Protesters in Jordan: well organized, focused on a single goal, disciplined

By Middle East Affairs

Professional unions organized the protests attended by thousands in Amman, Jordan against the income tax law that the International Monetary Fund requires.

The protests so far have been well organized, focused on specific goals and mature in their approach.

Unlike the 2011 protests in the midst of the Arab Spring, these protestors are not fueled by ideology and are seeing female participation.

A demonstrator from the 2011 protests, Hiba Obeidat spoke to Arab News and said that in his observations the young protestors from before have since matured.

He said, “This is different from the first Arab Spring. Participants want to make sure that the mistakes of 2011 are not repeated.
Participants want to be sure no external group hijacks the current protests, as happened in the Arab Spring when the Muslim Brotherhood benefitted from the protests of the largely secular participants.”

A notable aspect of the protests is that participants are not trying to take the protests for their own agenda, the tax law is what is drawing them all in protest.

A radio presenter Rawan Jayyousi spoke to Arab News, “They are acting properly to women and are acting in a way that ensures that the protests are successful. They know how far they can go and they are not trying to escalate the rhetoric for no reason.”

SHe also agrees that the protestors are disciplined, well organized and well trained.

Jayyousi also observed that the organizers of the protests have a special relationship with security forces.

So far the protests have continued into the early morning hours because of Ramadan’s special hours in the Arab world.

The protestors have been cleaning up after themselves each morning and shaking hands with the security forces.

A leader in Hizb Al-Widha al Shaabieh (Popular Unity Party) Mohammad Alabsi, the 33-year-old banker said that he and others like him are working very closely with professional unions since the protests began last Wednesday.

Alabsi said, “Today we are trying to apply lessons from previous efforts and we don’t want to widen our efforts in such a way that it will become hard to accomplish anything. We want to focus on singular goals rather than general ones.”

Jayyousi said that female participation in the protests was strong and that so far they have not been any complaints of sexual harassment as there has been in previous protests.

In speaking with Arab News she said, “Females are not acting as second fiddle. We saw both on Friday night and Saturday night young women who were leading the cheers, and also one time when a person was arrested women were involved.”

The demographics of the protestors so far have been young people between the ages of 25 and 35. They have been using social media to spread the world and communicate with one another.

Social media has been responsible for reaching many new protestors, the hashtag, #manash, a Jordanian slang for being broke has been trending across various social media sites.

The social media campaign has been vast and varied, so far short video reports mostly made by citizen journalists have garnered thousands of views, while live streaming has been a favorite tool of communicating what the protests look like from the ground. Social media has mobilized thousands of protestors by announcing the location of protest sites and seeing thousands flood to the sites only minutes after.

A human rights activist, Mohammad Shamma, spoke with Arab News and said that intense discussions have taken place between activists.

He said, “Civil society organizations are trying to figure out what their role is. Are we supposed to take a leadership role, or is our job to raise awareness among the participants?”

A small group of civil society practitioners mainly made up of lawyers and human rights activist, Shamma included created a social media group to act both as a monitor of any human rights violations and a source of legal and other information for protestors.

The plan is to issue a daily report of violations in hopes of spreading awareness among the protestors.

He said, “A sign of the maturity of the protesters is that people are talking positively about their country and Jordan while at the same time talking about the need to revisit the economic policies.”


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