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Wednesday, November 14, 2012
MEMRI: In Jordan, Protests, Rioting, And Calls To Oust Regime Follow Cancellation Of Fuel Subsidies

MEMRI: In Jordan, Protests, Rioting, And Calls To Oust Regime Follow
Cancellation Of Fuel Subsidies
Inquiry and Analysis |900 |November 14, 2012

In Jordan, Protests, Rioting, And Calls To Oust Regime Follow Cancellation
Of Fuel Subsidies

By: H. Varulkar*


In a meeting on the evening of November 13, 2012, the Jordanian government
approved a decision to cancel fuel subsidies; as a result, fuel prices in
the country are expected to rise between 16%-32%. Following this decision,
violent protests broke out in many cities and provinces across the country,
including in the capital Amman. Thousands gathered in Amman's central
Al-Dakhiliyya Square and announced a sit-down strike; in the various
provinces and in other Jordanian cities, protestors shouted unprecedentedly
harsh slogans against the regime and particularly against King 'Abdallah

Jordanian Prime Minister: Decision Is Final, Should Have Been Made Two Years

Further enraging the Jordanian opposition forces and citizens were
statements by Jordanian Prime Minister 'Abdallah Ensour in an interview with
Jordanian television that same evening. Ensour said that the decision to cut
the subsidy was final and irrevocable, and explained that "if this move is
postponed, we will face disaster and bankruptcy." Warning the Muslim
Brotherhood (MB), which is the main opposition force in the kingdom, not to
take advantage of the expected price increase to stir up the street, he
added that the organization had been inciting against this move for weeks.

It should be mentioned that Jordan has been in severe economic crisis for
some time, and that many international organizations, including the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), are making their economic aid to the
country conditional upon Jordan's cancellation of some product subsidies.

In the interview, Prime Minister Ensour explained that the government was
forced to cut subsidies due to the kingdom's severe economic crisis. He
added that Jordan's economy had been significantly impacted by the Arab
Spring, and that since it began, Jordan had incurred losses of $4 billion-$5
billion, due mostly to the disruption of the supply of Egyptian oil to
Jordan. He stressed that the Jordanian deficit was expected to reach 5
billion Jordanian dinars (over US$7 billion) by the end of 2012, and that
since last year, Jordan's cash reserves had dwindled from 17 billion dinars
to 7 billion. Ensour also said that subsidies for oil products should have
been reexamined two years ago, but promised that within one week poor
families in the kingdom would receive a cash payment to ease the blow, and
that the government would transfer economic aid to each family, totaling 70
dinars per family member annually, up to six members; this, he claimed,
would replace the fuel subsidy.[2]

At Amman's Al-Dakhiliyya Square: "The Revolution Of The Hungry Has Begun"

Immediately after the government approved the subsidy cut, thousands of
protestors began arriving in Al-Dakhiliyya Square in Amman, calling to oust
the Ensour government and to end corruption. Protestors announced a sit-down
strike, carrying signs with slogans such as "The Revolution of the Hungry
Has Begun" and "Beware My Hunger and My Rage." The protestors chanted "Oh,
regime of the corrupt, oh regime of the oppressors..."

Also, there were extremely harsh calls against the king. Terming him "Ali
Baba with the 40 Thieves," they shouted, "Oh 'Abdallah, oh son of Hussein,
where did the people's money go?" and "we are free men, not your slaves" and
"we worship Allah and are not your slaves." They also chanted, "The people
want... reform – or else we will complete [the slogan]," that is, if the
king enacts reform, the people will not topple the regime – "the people want
to topple the regime" having been a standard slogan during Arab Spring

Both the website of the Jordanian daily Al-Sabeel, which is owned by the MB,
and the student news website Talabanews.net reported that Jordanian security
forces at Al-Dakhiliyya Square had blocked access roads to prevent
additional protestors from arriving, and dispersed the crowd with batons and
water cannons. According to the Al-Sabeel report, some protestors were
wounded, and some were arrested by security forces. Al-Jazeera TV, which had
covered the Arab Spring revolutions, broadcast live from the scene,
including the dispersal of the protestors, but, also according to Al-Sabeel,
security personnel forced it to stop filming.[4]

