Tag Archives: Protest

Today’s Protest “to save the homeland”

Friday’s protest in downtown Amman was billed as the biggest in Jordan since regular demonstrations began a year and a half ago.  Perhaps it was, though I doubt it came close to the 50,000 participants anticipated by the Islamic Action Front, the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and organizer of the demonstration (though counting thousands of people isn’t particularly easy, especially from the street).  Nonetheless, it was a significant demonstration of grievances and demands by a large number of different groups with a wide range of interests, and a lot of media to cover them.

There’s no need for me to rehash the basic story here.  Check out coverage from The Jordan Times, Al Jazeera, and Reuters.

These are just a few observations of my own, and below are some pictures I snapped from my phone.

  • It was certainly interesting to see the various groupings and affiliations among the crowd, differentiated primarily by baseball hats of different kinds and colors.  There was a small group of guys “chained” (not really, though) together wearing navy blue shirts and hats with signs pinned to themselves stating “Prisoners of Conscience.”
  • There were a lot more women participating than I expected.  While there were few in the large mass of people immediately in front of the King Hussein mosque, large groups of women were very active on the side streets and sidewalks, many of them wearing ball caps on top of their head coverings.
  • The chants are great, though more difficult to understand than when having a regular conversation with someone.  Shouts over speakers aren’t particularly clear to a non-native speaker, and thousands of voices at once can muffle diction, so I have to make a concerted effort to hear clearly.  Quite a lot of it was directed to the King, though without crossing certain lines that led to jail time for some protesters in Tafileh some weeks back.  A few I scratched down: “Abdullah, where are our freedoms?” “Our demands are legitimate.” “The people want the reform of the system.” “Abdullah, why protect the corrupt?” “Listen good, Abdullah. We want freedom, not royal favors.”  The “music” of the chants is the best though. Reading them here in English just doesn’t do them justice.  (Oh, they also did a short “translation” for the benefit of the English-language media. Interesting and kind of funny at that moment.)
  • Readings signs and banners is easier.  Many of the against corruption. Others wanting “real” reforms. Others against “the system of secret police.” And others generally stating an “order for political, economic, and social reform.”
  • Security was heavy as expected.  The “front line” of police were without guns (this has been usual practice), and line the main street on either side (and many in or on top of buildings). Things did not feel particularly tense and the police seemed relaxed; talking, smiling, and laughing. Once you move to the surrounding streets, however, you would find the gendarmerie “waiting in the wings” and well-armed.

All in all, an excellent day.  I got a fresh squeezed orange juice for the way home and lucked out in getting a cab pretty quickly after leaving the downtown area.  It’s kind of surreal being in such a crowded mass of people, then walking for just 2 to 3 minutes and being on completely deserted city streets.  But the police block off all roads to that part of the downtown.  We’ll see how things go from here now that the King dissolved parliament and new elections are supposed to take place before the end of the year.

In light of embassy demonstrations/attacks…

A number of people in the U.S. have asked me if there have been any effects here in Jordan from the protests and attacks on U.S. embassies in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen.  The U.S. Embassy here in Jordan issued this yesterday (it’s unclassified, so I can repost):

Subject:  Planned Weekend Demonstrations at U.S. Embassy Amman
U.S. Embassy Amman has learned that various groups have called for demonstrations in front of or near the U.S. Embassy this evening and tomorrow.
Today at 1700 hours or later: Some groups on Facebook are calling for a protest in front of the Embassy.  Police have not confirmed the event, but there will be additional security deployed at the Embassy.
Friday, September 14 following noon prayers: Online media outlets are reporting and the police have confirmed that one group plans to demonstrate in front of Al-Kurdi Mosque (near Abdoun Mall), approximately one-half a mile from the Embassy.
Friday, September 14 at 1800 hours: Another group plans to hold a sit in outside of the Embassy under the slogan “Be With Us.”  The police have confirmed this event.

So, yes, there is a reaction here in Jordan but significantly more contained by American and Jordanian security services.  Here are a few news stories on Jordan specifically:
Ahram – Jordanians Protest Anti-Islam Film, Torch US Flags
Jordan Times – Hundreds Peacefully Protest Prophet Muhammad Film Near US Embassy

I caught some of the general discussion taking place in the international and American media, U.S. politics, and social media in response to the embassy breaches in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen, and the subsequent protests at U.S. embassies across the region.  There’s much to say, of course, especially as much of the discussion degenerates into predictable generalizations of religion and culture that have little benefit (and do some harm) in understanding these events.

In lieu of writing something lengthy, I’ll just share a few things that are perhaps slightly different than the typical coverage on the news:

The “Amman Message” was initiated by King Abdullah II of Jordan in 2005 in consultation with top Muslim religious scholars seeking to “declare what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent it and what actions do not.”

One of many responses to the events by Muslims who deplore the actions of the attackers, arguing that:

“…their reaction, which included vandalism and the murder of innocent civilians, completely contradicts the character and message of our beloved Prophet. In a famous Islamic tradition, he stated: ‘It is not allowed to cause harm to others nor to return harm for harm.’ … When lies are spread about our Prophet, we simply respond with the truth. And the most effective response is to embody his merciful character on a daily basis. Violence and vandalism carried out in his name are more offensive than the content of any film.”

I also came across this (quite graphic) Onion “news” story with a satirical, though very pointed criticism of the outrage and violence in response to stupidity and ignorance (like “Innocence of Muslims” film).  Both are senseless.