July 17, 2011

Protests in Jordan

Over the weekend there were a couple protests in Amman. One of them was only about 400 yards from our apartment. After jumma, me and my roommate set out to go to a walima we had been invited to. As we reached the main road we heard deafening music from the parking lot of the Regency Hotel. I had assumed it was a wedding, but the massive police presence indicated otherwise. Everyone seemed to be in festive mood, and there was dancing, lots of Jordanian flags and a big picture of King Abdullah.

Protests in Jordan have generally not had the same tone and tenor they've carried in Syria and Egypt. The king seems relatively popular, and most of the protesters and activists have been calling for reforms and not overthrow. Back in March, when police broke up a sit-in in Gamal Abdel Nasser roundabout, killing 55-year-old Khairi Saad, King Abdullah assured his subjects that reform was on track. In cyberspace, Jordanians have also been calling for peaceful reforms. For example the founders of 7ibr have encouraged people to tweet about reform under the hashtag #ReformJO. Al Jazeera did a story on their efforts..

But do last weekend's protests in downtown Amman, which were broken up by police with batons, indicate a new direction? The Jordan Times reported that many people viewed the protests as not pointing towards an effective solution to the real problem of rising commodity prices. This blogger also wonders how the presence of Syrian refugees and the continuing unrest there will affect calls for political change in Jordan. Will the king still allow peaceful protests to proceed? And what steps will he take to ensure the continuing stability of Jordan while ushering in calls for popular reform?


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