Jordanian pro-reform activist killed fighting in Syria

Jordanian pro-reform activist killed fighting in Syria
Jihad was active in leftist and Islamist political circles. His death came as a shock to many.
4 min read
29 October, 2014
Jihad, centre, on a march for reform (Al-Araby al-Jadeed)

When Jordanians who join the ranks of extremist Islamist groups fighting in Syria die, their death is usually greeted with resounding indifference from the public.

Over 250 Jordanians have died fighting in Syria so far. A text message is usually sent by one of the leaders of the Jihadi Salafist groups to journalists containing the phrase “we celebrate a martyr”. It is repeated endlessly on the news until no one wants to hear it. After a funeral generally dominated by members of Islamist groups, it is over and forgotten.

Jihad Ghaban’s death was different.


Jihad died at 20. He was known as Jihad al-Shaarawi after the chewing gum factory where he worked,

      He would wear leftist colours. Then he would wear the ikhwan’s. His last political colours were Salafi.

because he used to carry chewing gum around in his pockets, giving it to people he met as a gift. Then he surprised relatives and friends by dropping out of the University of Jordan after one semester studying Arabic literature to go to Syria and fight the regime. He joined the Nusra Front.


Unlike hundreds of others who left Jordan to fight the regime in Syria, Jihad stayed active on Facebook, inviting others to join the battle and publishing news about other Jordanian fighters.

A middle class activist

He came from a middle class family in one of East Amman’s poor neighbourhoods, and became a prominent activist in the reform movement that swept the Kingdom in early 2011 during the Arab Spring. He rarely missed a protest, a demonstration or event advocating reform, regardless of who organized it, whether leftist, nationalist, Islamist or liberal, even though his upbringing was strictly Islamist and strongly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.


In early 2013, he appeared to get closer to leftist parties, appearing in a video clip on a social networking site announcing he was boycotting parliamentary elections on 23 January that year, and inviting others to join him, because they were rigged.


His ambition was to become a journalist. He joined an internship program at a local radio station and volunteered to cover events for the station. According to a post on his Facebook page, when he joined Nusra he worked in their media office, describing in detail his admiration of all the equipment provided for him, which he could only dream about during his time in Jordan.


His friendships with activists from groups across the political spectrum in Jordan were obvious from their posts on various social media sites after his death was announced. His close friends described him as a “martyr” and were obviously sad to lose their friend. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood posted obituaries blaming the Syrian regime.


Those affiliated with nationalist and leftist parties supporting the Syrian regime involved in campaigns to “defend Syria in the face of the conspiracy” did not direct the kind of spite against Jihad as some have done against other Jordanian jihadists who died in Syria. Most of them knew the young man from his days as a pro-reform activist. They asked for mercy for his soul, considering him a victim of poverty and ignorance.


A close friend wrote about him that Jihad “used to ask a lot about the road to truth. He would wear leftist colours. Then he would wear the ikhwan’s (Brotherhood) colours. His last political colours were Salafi. He died wearing them.” He added:

“I will not forget ‘political puberty’, a term he coined to express his indignation at the polarisation and ideological struggles that would push him to the corrupt right on some occasions and the corrupt left on others.” 

Jihad’s blood, the friend added, was on everyone’s hands.


Jihad’s killing provoked a controversy the like of which no other death of Jordanians who went to fight in Syria did. He was sociable, brimming with enthusiasm yet had a serenity even when he published pictures of himself carrying weapons. Why did his life end this way?


This is an edited translation from our Arabic website