More than 5,000 people rallied in Amman and other cities after weekly prayers on Friday against Jordan’s economic policies, demanding “bread and freedom” and that the government resign. “(Prime Minister Samir) Rifai, out, out! People of Jordan will not bow,” protesters chanted as they marched from the Al-Hussein mosque in central Amman to the nearby municipality building. “Our demands are legitimate. We want bread and freedom.” Police handed out bottles of water and juice to the demonstrators, who carried banners reading, “We demand social justice and freedom”, “No to oppression, yes to change” and, “We need a national salvation government.”
Police spokesman Mohammad Khatib said about 4,000 people took part in the capital’s peaceful protest, organised by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm the Islamic Action Front. “What we urgently need is real political and socio-economic reforms,” IAF secretary general Hamzeh Mansur told the crowds.
About 1,400 people demonstrated in other parts of Jordan, mainly the northern cities of Zarqa and Irbid. Rifai on Thursday announced a $283 million (211 million euro) plan to raise salaries of government staff as well as the pensions of retired government employees and servicemen in the face of popular discontent. The $28 a month raise came nine days after a $169 million plan to improve living conditions. The current minimum wage is $211 a month. But the Islamist opposition and others say the new measures are not enough as poverty levels are running at 25% in the desert kingdom, whose capital is the most expensive city in the Arab world, according to several independent studies.
Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the kingdom in a similar protest on Friday last week. Tunisia’s popular revolt, which has ousted the country’s strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has inspired dissidents across the Arab world and sparked protests in countries including Algeria, Jordan and Egypt.
The IAF is the political action arm of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and earlier posts have reported on what has been described as the crisis within the organization. Generally unreported are the ties between the IAF and the US Muslim Brotherhood. The former IAF caretaker was Ishaq Farhan, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, one of the three founders of the IAF, and a former education minister and senator. Mr. Farhan is also listed as a director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), founded in the U.S. in 1980 by important members of the Global Muslim Brotherhood who wished to promote the “Islamization of Knowledge.” IIIT was associated with the now defunct SAAR Foundation, a network of Islamic organizations located in Northern Virginia that was raided by the Federal government in March 2002 in connection with the financing of terrorism. In 2000, Mr. Farhan was denied entry to the U.S. after having had his visa revoked in the prior year without informing him. The New York Times reported at that time that unidentified American diplomats called Mr. Farhan a “moderating force” and that he “as kept a distance from the vociferous opposition to peaceful relations with Israel.” However, in 2003 a media report said that the IAF had “declared a jihad in favor of Iraq and Palestine if the US attacks Iraq.” More recently, after congratulating President Obama on his election, the IAF called his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan “a hostile step against the Arab and Islamic worlds. In 2009, the IAF also called Israeli actions in Gaza “the ugliest crime in history.”