“My detention, which has now surpassed 30 days, has made me more convinced that our demands for freedom and equality within a safe community are just.”
With this quote, young Jordanian Fadi Musamarah, a leftist activist in the youth movement, summed up his state of mind behind bars after being accused of “undermining the regime.”
Masamrah — who is being held in custody along with 20 other young men affiliated with various movements and accused of the same crime — was not aware that his recent written statement would greatly stir the public. His message would also lead to the formation of new virtual movements on the Internet that are calling for the release of all detainees in this case.
According to his peers who have participated in the demonstrations that have been ongoing since January 2011, Masamrah was able to swiftly learn the tactics of the Arab Spring. He was able to promptly communicate with the youth and unite their ranks, which allowed them to form the largest youth movement calling for political and economic reforms, as well as fighting corruption.
The demonstrations that have been ongoing for the past two years have turned Abdallah Muhadin, a young man with no affiliations currently held in a Jordanian prison, into a renowned reformist figure. A few days before his arrest, Muhadin told Shabab magazine: “If the authorities continue to ignore calls for comprehensive reform and fighting corruption, the public will be further agitated.”
Muhadin, who is in his twenties, had lost his job because of his increasing activism. He then decided to separate himself from his affluent family so as to spare them from having to deal with night raids aimed at arresting him and his peers. The Arab revolutions have made the Jordanian youth, who are in their 20s, embark on a new path and become more aware of what is taking place around them.
The story of the arrest of Masamrah, Muhadin and the rest of their companions started a month ago after they escalated their activities against the decision of the former government to remove subsidies on fuel products. At that time, the youth took to the streets and chanted “fiery” slogans, which the government deemed unlawful.
These young men have paid the ultimate price for their early activism. This came after they clashed with the security forces on March 24, 2010, during a protest staged at the al-Dakhiliyah roundabout. These clashes led to the killing of a protester and left dozens of others wounded.
This case quickly turned into a public opinion matter on the local and international levels. This comes after a number of detained youth announced an open-ended hunger strike, which prompted the movements to stage a series of events calling for their release.
Furthermore, Amnesty International also called for their prompt release from prison. The organization went on to say that the “king's directive to his new government to respect freedom of speech is at odds with punitive measures against peaceful protesters.”
A few days ago, King Abdullah II said: “The people, including the movements, are currently voicing their opinion by taking to the streets in a peaceful and civilized manner and adopting a constructive approach. This has helped us accelerate the pace of reform.”
The Jordanian monarch discussed the presence of “(unnamed) movements used by some intruders to hijack the Jordanian public and implement personal agendas.”
Human Rights Watch, an American organization dedicated to protecting human rights, urged Jordan to release the young activists and criticized the “government’s toughening stance toward demands for political reform in the kingdom.”
However, the Jordanian authorities swiftly announced that the detainees were responsible for their arrests and prosecutions.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Samih al-Maaytah told Al-Hayat that “the detained youth violated all customs and traditions by insulting the symbols of the kingdom.”
He added: “We have not arrested anyone in the past few months; however, when individuals start slandering the symbols of this nation and violating laws it becomes a different case.”
On the other hand, the detainees rushed to accuse the official authorities of violating the laws, claiming that they were subjected to emotional and physical torture. They discussed the new methods of torture used against them, namely death threats, keeping them in solitary confinement, and forcing them to consume epilepsy medication.
Lawyer Tahir Nassar, who is representing the detainees, confirmed to Shabab that his clients were “beaten, tortured and held with criminal prisoners.” Nasser added that “the detained youth are being forced to consume pills for treating epilepsy.”
Such unsupported claims by the lawyer representing the youth movements, which were denied by the Public Security Directorate, further angered the detainees’ supporters.
As a result, the latter announced nearly daily protests inside a tent set up by writers and journalists to call for enforcing public freedoms through governing laws. They also launched web pages calling for putting an end to the sufferings of the prisoners. They held large posters calling for the release of the detainees in their protest inside the tent that was set up near a famous square in Amman.
Pictures of the 20 young men handcuffed with their mouths covered shut were hung outside the tent, after they were accused by the Public Security military court of “stirring people to oppose the regime,” “inciting sectarianism,” and “staging illegal gatherings.”