Late last night, around 1,000 protestors gathered in central Amman calling for the entire Jordanian government to be dismissed and for King Abdullah II to step down.
It was the first real indication that the Arab Spring might finally be knocking on Jordan’s door. Previously, calls for reform have been lackadaisical at best with even the sternest of opposition pitching up for tea and shisha mid-way through demonstration. This time was different as an unprecedented number of protestors chanted: ‘Freedom from Allah, down down Abdullah,’ in scenes reminiscent of the start of the Egyptian revolution. It seems the tide could be turning for the Middle East’s safe haven.
As we made our way towards the protest in Jabal al Taj, the quiet streets gave no indication of the bitter crowd gathered at the bottom of the hill. But enraged chants gradually began to fill the air.
Protest was sparked by the arrest of an activist in Tafila, but soon spread from the historically rebellious south into more obedient Amman after further arrests were made of activists from Hai al Tafaileh. In total nine out of Jordan’s 12 provinces saw their own anti-government rallies.
By the time we reached the scene of dissent in Amman, around 500 protestors filled the streets facing an intimidating wall of 50-armed policemen. There weren’t any obvious clashes between the crowd and the police but tensions were running high.
The crowd made their way to the bottom of the hill where they sat on the floor in an attempt to prove to the system “that the people calling for reforms are peaceful – the King is protecting the corrupt people.”
One of the protest leaders sat atop of a car chanting reformist slogans. Cheers broke out and protestors moved aside as an ambulance carrying a man who had been injured amidst the earlier commotion drove past the sit-in. The people we spoke to were keen to make their point as peacefully as possible.
Abdul was one of the protestors eager to speak to us about the issues that caused the gathering. He asked us to leave out his last name to avoid "retaliation from the secret police."
“We’re asking for freedom against a corrupt regime,” he said.
Protest leader Bara al Saoud explained: “The King isn’t serious about reform…he employs corrupt officials, arrests reformists and acts as a dictator.
“We want to find a resolution for the good of the country… We don’t want to topple the regime – we want reform!”
Yet, despite Saoud’s claims, the protestors we spoke to believed that last night marked the beginning of a growing movement of people uniting to overthrow the regime.
As pressure from the people mounts on the Jordanian government and particularly its prime minister, Fayez al-Tarawneh, and its King, this is just the latest example of an increasingly powerful culture of dissent in the country.
By Alice Cuddy and Helen Brooks
Do you think these protests are the start of Jordan's Arab Spring or is it just more of the same? Leave us your thoughts below!
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