Jordan Braces for Protests As Muslim Brotherhood Mobilizes

Article Summary
The Muslim Brotherhood called for its biggest nonviolent protest ever, in Amman on Oct. 15, after talks collapsed with the government on limiting the power of the monarchy. Tamer Samadi reports that while some expect the demonstrations to turn violent, others see an opening for the government, if its response is appropriate.

Jordanians are holding their breath on the eve of the protests called by the Muslim Brotherhood in central Amman. The Brotherhood asserted that the demonstrations, scheduled for Oct. 15, would be the largest in the history of popular mobility [in Jordan].

They are demanding constitutional amendments which, if enacted, would undermine royal powers that have been preserved over the past decades.

Amidst a climate of fear and anxiety in Amman that has been generated from an unprecedented mobilization made by government figures and the Brotherhood, politicians, observers and writers are warning of bloody clashes between the Brotherhood’s members and supporters on the one hand, and government forces on the other.

This is especially feared given that groups and figures that oppose to the Islamic opposition assert that they are organizing similar counterprotests on the same day.

The researcher and political analyst Mohammad Abu Rumman told Al-Hayat that “the potential clashes between the government forces and the Brotherhood will not be similar to those that occurred on March 24, but rather more violent.” This was in reference to the open protest that was conducted by youth movements, which were supported by the Brotherhood, on March 24, 2010, when the government forces resorted to dispersing protesters by force.

While the Islamic movement is insistent on massing and issuing statements, speeches and exciting leaks on the demonstrations’ objectives and the movement’s new directives, the government has begun to use various means to conduct counter-protests.

A government newspaper yesterday [Oct. 1] quoted security sources as saying that “popular and tribal figures will organize a march supporting the government that coincides with the Brotherhood’s demonstrations at the same time and place,” without giving any further details on the organizing parties.

The sources added that public security forces and police “will not be present at the demonstration out of fear that security forces could side with one party against another.”

In a phone call with Al-Hayat, the public security department’s spokesman Lt. Col. Mohammad Khatib refused to confirm or deny these statements. However, Jordanian government spokesman, Minister Samih Maaytah told Al-Hayat that “the state will not allow chaos.”

The [government] newspaper quoted sources as saying that “Islamic leaders tend to call Friday’s demonstrations as ‘Gazwat Badr’ [the Battle of Badr: fought in 624 AD, an early victory by Muhammad that is mentioned in the Quran], after calling them ‘the Sacred March’ and ‘Save the Homeland.’”

On the other hand, the Brotherhood leadership confirmed yesterday [Oct. 1] that it is committed to peaceful protests, adding that medical staff and ambulances will be ready to deal with any emergency during the demonstrations.

The Brotherhood’s second-in-command, Zaki Bani Arshid, told Al-Hayat that “the Brotherhood tend to move to a higher level by demanding additional constitutional amendments.”

He also accused security institutions of protecting those that he described as thugs. This accusation has irritated the Public Security Directorate, which issued a statement that condemned and denied these accusations.

Maaytah [the government spokesman] told Al-Hayat that “Islamists have exaggerated and provoked the others in the way they have promoted their demonstrations.” He accused the Brotherhood of “seeking to abort the upcoming parliamentary elections.”

Regarding the threatening messages that the Brotherhood has received from several public institutions, Maaytah replied: “these messages reflect some reactions, not more than that.”

“We hope that Friday passes peacefully and that the Brotherhood avoids any potential strife,” he added.

In an interview with Al-Hayat [last week], former Jordanian Prime Minister Faisal Al-Fayez previously warned of a great strife that could have serious consequences in the country, were the Brotherhood to carry out its demonstrations.

In addition, sources close to decision-making circles told Al-Hayat that government figures are divided over the stance that should be taken to deal with demonstrations. The sources spoke about three options that the officials suggested to deal with the Brotherhood’s demonstrations.

The first is to conduct counterdemonstrations and limit the participation in the protests to the Brotherhood’s members, which means aborting the Brotherhood’s demonstrations. The second option is to ban these demonstrations by law or by using force. The supporters of this option consider that it is important to restrain the Brotherhood’s tendency to take the situation to a higher [more violent] level.

However, the third option is attached to containing the protests and their organizers, and to invest the upcoming event to give a positive image of dealing with the opposition inside and outside Jordan.

Found in: protests, islamist parties, islamist

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