Monday, 4 June 2018

Jordan’s protesters are young and wary of their cause being hijacked

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AMMAN: Jordanians involved in the anti-government protests in opposition to the draft income tax law appear to be well-organized, mature in their approach and focused on specific goals.
The demonstrations started on Wednesday in Amman, organized by professional unions against the draft tax laws required by the International Monetary Fund.
But unlike in the protests staged in Jordan in 2011 at the height of the Arab Spring, observers said most participants are not ideological and the protests are not limited to just men.
Hiba Obeidat, who took part in the 2011 demonstrations, told Arab News that the current protests reflect a young population that has matured.
“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.
“New people are joining, and many ad hoc. No one is trying to hijack the effort and if anyone does they will be dealt with in a wise and mature way,” said Obeidat.
Rawan Jayyousi, a radio presenter, told Arab News that many of those participating are disciplined and organized, and it seems they are well trained.
“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.”
Jayyousi said it was clear the organizers have succeeded in buiilding an interesting relationship with the security forces.
The protests have continued until the early hours of the morning, largely because of Ramadan.
Those protesting until the early hours take time at the end of the protests to shake hands with the security forces and to clean up the debris left behind.
Mohammad Alabsi, 33, who works at a local bank and is a leader in Hizb Al-Widha al Shaabieh (Popular Unity Party) said he and others like him are working closely with the professional unions which triggered the current round of protests with their call for a strike last Wednesday.
“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.”
Rawan Jayyousi told Arab News that many women are participating, and they are not complaining about harassment as in previous times.
“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,” she said.
The demographics of the protesters are young, people between the age of 25 and 35, and the mode of communication is, of course, social media.
The most trending hashtag is #manash, a Jordanian slang word for being broke. Social media has been widely used both as a means to recruit participants and to communicate between them, as well as replacing traditional media.
Shortly after one group reached a particular location in Amman, a call was made on social media and within minutes floods of protesters joined them. Live streaming was the favorite means of publicity, along with short video reports that have received tens of thousands of views.
Mohammad Shamma, a human rights activist, told Arab News that intense discussions have taken place between activists.
“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?”
As a result of the discussion, Shamma and a small group of civil society practitioners made up of lawyers and human rights workers decided to create a social media group that can act both as a monitor of any human rights violations and a source of legal and other information to participants.
They plan to issue a daily report on the situation and any violations with the hope that these reports will raise awareness among protesters.
“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,” Shamma told Arab News.
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