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Gendarmerie operation sparks controversy in Petra, Jordan

Petra’s tribal entrepreneurs react to a security operation carried out inside Jordan’s most-visited UNESCO World Heritage Site with criticism and concern for their livelihoods.
Souvenir stand in Petra, Jordan.

WADI MUSA, Jordan — In the early afternoon of Aug. 25, four armored vehicles belonging to the General Directorate of Gendarmerie descended upon the Nabataean ruins of Petra, the focal point of Jordan’s tourism industry that contributes 20% of the country’s GDP. “I was doing a live video when the tanks came in, and that’s when they started launching the gas grenades,” said Natalie, an eyewitness who preferred to withhold her last name due to the incident’s sensitivity. Natalie is an American tour operator who lives in the Petra region with her husband, a member of the indigenous Bdoul tribe.

According to Jordan’s Public Security Directorate, the gendarmes coordinated with the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA) in a “security campaign” to “remove any nonpermitted installations in the region.” The operation sparked “limited riots,” prompting the US Embassy to issue a now-deleted warning against travel to Petra. Meanwhile, videos depicting tear gas and Bdoul children throwing rocks to repel the gendarmes spread on social media.

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