x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Jordanian protest group sets up camp in Amman

Youth movement pledges to stay in Abdul Nasir square in an Egypt-style sit-in until promised reforms are carried out by the Jordanian government.

A Jordanian protester shouts slogans during a demonstration in Amman by hundreds of people, mostly university students or unemployed graduates.
A Jordanian protester shouts slogans during a demonstration in Amman by hundreds of people, mostly university students or unemployed graduates.

AMMAN // Several hundred protesters set up a camp in central Amman,Jordan's capital, yesterday, pledging to stay there in an Egypt-style sit-in until promised reforms are carried out by the government.

"Revolutions happen in turns and Jordan's turn is next," demonstrators chanted on Wednesday as scores of policemen stood by in Abdul Nasir square.

The group of some 500, mostly young, demonstrators, which included left-wing activists, Islamists and political independents, call themselves the March 24 Movement. The group, largely mobilised through Facebook and other internet networking websites, claims that promised reforms have not been pushed through and have called on King Abdullah II to intervene and fast-track political change.

The protest came a day after the king said he wanted to see decisive and swift reforms in Jordan, warning that he will not tolerate further legislative or parliamentary delays.

The government has formed a national dialogue committee to speed up reforms, but the panel is facing problems after Islamists and others rejected taking part in its work.

For the past two months, peaceful protests, inspired in part by other uprisings across the region, have been a regular occurrence in Jordan. Although the protests to date have generally pushed for political reforms, yesterday's demonstration for the first time directly criticised the government's security force known as the Mukhabarat.

Activists yesterday called for an end to the Mukhabarat's "intervention in all aspect of Jordanian life".

"Lift your security hold on us," protesters chanted well into yesterday evening, despite rain and cold weather.

The secret police were also openly mocked by protesters who chanted at several plain-clothes security officials who were taking notes, "Write, write in your notes that we want change".

One speaker, addressing the crowd over a megaphone, promised: "We'll stay here until our demands are met. It will be a second Tahrir Square." Another protester held a placard that read, "We will be staying here."

The March 24 crowd echoed growing calls from other pro-reform protest groups that have surfaced in recent weeks. The reform movement is calling for the adoption of a constitutional monarchy system of government that would curb the king's absolute powers. Jordan is ruled by a hereditary monarchy.

"We want the people to be the source of powers," the demonstrators shouted. Among the protesters' other demands are the dissolution of the parliament and the formation of a supreme constitutional court.

"Jordanians are mature enough to elect their own government," Mohammad Bitar, a 32-year-old activist, said.

With additional reporting by Associated Press

smaayeh@thenational.ae