The Day After March 25

الأحد 27 آذار 2011

By Dalia Zatara*

It is hard to avoid the sense of confusion and disappointment in what happened on Friday 25 March 2011 at Jamal Abd Al Naser roundabout or Al Dakhlieh Circle: Pro-reform protesters were provided with minimum protection by police officers while being attacked and insulted by armed anti-reformers. There are several reports and testimonies that underline the truth of this scenario, even though government officials, adding insult to injury, tried to shift blame on both groups and play down their responsibility.

A myriad of questions keep popping in my head along with some conclusions.

1- Who sponsored the 25 March ‘Nida2 al Watan’ protest advertisements? If it is the state, using our tax money to do so, how could they not foresee that such clashes with March24 protesters were imminent and why did they not take all necessary steps to prevent the situation from escalating despite the fact that stones were thrown at Al Dakhlieh protesters the night before and a number of them were injured? Sadly, i witnessed on Friday young boys with sticks and screwdrivers walking right in front of police officers who allowed a majority of them to enter the Al Dakhlieh square with their weapons. It was obvious that they came to hurt and some actually did; however they walked with no accountability or penalization of their behavior.  It was ironic that initially only six of the anti-reformers who used violence were arrested, although the number of those who took part in the attack was far more. In  a press conference on Saturday 26 March, Al Srour reported that the number of those being arrested for their involvement in Friday’s attacks amounted to 21. Still this remains a modest number and why were they only arrested a day after the attack and not during?

2- Why did the PM in addition to anti-reform protesters point their finger at the Islamists in regard to the violent outcome of the protest? Why is the government trying to promote that the Islamists are the sole players of the 24 March protests, while in reality they were minor contributors? Various youth groups such as Jayeen, 1952 Constitution and other independent and political parties’ actors called for and organized the sit-in. Firstly, this classical accusation of the Muslim Brotherhood which has been used by numerous Arab leaders and governments as a scarecrow against adopting true democratic changes has proved to be baseless. Secondly, even if the Islamists were the only ones behind Friday’s protest, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly should be upheld for all and no one should be assaulted while PEACEFULLY exercising their rights, whether by police or armed citizens. On a different note, how come the anti-reform protesters have a view identical to that of the government in relation to the Islamists? Is this a mere coincidence or is there any collusion between these actors?

3- The previous brings me to my third question, although there are many more, the level of sheer ignorance displayed on Friday by anti-reformers makes me wonder what the Ministry of Political Development has been doing all of this time? Nothing at all it seems! All of the fears about Jordan being a divided society on many levels came rushing like a freight train. For years King Abdullah has been calling for political reforms, but the level of prejudice that surfaced on 25 March tells of how little has been done to engage and educate Jordanians all over the country about what these reforms mean for a more democratic Jordan and volatilize all fears from the ‘other’. If we look at it from the perspective of who benefits from all of these divisions, it is hard not to be drawn to the conclusion that it is the system. This frail balance of the Jordanian society gives a sense of false stability that can explode if questions of identity and loyalty to the King and the country are left ignored.

As for the conclusions:

1- People who are seeking true and sincere reform that will bring better days to Jordan should not lose hope. It is hard to keep believing that positive change can be realized after this incident as it crushed the very little or maybe big hopes that many of us had. But what happened on 25 March signifies the shortcomings and realities we face. This is not the time to despair.

2- For my self, i have been talking in closed circles for too long. Talking to like-minded people and thinking that i am getting somewhere. We should be more inclusive and involve people with different views and from different areas for Jordan in the debate for change.

*Researcher in human rights and Middle East politics.

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