This article continues a series of articles on LinkedIn Pulse that touches on the various prevailing theories surrounding the cause of the deaths of Soraya and Jumana Salti. This one touches on one of the more popular theories in most death investigation cases; the husband was involved.
Unique Challenges During the Investigation
Many sources, even those with ties to Jordanian’s upper echelon seemed no less afraid of saying too much than the Jordanian citizens who first reached out for help, following a bizarre gag order by the government banning the local press from writing on this case. They also echoed the local’s fears of an omnipresent network of spies from the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), Jordan’s version of CIA except these people not only are allowed to work domestically it seems to be their primary operational environment.
Looking deeper into this agency was a bit surprising and disturbing to say the least and frankly there’s enough there to write separate articles or even books on them alone if one wished. However, I’ll give the highlights as they relate to this case and people’s paranoia that sadly may be very justified.
The GID was apparently deeply involved in an investigation that the local government insisted was nothing more than a tragic double suicide by two sisters with financial and psychological issues. How involved? Insiders who were present during search and seizure efforts in the Salti family home documented that they were one of many people and agencies present looking for clues and taking various items. Not one agency but many and each taking separate pieces of evidence (most computer related). That alone is odd even in Jordan, according to locals. It seems as if each were conducting their own investigations and each looking for some specific piece of evidence. Apparently, one of these agencies was the GID. Then there was the video of a witness giving a rather vague recollection of what she saw to what appeared to be a news anchor in a uniform. Later I was informed that person was a GID officer.
https://youtu.be/aHtlYGLTRIw (Go to 4:15)
Why the heck is GID interviewing people on a suicide and so publicly? Then there’s the history going back decades of GID directors and members being accused of corruption or doing the dirty work of other governments to keep their own hands clean….for a fee, of course.
There’s more but I’m sure you get the point by now. This should help you understand one of the core factors that made my informant developing and intelligence gathering much more tedious and time consuming. Gaining thier trust and working to assure thier anonymity and safety can be hard enough in any environment but in this one a great deal of patience and perseverance was required to get this far.
The Husband Lead: Omar Salah
My first effort was determining who Soraya was married to. This was easy, or so it seemed. I was immediately led to a man named Omar Salah. However, I could find very little on the man to show any motive for wanting to kill a woman he was no longer married to and for the most part, was living far away from in another country (United States).
Yet many local contacts, informants and intelligence sources (including some from Soraya’s personal circle and the Royal Hashemite Court) cultivated over the past year seemed insistent that her husband, a well known businessman with historical ties to the court was involved. They said he was not very nice to Soraya and that they were separated at the time of her death and that Soraya was afraid of him still and that her pleas for help were ignored because the Royal Court seemed to also have ties with the husband that they may not want compromised by getting involved. However, even inside sources were reluctant to get into more detail.
Looking deeper into Omar only raised more doubts though. Omar Salah is a well known entrepreneur with a plethora of ventures under his belt, some successful, others not so much. However, he was clearly a man with charisma, vision and boldness. He clearly seemed like someone a person like Soraya could be drawn too. Like Soraya it seemed he not only had dreams of personal success but clearly tried to create business environments that opened the door for others in the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region to have opportunity for success through globalization and collaboration and thus a way of bringing greater economic success to not only Jordan but the Arab region as a whole.
This truly is something needed in that part of the world. If one really wants to know what it means for 99%er’s living under the greed of 1%ers then one need only put down their Starbucks coffee and get out of their Coleman tents and step away from their Occupy whatever protest long enough to take a look at what’s happening in MENA.
Omar seemed to work and campaign for the creation of a sort of free trade environment called the Qualified Industrial Zone (commonly referred to as QIZ) which would allow for ease of export of wares manufactured in this zone consisting many companies run by Israelis and Palestinians alike, working together in peace and prospering together in peace. As I understand it, the idea was that this would create a sort of opportunity for major clothing companies and such to send manufacturing contracts to these companies and thereby in some way contributing to a new sort of stability in the Middle East while at the same time still enjoying the financial benefits of overseas manufacturing. It does have a win-win ring to it. However, according to local sources, this idea was not so well received by many local Jordanians including some in the government sector. Nor was Omar very well regarded. This was because he was seen as a “normalizer”.
Presently Jordan is approximately 70% Palestinian. A majority that has increased over the decades as more and more refugees poured in from the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Many see Israel as the enemy and occupiers of their homeland and expect someday, somehow, that things will be set right again so the idea Palestinians working in harmony with Israel is seen as a betrayal of their just cause and normalizing their present state and thus only assuring that nothing will ever be set right again.
