Is Kuwait’s Anti-Expat Momentum Stalling

It seems that after a series of measures targeting expats were introduced In Kuwait that the momentum behind them may be stalling. On Wednesday, the National Assembly rejected a proposal to charge expats the full price for fuel, which would then be dispensed to Kuwaitis with a ration card. Other components of the measure would have required the deportation of expats who commit “grave violations” of traffic laws.

The vote in the National Assembly was decisive, with over 30 members voting against it including government officials who are ex-officio members, while 8 MPs voted in favor of it. It seems then that the momentum that has been targeted against expats has stalled for the time being. Measures that have been proposed recently such as fixed residency periods that would require them to leave the country after a certain period of time as well as nationality quotas have foundered due to the fact that after the emotion has left the picture they turn out to be detrimental to the country. In particular, if skilled workers such as teachers have been in the country for ten years should they then be forced to leave?

It is important to recognize of course that part of the sentiment that is behind measures like this is intended to increase the job opportunities for Kuwait’s citizens. However, the issue is that expats have recently been targeted with proposals to such an extent that recently it felt like hardly a day went by without the introduction of another one. There are indeed still some under consideration such as the proposal to effectively segregate health clinics by permitting expatriates to attend them in non-emergency situations only in afternoon hours. However, the rejection by the National Assembly of the proposal to charge Kuwaiti citizens different fuel prices indicates that the momentum may be shifting on this issue.

At the end of the day, Kuwait has a problem with its citizens relying on guaranteed state employment (the source of income for over 90 percent of them). However, the decisions that have recently been taken against expats have appeared intended not at ultimatley opening jobs for Kuwait’s citizens but instead aimed at stirring up anti-expat sentiment to deflect attention from the government’s failings.

Instead of Helping Citizens, Kuwaiti MPs and Ministries Target Expats

Recently a number of measures have been considered in Kuwait that target the country’s substantial population of expatriates. It is important before this issue is examined in more detail that the background be discussed. It is estimated that out of a total population of about three million, two thirds are expatriates while the remaining one million are citizens. There is, essentially, a dichotomy in the economy between these two groups. The state provides essentially guaranteed employment to its citizens in the public sector that comes with generous benefits, and citizens have taken advantage, with more than 90 percent of them holding jobs in the public sector. Meanwhile, the private sector is dominated by expatriates, who hold over 98 percent of the jobs.

The expense of employing approximately 91 percent of its citizens is a substantial one for the Kuwaiti government, but it is one that it is currently able to afford due to the current high price of oil. Kuwait export crude is projected to be $107 per barrel with one month remaining in the fiscal year, which leads to a major surplus. However, the official budget projections, which are included in this economic report by the National Bank of Kuwait, are calculated with a projected oil price of $65 for 2012/2013 and a projected oil price of $70 for 2013/2014. According to these figures, if the oil prices were at that level, Kuwait would have large budget deficits, totaling approximately KD7.3 billion ($25 billion) for 2012/2013 and KD3.05 billion ($10.7 billion) for 2013.

Since the Arab Spring began at the beginning of 2011, the regime has done two things – first, it has reacted to clamp down on dissent, and second, it has boosted government spending substantially. These spending increases could include granting interest relief to Kuwaiti citizens who overspent their income and obtained personal loans to do so, or having the government purchase the loans. The issue, beyond that of equity or fairness, is that financial institutions are likely to continue extending such loans if they believe that the state would continue to bail them out by repaying them.

This increased spending has happened to a degree that the World Bank reported in 2012 that it would be unable to sustain it over the long term. The IMF projected in 2012 that at the current rate Kuwait would run out of extra oil revenue by 2017 and would no longer be able to save funds for its future generations fund. At the time that report was written it estimated that the breakeven point was $44 per barrel, but the recent budget projections show that the breakeven point is now substantially higher.

