By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
AMMAN, Jordan — Protests in Jordan became more violent on Wednesday as they entered their second day. In response to rising household gas and petrol prices, which increased by 53 percent and 12 percent respectively, protesters gathered last Tuesday night to denounce the monarchy. The Jordanian government also announced sudden 11 percent increase in public transportation fares. About several thousand Jordanians poured onto the streets after learning of the increases by state television.
In the city of Karak, witnesses and police said that about 2,000 protesters had marched through the streets, smashing shop windows and chanting “Down, down with you Abdullah,” and “Get out and leave us alone.”
Protesters blame the increase on King Abdullah II, who has the final say in all civic matters. Protesters also demanded the resignation of the prime minister, a top aide of the king, and also chanted against Jordan’s intelligence forces in slogans that personally attacked the royal family and were never heard of prior to the Arab Spring.
Islamists see the protests as an opportunity to start a revolution. They had planned to demonstrate near the Interior Ministry, where 24 people were arrested last Tuesday among more than 2,000 protesters. “The street is seething with anger and an explosion is coming,” Zaki Bani Irsheid, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s most powerful opposition group, said. “We want to create a Jordanian Spring with a local flavor – meaning reforms in the system while keeping our protests peaceful.”
Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour warned the Muslim Brotherhood against exploiting the price increases for political gain, also saying that the increases were unavoidable. “If the move was delayed we would have faced a catastrophe and insolvency,” he said during an interview. Ensour said that the budget deficit could rise to $3.5 billion this year, but he did not say how much would be saved if Jordan cuts subsidies, which it currently spends $2.3 billion, almost a quarter of its budget, on annually.
Ensour also said that the Arab Spring is partially to blame for the rising prices. Specifically, he referred to the bombing of a pipeline that provided gas from Egypt, and how it forced Jordan to switch to costlier fuels so that its people would continue to receive power. Also, Saudi Arabia declined to send Jordan $1.4 billion to assist its economy, which has been on the brink of collapse.
At least two Jordanian police men were seriously injured during the protests after being shot by demonstrators in the city of Irbid. In the city of Madaba, rioters fired live rounds at police squadrons, and in Theeban, protestors stormed a police station.
For further information, please see:
Al Arabiya — Strikes, Protests as Anger Over Jordan Fuel Hike Spreads — 14 November 2012
Al Jazeera — Violent Protests Continue in Jordan — 14 November 2012
Gulf News — Protests Erupt in Jordan After Fuel Prices Rise — 14 November 2012
Jordan Times — Vandalism, Arrests as Fuel Riots Continue — 14 November 2012