Protestors in Al-Dakhiliyya Square in Amman, November 13, 2012.[5]

Protests Spread Throughout Jordan

The protests and demonstrations spread throughout Jordan, from Al-Ramtha and
Irbid in the north to Al-Karak, Ma'an, and Al-Aqaba in the south. Protestors
blocked main roads and intersections and burned tires; some launched a
sit-down strike in central squares in various cities and announced that they
would remain there until the government reversed the decision to cut the
subsidy. In Irbid, hundreds of citizens protested at the central Wasfi
Al-Tal Square.[6] Rioting broke out in the town of Al-Salt in Al-Balqa'
province, where protestors blocked roads and burned tires. In addition,
protestors attempted to start a sit-down strike outside the prime minister's
residence, but were stopped by security forces.[7]

In Ma'an, protests escalated into clashes with security forces, which
resulted in several injuries. Some protestors burned their voter
registration cards, issued for the parliamentary elections set to take place
in a few months.[8]

Protests and demonstrations continued countrywide throughout the following
day, November 14. Main roads in all provinces were blocked and tires were
burned, and in some locations, such as the town of Al-Tafilah, there were
violent clashes between protestors and security forces.[9]

Rioting across Jordan.[10]

Protestors throughout the country also attacked government and security
installations. In Dhiban, a group torched the provincial government building
and drove the governor from his office,[11] while dozens of angry protestors
threw rocks at a security forces center and set security vehicles on

Reinforcements for security forces in Dhiban following attack on security
forces center.[13]

In Al-Ramtha, armed men took over and robbed a gas station;[14] it was
reported that in Irbid youths set a gas station on fire,[15] and that in
Al-Karak protestors set the courthouse on fire and attempted to storm an
electric company building.[16]

In Parts Of Jordan, Calls To Topple Regime

During the night of November 13-14, protestors in some provinces called to
topple the regime; such calls are all but unprecedented in the kingdom. For
example, the Jordanian website Khabarjo.net reported that at a protest march
in Ma'an province, thousands chanted, "The people want to topple the
regime."[17]According to another report, similar calls to topple the regime
were heard in protests in Irbid province.[18]

A video uploaded to the Facebook page "The Jordanian Islamist Youth" showed
scenes of November 13 protests staged by the Madaba popular movement in
Dhiban, in which protestors can be heard calling, "Topple, topple the
regime." They also called, "From proud Dhiban, we will declare a republic
[i.e. instead of a monarchy]."[19] Likewise, the protestors who set fire to
the provincial government building in Dhiban chanted, "The people want to
topple the regime" (to view the YouTube video, click here).

Calls For General Strike, Civil Disobedience, Popular Intifada

Various organizations and forces throughout the kingdom called for a general
strike among all sectors. The teachers' union declared a general strike, to
commence November 14 in all schools, and called on citizens not to send
their children to school. It also called on all teachers to participate in
protests. Many universities and colleges also joined in the strike.[20] The
rest of the unions also joined the strike, including the lawyers' and
engineers' unions.[21]

Customs officials at Al-'Aqaba port announced that they would join in the
strike, effectively crippling port operations.[22]

Hundreds of citizens in the city of Al-Tafilah announced that they would
launch a civil disobedience campaign.[23] Some websites reported that on
November 13, 70 youth and reform movements had also declared that they would
begin a civil disobedience campaign throughout the kingdom.[24]

Calls on Facebook for general strike in all sectors[25]

Nationalist, leftist, and youth organizations issued a joint communiqué
calling for a popular intifada under which all protest movements from north
to south would unite. It read: "Behold! The regime continues in the path of
increasing prices and [further] impoverishing the poor, with total contempt
for our interests and our consciousness. It repeats the same script... that
it used [in 1989], during the blessed April Uprising[26]... Everyone today
understands the details of the organized looting committed by this regime,
as it conspires with the global capital, led by the U.S. They [the regime]
must know that this organized looting has become impossible and
unacceptable, and that the response to it has already begun and will
continue without ceasing until [the government] is forced to rescind its

"All praise to the residents of the south, from Al-Karak to Ma'an to
Al-Tafilah, who today wage a new and successful April Uprising; all praise
to the residents of the north... All praise to the residents of 'Amman,
Al-Zarqa, and Madaba, who went out [to the streets and] united the intifada
of the homeland...

