I knew it.
My worry was all for nothing. The reaction here in Amman has been to stand together behind the king and fight for the memory of Moath al-Kasasbeh. On Wednesday, everyone who owned a Jordanian flag was flying it. During Friday prayers, the words of Imams who denounced Daesh’s actions as un-Muslim were broadcasted on television and from local mosques. The sight of F-16s flying overhead brought feelings of pride rather than fear. King Abdullah II, already a popular figure, has been lifted to a place in the public consciousness where he is considered the man who will lead Jordan through the darkness.
Jordanians have always been proud to be Jordanian. Jordan has gone from being a creation of Winston Churchill to placate revolutionaries who had just fought off the Ottomans to being the most stable Arab state. Jordanians consider themselves to be wiser and more level-headed than citizens of other states. Their government is taking steps to listen to the will of the people, nominally at least. Now, the pride of the Jordanian people is palpable. After Friday prayers this week, Queen Raniya led a mass march in downtown Amman to stand together against Daesh’s actions. Cries of, “Long live King Abdullah!” are more now common than ever before.
The pride of the Jordanian people is also contagious. When I see F-16s flying over Amman, I wish them luck. When I see the king speak on television, I sit with rapt attention. I want to show Daesh that they picked the wrong people with whom to mess. I am not Jordanian, so I will never truly understand the pain that people felt after seeing their fellow countryman murdered in such a way. However, I can appreciate the unity that came in its wake and show my support however possible.
What will defeat Daesh is not the relentless airstrikes, but rather the strength of the people who are most affected by Daesh’s actions. The solidarity of Jordanians is not at all surprising, but it is wonderful to see. There is something amazing about people standing together to stare down those who threaten them.