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.

  • DD

    the last paragraph is the most important…. we need to broaden the debate and start talking to the others, and not get tricked into think that we’re making progress by leaps and bounds because we’re talking in closed circles.

  • what has the ministry of political development been doing???

  • حمزة البديري

    an hour ago I passed by the dakhlieh circle and thugs were still celebrating raising swords and singing Omar Abdallat’s crap! they were calibrating the death of a 55 years old man, a father of a lower middle class family. his crime was calling for the end of corruption and a deeper political reform.

    Apparently the regime in jordan has a political party and those thugs r its members. I am a member of Jayeen, I like my comrades more than thugs so i am going to stay in it and not join the regime’s party..

  • Heba

    Its hard for me to understand such opinion articles that really indicate how supporters are out of touch with the reality in Jordan and the mentality of its people. Majority of Jordanians ( the anti-reformers as you call them) are against what you are advocating for. the tone of the people in this country becomes very violent whenever theres an attack on the monarchy. this is not something new, we were raised on blind loyalty to the former king (May he rest in peace) and its noth something that you can remove from the hearts of the ppl. our kings were not dictators and for a country with no resources, they’ve done a helluva job.

    I dont see how 600 misguided unorganized gang (you call us anti-reformists, the word that comes to my mind to describe Shabab 24 March is gang). the demands are outrageous and unrealistic. His majesty called for reforms before you guys did. You got your 15 minutes of fame. Shame on you. See comments of ppl on Jordanian websites. this website is the only one that has pro-demonstration comments. Ask people on the street whether they’re with or against, no one is with. I actually asked random people about their stances.

    It seems to me that the supporters have really strong backup and funding, and its very obvious from the professionally made videos on youtube, facebook activity and access to media. What we all need now as a nation to be patient, see how the new govt will perform and then call for action. Reform will not happen overnight. Please research the fragile economic situation in Jordan and how a country like Jordan should have went bankrupt in light of the 2008 recession but it didnt! Jordan is a country with no resources and has maintained very crucial diplomatic ties with most neighbroing and foreign countries. calling for severing such ties clearly indicates how misinformed this movement is along with other nonsensical demands. Your right of freedom ends when you harm ours

    • DD

      Heba, gang can be used to describe people carrying sticks and stones and metal bars. If you don’t see that, I suggest you see an optometrist to get your eyesight checked….

      No-one advocated or attacked the King or the monarchy, and anyone who sees it that way can refer to my suggestion above about an optometrist!

      In the King’s speech to the government he specifically advocated an ELECTED GOVERNMENT based on a MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM and true and honest actions to find out WHO IS STEALING THE MONEY….. exactly what the people on Duwwar Al Dakhliya asked for…. the one thing they did badly was get their message across.

      (check out the King’s speech on youtube)….

      the government, and every government before, move at lighting speed when it comes to fiscal reform that make life harder for the citizen, and they move at a snail’s pace when it comes to reforms that have to do with freedoms and ending restrictions.

      Street protests are basically a way to tell the government to move faster on the things that matter!!!!

      And the reaction of the government and the police during the protest gives a very clear picture on what they feel about reform.

      Blind loyalty is silly… what’s even sillier is attacking people who are actually advocating the reforms his Majesty, the person you are so loyal to, is specifically asking for.

    • DD

      Heba, gang can be used to describe people carrying sticks and stones and metal bars. If you don’t see that, I suggest you see an optometrist to get your eyesight checked….

      No-one advocated or attacked the King or the monarchy, and anyone who sees it that way can refer to my suggestion above about an optometrist!

      In the King’s speech to the government he specifically advocated an ELECTED GOVERNMENT based on a MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM and true and honest actions to find out WHO IS STEALING THE MONEY….. exactly what the people on Duwwar Al Dakhliya asked for…. the one thing they did badly was get their message across.

      (check out the King’s speech on youtube)….

      the government, and every government before, move at lighting speed when it comes to fiscal reform that make life harder for the citizen, and they move at a snail’s pace when it comes to reforms that have to do with freedoms and ending restrictions.

      Street protests are basically a way to tell the government to move faster on the things that matter!!!!

      And the reaction of the government and the police during the protest gives a very clear picture on what they feel about reform.

      Blind loyalty is silly… what’s even sillier is attacking people who are actually advocating the reforms his Majesty, the person you are so loyal to, is specifically asking for.

    • Dalia Zatara

      Heba, if you make a basic fact check you will find that many of the demands of 24 March protesters are in line with the Monarch’s vision: a new election law, fighting corruption, reforming political parties’ law and an elected government. Their calls were a form of pressure on the government and policy makers, which they practiced through their constitutional right to peaceful assembly. Invoking disloyalty and trying to portray these protesters as a gang diverts from reality and if anything shows how misinformed you are sadly. No one can deny, including the government that these protesters were crushed by fellow citizens holding sticks and metals, in addition to the gendarmerie, which on several occasions used excessive force against Jordanians.

      Whether the majority of people are with or against 24 March is not the punch line here, what’s crucial is that people should be free to voice their aspirations and exercise their rights without fear of being attacked especially by their ‘brothers and sisters’. The fragile economic situation you are referring to, and which has affected many Jordanian families, is a result of detached governmental economic policies that have made the rich richer and the poor poorer. Such policies have to be revised quickly to redistribute wealth and ensure that people live in dignity.

  • DD

    Heba, gang can be used to describe people carrying sticks and stones and metal bars. If you don’t see that, I suggest you see an optometrist to get your eyesight checked….

    No-one advocated or attacked the King or the monarchy, and anyone who sees it that way can refer to my suggestion above about an optometrist!

    In the King’s speech to the government he specifically advocated an ELECTED GOVERNMENT based on a MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM and true and honest actions to find out WHO IS STEALING THE MONEY….. exactly what the people on Duwwar Al Dakhliya asked for…. the one thing they did badly was get their message across.

    (check out the King’s speech on youtube)….

    the government, and every government before, move at lighting speed when it comes to fiscal reform that make life harder for the citizen, and they move at a snail’s pace when it comes to reforms that have to do with freedoms and ending restrictions.

    Street protests are basically a way to tell the government to move faster on the things that matter!!!!

    And the reaction of the government and the police during the protest gives a very clear picture on what they feel about reform.

    Blind loyalty is silly… what’s even sillier is attacking people who are actually advocating the reforms his Majesty, the person you are so loyal to, is specifically asking for.

  • Dalia Zatara

    Heba, if you make a basic fact check you will find that many of the demands of 24 March protesters are in line with the Monarch’s vision: a new election law, fighting corruption, reforming political parties’ law and an elected government. Their calls were a form of pressure on the government and policy makers, which they practiced through their constitutional right to peaceful assembly. Invoking disloyalty and trying to portray these protesters as a gang diverts from reality and if anything shows how misinformed you are sadly. No one can deny, including the government that these protesters were crushed by fellow citizens holding sticks and metals, in addition to the gendarmerie, which on several incidents used excessive force against Jordanians.

    Whether the majority of people are with or against 24 March is not the punch line here, what’s crucial is that people should be free to voice their aspirations and exercise their rights without fear of being attacked especially by their ‘brothers and sisters’. The fragile economic situation you are referring to, and which has affected many Jordanian families, is a result of detached governmental economic policies that have made the rich richer and the poor poorer. Such policies have to be revised quickly to redistribute wealth and ensure that people live in dignity.