Written by Nadine Toukan

Friday night marked the violent defeat of protests that began on March 24 (#March24) in Amman, Jordan. On Thursday night, protesters for democratic reform had camped out at the Dakhliyeh Circle (Ministry of Interior Circle). Throughout Friday more and more citizens gathered at the Dakhliyeh Circle raising their voices for political reform. They were met with counter-demonstrators holding up pictures of Jordan's King Abdullah and throwing rocks.

As the crowds grew and tensions escalated, security forces (Police and the Gendarmerie) stormed the Dakhliyeh Circle with batons and a water canon, forcing people away from the area. “We emptied the area after confrontation between the two sides and to ensure their safety,” said a Public Security Department press release [ar]. Video of how some of the crowd was being dispersed as security got violent with protesters.

By the end of Friday, one man had died, Khairi Jameel AlSaad, 55, and more than 100 were injured.

Alimetalhead posted a video on YouTube from March 25 in Amman that shows stones flying towards protesters who created a barricade to protect themselves.

Blogger Naser_K wrote he thought the police was coming to protect them, until the water cannons were aimed at protesters and “hell broke loose.” He described being beaten and chased home.

@Naser_K: one policeman swinging his stick to hit me asked me: bedak esla7at dostooryeh ya a5u el#_/#/#? (You want constitutional reform you brother of a #_/#/#? )

There are photos and video from March 24 at 7iber.com, and Amer Sweidan has posted this photo set on Flickr.

A campaign of loyalty

Meanwhile on Friday, on the other side of Amman in the AlHussein Gardens, a festival of loyalty and allegiance brought together thousands of Jordanians over national song and dance. They were rallied through a mass media campaign over the past week called Neda' Watan (Call of a Country). Many have questioned who is driving and funding the campaign as it does not appear to be the work of any specific organization or group.

Eman Jaradat from the community media team of AmmanNet.net tweeted:

امبارح اتصلت في شخص اسمه امين ملحم من منظمي نداء وطن و ساعة و انا احاول افهم منه مين دافع حق الاعلانات و هو يقلي هاد جهد شبابي

@Frekeeh: Yesterday I spoke to a Ameen Milhem, one of the Neda' Watan organizers, and for an hour I tried to understand from him who's paying for the ads and media campaign, and he kept saying this is a youth effort.

Internet entrepreneur Samih Toukan said:

مظاهرات “نداء وطن” حق ونحن نؤيدها لكن من غير المقبول صرف الاف الدنايير للاعلان عنها من جيبة دافع الضرائب الاردني

@samihtoukan: The Neda' Watan demonstrations are a right, and we support that, however it is not acceptable to spend thousands of Dinars on the ad campaign from the pockets of the Jordanian taxpayer.

Blogger Tallouza said:

@tallouza: My gut feeling tells me #NidaaWatan sole purpose was 2 sabotage free & decent voices calling for genuine and meaningful change! #Jo #mar24

A sad day for Jordan

On Twitter, there were many regrets over the escalation of violence during protests for reform.

Children's book author Shaima Albishtawi said:

تم رشق الناس بالطوب .. الطوب الذي كان يجب استخدامه في اعمار الاردن

@shaima2: Mortar bricks were hurled at people…bricks that should have been used to build Jordan.

Jordanian blogger and journalist Mohamed Omar tweeted:

قبل هجوم البلطجة والدرك كنت بفكر اكتب عن الشباب المعتصمين بوانهم يشكلون مفخرة للبلد شباب منتمون واعون قلوبهم ع البلد

@mohomar: Before the attack of thugs and the Gendarmerie, I was thinking of writing about the demonstrating youth who are a pride for the country.

شباب كانوا يجسدون فهم متقدم لانتمائهم ووحدتهم ومدنيتهم كان المفترض بالحكومة تفخر بهيك شباب بس خسارة

@mohomar: Devoted, aware youth with their hearts on the country. Youth who demonstrated a progressive understanding of belonging, unity, and civic sense. The government should have taken pride in such youth, but alas.

On Twitter, many Jordanians condemned what they witnessed either first hand or through friends.

Blogger and photographer Amer Sweidan said:

@AmerSweidan: I am really pissed off, not because I was injured, but watching a man dying, his son hugged me and started crying. this is unbearable.

