Jordanian security forces crack down on demonstrations on anniversary of 2011 protests

The protests were called to mark the 10th anniversary of anti-monarchy and pro-democracy protests. Protesters were also demanding an end to the emergency law imposed last year and addressing of several economic issues such as rising unemployment

March 25, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Jordanian protesters being arrested by the police and security forces from Amman. Photo : Mohammad Ghbari (@Mohammad_Ghbari) via Twitter

Jordanian security forces used force to disperse protesters across the country on Wednesday, March 24, leading to several injuries and arrests. The protests were organized to observe the anniversary of the 2011 protests demanding wider social, economic and political rights for the people.  

The Jordanian riot police carried out arrests and detentions when protesters tried to gather at the city’s Dakhiliya roundabout in the capital Amman. Similar protests were held in several other cities in the country. The government has banned protests citing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government also imposed a ban over the reporting of the protests. 

Last week, the security forces used tear gas to curb the protests organized in different cities after the death of nine people due to lack of oxygen in a government hospital near Amman, and demanding an end to night curfews in the country. The authorities arrested hundreds of protesters.

The health infrastructure in the country is facing a tough challenge due to lack of government funding. A country of just over 10 million, Jordan has recorded more than 563,000 cases and over 6,100 deaths so far. The number of cases, after remaining low for a few weeks, started rising in March again with Wednesday, March 24, alone registering a record 9,000 new cases.

A huge gathering was expected at the Dakhiliya roundabout on Wednesday which was the epicenter of pro-democracy protests in 2011 during the Arab Spring demonstrations which swept most of the Arab countries. However, the government deployed the police in large numbers and detained the protesters before they reached the roundabout. The protests were called by left groups, among others.  

Economic crisis has intensified the protests

The protesters, apart from demanding structural changes to Jordan’s political system, were also demanding the lifting of emergency laws called the Defence Law enacted in view of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Civil rights groups argue that the law violates the rights and liberties of citizens. Protests in the country are gaining momentum due to the mishandling of the economy by the successive governments which has led to increased unemployment and poverty in the country.

The Jordanian economy, already overdependent on foreign aid, suffered a massive slump last year due to the pandemic-induced lockdown. The economy contracted by around 5% last year and the unemployment rate rose to almost 24%. The government imposed strict austerity measures which increased the tax burden on the people due to the withdrawal of crucial subsidies and social security measures.  

Jordan is a monarchy where most of the executive and legislative powers are with the King despite there being an elected parliament. Different sections of the Jordanian society have opposed the absolute powers of the monarchy which has led to widespread corruption and a complete lack of accountability. Protesters have been demanding an overhaul of the country’s political system for a long time.