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July Protests in Amman, Part I

July Protests in Amman, Part I

20 hours after the July 15 protests in Amman, there is a calm over the city.

At 11am, only about half of the regular street vendors have set up shop along the main roads. Traffic has lessened; the drivers are silent. Even my house, on weekends always filled to the brim with family who spend the night to enjoy the next day’s lunch together, is empty.

But what has been neglected in American news coverage of the protests in Amman is that yesterday morning, everyone knew what was coming.

Since the first uprisings of the past year, Jordan has largely abstained from making front-page news as a hotbed of revolution and change. This is because Jordan–unlike Tunisia or Egypt or Libya–has it pretty good.

Jordanians are allowed to protest freely as long as they are peaceful. The homeless population doesn’t seem to be extensive. They have some of the best medical facilities currently operating in the so-called “third world.” Jordan, arguably, boasts a better public school system than America.

But as always, there are problems that can’t be ignored. In the Middle East and throughout most of the world, food prices are skyrocketing. The (lack of) water situation in Jordan, while surrounded by many projects to

Peaceful protests have been held every Friday since March

boost it’s capacity, seems dire. The Jordanian government–which was dissolved and remade two months ago–has achieved from it’s outset a blanket of ill-repute.

Which is what these protests are mostly about. But let’s be clear: most Jordanians love the King. Of course this doesn’t account for everyone, but the vast majority of Jordanians will bow to King Abdullah but spit at his new parliament, which seems to have become a mere “reorganizing” of the old parliament.

Every Friday groups of peaceful protesters–usually about 15-20 people–gather downtown. This has been ritual since the so-called “Arab Spring.” They call for reform of parliament and the lowering of food prices. With Ramadan right around the corner, this is particularly sensitive.

This past week, a group of pro-government protesters told the press they would assemble on Friday after noon prayer–the same time as the anti-government protesters.

Word spread through the people as early as Wednesday that violence may occur during yesterday’s protests. By Thursday night, the Jordanian government issued a statement saying peaceful protests were acceptable as always, but they would not tolerate violence in the protests.

Friday morning, the government struck a deal with the Gendamerie (the civilian military) to protect the protesters that afternoon. At 2:45, the anti-government protesters were merely 15-20 people with signs wandering around downtown.

Over the hours, that number grew dramatically but not exponentially. When the Gendamerie intervened, people were hurt, one possibly killed–the numbers vary in every outlet. But since a major protest that left 100 injured in March–which many Jordanians brush off and all but deny–there have been no real clashes with police.

The calm felt today is an unsure indicator whether violence from the government’s payroll will prompt a resurgence in protest numbers. Whether there is a real and substantial push for change in Jordan is hard to grasp. So far, no coverage of the protests has been shown on Jordanian news and only minimal reporting in The Jordan Times and other newspaper outlets.

If things begin to escalate, I will post as soon as possible.

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