It is impossible to predict the direction of oil prices, and a decline to $70 a barrel is not unforeseeable. It might not be likely, but it is not impossible either, and would, as the statistics above show, put a serious strain on Kuwait’s budget (and could lead to subsidy reductions as well). It is therefore necessary to increase the private sector employment opportunities for Kuwait’s citizens so that they do not need to rely on government employment, which over the long term could be affected by fluctuations in the price of oil. There was recently a plan passed by the National Assembly to help finance small business projects that employ citizens but it has been criticized as having many of the same flaws as previous efforts, which helped establish some businesses but these did not employ substantial numbers of Kuwait’s citizens. There is, then, a pressing need for employment for the substantial young population, but currently a lack of adequate steps being taken. A recent $111 billion development plan that included contributions from the private sector was blocked by parliament last year. The danger is that Kuwait will, even with recent measures to attract foreign investment, lose out on business to other states in the region such as the UAE.

It is in this context then, that recent measures have been taken targeting Kuwait’s substantial population of expatriate workers. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor announced a plan to reduce the number of expats by 100,000 annually to reach 1 million in ten years. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Health recently implemented a measure intended to segregate the hours that Kuwaitis and expatriates receive non-emergency medical care. They have also been blamed even for traffic jams and accidents. However, the measures to restrict expatriates have two flaws – first, they are attempting to scapegoat a population of workers for issues beyond their control. Expats only recently (in 2010) received a degree of protection that included a minimum wage, and have suffered abuse from employers in the past. Second, it could under present economic conditions lead to a loss of valuable skilled workers, as a recent survey of Kuwaiti citizens showed.

What, then, is the solution? The exclusion of citizens from meaningful economic (and increasingly political) participation is a long-term issue that need to be addressed. What is required is careful study and well-studied and implemented plans, not measures intended to target a class of workers for long-term problems that are not of their creation.

What the Electricity Price Increase Delay Means for the Election

The government implied once again that it is going to raise electricity prices, it just won’t happen in the next two weeks before the election. The cabinet stated that both price increases and power cuts are likely to happen, but that the decision to change (code word for “raise”) electricity rates would be made by the next cabinet after the election.

The way Jordan Times reports the decision is revealing. Their article about it says that there were two factors in this decision: “the caretaker government’s limited mandate-namely to oversee the January 23 parliamentary elections,” and “the ongoing impact of a decision to slash energy subsidies.” The decision to eliminate fuel subsidies was, of course, made by the caretaker government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour. That decision triggered widespread protests across Jordan. Yet when that decision was made the government did not consider it outside the scope of its mandate at the time. So what happened?

It seems to me that this decision is yet another act of stalling by a regime that has mastered the art. The Jordan Times article, along with another one that was published on December 28th, all but announces an impending electricity price increase. So why the delay? Most likely its because the regime doesn’t want people protesting a rate increase by boycotting the election. This way the regime will be able to get through the election and avoid the hard decisions about political reform that much longer.

Where have we seen this before?

Government to Raise Electricity Prices

Today, an article appeared in the Jordan Times that announced (buried in the third paragraph) that the government intends to raise electricity prices. The article states that “The government’s programme includes comprehensive reforms in the electricity sector through further increases in electricity tariffs and diversification of energy sources.” Raising prices is easy, diversification is easier said than done. To this point, the only “diversification” that has been made recently is a commitment by Iraq to supply 60,000 tonnes of heavy fuel instead of 30,000 tonnes, as well as increased imports of Iraqi gas. The reality is that Jordan remains as dependent on Egyptian natural gas as ever, and the contract under which Egypt commits to supply Jordan with 240 million cubic feet of gas per day expires in 2019.

Diversification of energy sources remains a vital economic interest for Jordan. If steps to diversify energy sources are not made then it is entirely possible that Egypt, with rising domestic demand for gas would seek to reduce the amount that is supplied to Jordan or increase the price. The central card that Jordan held in the recent dispute – the threat to deport Egyptian workers – is serious now because of the unrest in Egypt, but one should not assume that the situation in 2019 won’t be dramatically different. The regime doesn’t seem to be taking any steps to diversify its energy supply.