In an appearance on Jordan Television later Friday night, Prime Minister Marouf Al-Bakhit accused the Islamic Front of leading the unrest based on foreign intervention and collaboration, and then went on to speak broadly about economic issues; the 21,000 jobs the government has promised to secure, and the global financial crisis.

On Twitter, people were disappointed he spoke so briefly on the unrest.

@sama7ijawi: Albakhit thinks its important to talk about Jordan' economic story with globalization now, it took 3mins to finish comments on 2day's drama!

@SaHHHar: PM what r u going on about? Blood was spilled on the streets and you're lamenting y the media didn't highlight gov accomplishments? #ReformJO

In the name of the King?

There were also many questions on Friday about why King Abdullah delayed addressing the country in a painful moment. Many believe that thugs at protests voicing support for the monarchy have misinterpreted the wishes of the king, who himself launched a reform process at the beginning of February.

Computer engineer Hamzah Nassif said:

@HamzehN: King MUST address people! Nobody else but him can put these thugs in their place. They are using HIS name. HE MUST DENOUNCE THEM! #Mar24

Samih Toukan tweeted:

جلالة الملك اكد على حرية المظاهرات والاعتصام وطلب من الاجهزة الامنية حمايتهم.لماذا نخالف تعليماته باسمه؟

@samihtoukan: His Majesty the King insisted on the freedom of gathering and demonstrations, and asked the security system to keep people safe. Why do we disobey his instructions in his name?

Jordan's Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh, tweeted about the unrest and promised to present “all facts”. He said six people were arrested (from both sides) and insisted to his followers that the rights of the opposition to demonstrate peacefully are guaranteed by the constitution. He said police went in to separate the two groups.

Labor rights activist Thoraya said (in a series of tweets) that she spoke to several protesters with sticks on Friday who appeared to have been manipulated into believing it was a Palestinian protest against the King.

This Aramram video [ar] compares previous words of His Majesty with clips of one small group of his supporters explaining their views.

(Transcript/Translation) “What the King says and what people understand”

King: Again I don't want to say a new beginning, because work is continuity. What we need is a new mechanism, and a new phase. And like I said during the opening of Parliament, there's no time to waste. Required is serious work, continuous evaluation, and rectifying mistakes and shortcomings. The mandate of the new government is clear. I want quick results when we speak of political reform. When we speak of political reform, we want true reform.

Interviewer: Hello guys. What happened? Tell me what happened with you. Come, tell us what happened.
Young men: We are with the country, and with King Abdullah. In my name and in the name of my tribe, I send glorious congratulations to His Majesty, and we tell him, our souls are for you. And those who confront him, we will throw them out of this country.
Interviewer: Question, His Majesty said he wants reforms, he said so.
Young men: Yes, correct. Reforms he will decide what they are. Not us and the people to decide, he will decide. He rules this Kingdom, he will decide what he wants, and we are right behind him in a straight line.
Interviewer: So the King says he wants reforms, and the people on Dakhliyeh Circle want reforms…
Young men: Who are these people?
Interviewer: Who are they, you tell me?
Young men: Those who are from the Muslim Brotherhood?
Interviewer: No, not the Muslim Brotherhood. There are many people.
Young men: It is not for the Muslim Brotherhood nor us the people of this country to decide. He who decides is the owner of this Kingdom, he who rules it, it is him who decides. We walk behind him in a straight line.
Young men: Long live the great King. Long live. Long live the great King. Long live. Long live the great King. Long live. Long live. Long live. Long live.

King: And what I want to say today is that there is nothing that may affect the policy of openness, and the spirit of forgiveness, and the culture of pluralism, and the acceptance of all sincere opinions. Because these are the Jordanian constants that do not change.

What happens next?

Fifteen members of a newly formed multilateral National Dialog Committee established by Jordan's government to bring about reform resigned on Friday, issuing a statement that the provocative and aggressive behavior of security forces is proof that any official talk about political reform is insincere and futile.

@Tallouza: Taher Masri (Head of the Senate, and appointed to lead the National Dialog Committee) seemed totally stressed & displeased tonite on JTV…obviously he knows something that everybody in gov't thinks we don't…#JO

After bearing witness to the unrest across the region, Jordan seems to have lost a golden opportunity this weekend. March 25 was a day witnessed the death of progressive conversation, the death of a little bit of hope, and the death of possibility. What will we do now to lead the country forward?

Thumbnail photo shared by Rana Yaghmour on yfrog.

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