Anti-government protests gather steam in Jordan

Despite demonstrations, vendors in Amman tell the 'Post' that the situation in their country does not mirror that of Tunisia.

Jordanians at Tunisian Embassy in Amman 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Jordanians at Tunisian Embassy in Amman 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
AMMAN – The jubilant mood in the Jordanian capital Tuesday, following the national soccer team’s 2-1 defeat of Syria in the latest round of the Asia Cup tournament the previous day, was only a minor detraction from growing tensions this week as citizens have expressed anger over their country’s deteriorating economic situation and the government’s failure to control the price increases on essential goods.
But although widespread dissatisfaction led to a series of unplanned demonstrations in the country’s major cities last Friday after the noontime prayers, and similar demonstrations are planned this coming weekend, vendors in downtown Amman told The Jerusalem Post this week that the situation in their country did not mirror that of Tunisia.
'King Abdullah is very nervous' about Jordanian opposition
Jordan puts on trial pro-Taliban militants
“Jordan is not like Tunisia,” one shop owner, who preferred to remain anonymous, said in an interview. “People are happy with the king, but they are angry with the government.”
The man, whose clothing store is opposite Al-Husseini mosque – the site where more than 5,000 people gathered in protest last Friday – added, “The demonstrations here were peaceful. People were upset because they think that the wholesalers are making big profits on the backs of the people and that the government is doing nothing to stop it.
“The people feel like the prices are burning a hole in their pockets, yet their salaries remain the same,” continued the seller. “People are just fed up with the situation.”
Another Jordanian, who identified himself as Imad, said that events in Tunisia sent a message to other Arab leaders that the people in the region were unhappy and “all dictatorships should fall.”
But he said little about the situation in his own country, except that people’s anger was aimed at government corruption and not at the king.
Even before last week’s protests, the king had given instructions to the government to reduce prices and take tangible measures to address the economic situation immediately.
The government responded by lowering the cost of fuel and 13 essential items, including sugar, rice and milk.
However, people believe these measures have not gone far enough. On Sunday, opposition leaders and trade unionists announced their intention to join citizens in further demonstrations this weekend.
In Tunisia, similar demonstrations against growing prices and unemployment started more than a month ago after an unemployed graduate student, Muhammad Bouazizi, who was forced to sell fruit and vegetables on the streets of the small town of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire in protest when authorities confiscated his fruit stand and destroyed his livelihood.
His death three days later sparked widespread violent protests across Tunisia, which eventually forced president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the country’s leader for the past 23 years, to flee.
In other Arab countries, such as Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania and Somalia, similar but smaller demonstrations against the economic hardships and corruption have also taken place, with at least five people setting themselves on fire in protest.