AMMAN – Security forces early Wednesday dispersed protesters gathered at Amman’s Interior Ministry Circle to protest Tuesday’s decision by the government to lift fuel subsidies.

The Public Security Department (PSD) said the protest was dispersed before dawn Wednesday as the number of protesters dropped to less than 50 to reopen the vital area to traffic, noting that no injuries were reported.

Elsewhere, acts of riot and vandalism took place in various towns leading to clashes with security officers, the PSD said in a statement. It continued that 10 officers were injured by gunshots, some of them seriously, and four citizens were also hurt.

The protest started soon after the Council of Ministers announced on Tuesday evening the lifting of subsidies on oil derivatives.

The decision sparked other protests in various cities with acts of vandalism against state property reported in several towns.

Early Wednesday, the Jordan Teachers Association announced a general strike to protest the decision.

Meanwhile, popular movements called for more protests on Friday to denounce the decision, which raised diesel and kerosene prices by 33 per cent, 90-ocatne gasoline by 15 per cent and gas cylinders by more than half, and to call for the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour.

The government said the cost of fuel subsidies, which this year totaled JD800 million, was burdening the state budget, and thus it had to cancel them.

To compensate limited-income people, the government introduced a new subsidy regime that would deliver cash support to families earning less than JD10,000 a year.

In an interview to announce the decision on Jordan Television Tuesday evening, Ensour said the government has also endorsed several austerity measures that seek to reduce public spending, in addition to other policies that would raise state revenues. 

He warned the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition movement, of utilizing the “urgently needed measures” to cause trouble, noting that the decision was taken to prevent an economic crisis.

The Muslim Brotherhood replied to Ensour by calling for widespread political reforms and a national salvation government.

The measures were met by public discontent and demonstrations, some of which turned into acts of violence, vandalism and looting, according to the PSD statement.

It said rioters caused damage to public and private property, noting that some of the demonstrations were not as peaceful as most of those staged in various parts of the country to protest the government measures.

At Amman’s Interior Ministry Circle, the PSD said, hundreds of protesters closed the circle and were chanting slogans “contravening Jordanian laws and norms,” and still they were afforded police protection from counter-protestes.

By dawn Wednesday, the statement continued, the protesters, whose number dropped to less than 50, were dispersed to reopen traffic in the area. It said no one was injured in the process.

The statement said in Naour, west of Amman, protesters temporarily closed the Amman-Dead Sea road by rocks and burning tyres.

In the north, scores of rioters, some of them armed, tried to storm Taybeh police station near Irbid, 80 kilometres north of Amman, leading to confrontations in which seven officers were injured, some of them in serious condition.

The police statement said the Nu’aimeh main intersection on the Amman-Irbid highway was also blocked by protesters. The city of Irbid itself also witnessed a protest, as was the case in other major cities.

The statement said normalcy returned to various parts of the Kingdom and the authorities are in the process of assessing damage to public and private property.