"Our demands are clear: Immediately rescind the decision to cancel the fuel
subsidy, and rescind all agreements with the IMF and the World Bank..."[27]

MB Warns Of Escalation, Calls For Sit-Down Strike In Al-Dakhiliyya Square

Following the spread of protests on the night of November 13-14, Jordanian
MB Supreme Guide Hamam Sa'id called on King 'Abdallah to alleviate the
situation by rescinding the decision to cut the fuel subsidy. Sa'id claimed
that the decision impacted all members of society and kept them from
attaining even a minimally dignified standard of living; he stressed that
the people could not bear any additional burden. He also demanded "immediate
constitutional reforms to restore the rule to the people, so that it can
settle accounts with corrupt officials and reclaim the funds, companies, and
land that have been stolen from them." He also called on the king to
postpone the parliamentary elections, "as the present atmosphere would not
[permit] elections that will be acceptable to the people."[28]

During the night, Sa'id's deputy Zaki Bani Arshid told the Turkish news
agency Al-Anadolu that the bold protests that had followed the government
decision were only "a rehearsal in anticipation of the escalation expected
tomorrow, Wednesday [November 14]." He called on the Jordanian government to
immediately rescind its decision, warning that if it did not, "the situation
will get out of control."[29]

On November 14, the Jordanian daily Al-Sabeel reported that the MB was
planning to stage a sit-down strike in 'Amman's Al-Dakhiliyya Square, from
4:00 PM to the following morning;[30] the strike was forcibly dispersed.[31]

Salafiyya-Jihadiyya In Jordan: We Support The People's Demands; The
Oppressors Must Be Deterred

The Salafiyya-Jihadiyya in Jordan also expressed support for the
anti-government protests. Senior official Abu Muhammad Al-Tahawi condemned
the subsidy cut, and voiced concern that the country was headed towards an
abyss. He stressed that his movement supported the people and its just
demands, and that the government decision was tantamount to "terrorizing and
starving the people, and stealing its daily bread." He added that the
government decision was made "to please the corrupt and further line their
pockets," explaining that there was no choice but "to deter and confront the

*H. Varulkar is Director of Research at MEMRI.

[1] Assabeel.net, November 13, 2012; Alarabiya.net, November 14, 2012.
[2] Al-Dustour (Jordan), Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), Alarabiya.net, November
14, 2012.
[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkOUU7xT5JM
[4] Assabeel.net, Talabanews.net, November 13, 2012.
[5] Photo on left: Al-Ghad (Jordan); Photo on right, Assabeel.net, November
14, 2012.
[6] Al-Ghad (Jordan), Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[7] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[8] Assabeel.net, November 13, 2012.
[9] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[10] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[11] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012. For a video of the provincial
government building in Dhiban being set on fire, see
[12] Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 14, 2012.
[13] Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 14, 2012.
[14] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[15] Alarabiya.net, November 14, 2012.
[16] Assabeel.net, November 13, 2012.
[17] Khabarjo.net, November 13, 2012.
[18] Alhadthnews.net, November 13, 2012.
[19] http://www.facebook.com/IslamicJY#!/photo.php?v=125047727650907.
[20] http://www.facebook.com/IslamicJY; Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 14, 2012.
[21] Assabeel.net, November 13, 2012.
[22] Al-Ghad (Jordan); Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[23] Assabeel.net, November 13, 2012.
[24] Aa.com.tr; Watnnews.net, November 13, 2012.
[25] http://www.facebook.com/IslamicJY.
[26] The "April Uprising" refers to countrywide protests in April 1989 after
the Jordanian government raised prices following the sharp fall of the dinar
due to the first Gulf War. The protestors went on to demand public freedoms
and the toppling of the regime. The uprising resulted in parliamentary
elections, a new government, the legalization of political party activity,
and the revocation of the state of emergency which had been in force since
[27] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[28] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[29] Aa.com.tr, November 13, 2012.
[30] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[31] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
[32] Assabeel.net, November 14, 2012.
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