Despite all of this resistance, it seemed Omar was set to realize this QIZ vision and convinced that the bigger picture will eventually be clearer for all and that peace and prosperity is possible for Arabs and Jews alike. It seems that he was eventually able to win the support of the Royal Hashemite Court and it’s relatively new king, Abdullah II who for the most part was and still is always in a precarious position of trying to keep the masses happy, which included careful relations with Israel and avoiding either they or his Palestinian majority questioning his loyalties too much. So getting the King’s approval despite his very precarious political position is in and of itself impressive. However, what is not clear is whether this support came before or after the fact that Omar seemed to take it upon himself to appeal to the US government for support and assistance. An effort that proved very successful as the then Clinton Administration was convinced to come on board. They approved laws allowing trade from the QIZ and were even convinced to help create a sort of Enterprise Fund to help support the QIZ’s growth. This is on top of the massive amount of US dollars already spent in its Economic Support Fund that Jordan relied heavily on. Salah himself formed one of the first capital investment companies, Century Investment to support and benefit from the growth of QIZ member companies.
So now on top of already alienating a large number of Jordanians there was talk that despite his global image of innovation and bridge building, locally he was only earning more contempt by potentially threatening government interests that relied on ESF money from the US that many feared may now be taken out of their control should the US offset that investment based on is EF investment.
Not long after this financial and political success or disaster, depending from whose eyes you see this through, rumors of financial improprieties began to emerge and Omar Salah gets blamed. The government swiftly steps in and shut down Century Investment and the partners and the Hashemite Court seem to really have nothing to say and Omar disappears into relative obscurity.
However, not without some fight which included reaching out to the US for help. He assured them that there was no malfeasance on his part and that this was retaliation from multiple fronts. One from “anti-normalizers” who hate his achievements with QIZ and another from government officials who are only interested in assuring US money continues to flow into their coffers and not in any way offset by an Enterprise Fund they would have little to no control over.
A recently discovered classified brief from the US Embassy in Amman shows that Omar did come to them for support and assistance and that some investigation was done into the matter. Although they concluded that there was little to no evidence to support an “anti-normalizer” agenda in play they weren’t so sure that the second concern of ESF versus EF money allocations wasn’t without real merit. It also appeared that the US felt the actions of the Jordanian government did seem unusually harsh and rash given the many other more logical and typical resolution possibilities.
Then there’s Soraya Salti, a woman with visions not so different from her former husband and a passion and drive that would also win her some success and influence that like Omar included US financial support, and like Omar, was independent of the support of the Royal Hashemite Court.
Yes in Omar’s case King Abdullah would get a great deal of credit for his support of QIZ and in Soraya’s case Queen Rania would be credited for her support but ultimately it clearly was these two who made things happen and would win accolades and influence on a global scale that was outside the direct control and influence of the Jordanian Government and the Royal Hashemite Court.
In the case of Injaz, just like QIZs public royal support helped increase their presence and acceptance locally, Queen Rania’s support of Injaz would do the same. However, just like Omar, it would be Soraya’s efforts and global outreach efforts that would turn what was once a side project of Save the Children Fund into an internationally recognized NGO in its own right and win the attention and financial support of the US along with many other countries as well.
There was certainly no public outcry against her efforts like that of Omar. This may be possibly in part because of the open support of Queen Rania who it seems is not only more popular globally than her husband, King Abdullah II, but is seems locally that she also more feared than him. However, many local sources explained to me that Soraya was seen as a threat by many on many fronts, chiefly culturally and financially.
Culturally, Soraya would be seen as threat to anti-westernization interests as educating and encouraging young Arabs to seek out personal success through global collaboration would threaten the status quo of a somewhat a collective and theocratic ideal that has been a long standing pillar of the way of life in not just Jordan but most of the MENA region. Financially, she would be seen as a drain to major wells of international dollars by a government who has kept a tight hold on each USAID dollar or any other incoming aid and how it would benefit the people….if at all.
So it would seem that Omar and Soraya had more reason to lean on one another rather than any sort of enmity.
My growing doubts regarding Omar Salah’s involvement was also supported by my efforts to determine his whereabouts at the time of Soraya’s death. It would turn out that local sources close to both Omar and Soraya would verify that Omar was indeed in Amman around the time of Soraya’s death but that he was there for only about three days to facilitate ongoing back and forth visits by their daughter . Sources also confirm that while there he stayed in Amman he stayed at the Salti home. This seemed to drive even more doubt of former husband feared and betrayed by Soraya narrative. Furthermore it would seem Omar was out of the country the actual night of her death.
An Unexpected Lead
Except there was one avenue not yet fully explored; Previously set aside rumors of a “secret husband” named Walid (sometimes spelled Waleed). Looking deeper into this rumor I learned there was indeed a somewhat “secret” marriage between Soraya and a man named Walid Al Banawi.
(See previous article I Never Gave Up…https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-never-gave-up-walked-away-suspicious-deaths-prominent-joey-ortega).
