Before I went to Jordan, one of my professors told me jihads always start on a Friday after mosque. So I had to laugh when I saw the lead paragraph in the LA Times:
In an unprecedented development in Jordan, protests similar to those that have rocked Tunisia and Algeria in recent weeks erupted in the Arab kingdom Friday.
Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Amman, and several other cities to protest rising food prices and unemployment, media reports say.
Aside from complaints, they also pointed rare and stinging criticism toward the Jordanian government, headed by Prime Minister Samir Rifai.
“Down with Rifai’s government,” protestors chanted as they marched through Amman’s city center, according to Agence France-Presse. “Unify yourselves because the government wants to eat your flesh. Raise fuel prices to fill their pockets with millions.”
Similar protest marches were held in the cities of Maan, Karak, Slat and Irbid, where demonstrators shouted that Jordan was “too big” for Rifai, the report added. All in all, around 8,000 people turned out for the marches — despite previous measures by the Jordanian government to create more jobs and control rising commodity prices.
According to a report by Egypt’s state-run Al Ahram news agency, tanks surrounded the Arab kingdom’s major cities and checkpoints and barriers had been set up.
The report, headlined “Jordan fears another Tunisia”, claimed that Jordan’s King Abdullah II had set up a special task force in his palace that included military and intelligence officials to try to prevent the unrest from escalating further.
It said the country’s main opposition group — the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood — had not participated in Friday’s demonstrations, but the group will reportedly join a sit-in outside parliament Sunday, along with the the country’s 14 trade unions, a move that would probably increase the pressure on the Jordanian authorities.
— Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
The Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t involved? Yeah, sure. “Unprecedented development”? I’ve seen plenty of those demonstrations from my balcony overlooking Wadi Sacra near the al-Husseini mosque, and long ago learned not to make travel plans for Fridays.
Checking back at this week’s story about Algeria from al-Jazeera, there is a similar pattern:
Young people clashed with police in Algiers and several other towns across the country on Friday despite appeals for calm from imams.
In Annaba, 600km west of the capital, rioting broke out after Friday prayers in a poor neighbourhood of the city and continued late into the night.
Are the Tunisia riots different?
They started Dec.17–that would be Friday, Dec.17. but a NYT piece claimed they had been fueled by Wikileaks:
But their new and conspicuous riches, partly exposed in a detailed cable by the American ambassador and made public by WikiLeaks, have fueled an extraordinary extended uprising by Tunisians who blame corruption among the elite for the joblessness afflicting their country.
And one demonstration appeared to have been called by a group on Facebook–on a Thursday.
Some of the controversy was said to center on the wife of the Tunisian leader:
Cables from the United States Embassy in Tunis that were obtained and released by WikiLeaks, including one titled “Corruption in Tunisia: What’s Yours is Mine,” sketch out some of the reasons. Before her marriage to the president in 1992, Ms. Trabelsi had been a hairdresser from a humble family with little formal education. But since then, many in her family, along with the president’s, have ascended to the pinnacle of wealth, owning major stakes in many of Tunisia’s most prominent companies.
“Seemingly half of the Tunisian business community can claim a Ben Ali connection through marriage, and many of these relations are reported to have made the most of their lineage,” the ambassador, Robert F. Godec, wrote in a cable two years ago. “Ben Ali’s wife, Leila Ben Ali, and her extended family — the Trabelsis — provoke the greatest ire from Tunisians,” he added, noting that he heard frequent “barbs about their lack of education, low social status and conspicuous consumption.”
Nouveau riche. No wonder he went back to Modern Standard Arabic after his predecessor had instituted the use of colloquial forms.
One of the symbolic indications of the political change was the linguistic shift that Ben Ali made in his first Communiqué and in his subsequent public political speeches. While Bourguiba used a constellation of linguistic codes — Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, and French, Ben Ali chose to reclaim fuṣħaa as the only official variety of Arabic to use in public political speeches.
But wait, I see here there were riots in Jordan–in Maan, no surprise there–on Tuesday:
Rioters rampaged in a southern Jordanian town on Wednesday in a second day of disturbances aimed at the central government but rooted in deep tribal rivalries. The trouble erupted after two workers were killed, apparently in a clash between tribes, in the conservative southern town of Maan, about 130 miles (200 kilometres) south of the capital of Amman. Police battled demonstrators with tear gas. The riots raged until early Wednesday morning. About 500 protesters set fire to cars, government buildings and smashed shop windows before police managed to restore order.
Oh, my, and riots at the University of Jordan before that:
Last week, police used water cannons to disperse students at the University of Jordan in Amman during riots there. Twelve people were injured and campus facilities were damaged. Students from competing tribes threw sticks and stones at each other over the results of student council elections.
Stones I can believe, but sticks?
Add to that this weeks change in government in Lebanon, and one could almost suspect a full moon.