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King Hussein Bin Talal 1935-1999

 

Throughout his reign, King Hussein led Jordan through strife and turmoil, creating an oasis of moderation, in a region torn between different ideologies and political strives. Jordanians remember him as the source of inspiration, in the climate of openness, tolerance and compassion, he created and which Jordan demonstrates and stands for. His late Majesty laid the foundation of a prosperous legacy that will gear Jordan in years to come. When His Majesty King Hussein (passed away on Feb. 7, 1999), he marked the longest period of reign amongst world leaders.

Moslems regarded him with high reverence and respect, being the forty-second generation of the descendants of the Hashemite Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Born in Amman, on 14 November 1935, the eldest son of Prince Talal Bin Abdullah and Queen Zein al Sharaf Bint Jamil, King Hussein concluded his elementary studies in Amman, then enrolled at Queen Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt. After that he went to England and enrolled at Harrow, where he received his military training in the Royal Academy of Sandhurst for Military Science, in England.

Ascending the throne on 11 August 1952, the young King Hussein was called to the throne. But he was below age. A regency council was formed to manage the country until he became of age, according to the Hijri calendar, in line with the constitution. On 2 May 1953, an official ceremony was held, to appoint His Majesty, to the throne.

His late Majesty focused on laying an economic and industrial infrastructure, that would enhance the lives of his fellow country people and provide them with the quality life he aspired. Major Jordanian industries developed and prospered in the sixties, which included phosphate, potash and cement. A network of roads was also built to cover and link the whole Kingdom. King Hussein's achievements during his rule were most on a human level. In 1950 water, sanitation and electricity services were available to only 10% of the population, but leapt to become 99% of the population.

Literacy rates rose in 1996 to reach 85.5% of the population, from an original 33% in 1960. UNICEF statistics indicated that Jordan achieved in the period 1981-1991, the fastest growing mortality rate of children less than one year old, indicating a level of 70 deaths per 1000 in 1981, that dropped to 27 deaths per 1000 in 1991, a decline of 47%. King Hussein believed that Jordan's people are its biggest asset, and throughout his reign he encouraged people, including the less fortunate, the disabled and the orphaned, to achieve more for themselves and their country.

King Hussein also struggled throughout his 47-year reign to promote peace in the Middle East. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he was instrumental in drafting UNSC Resolution 242, which calls on Israel to withdraw from all the Arab lands it occupied in the 1967 war in exchange for peace. This resolution has served as the benchmark for all subsequent peace negotiations.

In 1991, King Hussein played a pivotal role in convening the Madrid Peace Conference, and providing an "umbrella" for Palestinians to negotiate their future as part of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. The 1994 Peace Treaty between Jordan and Israel is a major step toward achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. King Hussein also worked to resolve disputes between Arab states. During the 1990-91 Gulf Crisis, he exerted vigorous efforts to peacefully effect an Iraqi withdrawal and restore the sovereignty of Kuwait.

The Government published 'the White book' which explains the real and rational position of the Jordanian leadership on the Gulf Crisis. This pursuit of genuine Arab reconciliation, spurred his mediation in the Yemeni civil war. Furthermore, in almost every speech or forum His Majesty called for international humanitarian aid to relieve the people of Iraq from their daily suffering. King Hussein's commitment to democracy, civil liberties and human rights has helped pave the way in making Jordan a model state for the region.

The kingdom is internationally recognized as having the most exemplary human rights record in the Middle East, while recent reforms have allowed Jordan to resume its irreversible drive to democratization. In 1990, King Hussein appointed a royal commission representing the entire spectrum of Jordanian political thought to draft a national charter.

Today the National Charter, along with the Jordanian Constitution, serves as a guideline for democratic institutionalization and political pluralism in the country. In 1989, 1993 and 1997, Jordan held parliamentary elections which were accredited internationally as among the freest and fairest ever held in the Middle East. King Hussein married Queen Noor on June 15, 1978. Towards the end of his life, King Hussein became the proud grandfather of a growing number of grandchildren. Over the course of his life, His Majesty King Hussein was an avid sportsman. He was an accomplished aviator, motorcyclist and race-car driver who also enjoyed water sports, skiing and tennis.

He was well-known to amateur radio operators throughout the world as the friendly voice of "JY1". In his final years, King Hussein enjoyed surfing the Worldwide Web and developed a strong appreciation for the power of the Internet as a force for progress and understanding. King Hussein's directive to provide Internet access for every Jordanian school highlights yet another aspect of his enduring legacy.

The life of His Majesty has been the subject of numerous books. He himself was the author of three books: Uneasy Lies the Head (1962), about his childhood and early years as king, My War With Israel (1969), and Mon Métier de Roi.

 

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