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Jordanians fighting for real democracy

Ian Beeching

April 18, 2012

Since 2011 protests have shaken the foundation of the ruling monarchy of Jordan. With unemployment rates officially at 12 per cent and estimated by some as high as 25 per cent, growing inflation, rising energy costs, and a water shortage, many Jordanians have come to the conclusion that its monarchy and appointed ministers are incapable of ruling in the people’s interest. Thousands of protesters, in a country of only 6.5 million, have been demanding: “We want social justice” and “Real elections.”

King Abdullah II has responded with $125 million in subsidies for basic goods and fuel and increase in civil servant pay. However, attempts to address protesters core demands of democracy have been at best vague. In desperate attempts to calm the streets, the king fired his government in both February and October of 2011, promising to hold elections where the government is supposed not appointed. But no timetable has been given and the strategy is not working.

This April, workers in the country’s largest electricity generation company began an open-ended strike for wage increases. Unthinkable a year ago, protests have been spreading to tribal areas, traditionally the strong-holds of government support.

On March 31 Jordanian police resorted to force, arresting and beating 30 protesters. According to Human Rights Watch’s Christoph Wilcke, “Its security forces violently break up peaceful protests and then continue to beat and insult detainees in custody.” With 13 protesters charged, no inquiry into ill treatment has been announced. The West has been silent about the violations, as Jordan is a good ally of the United States.

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