“2012 isn’t 1989. You can’t keep cheating on Jordanians.”
At the headquarters of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, we talked with the person who might become Jordan’s future Prime Minister: Hamzeh Mansour. We had an even more important conversation with Saed El Azem, representative of the youth division of the party. We heard overt accusations against the Jordanian King Abdullah II: “While the king at home and abroad promotes reforms, he fights the implementation of those reforms through his secret police (mo5abarat). In his speeches at universities the King encouraged activism. But we can not organize activities at the university without being arrested by the secret police (mo5abarat)! The whole REFORM-story is a hilarious stage play.” In Saed’s opinion the European Union plays a role in the stage play: “In August 2011 Catherine Ashton congratulated our dictators for their reform initiatives, while they are the ones who obstruct reforms. Tell her to come and talk to us, Jordanians, and to our students. We feel insulted and abandoned by Europe. If Europe wants Arabs to respect Europe, you must conduct an honest policy.” The Jordanian stage play of reforms began in 1989, but “2012 is not 1989” warns Saed. “The King and the Europeans do not seem to realize that the Arab spring awakened something among the Jordanians. If the King thinks he can fool us again with cosmetic “reforms” he must also understand that one day people will demand his fall. The Islamic Action Front doesn’t want to go there, but you cannot continue to deceive the Jordanians. Don’t you find it suspicious that we can’t bring political awareness and activism to the youth, the next generation of political leaders?”
“The King deceives the people with rumors that the protesters are not real Jordanians. Or “Royal Bonuses” or scholarships to students, who in return have to sign a document stating that they will not be politically active on campus. Affordable higher education is a right, not a favor! We are citizens with rights, not children that receive gifts from daddy when it suits him” Saed said. On the campus of Jordan University, we found indeed young girls that passionately told us that the protesters are Palestinians, Egyptians and Libyans. However, we spoke to many native Jordanians that hit the streets every Friday for freedom and reform. “They have been brainwashed by foreigners,” the girls said proudly. On the campus lays so much work for opposition groups to raise awareness, but they encounter a powerful secret police (mo5abarat). That many young people are susceptible to awareness, we noticed yesterday when a 17-year-old girl attended a conference on reform because she had heard about corruption in Jordan on Al Jazeera. Although rumors circulate among left-wing activists that the Islamic Action Front would be prepared to accept a political deal (no real reform in exchange for ministerial posts in the government), the public demands of the Muslim Brothers are similar to those of the left wing parties: real democracy and the people as a source of power. “We don’t want to get in a government before the power to form governments and dissolve parliaments is been taken away from the King” confirms Saed.
This article was published in Dutch on January 10th on the Facebook page of the Belgian project “Between freedom and happiness” and is written by the team behind that project: Majd Khalifeh, Pieter Stockmans and their photographer Xander Stockmans. The link to their page is: http://www.facebook.com/tussenvrijheidengeluk