By now, most people in Amman have already heard about the protests near the Israeli Embassy in the Rabia area. Protesters erected tents a few days ago and have been there on and off ever since. Today, a march was organized way up the street, starting from the Days Inn hotel, will plans of passing the embassy. So the 7iber gang scurried to go and document what was happening. It turned out only 40 people or so showed up, and to be fair, it was organized at 5pm when everyone was still getting off work. The main protest site, next to the Kaluti Mosque, usually gathers hundreds of people the later it gets in to the night.
In any case, at 5pm this small group wanted to start moving but hardly got 50 meters before running in to police. There were so many police they definitely outnumbered them five to one. It was disbanded within minutes.
But a while later, word came that the protesters at the main site were given a midnight deadline to take down the tents and go home. What ensued were several hours of gathering protesters who had come in defense of the tent. They lit bonfires as they have done every night. They chanted and sang patriotic songs. In the crowd, undercover police roamed around.
On 7iber, we had our own WatWet feed happening to document it blow by blow. Do tune in (you can also see it on the sidebar of the 7iber site) as it will be constantly updated as these protests continue in Amman.
The police were huddled in their vans waiting orders while a first warning was issued. Then a few hours of negotiations with some people deciding to leave and others gathering inside the main tent in order to serve as an obstacle to anyone willing to take it down. It didn’t seem to matter to the police that the protesters had a license. Every time someone in charge showed up, people gathered around to listen. I was interested in hearing what the excuse would be. There was the general feeling that the evening’s earlier protest up the street (independent of this one) was going to be used as an excuse to disband activities here. The police usually don’t need an excuse, but it would be interesting to hear one nevertheless.
Apparently it was an issue of noise. I found this a bit strange because (a) it’s a protest and (b) they’ve been here for several days now.
On the first night this protest took shape I was there and managed to hear the police official in charge explaining to protesters about how they wanted them to be able to raise their voice and show the world how democratic Jordan is so that, and I quote, “people can look at us and wish they were in Jordan”. End quote.
However, on Friday, protests forming soon after the duhr prayer turned a bit ugly and supposedly tear gas was thrown, while protesters cast stones at the police. I arrived a bit late but saw the whole side of one street lined with riot police, while protesters chanted at them from the other side. Meanwhile, the street between them was littered with rocks.
So evidently, it seemed this protest had dragged on a bit too long for someone’s taste.
But luckily, after a few hours of negotiations, and what I imagine, a lot of wasta-usage, they managed to come to an agreement where the tent would stay up but there would need to be a little more quiet.
The quiet protest.
These protests all feel so well-controlled if not perfectly orchestrated by the authorities. Like that policeman said earlier, there is the pretense of democracy or free speech and expression, but it is given by the authorities, controlled by the authorities, kept on a leash, pulled on when needed, and even refused by the authorities. Most protesters here, and elsewhere in this country, are pretty scared of the authorities. There is constant suspicion amongst the crowd of always being aware of who is talking to you, and whether they are undercover cops.
People are given small corners to chant their slogans and sing their songs, and when their numbers get too big or their voices too loud, someone pulls on the leash. They are almost always outnumbered by riot police who will some times line up across the sidewalk to make sure people are contained.
No one, not even the little kids who come to these events, are fooled by any feeling or sense of democracy. No one in any of these crowds is under the impression for one moment that this is the state ensuring their constitutional rights. In fact, one popular slogan chanted every time there’s trouble has to do with “our constitutional rights”. But even that is chanted almost sarcastically.
No one in these crowds believes it.
These protests live and die by the whims of the authorities.
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the power of the Zionist society doesn’t stop at there borders my friend…
Freedom?ever was any freedom?
you just puff some air out of yourself so you don’t that huge motive to explode…it’s all so well orchestrated…sometimes we don’t even feel it!!!
Nas, one of my fellow bloggers at work has posted that the Jordanian Flag has been burned in last friday’s protest to the Israeli embassy. i do resent and denounce such beahviour if it happened, as there is no need to insult a country that has given alot to its people. we can denounce the government, the officials, the member of parlaments but not the country. I also have some doubt if cutting the ties with Israel will help as Im afraid that the donations sent to Gaza thru the Hashemite Donations committee will be cut off from reaching Gazans. I think we need to play it smart. Let’s pressure Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the EU
I appreciate your looking further into this matter as I was wondering why it has been “quiet” lately in Jordan. As you implied earlier that the idea of the protest is to make “noise” especially in this case in front of the Israeli embassy. Why accommodate them by being quiet? They need to hear the public’s outrage behind their drawn curtains.
Ali, I don’t believe Jordan should maintain ties with Israel for the sole purpose of ensuring donations get through to Gaza. However I do agree that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the EU should be pressured.
Not being in Jordan, I feel I don’t have the authority to brag or nag about what is happening and what is not in Jordan. Nevertheless, as a proud Jordanian, I would have to say that I don’t see a problem in the “muffling” acts of the government with regards to the demonstrations near the Israeli embassy. Honestly, and since we all know it, democracy is barely a facade for the government to act under. As a matter of fact, the statement “constitutional monarchy” never actually made sense to me.
I am surely glad though that the government did not stand in the face of all the charity the charity work you guys have been doing. To me, that’s much more important and useful than your demonstrations.
People, this is much more than 500 people being killed.. THIS IS POLITICS.. erecting a tent will not result in severing the diplomatic ties between Jordan and Israel.. I’d rather you go home, tdaffo, and make more donations..
but again, that’s me..
Awesome post, Naseem. Keep us informed on the other side of the sea.
This is a great post.
It really sums up a lot of the general pseudo-union and pseudo-freedom the Arab world claims for their people.
Unfortnately, in the U.S., we just mask it better, we don’t really have freedom in our protests either.
Only our authorities seem to be better at fooling us haha. Or we’re dumber. Or both. LOL
Elmashkalgyee: please just post a link next time. the way you normally do it messes with my wordpress commenting.
While I agree that silencing the voices of the protestors rather diminshes them, if I were a neighbor listening to them for days on end, I’d imagine it’d grate on my nerves as well. Of course, it’d be hard to pay me enough to live anywhere near either the Israeli or American embassies. Two things I so don’t want to be close too…
“In the crowd, undercover police roamed around. ”
ahhh .. what would a jordanian protest – or any arab protest for that matter – be without mukhabarat roaming around in plainclothes …
there’s a scene from one of ghawwar’s plays that pretty much sums up your post .. i’m referring to the protest scene in day3it tishreen …
The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.
“quoted Karl Marx” the post before
this is the scene i was referring to ..