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University of Copenhagen student Line (cover name, her real name is known by the University Post) was there, when thousand of demonstrators first gathered in Amman, Jordan to demand a new constitution. Her report has come out from an event where two lives were lost, and a hundred of people were injured as the police broke up the demonstration
Jordan has traditionally been characterized by stability, and a relatively weak political public sphere. But this is about to change, at least if it is up to a new, popular, pro-democratic movement whose main force is a group of young people in their twenties.
They call themselves the 24th of March Youth Movement with a reference to the date they chose to camp on the Al-Dakhliya Circle square in Amman – inspired by Tahrir Square in Egypt – to demand a new and democratic constitution.
»We want an elected government, we want to reduce the power of the police and the intelligence forces, we want to end the corruption, and we want freedom of speech,« says twenty-eight-year old journalist Shahira. »But most important of all, we want a new constitution.«
On 24 March, the square became cramped, as more protesters arrived with banners, tents, and sleeping bags. Gradually the camp evolved into a well-functioning, self-organizing space with efficient solutions to necessities like food, water, toilets, and garbage.
On the other side of the road, another, smaller group of protesters gathered to chant slogans in favour of the king and government, and against the 24th of March Movement. No one believed that they were real demonstrators – everything suggests that they were paramilitaries disguised as civilians and paid by the government. They were carrying large posters with pictures of King Abdullah.
»But we are not opposed to king Abdullah either,« remarks one of the 24th of March demonstrators.
And that is an important point: 24th of March is a reform movement, not a revolution. The protesters are not aiming to topple their dictator as in Egypt or Libya – but they do, however, want to deprive him of his political power and make Jordan a constitutional monarchy.
Already the next day, Al-Dakhliya is attacked by the paramilitary counter demonstrators hurling rocks at the protesters. The attackers get help from the arriving military police using fists, batons, and water cannons.
Uncompromising in their non-violence, the demonstrators defend themselves with human chains and prayer rugs stretched as shields between poles. But eventually they have to surrender to the police.
Two demonstrators die from their injuries, and approximately a hundred are hurt. Early in the evening Al-Dakhliya is cleared. The empty square doesn’t show the least trace of the popular resistance movement that emerged on the same spot the day before.
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