A Jordanian NGO takes on social ills in Amman neighborhoods

Harra founder Mohammed Abu Amerah urges residents to work together. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 22 February 2020

A Jordanian NGO takes on social ills in Amman neighborhoods

  • Harra aims to revive neighborhoods by encouraging residents to work collectively to improve their environment
  • Initiative has made a difference in five neighborhoods, including deprived areas in Amman

CAIRO: A local initiative in Jordan is rejuvenating neighborhoods in the kingdom’s capital, bringing together communities and encouraging residents to work collectively to improve their environment.

The Harra, an NGO which translates into “neighborhood,” has so far renovated five areas in Amman under the guidance of its founder, the social entrepreneur Mohammed Abu Amerah.

When Abu Amerah returned to Jordan after many years away in 2005, he was saddened to find his local community in disarray — epitomized by ugly concrete boxes and overflowing litter — and quickly decided to take action to reinvigorate the local area.

Abu Amerah believes that traditional “harra” life in Jordan has been compromised by Amman’s explosive growth, as it struggles to contain growing numbers of refugees from across the country’s borders.

“A class system has developed, encouraging discrimination and degradation of the community,” he said.

Abu Amerah said he was spurred into action when he heard the news that his neighbor had been shot at in a dispute over a parking space.

“The idea for Harra came to me slowly. I saw that the lack of elegant structures in the community reflected not just the public space, but also created a negative psychological space among inhabitants.”

The Harra founder said that worn-out built environments not only lack “function” but also breed discontent, insecurity and even violence.

Abu Amerah has since created a Harra “identity plan” which he uses as a guide to breathe life and renewed confidence into communities.

The Harra rejuvenation strategy, which is funded by Jordanian aid, is based around physical, environmental, educational and social aspects – which are then mobilized into the community.

It has taken Abu Amerah 12 years to successfully rejuvenate five harras in Amman: Al-Ashrafiyah, Yarmouk, Jabal Jouffah, Al-Nasr and Wihdat refugee camp, which are some of the most deprived areas in the Jordanian capital.

The Harra Initiative brings neighborhood residents together to develop and implement rehabilitation projects that address common problems.

“The rehabilitation projects ultimately lead to improving the living conditions in the neighborhood,” said Abu Amerah.

The main drive in Harra is the community itself and the need to show members of the locality how to use their power to change their own lives and those of their children and their neighborhood.

This starts with the physical rebuilding of the neighborhood, including the renovation of walls and streets, adding address numbers to houses and collecting garbage, which lasts between 12 and 14 months. But the purpose of this phase is also to build social nets in the Jordanian community.

The process of rehabilitation brings with it the creation of neighborhood associations, the establishment of recycling and energy saving projects or creating ways of generating income.

“The methodology rests on a community participatory approach, which unlocks residents’ own innovative thinking and creative energies,” said Abu Amerah. “Harra interventions are designed to foster a sense of accountability and collective ownership.”

The social entrepreneur said the benefits of the Harra programs have been very tangible. “The programs have provided the initial motivation and leadership needed to inspire change within each targeted community.

“They have also promoted recognition and sensitivity towards social, behavioral processes, cultural and economic diversity.”

Abu Amerah said that reclaiming the public space has helped to reduce violence, created a community voice and promoted social cohesion and resilience among communities.

“Creating the sense of collective ownership among residents was the biggest challenge of all,” Abu Amerah said.

“We have successfully created the voice of harra to address and influence the issues that shape our reality and future in all aspects.”

• The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.



Turkish military visit raises fears of Syrian operation

Updated 06 June 2020

Turkish military visit raises fears of Syrian operation

  • The Chief of General Staff accompanied the high-profile visit
  • Turkey has conducted three cross-border operations in Syria against Daesh and the Kurdish YPG militia since 2016

ANKARA: A further visit by Turkey’s Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, and senior military officials to troops along the Syrian border, along with plans to hold meetings with commanders, have raised fears of a new Turkish military operation.
The Chief of General Staff, Gen. Yasar Guler, accompanied the high-profile visit, while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also attended some meetings via telephone.
Turkey has conducted three cross-border operations in Syria against Daesh and the Kurdish YPG militia since 2016.
Navar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said an imminent operation is unlikely, due to the increasing cost of a military move.
“Logistically speaking, it doesn’t make sense to launch another operation in an area that has this many complexities, including a Russian presence, Daesh cells and Syrian regime operations. Even if they win, it will bear significant costs for troops on the ground because of security problems in northwestern Afrin and northwestern Idlib provinces,” he told Arab News.
However, Saban also said the visit is unlikely to be random.
“It is for coordination on the ground to manage clashes with different actors. But it wouldn’t trigger a new operation in the short term,” he said.
On Friday, US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces announced a new campaign to fight remnants of Daesh across the border with Iraq following a recent increase in attacks.
Last month, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) blamed Daesh for exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to “regroup and inflict violence on the population.”
“Intermittent clashes and ground-based strikes between pro-government forces and armed groups continue to be reported in western Aleppo and southern Idlib,” the OHCHR said.
The resumption of violence in Idlib has sparked concern in Ankara about a possible wave of immigration toward the Turkish border, where Turkey has deployed troops.
On Friday, one Turkish soldier was killed and two were wounded following an attack on an armored ambulance in Idlib. The region has seen an increase in attacks since December.
On May 27, a Turkish soldier was killed in an explosion on a highway in Idlib.
Kyle Orton, a UK-based Syria researcher, said that another Turkish operation into Syria remains unlikely for now, as previous cross-border operations already gave the country a military foothold.
“The American presence in Syria has always been the major roadblock to Turkey dismantling the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) statelet, and the Americans want a withdrawal from Syria, quite possibly before the election in November,” he told Arab News.
Orton said that Turkey can get what it wants by maintaining its position, as there are potential political advantages in fighting Daesh in the vacuum left by the US.
“If the Americans are still in Syria in, say, a year, then Ankara might reconsider its view,” he added.