x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

In Amman, protesters clash with government supporters

Yesterday's anti-government demonstration gathered some 2,000 protesters, from leftists, youth groups, independents, and trade union members.

AMMAN // Clashes erupted in central Amman yesterday between government supporters and demonstrators demanding political reforms and an end to soaring food prices.

Witnesses said government supporters attacked pro-democracy campaigners with sticks. Placards flew in the air and demonstrators started running, but police intervened and separated the sides and the violence was short-lived. Four people were injured, police said.

The anti-government crowds started yelling "peaceful, peaceful" and continued their march which started from the al Husseini Mosque after noon prayers, for the seventh consecutive Friday.

Yesterday's anti-government demonstration gathered some 2,000 protesters, from leftists, youth groups, independents, and trade union members.

"Why should we be quiet, the story is not about the bread, but about dignity," the crowd chanted. "Death rather than humiliation".

The government condemned the attacks in a statement which said it was a violation of freedoms and that the government would investigate the incident.

About 100 government supporters took part in the counter demonstration. King Abdullah II acknowledged public pressure and sacked his prime minister earlier this month and replaced him with the former prime minister and ex-army general Marouf Bakhit. He has been tasked with trying to move ahead with political reforms.

The promises have failed to placate public resentment.

"We are here because our demands have not been met," said Muhannad Saafeen, 27, an activist from the opposition movement Jayeen, or "Coming for change".

"We need a modern election law and constitutional changes that allow us to choose our own government … most importantly we want the government to fight corruption."

Ahmad Maabreh, 54, a school headmaster, said: "Changing the government is not enough. The essence of political reforms is constitutional changes."

Others vowed to continue to protest until their demands are heeded.

"We are going to protest every Friday against government policies," said Aysar Khader, 25, a university graduate with a degree in marketing who is unemployed. "Political change has nothing to do with changing people," he said.

During yesterday's protests, about 100 government supporters held a counter-demonstration.

They held photos of King Abdullah and chanted: "With our blood and soul, we sacrifice ourselves to you."

smaayeh@thenational.ae