Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Word on the Demonstrations in Amman

I swear I really was going to write that post about the writing system. Well, there was a bit of a problem there.

That’s not fair to say. The problem has nothing to do with the writing system, or my readiness to write about that. Arabic is, after all, incredibly frustratingly fascinating as a writing system. Talking about the hardest languages in the world to learn, Arabic is frequently cited. In large part that is because of the writing system, which is apparently just harder for the brain to process then almost all other writing systems.

The problem was in Amman, with the whole “Semester of Revolutions” thing. Yesterday there were protests against the government, for reform.

The crowds were apparently pretty big, bigger then they have been for a while. Back at the beginning of the semester things were heating up. There were consistent and growing protests on Friday, in el-Ballad. But they were different, they were accepted, they were legitimate, the police did their best job to show the cameras they were looking after the protesters. They handed out free Pepsi and water at some places and times.

The King understood he had to do something. Especially with the tide of revolution in the region, he had to do something or he would go the way of Bin Ali and Mubarak, or worse. So he replaced the Prime Minister, made some minor reforms, and promised more reforms.

What said Jordan?

Jordan said, “Arright, sounds kosher. We’ll put a hold on the protests, and give your guy some time to reform.”

I love Jordan for that. Well the new PM din’t reform. At least, not in any way anybody noticed.

So now it’s starting again. The protests are back. And they are growing. They are not just in el-Ballad any more and the political factions look like they are all going back into the fray. Last Thursday I passed this protest in Dewar Raneea.

That night the protest there continued. The protesters apparently stayed in the area. They tried to set up tents but were told by police to remove them, before the police forcibly removed them. The protesters took down the tents. Later that night they were assaulted by a gang of “Pro-Government counter-protesters,” young men who threw rocks. The police were present but din’t intervene. I have to wonder what the right sort of intervention should have been. From their point of view arresting either side would be shooting themselves in the foot.

Yesterday there were the real big protests, starting close to the downtown and moving outwards. One of them ended up in King Hussein Park on the outskirts of town.

Well apparently those were attacked by the police. Not shot-at or clubbed-attacked, but set on with fire hoses. Gotta wonder if they know or care about the parallels with the Civil-Rights struggle doing that sort of thing might create in the minds of the American voting public.

But that isn’t the part that is most worrisome. The pro-government men reappeared and started to throw rock at the protesters again. They beat then with sticks and attacked them. The police did not intervene this time either. In the attack, two protesters were killed and a hundred were injured.



There is the question of who the pro-government protesters were. The history of other “pro-government demonstrators” who attack anti-government demonstrators in the Arab world suggests that they might be government-hired. Certainly every single Jordanian I have heard from about it seems to think it could have been directed by the secret police.

At the same time, there were more demonstrations today, and walking el-Gardens I saw two father-son teams attach a Jordanian flag to their cars and drive off towards the protests. In the back windows of both were prominently displayed pictures of the King. Given the Kingdom’s political climate, they could have been protesting either for or against the government, though I got to think the former is more likely.

I do not know who the assailants really were. I have no idea what the truth is and I will not speculate right now.

If the situation deteriorates we have plans in place to evacuate to… Cyprus looks like the most likely option now. It would not ruin my semester experience, but I hope for the sake of those who could be hurt and maybe even killed that the situation here doesn’t return to violence. I want to do something to alleviate the hurt that will be felt in these conflicts, but I can think of nothing. I am an American boy in a foreign country, hell if I know how this all works. So I guess it’s pray and hope for everybody’s safety. I hope you’ll hope for the same.

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