Jordan in Lockdown: Protests Set to Rock Capital

The streets of Jordan’s capital, Amman, will be on lockdown on Friday as authorities gird for mass rival pro-government and Islamist opposition rallies, reports Tamer Samadi.

al-monitor Riot policemen stand guard as protesters from the Islamic Action Front and other opposition parties demonstrate against fuel prices rising, after Friday prayers in Amman November 23, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed.

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protests, islamist, amman

Nov 29, 2012

Jordanians lie in wait for tomorrow’s [Nov. 30] demonstrations, which opposition leaders have called for in the capital of Amman to end the so-called “era of absolute monarchy.”

The National Front for Reform, led by former prime minister Ahmad Obeidat, the Muslim Brotherhood and a youth group known as the “November Uprising” called for mass demonstrations to press their demands for the abolishment of the government's decision to raise fuel prices and to enact constitutional amendments that would undermine the powers of King Abdullah II.

However, Jordanian authorities quickly announced a security plan that consists of shutting down the main streets of the capital as of Thursday [Nov. 29] evening, as well as those in the country’s most sensitive areas, including the vicinity of the al-Dakhiliyah roundabout, where the demonstrations will begin.

This prompted the Islamist opposition to label the measures an attempt by the authorities to “reduce the number of participants in the demonstrations.”

Security chiefs denied these allegations and confirmed that the objective of the security plan is “to prevent any contact between pro-government and opposition demonstrations,” after pro-government youth groups announced a demonstration will be held at the same time and place as the opposition marches.

The November Uprising’s youth called upon the Jordanian people to take part in tomorrow's demonstrations to end the “era of absolute monarchy” and asked them to “sustain and enhance popular movements to build a real Jordanian state.”

In a press conference yesterday [Nov. 28], Obeidat said, "The heart of Friday’s demonstrations is the slogan of reforming the regime.”

He added that providing guarantees of protection to demonstrators “falls within the government’s ethical responsibilities and is not a favor.” He continued, saying that organizers of the opposition demonstrations are not “a gang that provides protection against another gang.”

Obeidat revealed that during his contact with Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, he demanded that the government assume responsibility for protecting demonstrators and explained that in the past 48 hours, security leaders communicated with him and confirmed having taken all measures to protect the demonstrations and preserve freedom of expression.

With a harsh tone, Obeidat said, “The Front will not gamble with the country's stability and security, and in the event that participants are prevented from accessing the demonstration’s site, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

In a remarkable development, a new entity called the “National Forum of Retirees From the General Intelligence Agency” shocked political and official circles with a rare official statement placing responsibility for Jordan’s crisis on the government.

The statement, of which Al-Hayat received a copy, criticized the “absurd management of the state” and emphasized that “the rampant corruption was political in the first place.”

The opposition has always criticized the secret services, which have wide powers in Jordan. In past months, remarkable slogans were raised by the opposition against this agency, along with demands that it reduce its powers and role.

This comes at a time when leaders from the Brotherhood — belonging to the moderate doves within the group — launched an initiative to develop a new Islamic current called the Jordanian Building Initiative — or the Zamzam Document (after a recent meeting between Brotherhood officials in Amman’s Zamzam Hotel) — which has caused controversy within the group that the extremist hawks control.

While Islamist leaders and supporters consider the initiative “a step toward an internal split,” those behind the initiative insisted that it “completes” the role of the Islamic movement, and does not represent defection by anyone.

According to observers of Islamist movements in Amman, the statement from one of the initiative’s founders yesterday revealed fresh sources of controversy within the Brotherhood. This is especially true given that the Brotherhood’s leading figure Mohammad al-Majali expressed to Al-Hayat that the initiative “resulted from the Islamist movement neglecting” internal issues and focusing on Arab and Islamic issues — including the Palestinian issue — instead.

The initiative includes several items, most notably “preserving the prestige of the Jordanian state, adopting the gradual transition to democracy, promoting trustworthy people to decision-making posts and taking part in the government.”

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