In Human Rights, International, Middle East

This past week, in the second segment of my month-long trek across the Middle East, I spent three days in Amman, the capital of Jordan. On my final day there, protesters held their 23rd consecutive demonstration after Friday prayer at the Grand Husseini Mosque.

My on-the-ground video report from that demonstration appears at the end of this article.

Jordanian authorities suppress dissent

Based on reports from Western human rights organizations, I expected this demonstration to be heavily policed.

On February 6, 2024, U.K.-based Amnesty International demanded that Jordanian authorities end “a sweeping crackdown that has seen hundreds of people arrested by security and intelligence forces since October 2023 for expressing their support for rights of Palestinians in Gaza or criticizing the government’s policies towards Israel”.

According to Amnesty, Jordan’s police arrested at least 1,000 people – protesters and bystanders – during protests in support of Gaza in Amman within a one-month period between October and November 2023.

On the same day as Amnesty issued its demand, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch also issued a damning report about the suppression of pro-Palestinian protests in Jordan.

A Jordanian source told me that, to suppress public criticism, agents of the Jordanian monarchy sometimes cancel or threaten to cancel the Jordanian citizenship of Palestinians living in Jordan who speak out against Jordan’s collaboration with Israel.
As I discussed in my on-the-ground report, there was, indeed, a heavy and visible police presence at the March 8 demonstration in Amman.

Protesters denounce Jordanian government policy toward Israel

Because I do not speak Arabic, I asked an Arabic speaker whom I trust to listen to my report and identify the main themes of the protesters’ chants.
That Arabic speaker advised me that, among other things, the protesters denounced the Jordan-Israel “Wadi’Araba” Peace Treaty, the normalization treaties between certain Arab states and Israel, a proposed water and energy treaty between Jordan and Israel, the designation of Hamas as a terrorist group, and Jordan’s ‘land-bridge’ to Israel (whereby Israel imports fruits and vegetables through Jordan).
In other words, the protesters directly and forcefully criticized the Jordanian government.
In so doing, they surely risked arrest. The fact that so many were willing to assume that risk is testimony to the level of anger among a substantial segment of the Jordanian population.

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