Clashes broke out in Amman, as thousands of Jordanians took to the streets, protesting against corruption and a sharp increase in gas and petrol prices. The US is supporting the Jordanian monarch, ignoring a potential Arab Spring there.
On Friday the demonstrators were reportedly blocked by riot police on the way to King’s Palace, later dispersing the crowd with rubber bullets, water cannon and teargas.
With more than 158 people arrested, 71 injured and one killed since the start of Jordanian protests on Tuesday, tonight Amman saw the escalation of the unrest in a way Jordan has never seen. Angry crowds have been shouting out Arab spring slogans and demanding King Abdullah go.
“Freedom, freedom, down with Abdullah,” protesters chanted, despite public insults of the Jordanian King being punishable with time in jail.
The people were calling on the Jordanian government to cancel the price rises and carried banners with slogans like “playing with prices means playing with fire” or “long live the revolt of Jordanians,” AFP reports.
Protests flared up in Amman on Tuesday after the Jordanian government said it had removed fuel subsidies aimed at cutting the budget deficit. The resulting 53% rise in household gas price and 12% in petrol prices was deemed “necessary” by Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur.
Smaller demonstrations were underway all across the Arab kingdom, embracing at least 7 Jordan’s municipalities, media reports.
Despite this, the US State Department spokesman Mark Toner voiced support for the King of Jordan urging the protesters to express their discontent “peacefully.”
“We support King Abdullah's road map for reform and the aspirations of the Jordanian people to foster a more inclusive political process that will promote security, stability as well as economic development,” Toner said.
Serving as a buffer state between Israel, Iraq and Syria, the Western-backed Hashemite Kingdom remains an “important strategic partner” of the US in the region.
King Abdullah II has also seemingly followed the line of change by repeatedly reshuffling his government and promising a “genuine political reform”.
Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Zaki Bani Rsheid doesn’t believe either, calling the King’s policies “wrong” and dubbing protests as “a wake-up call to the king,” media reports. “Those who are calling for fall of the regime are increasing… This cannot and should not be ignored. The regime must reform before it is too late,” Zaki Bani Rsheid claimed.
In response, Jordan’s government officials claimed that Islamists are “exploiting” the issue and stirring anti-government unrest.
“It looks like the Islamist groups may be willing to take the issue far and this is very dangerous,” Jordanian political commentator Osama al-Sharif said.