The Jordanian protest started out peacefully outside the King Hussein mosque in downtown Amman, according to participants, with the demonstrators calling for an end to corruption and constitutional monarchy and for the lowering of prices.
“Then,” recounted Firas Mahadin, 30, a movie director who took part in the protest, “more than a hundred young thugs surrounded us from in front and behind and started attacking us.”
“Few consider either the Jordanian monarchy or the country at imminent risk of serious turmoil, not least because the population is divided between groups with differing grievances and interests. Jordan is a country of six million, more than half of them Palestinian, and 40 percent members of tribes, also known as East Bankers.
The demonstrations in Jordan have represented the first serious challenge to the decade-old rule of King Abdullah II, a critical American ally in the region. The king enjoys absolute powers, and appoints the prime minister and the cabinet. But he is contending with the country’s worst economic crisis in years.
King Abdullah has already taken some measures to try to calm the atmosphere. Responding to the protesters’ demands, he dismissed the prime minister, Samir Rifai, on Feb. 1 and replaced him with Marouf al-Bakhit, a former general who has served before in the post and is widely viewed as clean of corruption. The royal palace said in a statement that Mr. Bakhit was asked to take “practical, swift and tangible steps” toward comprehensive political change.