A Jordanian writer's lament

Naseem Tarawnah
Naseem Tarawnah.

Stepping out of a car and walking up the street towards yet another interview the other day, my boss tells me: "There has never been a worse time to be a writer in Jordan."

Its statements like this that tend to fester.

I don't consider myself a journalist. I don't have a degree in journalism. Never went to journalism school. Never said: "When I wanna grow up I wanna be a journalist", or: "Man, biochemistry sucks, I think I'll change my major to journalism". But then again, most trained journalists I know are writing press releases.

I consider myself a writer. I don't know how you want to define that. Perhaps a person with the ability to form a coherent sentence, perhaps even be able tell a verb from a noun. I am simply one of many others who is concerned with the issues plaguing one of the things I consider dearest to me: my country.

No willingness to report news, but would much rather analyze, tear it apart, form an opinion of it.

So this is what I do.

Whether I'm paid for it or not.

This is what I do.

And it's what I'll continue to do, God willing, years from now, regardless of future or career.

And yes, perhaps it is true.

Perhaps there has never been a worse time to be a writer in Jordan.

Consider this:

It's the 21st century and books are still being banned.

It's the 21st century and journalists and writers are still being intimidated; their work is still being monitored.

All venues leading to free speech have been closed off. No freedom square, circle or shape of any kind exists.

Publications once known for being just a bit more rebellious than the ordinary, such as the Jordan Times, have now become an official sock puppet; fisted into submission.

A thousand radio channels, but none of them are allowed to discuss politics. Lest, of course, the serfs in the fields discover this new technology and stage a rebellion.

A channel once expected to be the nation's first attempt at true media reform, went down in flames, with the match still smoking from between the state's fingers.

Websites offensive to the political sensibilities of the country, are still banned.

Websites and blogs are now being monitored for content, leaving us to concede the last square inch of free-speech real estate.

Writers, politicians, and dissenters of any kind are still being jailed.

Because in Jordan, the writers are the rebels.

If this is the status-quo, then their pen is by default an instrument of rebellion.

And steam builds up beneath the eroded tin top of a pressure cooker.

And the whistle is blowing erratically.

And the whistle is blowing frantically.

And this is how we see it. This is how young people, the overwhelming majority of this country, just like me; this is how we see it. Is there really any other way? Is there something we missed?

So we are kept numb.

Give us propaganda, give us music stations, let us find religion on TV, but not too much religion.

Keep me threatened, keep me weary, keep me numb.

Keep the whistle blowing, keep the whistle blowing, keep the whistle blowing.

Yeah, there has never been a worse time to be a writer in Jordan.

But then again.

That's why I write.

That's how I rebel.

Naseem Tarawnah is a 24-year old freelance writer in Amman. He is the Jordan correspondent for www.globalvoicesonline.org and a contributor to Menassat.com. Naseem's personal blog can be found at www.black-iris.com.