The protests sparked in Jordan after the death of nine Covid19 patients at Al Salt hospital last week due to lack of oxygen. They reflect more than just anger resulted by the pandemic. In fact this mobilization was highly predicted as an unavoidable result of the social-political accumulations.
By Tamer Khorma
Corruption is the key word that explains the real reason behind the lack of the oxygen that led to these nine deaths on March 13. Thus, the families of the victims sparked the first protest in front of the hospital, and rapidly the protests spread among the Jordanian masses in nine different cities, across the country.
The slogans chanted by the angry masses show by no doubt that what happened in this hospital was just the last straw which sparked the rage. The main demands of the protesters were: suspension of the defense law, changing the economic- political approach of the ruling class, and limiting the semi-absolute power of the king.
Corona as a pretext
Since the first case of covid19 was recorded in Jordan, the government announced the implementation of the Defense Law with a martial approach, claiming that this decision was made only to stop the spread of the virus, as a “defense” of the public health. However, it is not secret that one of the main reasons for such a measure was the government’s desire to undermine the teachers’ movement, end their protests for social justice, and delegitimize their union. By the end of 2020, the teachers’ union was dissolved, and their movement was harshly oppressed, as a result of the implementation of this act.
The government’s response to the first protest in front of Al Salt hospital last week reveals again the wicked approach that always uses the pandemic as a pretext to impose and solidify a new ruling formula; a martial neoliberalism! The health minister Nazir Obeidat resigned, and the minister for interior affairs, Brigadier Mazen Al Faraya, became also the minister for health.
Furthermore, in parallel to the brutal repression of the protesters by the police and security forces which arrested 193 activists, the government decided recently to raise the price of basic food products such as rice, sugar and cooking oil. Moreover, the ruling liberal bourgeoisie made it even worse by approving a defense cooperation agreement with the U.S. The agreement gives more privileges to the Yankee’s imperialist army with unconditional and unrestricted freedom to move across the country!
The March 24th
Now the detainees face nine charges issued by the military court: undermining the system of the regime, illegal assembly, “tongue lengthening” (criticizing the king), contempt staff, resisting the staff, breach of the ban, violation of defense orders, harming other people’s properties, and arson! Yet, this kind of oppression did not prevent the masses from taking the streets until today, calling for a great mobilization for reviving the March 24, i.e. the date of the largest demonstration that took place in the country during the “Arab Spring” in 2011.
One of the most important actors who are mobilizing the masses for the March 24th event is the opposition outside the country, led by the Expatriate Jordanian Forum, which consists of Jordanian activists and political refugees forced to leave their country during and after the Arab Spring, in cooperation of the autonomous movements inside the country. Political parties (including the so-called leftist parties) are unlikely to participate in this challenging mobilization.
Despite this revolutionary atmosphere, the March 24 mobilization revival is unlikely to spark a revolution or an uprising in the near future. Yet, it will be a great step forward, in the framework of the ongoing process that started in 2010. Therefore, the ruling bourgeoisie will do whatever it takes to prevent this event; it is a crucial date!