The government is scrambling to patch up the immediate crisis without a vision for how to make it less likely to recur over the longer term. In order to reduce Jordan’s dependence on energy imports and make the economy less vulnerable, there are important steps that need to be taken, but no one seems to have the political will. For example, one source of more affordable energy could be solar energy, which the government, to it’s credit, sought to encourage through the implementation of net metering regulations in 2010. However, there does not seem to have been anything to encourage the installation of solar energy, and to date it seems that there is only one person selling power back to the grid.

The one man who is selling power back to the grid, Suleiman Nimri, has conducted studies showing that it is profitable for many institutions in Jordan to implement solar power, but they have frequently been scared by the large upfront capital costs. Indeed, if JD24,000 is all it takes for a university in the north of Jordan to save JD7,000 on electrical power, then surely it would be worthwhile for the government to move forward with this project as one of the ones they are supporting with the governorates’ development fund (It is worth noting that Nimri himself expects to recoup his investment in five to six years). However, this doesn’t seem to be happening. There’s no vision. Just one crisis after another. Perhaps the ultimate indictment of this is the fact that the article about Nimri appears in the Jordan Times, a regime newspaper, yet the article seems never to consider the possibility of the government encouraging this type of economic activity, or indeed of it building solar energy facilities itself, and then seeking aid to build more.

Instead what we have is more rate increases, more stalling on reform, and a government that seems determined to go as long as possible without listening to the will of the people.

Egypt and Jordan: Is It Really All Resolved?

The gas is flowing again. Egypt and Jordan announced on Thursday that the flow of gas from Egypt to Jordan had reached 240 million cubic feet, which is the level that the two countries had agreed upon. At a press conference following a meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, Prime Minister Ensour said, according to Jordan Times (not a direct quote) that relations between Egypt and Jordan “will never be hindered by any developments and will always be at their best.”

At the meeting Morsi and Qandil were said to have discussed the issues of Egyptian gas supplies and Egyptian laborers working in Jordan, and Egypt agreed to maintain the flow of natural gas according to the agreement. Qandil also held discussions with King Abdullah and gave him an invitation from President Morsi to visit Egypt. So, apparently, all issues between Egypt and Jordan will be resolved now that the flow of gas has been restored, but is it really that simple? First of all, given the numerous disruptions that have occurred due to attacks against the pipeline since the Egyptian revolution, it is not clear how long, exactly, the supply will actually be restored for.

Just a few days ago, King Abdullah criticized Egypt and threatened to deport Egyptians working in Jordan, and also pointed out that Jordan is a conduit for both Egyptian workers heading to the Gulf and Egyptian vegetables being exported to Iraq. He said at a meeting, according to witnesses that Jordan “has bargaining chips it will use when the time is right.” That sounds, according to the article, like a chill in relations between the two countries, and it notes that Morsi called King Abdullah and requested a halt to measures against Egyptian workers. So is everything really resolved? An analysis of the situation reveals that the fundamental structural issues remain, and that Ensour’s praise for Egypt at the press conference actually underscores the economic situation that Jordan faces both presently and over the long term.

In 2019, a major issue looms: the expiration of the gas supply agreement that was reached in 2004 between Egypt and Jordan. As King Abdullah said at the meeting, the disruption in supplies to Jordan cost the government about JD5 billion (about $7 billion) because it had to use more expensive sources of fuel. To put that in perspective, the cost was equal to the $5bn shortfall that Prime Minister Ensour said that Jordan would experience in its budget this year that was originally projected for 2012 back in February. It was also a factor in the government’s decision to raise fuel prices which triggered protests across Jordan. Disruptions in gas supplies from Egypt, then, have caused fundamental economic problems in Jordan, while the issue of Egyptian workers is important (particularly with the unrest occurring in Egypt now) but not nearly as fundamental as the issue of gas supplies to Jordan.

