AMMAN — Gendarmerie forces used tear gas to disperse a group of protesters who have been holding a sit-in for the past four months to demand jobs in Maan Governorate, 220 kilometres south of Amman, an official source said on Sunday.

“The protesters were cleared on the orders of the governor of Maan when things went out of control. We had to use tear gas to disperse people,” Gendarmerie Department Spokesperson Lt. Col. Ahmad Abu Hammad told The Jordan Times.

Maan Governor Abdul Kareem Rawajfeh, however, said he had not asked anyone to disperse the protesters.

“I was in Amman for a meeting at the [interior] ministry, but I heard they blocked the roads. This is a major road that other people use,” he told The Jordan Times.

Rashed Khattab, spokesperson for the group of protesters known as “the unemployed”, said they were sitting “peacefully” in their usual tent near Aqaba Square (also known as Arar Square) on road to the phosphate mines, when they were “attacked” by the Gendarmerie.

“This morning, around 30 of us were sitting in our usual tent. We were shocked when Gendarmerie forces attacked us randomly and started using tear gas,” Khattab told The Jordan Times.

According to Khattab, some people started burning tyres in Maan after the sit-in was broken up.

“The attacks by Gendarmerie forces aggravated families and young people and they started rioting in the city centre, but we were in our tent, which is approximately one kilometre away.”

Khattab said the protesters had tried to deliver their demands to government officials, but nothing had been done to get them jobs.

“We are over 200 people with qualifications. Over the past six months, we have been demanding jobs from the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC) and from the government, but nothing has been done.”

In response, Rawajfeh said the protesters’ demands were “unrealistic”.

“They want me to employ 300 people in Maan. Unemployment is a problem for all Jordanians. How can I do this?” he asked, alleging that some of the demonstrators were already employed.

“Some of them have jobs in the public sector and they want to see if a job opens in a private company like the JPMC to get better salaries,” he said.