- Posted September 13, 2012 by
In Jordan, the Name of the Game is Changing
In the 20 months since the Arab Spring arrived in Jordan, the monarchy - and the intelligence and security forces backing it - have laid down clear red lines that criticism of the King himself or the royal family would not be tolerated. This week has witnessed a massive - and potentially irreversible - crossing of these red lines as political activists have called explicitly for the abdication of King Abdullah II .
Stagnant economic development, rising commodity prices, and next to zero tangible political reforms or progress investigating cases of corruption has led to increasing accusations that the King is part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
The match that has ignited this latest - and most dramatic - round of protests has been the arrest of political activists throughout Jordan at the beginning of September. Over a dozen activists have been detained for slandering the royal family and other charges. The words directed against the King personally are matched by attacks against the institutions that act as extensions of the monarchy. Protesters are now calling for direct elections for the members of the Upper House of Parliament and office of the Prime Minister, both of which are currently royally-appointed.
As was the case in other protest movements throughout the Arab world, young, liberal, and mostly secular Jordanians are playing a key role in leveling criticism at the executive branch. A statement by the organizers of the 8 September protest in Haya al-Tafileh, posted on the event's Facebook page, strikes directly at the King's most sensitive area; his tightly-guarded international image as a modern, democracy-building reformer. A passage of the statement reads:
"You are disguised in the costume of freedom and democracy, while hiding inside of you is absolute fascism and control over the destiny of this country and the livelihood of its people. We can no longer can be patient with this repression of our arrested sons, with no guilt other then demanding freedom and social justice for all Jordanians, and fighting corruption that is royally sponsored."
These are troubling times for Jordan. Only time will tell if this storm will pass - as many have before - or whether the country has truly entered a distinct new phase in its history.