To put the leverage in this situation in perspective, it is helpful to note the amended agreement that Egypt and Jordan signed in December 2011. Egypt demanded – and got – an increase of more than 100 percent in the price of gas supplied to Jordan, to about $5 per BTU from $2.15-2.30 per BTU. The two countries also agreed to review the price of gas every two years, meaning another review will take place in 2013. Ensour can say that all issues between Egypt and Jordan have been resolved, but in fact this shows that tensions are likely to continue for years to come.

This is another example of the precarious economic situation that Jordan faces, that has been exacerbated by the regime’s continued failure to implement reforms. The regime is facing major problems and rather than implementing political reform that could give a new, democratic, government the mandate it needs to tackle them it is instead pressing forward as though these difficulties have all been resolved due to an agreement that in fact resolved only the immediate short-term chill in relations.

A Closer Look at Ensour’s 10,000 Jobs Promise

On December 13th, Prime Minister Ensour announced an “ambitious and real” program to create 10,000 jobs. It’s interesting to note that the regime has broken enough promises that it needs to refer to this program as not only “ambitious” but “real” also, perhaps in order to distinguish it from an imaginary program, such as those reform programs that King Abdullah has mentioned repeatedly over the years.

There’s just one problem with this announcement – it simply isn’t going to happen. 10,000 jobs aren’t going to be created. If you look into the details of the announcement there’s simply no way that the actions Ensour has promised to take are going to create anywhere near that many employment opportunities. From his statement, it seems clear that Ensour’s jobs program has two components, first, the Governorates Development Fund (more on that below), which is intended to develop small or medium-scale projects in governorates throughout Jordan. The second component is the Governorates Executive Program, which has yet to be implemented. A look at the history of the Governorates Development Fund (GDF for short) reveals that it is in fact a prime example of broken promises, stalling, and everything else that has plagued Jordan in recent years.

The GDF since its announcement that has been ill-conceived and incompetently managed. In July 2011, King Abdullah announced its establishment during a visit to Salt. Nothing then happened until December 2011, when King Abdullah said that he would not accept any more delays in launching the fund, despite the fact that there had been a delay of several months and he has spoken of himself before as “the type of person that wants everything done yesterday.” There were still several more months of delays after this meeting.

The clearest description of it comes from the same December 2011 meeting, where Former Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh said that it would have a JD150 million budget, including JD25 million in 2012 and would be funded by both the state and private sector. The fund would support projects throughout Jordan, help citizens develop skills, and provide low-interest loans to participants. It would have been operated by numerous state institutions, which would likely have made further delays and perhaps corruption inevitable. For example, it would have involved the Cities and Villages Development Bank, which was so inefficient that that the government had to seek assistance from the World Bank and the French Development Agency to restructure it.

There were, indeed, more delays as the government abandoned this plan in July 2012 and decided to have JEDCO (Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation) operate the fund. How much has been done since then? The answer is not much when you examine the details. When Ensour said that JD3 million had been contributed, he presented it as part of a jobs program, but in fact he was really discussing the government funding, after more delays, the GDF’s JD 3 million share of JD12 million in projects that JEDCO approved in back in September. Indeed, the additional JD12 million to be contributed to the GDF consists of more projects that had already been endorsed by JEDCO, and the total amount (JD15 million) is short of the JD25 million that the government promised would be spent at the meeting in December 2011.

The government is presenting things that had already been planned for a long time as part of a new jobs program. This is really another attempt to make it seem like things are changing when in fact no reform is being made.

Where Does Jordan Go from Here?

Jordan is in bad shape, and things are only likely to get worse in the future with economic difficulties and political uncertainty. The economy is in bad shape and has structural problems that need to be overcome, and politically the crisis seems only likely to get worse as the regime appears determined to continue stalling and taking symbolic measures.