Husband Theory Resurrected: Walid Al Banawi
Walid was a US educated business man from one of the most prominent Saudi families and once board member of one of the most influential Saudi holding companies, Banawi Industrial Group and also a founding Director of Injaz.
However, there is little more to see about him that would explain this marriage and what may have occurred between them. He seemed to not stay with Injaz as long as Soraya yet like many others seemed to be a player in this regional movement of Social Entrepreneurship that seemed to have been catapulted by the worldwide success of Injaz. His own outreach work was and still is, supported in one form or another by the Hashemite Court and most specifically Queen Rania and also had his own direct political history with the US, but not so much the same as Omar and one not so public.
According to recently discovered intelligence briefs, it would it seem that Walid would at one time or another operate as a confidential informant regarding local political and economic issues. Based on how one would interpret the reports it would also suggest he was not the optimistic or daring type as Soraya or Omar.
So here we have another husband who was apparently separated from Soraya and like the previous husband was an influential businessman with ties to the Hashemite Court. This one could have been in the area around a time that others observed Soraya making claims about harassment from a husband and apparently not getting support from Rania or any other in the royal court because of relational ties he had with them. One who was oddly silent about her death, just as was the Hashemite Court other than to essentially say to its people, stop talking about it or suffer the legal consequences. A husband who when they did make a public statement, it was in the form of a low key obituary that seemed to all but disappear not long after it was published, a public statement that confirmed their marriage (See previous article I Never Gave Up…https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-never-gave-up-walked-away-suspicious-deaths-prominent-joey-ortega).
As of the writing of this article, efforts to get direct statements from either Omar Salah or Walid Al Banawi have not been responded. However, efforts continue.
This still raises questions of motive. If indeed rumors and tips of husband’s involvement were true and even if Walid is this husband people were too afraid to point the finger at directly, to what degree is he involved…and why. What was this thing that Soraya was killed for that was bigger than all of us as her suicide note warned? This had to be more than a marital issue gone so wrong that it cost her not just her life but that of her sister Jumana….and what was Jumana doing there? What was her role in all this, if at any?
Where Evidence Gathering and Intelligence Analysis Meet
Looking into other tips that began to pour in following previous writings I began to see trends in names of tycoons, politicians and some businesses that, at first glance, all seemed to be unrelated. At least, until I considered the commonalities between the three people who seemed to play prominent in my investigation (Soraya, Omar and Walid) and followed the suggestion by many local contacts that I consider the possibility that maybe there is something to the conspiracy theories I am usually prone to quickly reject or disprove. Furthermore I was exhorted to consider all people, regardless of position, or public facade, whether popular tycoon, respected politician…even a philanthropist queen.
At the same time, others would exhort me to the second most popular murder cliché, next to “the spouse did it; Follow the money.
What I found most in common with these three and where the money trails were pointing to was that all seemed to play a role in the early stages of a movement known as Social Entrepreneurship and that many analyst worldwide would see as a sincere efforts by some to bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East and build bridges to the global community while for others it would be the backdrop for a race for international aid dollars to feed unrelated government agendas, private accounts and based on where the money would be laundered, fund the war on terror….on both sides.
Social Entrepreneurship: A Double Edge Sword
It was a movement that would begin to connect the names and businesses that seemed unrelated. A movement where a Jordanian would become a symbol of what many hoped the movement would bring yet ironically, according to one recent analysis, also a movement where Jordan itself would stand out as a symbol for all that many feared that it would become, nothing more than a pretext to a whole different agenda, whatever that may be.
https://publikationen.uni-tuebingen.de/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10900/71888/PhD_Kreitmeyr_82016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (Intro will help build context but the most relevant portion is in Chapter 3)
It would also seem that others would observe that while other portions of the region would have a great deal to show for their many social entrepreneurship initiatives and many new global bridges built, Jordan would be one that shows very little in terms of results and even harder to account where all the money was going…..That is, all but Injaz while under Soraya’s leadership.
Relationally, the movers and shakers in Jordan’s local Social Entrepreneurship community all had little to show for any bridge building outside Jordan’s social and political elite…..That is, all but Injaz while under Soraya’s leadership.
Furthermore, the more I looked into Jordan’s Social Entrepreneurship community and it’s social elites, the more it became clear that all seemed to heavily rely on the support and influence of Queen Rania and the Royal Hashemite Court…..That is, all but Injaz while under the Soraya’s leadership.
Down A Deeper and Darker Path
This all lead me to a whole new inroad into the investigation and into Jordan’s political world AND its underworld and deeper into its infra-politics. Into a place where the line between the two worlds (political and criminal) are not so clear and where discerning which side each player is on, not so simple.
This and more however, will be discussed in more detail as my investigation and article series continues.