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Thousands of Jordanians Protest Government Policies in Various Cities, After Friday Prayers

January 21, 2011

5,000 rally in Jordan 'bread and freedom' demo

Published yesterday (updated) 22/01/2011 12:34

Ma'an, By Musa Hattar


More than 5,000 people rallied in Amman and other cities after weekly prayers on Friday against Jordan's economic policies, demanding "bread and freedom" and that the government resign.

"[Prime Minister Samir] Rifai, out, out! People of Jordan will not bow," protesters chanted as they marched from the Al-Hussain mosque in central Amman to the nearby municipality building.

"Our demands are legitimate. We want bread and freedom."

Police handed out bottles of water and juice to the demonstrators, who carried banners reading, "We demand social justice and freedom", "No to oppression, yes to change" and, "We need a national salvation government."

Police spokesman Mohammad Khatib said about 4,000 people took part in the capital's peaceful protest, organized by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm the Islamic Action Front.

"What we urgently need is real political and socio-economic reforms," IAF secretary general Hamzeh Mansur told the crowds.

About 1,400 people demonstrated in other parts of Jordan, mainly the northern cities of Zarqa and Irbid.

Rifai on Thursday announced a $283 million plan to raise salaries of government staff as well as the pensions of retired government employees and servicemen in the face of popular discontent.

The $28 a month raise came nine days after a $169 million plan to improve living conditions.

The current minimum wage is $211 a month.

But the Islamist opposition and others say the new measures are not enough as poverty levels are running at 25 percent in the desert kingdom, whose capital is the most expensive city in the Arab world, according to several independent studies.

"These measures are designed to drug people, nothing more. We need comprehensive reforms," said prominent unionist Maisarah Malas.

Retired serviceman Farouq Abbadi, 54, agreed.

"The government should change its economic policies and mentality. We are protesting today because we want to protect ourselves and our nation. We have gone 50 years backwards," he said.

Official unemployment is about 14 percent in the country of six million people, 70 percent of them under the age of 30. But other estimates put the jobless figure at 30 percent.

"The new government measures are not enough. Prices and taxes are still high, while our income is still low," Marwan Malihi, a 52-year-old engineer, told AFP.

A $1.5 billion deficit, equivalent to 5 percent of gross domestic product, is expected on this year's $8.8 billion budget.

Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the kingdom in a similar protest on Friday last week.

Tunisia's popular revolt, which has ousted the country's strongman Zain El-'Aabidin Bin Ali, has inspired dissidents across the Arab world and sparked protests in countries including Algeria, Jordan and Egypt.

Thousands gather to call for the government to step down

By News Wires (text)  
France 24, January 22, 2011, AFP -

Thousands of protesters in cities across Jordan called for the government to step down on Friday amid mounting anger over a lack of democratic reform and rising prices. More than 5,000 people turned out to demonstrate in the capital, Amman.

Thousands of Jordanians calling for their government to step down marched in several cities Friday in an outpouring of anger over economic hardship and a lack of democratic reforms in the constitutional monarchy.

Spurred on by the example of the popular uprising in Tunisia, Jordanians have staged growing protests in the past week. The opposition movements that organized Friday’s demonstrations vowed to keep up the pressure until Prime Minister Samir Rifai and his government resign.  

Wary of the outcry, particularly over rising prices, Jordan’s government has taken some steps to try to defuse the situation, including by announcing $125 million in subsidies on basic goods and fuel. The prime minister also announced a surprise pay increase for civil servants.   Protesters scoffed at the measures.  

“They lie to the people. They reduce some things and increase others more,” said Muslim Brotherhood demonstrator Suhair Asaaf, an electrical mechanic.  

He was among more than 5,000 people demonstrating Friday in the capital, Amman, its suburb Zarqa and in the northern town of Irbid. The organizers of what was dubbed a “Day of Rage” represented a broad swath of Jordan’s opposition, including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, left-wing groups and trade unions.  

Crowds chanted: “The Jordanian people are on fire. The government is cutting its people like a saw. Down, down Rifai.”  

The opposition groups are calling for reforms to allow Jordanians to elect their prime minister and the rest of the Cabinet rather than having them appointed by King Abdullah II.  

Elections are held for Jordan’s lower house of parliament as well as municipal councils and mayors.  

Abdullah, a key U.S. ally, ascended to the throne in 1999 vowing to transform his desert Arab kingdom into a model democracy in the Muslim world. But his reforms have been slow, as Jordan tries to limit Islamist influence.  

Hamza Mansour, the head of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s largest opposition group, urged the king to make all branches of power independent.  

“The king should be the guide, not the executor of the country’s daily affairs,” he said during the march.  

Leftist Mohannad Safi called the government’s limited reforms “window-dressing” to try to calm the people.  

“This whole system of government must change. And we’ll continue the protests until that happens,” he said.

JORDAN King Abdullah II dissolves parliament, calls early election


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