Hamarneh, Mustafa (1953–)

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Hamarneh, Mustafa

Mustafa Butrus Hamarneh (Hamarina) is a scholar and leading political analyst in Jordan.


Hamarneh was born on 26 February 1953 in al-Zarqa, Jordan. He hailed from Jordanian Arab Christians originally from the town of Madaba, a family that went on to produce a number of prominent academics and politicians. Hamarneh attended university in Spain, receiving his licenciatura in economics from La Universidad Complutense de Madrid in 1978. He then pursued graduate work in the United States, and completed a Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in 1985. Hamarneh went on to teach as an adjunct professor at Georgetown from 1985 to 1987 before returning to Jordan to teach history at the University of Jordan from 1988 to 2002.

In 1992 Hamarneh became the director of the University of Jordan's Center for Strategic Studies (CSS). From 2004 to 2006, he was chairman of the board of directors for Jordan Radio and Television. He also helped establish the Tarjuman Foundation, a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization promoting translating and publishing the works of non-Arab social scientists. Hamarneh also was a founding member of EuroMeSCo in 1996, a network of foreign policy centers from the twenty-seven Euro-Mediterranean Partnership countries.


Hamarneh's contributions stem from his academic credentials and research. His 1985 doctoral dissertation applied dependency theory to the study of twentieth-century Jordan. He was one of the first scholars to make extensive use of the nineteenth and early twentieth century accounts written by European and North American travelers and explorers about their journeys through Jordan. Hamarneh was one of the first in what became a wave of Jordanian and Western scholars alike starting in the 1980s who were trained in Western universities, and who began producing serious studies of Jordanian history and society in place of the descriptive, official histories that had been produced within Jordan itself. Yet the teaching environment in Jordan is not nearly as conducive to freewheeling intellectual rigor when it comes to the study of the country's history. Indeed, at the time he was teaching at the University of Jordan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the library contained a forbidden books section that held a variety of volumes, including serious studies of Jordan's history that ran counter to the officially sanctioned version of events.

The political liberalization in Jordan that began in 1989 opened the door for Hamarneh's career to take a different turn. The return of political exiles, establishment of political parties, and emergence of a freer press allowed critical minds as that of Hamarneh to blossom and apply their talents to the study of the country's political trends. In 1992 he became director of the CSS, and went on to become an internationally recognized researcher and analyst of trends in Jordan's political life. Under his leadership, the CSS became known worldwide for its serious research on Jordan and the wider Middle East region, particularly its opinion polls—rare in the Arab world—and by the mid-1990s, Hamarneh was Jordan's most well-known policy analyst, frequently courted by journalists and others.


Despite the respect he enjoyed at home and among Western audiences as the dean of Jordanian policy analysts, Hamarneh's activities have led him to run afoul of the Jordanian authorities on occasion, most notably in July 1999 when he was forced to resign from his post as head of the CSS under pressure from the University of Jordan president Walid al-Ma'ani. Several of the CSS's reports proved controversial, including a survey revealing declining public support for the government of Prime Minister Abd al-Ra'uf al-Rawabida; a 1997 report showing that the unemployment rate in Jordan was closer to 27 percent, not the official figure of 17 percent; and a 1998 study on public perceptions of Jordanian-Palestinian relations. Al-Rawabida and General Intelligence director Samih al-Battikhi put pressure on al-Ma'ani to fire Hamarneh. Hamarneh resigned before it came to that, but his backers in the West rallied to his defense. The Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, and the Academic Freedom Committee of Human Rights Watch, protested his dismissal. He eventually was reappointed as head of CSS.


Hamarneh will be remembered for his important contributions to building a strong Jordanian civil society in the wake of the political liberalization that began in 1989. The dean of policy analysts in the country, he will particularly be remembered for the CSS's rigorous polls and analyses that have interpreted trends within society and politics for Jordanian, Arab, and Western audiences.


Name: Mustafa Hamarneh (Hamarina)

Birth: 1953, al-Zarqa, Jordan

Family: Wife: Jennifer (American)

Nationality: Jordanian

Education: Licenciatura in Economics from La Universidad Complutense de Madrid (1978). Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. (1985)


  • 1985: Adjunct professor, Georgetown University, Washington
  • 1988: Begins teaching history at the University of Jordan in Amman
  • 1992: Appointed director of University of Jordan's Center for Strategic Studies (CSS)
  • 1996: Helps found EuroMeSCo
  • 1999: Resigns from CSS; is reinstated
  • 2004: Named chairman of the board of directors, Jordan Radio and Television


Al-Arian, Laila. "Mustafa Hamarneh Examines Jordanian Politics." Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 22, no. 9 (1 November 2003): 70-71.

Center for Strategic Studies Home Page. Available from http://www.css-jordan.org.

Hamarneh, Mustafa. Revisiting the Arab Street: Research from Within. Amman, Jordan: Center for Strategic Studies, 2005.

Hamarneh, Mustafa, Rosemary Hollis, and Khalil Shikaki. Jordanian-Palestinian Relations: Where To? Four Scenarios for the Future. London: Royal Institute for International Affairs, 1997.

                                        Michael R. Fischbach