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Violent protests in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen – and now Jordan

Roughly 100 people were injured in Amman protests as Jordan – perhaps emboldened by the lack of retribution suffered by other US allies – became the latest Arab country to crack down hard.

By Nicholas SeeleyCorrespondent / March 25, 2011



Amman, Jordan

Jordan today became the latest Arab country to adopt violent repression as its response to protest – inspired, perhaps, by seeing similar tactic used by US allies like Bahrain and Yemen with little retribution from Washington.

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This afternoon, police shut down a major protest camp in Amman, using water cannons. Mubarak-style thugs, widely believed to be hired by the regime, attacked the protesters with sticks and stones. Local news sources are reporting one death and nearly 100 injured.

"It was a disaster," says Fakher Daas, a leader from Jordan's Popular Unity Party who was in the camp. "They surrounded us from the four [sides], thugs and policemen and darak [riot police]. … Thugs were throwing stones from high buildings. … We ran away, but there was nowhere to run."

Later, there were multiple eyewitness reports of police surrounding hospitals and arresting patients or those trying to enter.

The crackdown comes as other Arab regimes are becoming more confident, and flexing their muscles against protesters. Last week, Gulf countries – most notably Saudi Arabia – sent troops to Bahrain to violently suppress protests there, resulting in several deaths.

Shortly after, loyalists of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh fired on protesters in Sanaa, and Syrian security forces have sealed of the southern city of Deraa to put down protests, and today opened fire on demonstrators in Damascus.

Has Jordan been learning by example? Since the new wave of Arab revolutions started, Middle East scholars have warned that the US response to one country's crisis could shape how the others developed.

Unlike Libya, already a pariah state, US allies Bahrain and Yemen have faced no serious sanctions or penalties for their use of force against protesters – something that could be establishing a new norm in the region.

Then again, Syria's crackdown may simply mean regimes feel secure that, after the struggle to get military force authorized against Libya, the West is simply not going to open up yet another front.

For Jordan, the crackdown will have serious consequences. It was only Tuesday that the country made its first significant move towards reform, bringing together a fragile coalition to propose changes to the law and the constitution.

You can read more about that in my article from earlier this week: Jordan aims to avoid unrest with dialogue on sweeping reforms

That coalition may already be shattered, Daas says, as members withdraw in protest at the violence. "This government is not interested in reform, it's only interested in thugs."

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