This Friday, November 30th, the National Front for Reform will hold a demonstration in Amman backed by many of the major opposition groups in Jordan, under the title of a “Popular Uprising for Reform.” The National Front for Reform is headed by former Prime Minister Ahmed Obeidat, and its website (in Arabic) can be found here. The NFR does not call for regime change but rather for regime reform, as do other opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Jordan is facing real fundamental economic problems, including a fiscal deficit expected to reach JD2.5 billion (about $3.5 billion), and a trade deficit that reached JD6.772 billion ($9.569 billion) in the first nine months of this year, up 19.5 percent from last year. Simply put, Jordan exports less than half what it imports. Over the long term neither this nor the fiscal deficit are sustainable. There are also well-documented problems with corruption and unemployment, particularly among the younger generation. Aid is only a short-term answer, although the $487 million pledged by Saudi Arabia and the $250 million that Kuwait has deposited in the Central Bank will help ease the immediate crisis though even in this case Kuwait is only allowing the government access to half of the money immediately. The problem is that the government doesn’t appear to have any sort of long-term plan for reducing its aid dependence.

The regime’s immediate answer to these problems appears to be more repression. The regime has targeted the Muslim Brotherhood following the fuel protests, arresting 45 of its members and charging two of them with attempting to undermine the regime. Among those detained in the last week, both from the Muslim Brotherhood and other political movements, many of them have been denied access to either legal representation or medical care, according to @Freedom_Jordan, who also reported that two more activists were arrested on Wednesday.

The Muslim Brotherhood makes a convenient scapegoat for the government’s problems both domestically and internationally, even though they and all other opposition groups have demanded that the government listen to the demands of its people. President Morsi of Egypt with his recent decree may have played into the Jordanian regime’s hands even though he quickly qualified it. It enables the regime to suggest – falsely – that the choice is between a Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship and the largely powerless elected institutions that currently exist.

It’s unclear where Jordan is going to go from here. What’s clear is that something has changed, and that the economic and political situations are unsustainable, this is evidenced by the fact that the protesters have criticized King Abdullah by name for the first time, and some of them have called for his ouster. The people have begun to recognize that they must take matters into their own hands or the regime will continue to make promises, stall, and ultimately deliver little to nothing. In order for things to change for the better there must be a government that is elected by the people with a clear mandate for change.

Otherwise, an unaccountable government is asking its people to make sacrifices while the corruption and repression continue and there is no plan to overcome the obstacles that the country faces. Just another election next month under an unfair and cosmetically-reformed electoral law that the opposition is planning to boycott. Jordan’s people deserve better.

November 20: Unrest Continues; King Abdullah’s Worries Continue to be Elsewhere

The regime’s crackdown on people demanding their rights continued unabated on Tuesday, one week after the government announced that it would be raising the price of fuel. Since protests began, the regime has offered only token gestures – like cancelling the pensions of Members of Parliament – without addressing any of the real demands of the people, which extend beyond merely cancelling the price increases on fuel. The government also pledged that they would review fuel prices every month, and that they would be altered to reflect market prices – leaving open the door for further price increases after the one that was implemented last week, though prices could also fall if oil prices fall. The government also announced that payments to lower-income families could be applied for at Knowledge Stations located around Jordan. Also, Prime Minister Ensour gave an account of his meeting with the JTA saying that they “left satisfied” from meeting him on Saturday, even though they decided to go ahead with the strike action on Sunday. If he believes this, he’s very out of touch.

These actions miss the point entirely though – the government that implemented this decision was appointed by the King, rather than by parliament, and the next government after the elections will be selected by a parliament packed with “Independent” candidates who are supporters of the King. The election for this parliament will take place under inequitable laws, and will be boycotted by the opposition.

Speaking of King Abdullah, a video on YouTube may potentially offer indications as to his whereabouts during the first few days of protests. If this is real, he is mocking the demonstrators? His attention during the demonstrations has almost deliberately been focused on events occurring everywhere but in Jordan. Today, for example, he spoke with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi about the situation in Gaza, and also spoke with Netanyahu, whom he warned not to launch a ground attack in Gaza.

