American in Arabia witnesses a new fever firing up Ammanis to charge!

Published September 10th, 2012 - 10:09 GMT
Waiting for shawarma or a typical Jordanian protest? (for illustration purposes only)
Waiting for shawarma or a typical Jordanian protest? (for illustration purposes only)

In the past, protests in Jordan were about as aggressive and threatening as Canada’s military force.  They’re almost always civil and the attendance is usually lacklustre--I’ve seen more people waiting for a shawarma and a Pepsi.

In contrast, the Arab Spring has seen its share of amped up and packed out demonstrations.  Who can forget the masses at Tahrir Square or the passion of Mohammed Bouazi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself and this Pan Arab revolution ablaze?

And have we seen the same in the Hashemite Kingdom? Not so much in Amman.  There, the police themselves treat the protestors to juice and water.  The sit-ins last a few hours but usually they make it home in time for the soccer match. Arab Spring? More like a leaky faucet.

In Tahrir square you would find signs saying, “Leave Mubarak, so I can go home and see my wife!” or ‘Down with the regime already so I can get a shower!” Basically, public protesters weren’t going anywhere until the problem was resolved.

No such signs have emerged in Amman—one reason being that picketers don’t stick around long enough to feel the burn of a missed bath or an evening meal.  Primarily though, Ammani residents are careful not to stir up the waters too much. Now granted residents outside of the city do speak more aggressively against the country’s leadership but in the big city,  let’s just say barely a ripple in the pools of protest has appeared.

Many foreign correspondents have risked harassment, particularly female ones, when covering the Arab Spring protests in much of the Levante.  Several have been imprisoned, kidnapped and  some have even lost their lives, with  the Japanese reporter in Syria being the most recent causality.

Few if any journalists in Amman have reported negative engagement at all with protesters. Interviews are a breeze and very cordial. The only threat for females has been a marriage proposal or being offered tea and cigarettes, even if they don’t smoke. 

After two Albawaba correspondents  visited a night time protest in Amman, their findings have shown that perhaps the tide is turning ---the waves of dissent from the rural areas may be splashing some of the city folk.  Unlike times past, the attendance for this march was over 1000, the chants were asking for a complete regime change and not just a tweak of the current system, and no one was offered tea.

Word on the street i.e. hearsay from taxi drivers, is that this Jordan Trickle might just become a full flowing spring.  Yes, Ammani demonstrations are still bush league compared to Tahrir.  And yes, the protest was at 1 am and, after detouring their march to avoid a confrontation with the police, the 'furious' protestors eventually sat down at a traffic circle. 

But the level of aggression and even some of the chastisement directed towards the reporters showed that things may have reached a boiling point in Jordan. For now though, the water is still safe to swim.


By Brett Weer


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