Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Middle East 2: Jordan's Protest

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Middle East 2: Jordan's Protest

Article excerpt

Located in a suburb of Amman, the Israeli embassy in Jordan occupies a huge compound circled by high walls and concrete barriers: the roads leading in are guarded by a series of checkpoints manned by heavily armed soldiers.


The streets are quiet now, but on 4 August police clashed with protesters and used clubs to break up a crowd of more than 200 gathered at a nearby mosque. The demonstrators had intended to march on the embassy to protest against Israel's bombardment of Lebanon.

Protest in Jordan is rarely tolerated. The government is acutely aware that its alliance with the United States and especially its diplomatic ties with Israel are at odds with public opinion. The authorities dread that internal unrest will grow among Jordan's citizens, more than half of whom are Palestinian.

For this reason, a number of repressive measures have been put in place to stifle dissent. The most significant is the Public Assembly Law 2004: originally intended to prevent demonstrations in support of the Palestinian intifada, it demands that all public gatherings obtain official authorisation from the interior ministry three days prior to them taking place. Permission is seldom granted and there is no right to appeal. The media, too, are closely monitored and restricted from publishing anything that might "threaten national unity".

However, ethnic Palestinians are not the only group in Jordan voicing dissatisfaction. The Professional Associations Council, a group with more than 100,000 members, including lawyers and journalists, has called for public institutions to be allowed to express their views freely; the PAC president, Hashim Abu Hassan, wrote to the prime minister, Marouf al-Bakhit, condemning the crackdown on demonstrations. …

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