Since the protests began last Tuesday, @Freedom_Jordan reports that between 260 and 300 people have been arrested, with 91 of them facing charges in State Security Court. He tweeted a list of names of those arrested (in Arabic) here.

Protests continued today against the government’s decision. There were rallies in Amman and elsewhere throughout the country, and several activists were arrested. Many protesters called for the dismissal of Prime Minister Ensour and the formation of a “Government of National Salvation.” Check the regional sections below for more information about events occurring in areas around Jordan.

If you witness any developments, do not hesitate to tweet to us at @ImpatientBedu or email us using our contact us form, and we will add it here. Let us know if you do not want to be mentioned by name.

Amman

In Amman there were protests in Jebel Hussein (which marched to the Nuzha area) and in Sweileh, where a protest organized by Islamists was held. Bara’a Also’od, an activist from Tafaileh was arrested by security forces, according to @Freedom_Jordan, who also reported that Mohammad Balawi was arrested in Baqaa.

Karak

A protest was held at the Almarj mosque, at which protesters chanted that the government was playing with fire by raising prices. An article (In Arabic) mentions this protest here.

Maan

Protests were held in Amman against the government’s decision to raise fuel subsidies. At these protests demonstrators also chanted against Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

Tafaileh

Protests were held at which demonstrators called for the government to reverse its decision to end subsidies on fuel.

Salt

Two students were arrested at Balqa university, according to @Freedom_Jordan.

 

Jordan: One Week Later

Today marks one week since the government announced that subsidies on fuel would be withdrawn, sparking massive protests including many which called for the removal of King Abdullah. The authorities cracked down, arresting many demonstrators and, in some cases, using tear gas and water cannons to break up demonstrations. The King did not publicly mention the demonstrations for several days, appearing to ignore the domestic situation in Jordan entirely, except for his visit to injured members of the security forces, at which he praised their conduct during the protests. His words make us wonder if the “restraint” that he praised extends to their conduct towards children and teenagers arrested and in some cases tortured during the demonstrations.

Today the government-run Jordan Times posted an article about how Jordan’s record of protecting the rights of children is improving, even as authorities were interrogating children and teenagers arrested during the protests. One of them was Taqi-Aldeen Rawashdeh, 16 years old, who was tortured while in the custody of the security forces. Anonymous Jordan (@Freedom_Jordan) posted a video of him (in Arabic) after his release in which he talks about being arrested. @Freedom_Jordan also said that most of the children detained were released on Sunday night, but also that others had been arrested since, including Ahmad Alzou’bi, who was arrested in Irbid. The article in the Jordan Times mentions several areas including education and health care but neglects to mention other fundamental rights – including the right to demonstrate and criticize any government figure – including King Abdullah – without being arrested or tortured.

The government continued its usual pattern, of making token gestures of reform while actually doing nothing to bring out meaningful change – and ignoring the demands of the protesters that the fuel price increases be rescinded. An example of this is when King Abdullah cancelled the pensions of members of parliament, by rejecting a law that parliament had passed which restored them. It’s a token gesture, which does little to nothing – given that there are only 120 Members of Parliament (it will increase to 150 after the election), and in the same article he ordered a study of pensions in the civil service, which is said to have the aim of ensuring the “highest degree of fairness” in civil service pensions. What will this result in? There are no details. The Prime MInister, meanwhile, has repeatedly defended the government’s decision.

Much of the anger is not just about the decision to raise fuel prices but also about the way that it was done, and what it represents. The government’s promise to assist lower-income families misses the point entirely – which is that the decision was implemented without any sort of democratic accountability.

