Though unclear as to the exact date of their formation, a group of young Jordanian men and women came together some time ago calling for a sit-in at Amman`s Dakhilliyyeh Circle (also known as Gamal Abdul-Nasser Circle) to be held on Thursday March 24, 2011. Dubbed "The March 24 Youth," organizers and participants advocated a reformist agenda (see below) while affirming their loyalty to both the Jordanian nation-state and the Hashemites as its royal family. Initially organized through various social network media as well as the Jordanian blogosphere, the sit-in was planned to be open-ended until their demands were met. In the days leading to the sit-in, a Loyalty March was organized to take place on the same day by alleged supporters of King Abudullah II. As the sit-in began to take effect on Thursday, Jordanian police and gendarmerie were deployed, sealing off the traffic to the circle except for cars belonging to the Loyalty March, which was allowed to enter the circle and take up a position facing the March 24 Youth sit-in. While the counter-demonstrators immediately began chanting insults at the sit-in participants, on Friday morning they eventually took to throwing stones and attacking the March 24 Youth. As chaos ensued (or was created), both the police and gendarmerie attacked the protesters, breaking-up the sit-in, dispersing the crowd, beating some participants, while arresting others. There are at least one hundred confirmed injuries in addition to one confirmed death. Following the "clearing" of the Circle, participants in the Loyalty March celebrated with both the police and the gendarmerie the end of the March 24 Youth sit-in. Reports have also surfaced that fifteen members of the Jordanian National Dialogue Committee resigned in response to the treatment of protesters.
Below are English translations [by Ziad Abu-Rish] of two statements issued by the March 24 Youth in the weeks prior to the sit-in. Following the statements are some videos showing different aspect of the sit-in and the attack on it. For more analysis of contemporary politics in Jordan, see Jadaliyya`s "Five Questions on Jordan" and "The Alternative Opposition in Jordan and the Failure to Understand the Lessons of the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions."
Statement from the "March 24 Youth" Facebook page:
Because he who is silent about justice is a mute devil . . .
And because achieving justice is a central demand . . .
And because human dignity is the origin of human life . . .
We are a mixture of free Jordanian young men and women, who are tired of delays and the promise of reform, who see the spread of corruption, the deterioration of the economic situation, the regression of political life, the erasure of freedoms, and the dissolution of the social fabric . . .
We thus declare:
That the people want the reform of the regime
And based on this, we demand:
1- a parliament that represents the people
2- an elected national government
3- real constitutional reforms
4- prosecuting those who are corrupt
5- reforming the tax system
6- lifting the security grip
7- realizing national unity
And we invite you oh young men and women of Jordan to participate in an open sit-in to demand our rights on Thursday April 24 / 12 o`clock in the afternoon / at the Dakhillliyyeh Circle in the capital Amman
We will be there, so be with us.
Statement from "March 24 Youth" after rumors circulated that the sit-in would be canceled:
With all the passion for freedom, that human value that is invaluable, with out which souls and riches are cheapened, our eyes yearn for twelve o`clock in the afternoon on Thursday to begin, from the Dakhilliyyeh Circle, making the change that the youth of Jordan dream of: "a civilian state, not a security state."
Campaigns of skepticism, incitement, and intimidation will not deter us. Our engagement and commitment cannot be dispersed by iron. Our will is as solid as the just truth that that we call for. We are not amateurs to be distracted from our esteemed goals by the attempts of the enemies of freedom and their minions, nor by the hearsay of those that shiver.
Oh free Jordanians, our sit-in is peaceful and civilized and holds an esteemed value (dignity, freedom, and democracy). Our demands are legitimate and do not bare postponement. We will confront violence, thuggery, persecution, and threats with the strength of freedom. We will repel procrastination, delay, and attempts to fool Jordanians through sacrificing our time, efforts, and self-interests for the sake of the Jordanians, who deserve a system of good governance.
Early stages of the March 24 sit-in as people gathered, some to participate and others to observe:
Counter-protesters from the Loyalty March (left side) chanting insults at members of the March 24 Youth (right side):
Police and gendarmerie "dispersing" participants of the sit-in as well as observers. Man behind the camera is cheering on the beating of different participants/observers:
Members of the Loyalty March, balatagiyyeh, and members of both the police and gendarmerie celebrating the end of the sit-in: