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Protests in Jordan of a Different Kind

November 20, 2012

I’ve been lax on blogging in the past couple of weeks, but in my defense, I’ve either been in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp or chasing the protests in Amman that began almost a week ago in response to the dramatic increase in fuel prices that went into effect at midnight last Wednesday. I’ll be posting a separate blog in the next few days with Zaatari stories and photographs, but this one will be dedicated to the demonstrations that have erupted throughout Jordan in the past six days. I usually don’t post long blogs because I’m mindful of people’s attention spans, but bear with me, because I’m trying to cram in six days of action. I attached the photographs here for the people I know won’t read all the way down, but please do!

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The first protest began Tuesday night on November 13 around 8 p.m. in Dakliyeh Circle, outside of the Ministry of the Interior in Amman when it was announced that fuel prices in Jordan would jump over 50 percent for cooking gas — 6.50 Jordanian dinars ($9.18) to 10 ($14.12) for a single gas cylinder — which is also what many Jordanians use to heat their home in the winter months. There was also an increase up to 33 percent in diesel and kerosene fuel. This is a measure that Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour has said is imperative to taking steps to deal with the $3 billion deficit in Jordan’s budget.

The Tuesday night protest continued into the early morning on November 14, where protestors stood together surrounded by riot police in the Interior Ministry Circle in Amman. The hundreds of police numbered among the thousands of protestors that called for freedom, democracy, and even chanted for the ouster of King Abdullah II, a crime that is punishable by up to three years in prison. There was almost a festive feeling in the air that mixed with the dissent and unprecedented chants in Amman, with families building fires to warm themselves against the chill of the night and other protesters joining arms and doing the dapka while they rallied for change.

As the night worn on, many of the demonstrators left, until around 5 a.m., when there was only a small crowd of about 50 men remaining. There was a palpable feeling that something was about to happen as men finished the first prayer of the morning. Minutes after, the crowd was dispersed by the riot police with a water cannon. The men fled and were chased down by police, which you can see in the video below. Also attached here are several photographs taken during and after the protest by Omar Alkalouti, where you can see some close-up shots of arrests occurring.

The protests throughout Jordan have continued since then, some of which have turned violent. On Thursday, November 15, a group of hundreds of protestors tried to march to the Royal Court, but were stopped by riot police, who fired tear gas repeatedly until the crowd had finally dispersed. There were also people throwing rocks at protestors (ergo, me) from the left side of the road, perched high on the hills where many apartment buildings sit.

Friday’s protest at Husseini Mosque in downtown Amman, the long-standing site of weekly protests, numbered in the thousands as there were again unprecedented calls for the end to King Abdullah II’s reign. The crowd chanted slogans such as “Freedom, freedom, Down with King Abdullah” and “Qaddafi, Ben Ali and Mubarak all left, Abdullah, go, go.” I could see how shocking this was when immediately upon entering the throng of people, my translator kept saying “Oh my god, oh my god,” at the words the thousands of people were shouting against the King in unison.

There was violence later in the night though, in the Al-Nuzha area near Hussein Camp, the oldest Palestinian refugee camp in the city. The hundreds of protestors, mostly young men and boys, gathered first in Al-Nuzha Circle, before charging down the street and marching in the direction of the Al-Nuzha Police Station on Jordan Street. An angry young boy who looked to be about 10 or 11 years old, caused a scene when he saw me taking photographs and video. After being surrounded by several boys, my friend/translator and I quickly moved away from the demonstrators, and our small group decided to catch a cab home.

When we got to the police station, we hopped out because it looked like something was about to happen. Indeed it did, because less than ten minutes later, we had to take cover behind a wall. The protest had moved up to Al-Nuzha Police Station on Jordan Street at about 10:30 p.m. on November 16, where rocks were launched at the building and the people in front of it, including regime loyalists — who had been protesting earlier in the evening in a sort of “King’s Parade” in Farrass Circle — in cars in front of the police station, by around 200 people from different areas surrounding the building. Police officers retaliated by charging down the street after them and firing warning shots with live ammunition. Riot police showed up minutes later with two vehicles to shore up the area, before going into the area of the protest at the end of the street to disperse the crowd with tear gas.

One protestor has been killed, in Irbid, and over 70 have been injured. The government has reported nearly 100,000 dollars so far in damage to municipal buildings. There have been over 150 arrests. The military prosecutor has charged 89 activists with inciting revolt, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. I’m not sure how many tear gas canisters have been fired at protestors throughout the country, but the number must be high. The protests continue, including one organized yesterday afternoon by the Professionals Association,  where hundreds of demonstrators marched more than a mile to the Prime Ministry offices, creating traffic gridlock for more than an hour.

Different media has put their bets on Jordan, whether they think that it’s a revolt that will pass, or one that will continue to linger. Although the fervor has dwindled, there are still groups of people still protesting and people are still being arrested. To be sure, something has changed here in Jordan. “A red line” was crossed in the people’s public call for the King to step down in such huge numbers, and that is no small thing.  I’m not sure if I’ll need it in the coming week, but despite the waning fury in the streets, I’m not writing off the movement and still won’t be going to the next protest without a mask and an onion in my pocket when I walk out the door.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Refugee Archives at UEL permalink
    November 26, 2012 1:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Refugee Archives Blog.

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