(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Jordan’s opposition groups plan to step up their anti-government protests in the
coming days amid increased fears that the kingdom may be headed toward a period
of instability and unrest.
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Some Jordanian opposition figures are talking
about organizing a one-million-strong demonstration in Amman in a bid to force
the king to remove the unpopular government headed by Prime Minister Samir
Palestinians who returned to the West Bank from Jordan in recent
days said that many Jordanians were openly talking about the need to copy the
Tunisian model and revolt against the regime.
“King Abdullah is said to
be very nervous,” said a merchant from Ramallah who spent the past three weeks
in Amman. “There is even talk in Jordan that the king has set up a special
operations room in his palace to prevent the kingdom from plunging into anarchy
In recent days, thousands of Jordanians have staged
street protests to demand the resignation of Rifai’s government, which they hold
responsible for the bad economy and high rate of unemployment.
thousands of people emerged from a mosque in downtown Amman chanting, “Jordan is
not only for the wealthy,” “Down with the Samir Rifai government!” and “Bread is
a red line.”
The demonstrators also chanted slogans in support of the
Although the protests were directed primarily
against the Rifai government, some Jordanians, especially those affiliated with
Islamic groups, openly called for regime change in the kingdom.
appoints governments is responsible because fighting corruption starts with the
head,” opposition leader Leith Shbeilat told the demonstrators in an implicit
reference to Abdullah.
Although the anti-government protesters have been
careful not to mention the king by name, some Jordanians, like Shbeilat, did not
hesitate to express their disenchantment with the monarch, who appoints the
“Many Jordanians are furious with the Rifai government
because of unemployment and poverty, but there are also many people who are
blaming the king,” said Mufid Abu Khalaf, a businessman who shuttles frequently
between Amman and Hebron. “Some Jordanians are saying that what happened to
[deposed Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine] Ben Ali will repeat itself in other
Arab countries, including Jordan.”
The demonstrations have, meanwhile,
spread to other parts of the kingdom, especially Karak and Maan, prompting
Abdullah to instruct his government to reduce prices of fuel and basic
commodities. But the latest attempt to appease angry Jordanians has thus far
failed to contain the resentment.
The current wave of anti-government
demonstrations is being organized by secular leftist parties and Islamic groups.
But the two forces have thus far refrained from holding joint protests, and the
feeling among many Jordanians is that they are even competing with each other
over who will attract the biggest number of demonstrators.
Jordanians are also angry with their parliament, which has almost unanimously
backed the Rifai government in votes of noconfidence that had been submitted by
opposition parties. In the most recent vote, the government won the support of
111 out of 120 members of parliament.
On Sunday evening, hundreds of
Jordanians staged a demonstration outside the parliament building in Amman to
express their anger with the legislature’s actions.
have been cautious in dealing with the anti-government demonstrations, allowing
protesters to vent their frustration and anger.
“The authorities can
tolerate the demonstrations as long as they are directed only against the
government’s economic policies,” said Muneer Shami, an east Jerusalem university
student who has been living in Amman for two years. “Everyone knows that the
situation will change if the demonstrators turn against the king. The law in
Jordan forbids citizens from saying anything bad against the
Meanwhile, the king has been busy of late dealing with feuds
between rival tribes in various parts of the kingdom. The violence has claimed
several lives in the past few months.
In some cases, entire tribes have
been forced to leave their homes due to the authorities’ failure to enforce law
The removal of Ben Ali from power is expected to serve as a
catalyst for further unrest in Jordan. In the coming days and weeks, Jordanian
opposition groups plan a series of public protests that could lead to scenes of
anarchy and lawlessness similar to those coming out of Tunisia.
pressure on the king is mounting,” said Maher Abdel Kareem, a Palestinian
journalist who used to work in Amman. “If the demonstrations spread, things
could get out of control and lead to the downfall of the monarchy.”