The Diary of Aref al Aref in the Emirate of Transjordan (1926-1929)

18 January, 2021

The ACRPS has published The Diary of Aref al-Aref in the Emirate of Transjordan, a record of the diaries of Aref al-Aref when he was Secretary General of the Transjordan government, on loan from the Mandate Government of Palestine from 1926-1929.

History professors at the University of Jordan Ali Muhafaza, and Mohannad Almubaidin, who also serves as general director of the Royal Hashemite Documentation Center, worked on publishing the diary. It is considered one of the first political diaries written about that period, in which Al-Aref describes the mechanism of decision-making under the British mandate over Transjordan, and how the country was administered between Prince Abdullah I and British officials.

The diary is organised into four chapters spread between 1926 and 1929 and was written during the period that saw the emergence of the Jordanian national movement, the establishment of the first political parties, the signing of the Jordanian British treaty of February 1928, the first Jordanian National Conference, and the political and popular movement that arose in its wake.

Al-Aref's diary describes how decisions were taken, the roles of the British commissioner, the commander of the British Arab Army, and British advisors in the judiciary and finance in running the country and making political and administrative decisions. It also revealed the role of the Emir and founder of the Jordanian state, Abdullah I bin Al-Hussein, in running the country, and his relationship with the British and their mutual attitudes towards one another. It describes, explicitly, the role of the Executive Council in managing the country's affairs, and is concerned with the seeds of the first Jordanian national movement, and the many personalities that Al-Aref dealt with. It also reveals the role of tribal and clan sheikhs in opposing the British and seeking to persuade the Emir and the President of the Executive Council to meet their demands for the development of a modern constitution for the country and a parliamentary election that properly represents the country and monitors government action.

Al-Aref explains his role in running the state, his personal relationship with Abdullah I and the Chairman of the Executive Council, as well as his relationship with senior British officials in Transjordan. It also presents, in some detail, his relationship with intellectuals and Jordanian tribal sheikhs. He does not hesitate to express his sympathy with the Jordanian people during his years of service in Transjordan. According to the introduction by Almubaidin, al-Aref wrote with an interesting commitment to documentation for his time, which makes him a contemporary source for the years that he documented. He wrote what he saw and heard, and his political position did not prevent him from criticizing the ruling authority, the Emir, or the mandate.

Al-Aref’s diary provides intricate details of the administration that emerged in Jordan after 1921, documentation of political and economic activity and details of governance. However, it dealt with some issues more extensively than others. Thus, the themes of the diaries were formed around describing, denouncing, and criticizing the mandate policy, along with a review of economic conditions, the Emir’s court and entourage, and the political elites in the Jordanian administration. Al-Aref wanted to establish a national entity that represented, for him, the first building block in achieving the Arab renaissance. Al-Aref talks about the revolution that was raging on the Druze Mountain and the situation on the borders in Aqaba and Maan, where the Wahhabis were gathering. He provides a picture of some cities and sub-districts, such as the city of Ma'an, located on the edge of the desert, neither urban nor Bedouin, but closer to nomadism than sedentism. He also witnessed the 6.5 earthquake that hit Palestine and eastern Jordan in July 1927, leading to significant casualties and causing widespread destruction.

Read Also