Mass protests erupted on Tuesday and Wednesday all over Jordan after the country’s government decided to slash subsidies on fuel. Protestors clashed with riot police and – in an unprecedented development – event chanted slogans against the king. Thousands of demonstrators gathered all over Jordan, chanting anti-government slogans.
According to the plan, household gas will go up by just over 50 percent, diesel and kerosene by 33 percent and lower-grade gasoline by 15 percent. This comes after years of massive inflation and price hikes on all necessities. The plan is also an attempt by the government to win support from the IMF. The problem, however, is this: you can either be friends with the “markets” and the IMF, or you can be a friend of the people, but you cannot be both at the same time. This central contradiction is now expressing itself on the streets all over Jordan.
Crossing the “Red Line”
In the capital Amman, thousands of protestors blocked the main intersection near the Interior Ministry. The protest at the Jamal Abdel Nasser Square (near the Interior Ministry) continued until early dawn on Wednesday and witnessed slogans that according to reports surpassed all the so-called “red lines”.
The crowds chanted slogans against the government, calling for its resignation and the withdrawal of its decision to float gas prices. Also, slogans criticized the country’s monarch, King Abdullah II, which is unprecedented and punishable by prison. According to reports, the protestors chanted “Freedom is from God, in spite of you, Abdullah” and “Revolution, Revolution, it is a Popular Revolution”.
Protestors also blocked major roads in the Shafa Badran and Na'our districts in Amman, and burnt tires. Gunshots were fired into the air during protests in Shafa Badran, eye-witnesses told Ammon News.
An important development on Wednesday morning was a declaration by the Teachers’ Association that they will go on strike to protest against the government’s decision to remove subsidies and to put pressure on the government to bring prices down.
All over Jordan protests have erupted. In the northern city of Irbid, the Wasfi al-Tal roundabout was filled by a mass of protestors, chanting slogans against the government. On Tuesday morning, a taxi drivers’ strike also began as a protest against price hikes. During a protest in the smaller town of Taibeh in the governorate of Irbid, two policemen were shot by unknown individuals and are reported to be in a critical condition.
In Karak, a demonstration was staged immediately after the government announced the decision, with protesters burning rubber tyres and assembling in front of the governorate headquarters, calling for the resignation of the government and retracting of the price decision. Late on Tuesday night, a court building was set on fire. Protestors threw eggs at the main governorate headquarters and burnt tyres in front of the building. The forces of repression used tear gas and rubber bullets against the protestors.
In Southern Mazar, protestors blocked the main road and cordoned off the municipality building with rocks. According to Ammon News, angry people stormed into both the Civil Consumer Associations in southern Mazar, and attempted to storm into the Military Consumer Association in the area.
In the southern town of Ma'an, riots broke out after hundreds of young men took to the streets on Tuesday night following the government's announcement of removing subsidies. Dozens of unemployed young men who had erected a protest tent last week announced they will escalate measures against the government following its decision. Last week, hundreds of the unemployed, most of whom are young university graduates, began their sit-in, demanding jobs and government action against poverty and unemployment.
Also, Ma'an residents threatened to carry out civil disobedience and go on strike at public institutions on Wednesday because of the government's decision.
In the northern governorate of Ajloun, hundreds took to the streets near the central square that saw the participation of popular reform movement activists and members of the Islamist movement calling on the government to reverse its decision.
In the city of Salt, gendarmerie forces used tear gas to disperse crowds who attempted to protest in front of the house of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour. Protestors fired gunshots at a security building, set two government vehicles on fire and vandalized a bank building and the main courtroom. The protestors also blocked the main Salt-Amman highway with burning tires.
Protests also erupted in the southern port city of Aqaba, and riots erupted in Dhiban near Madaba where police used tear gas to disperse protesters. In Ramtha, northern Jordan, protestors blocked the main highway and burnt tyres in protest. In the eastern governorate of Mafraq, hundreds of residents blocked the main highway and burnt tyres, expressing their outrage.
Protests were also reported in the southern governorates of Tafileh and Shobak. In Tafileh, university students will go on protest on Wednesday morning. Late Tuesday night, three police vehicles were set ablaze in the town.
The new wave of protests is clearly sweeping the entire country. Opposition groups have called for protests this Friday. This will be an important test.
All the illusions that Jordan could somewhat escape the capitalist crisis and the Arab revolutionary wave are now being destroyed. In addition, on Monday the General Trade Union of Workers in the Municipalities gave the Greater Amman Municipality one week to look into the workers’ demands of better pay before they go on strike.
On the basis of capitalism and narrow, national divides, the masses of the entire Middle East have no prospect of a future with dignity, progress and prosperity.
The government has been forced to rely heavily on domestic borrowing from banks. Public debt has increased 19 percent since last year to $22 billion and is now 72 percent of GDP. The budget deficit is forecast to rise to $3.5 billion this year. Foreign reserves also have fallen sharply by 34 percent to $6.85 billion since the end of last year. This clearly shows the bankruptcy of capitalism in Jordan. Within the narrow confines of capitalism – and the criminal national divisions in the region – there can be no solution to the heavy burden suffered by the masses.