AMMAN — Authorities boosted security in downtown Amman on Thursday as activists vowed to follow through with what has been billed the largest protest Jordan has seen in years.
In anticipation of the so-called “Save the homeland” rally, a protest led by the Muslim Brotherhood and popular movements that organisers hope will attract over 50,000 participants, security officials took a series of measures they say aim to ensure “the safety of participants and the public at large”.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Public Security Department (PSD) began fencing off Al Nakheel Square, near City Hall in Ras Al Ain where the controversial rally is to be held, stationing patrols around the plaza’s perimeter.
According to the PSD, the measure aims to prevent any potential “tampering” or “sabotage” at the site and to prevent potential counter-protesters from occupying the space ahead of the rally.
Meanwhile, a security source confirmed that police forces will bar foreign nationals from taking part in the Islamist-led rally, warning that police will issue fines to non-Jordanian participants.
The reported measure comes amid rumours of activists attempting to recruit Syrian and Iraqi refugees to take part in the march in order to meet the previously announced 50,000-participant goal.
Meanwhile, rally organisers vowed to go ahead with Friday’s protest amid rising fears that the “provocative” mass rally could spark street violence.
“This is not an Islamist rally or a political rally, this is a call by the people for decision makers to bring real political reform before our country enters a deep crisis,” said Salem Falahat, former overall leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and head of the rally’s steering committee.
“It would be against our national interests to abandon our rally.”
The Islamists’ pledge to follow through with the rally came as so-called “loyalists” abandoned plans for a counter-protest, a move they said came out of concern for the country’s stability.
Over 80 political groups, popular movements and professional associations have announced their participation in the Save the Homeland rally.
Noticeably absent from the list of participants is the National Front for Reform, a coalition of independent reformists headed by former premier Ahmad Obeidat that has been closely aligned with the Islamist movement.
The Jordan Engineers Association, the country’s largest professional association and long a main driver of the protest movement, has also refrained from endorsing the rally, as have several other reformist groups.
In a press statement issued by its leader, Mohammed Shalabi, the hardline Salafist jihadist movement became the latest group to distance itself from the protest.
While grass-roots popular movements from across the country are set to converge on Amman on Friday, independent and tribal activists plan to hold their own rally in Karak after declining to participate out of concern for “national unity”.
In a so-called Friday “In support of the homeland”, dozens of Karak activists are set to rally to protect Jordan “against all divisions” and press for comprehensive political reform.
Activists say “Save the homeland” aims to press the government to meet several reform demands: constitutional reform placing citizens at “the source of authority”; the formation of parliamentary governments; a rollback of security services’ “interference” in public life; “respect for the freedom of expression”; and the release of detained protesters.
Should activists succeed in nearing their goal of 50,000 protesters, the demonstration would mark the largest in Jordan since the start of the Arab Spring, far eclipsing the groups of hundreds of activists who have turned out for weekly demonstrations over the last 20 months.