Protests took place around Jordan, including in Amman, Irbid, Maan, Karak, Aqaba, Tafileh, and elsewhere. Many protests in Amman called for the removal of King Abdullah. Irbid was the site of the protest movement’s first martyr, Qais Al-Omari, whom police initially tried to say was part of an armed attack on a police station. The authorities misled their own people – in addition to BBC and the Associated Press – about this incident but it is not clear if anyone is going to be held to account for it. There were also strikes by students, in addition to numerous professional associations.

The largest opposition groups – and many of those demonstrating – are calling for reform rather than the overthrow of the regime, but the regime seems at this point still committed to its course of stalling and making promises that it will later attempt to go back on. The events of the last week have made one thing clear – the people of Jordan have awakened and the regime’s old tactic of promising reform and democracy without ever actually delivering is not going to work anymore. The decision on fuel prices might still be in place, but something has changed in the last week.

Day 5: Ensour Refuses to Back Down, Protests Continue (Update 1)

(Update 1: November 17, 2012) It is now Day 5 since the people began to rise up in protest following the government’s decision to raise the price of fuel. We still have heard no public statements from King Abdullah, and the government shows no intention of listening to the will of the people, and protests continued today, with strikes scheduled to begin tomorrow. Numerous rallies were held today in Amman in the evening. The government still is seeming to hope that if it ignores the will of the people for long enough that the protests will go away, and they can return to their usual strategy of stalling while making repeated promises of reform, while doing little to nothing.

Today, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour spoke to reporters and defended the government’s decision to eliminate the fuel subsidies, and gave a television interview at 8:30pm (Amman time). We found this on his Twitter account @drensour (which is in Arabic). Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh is also scheduled for an interview on Sky News.

Part of the reason why we haven’t heard a great deal from the government may be that the Prime Minister is unfamiliar with Twitter. His account, as mentioned above is @drensour, but it’s not verified (so all I can actually do is presume that it’s really him and his staff updating it) and has only (as of now) about 700 followers, and his description still says “Member of Parliament.” Perhaps he decided that since Prime Ministers generally don’t last that long anyway, he might as well save the time and not update his Twitter account.

In the afternoon, he met with the board of the Jordanian Professional Teachers Association (JTA), in an attempt to persuade them not to strike tomorrow, but at a subsequent meeting later in the evening JTA head Mustafa Rawashdeh announced that the one-day strike would go forward on Sunday and urged parents not to send their children to school. He said that although the Prime Minister requested the meeting he “did not have anything new to say.”  However, Rawashdeh called for reform and said he rejected calls for the overthrow of the regime, but called for reformist protests to continue peacefully.

According to @Freedom_Jordan, the Prime Minister agreed at the meeting to release teachers who were detained during the protests, and they were released later. However he reports that there are still more than 250 detainees, including a young man named Laith Rawashdeh who is only fifteen years old.

He also said in a tweet a short time ago that the teachers are in fact going to participate in an open-ended strike along with the professional associations for engineers and agricultural teachers, although we do not have other confirmation of this yet. He also reports that student unions at universities and other youth movements throughout Jordan are planning to hold an open-ended strike as well.

Much of the media seems to take a dismissive attitude towards what is taking place. David Kirkpatrick, who writes for the New York Times said that “A wave of demonstrations against King Abdullah II set off by an increase in fuel prices appeared to reach its peak on Friday without having won any concessions from the monarchy.” As though the goal of the demonstrations were to beg for concessions from the King and that the people would go home when he didn’t make any. The King assumes that he’s going to be able to get away with the same tactics again but eventually they wear out – as the people have become aware of the government making the same broken promises over and over again.

This daily update has sections for each area where events have taken place. As we obtain more information we will add it to the respective section. If you witness any developments don’t hesitate to contact us or tweet to us on Twitter @ImpatientBedu, and we can add the information here. If you provide us with information and request anonymity we will publish the information without naming you as the source.

Amman

According to @Freedom_Jordan Protests were scheduled to take place this evening after Isha prayers (which started at about 7:06pm local time) in numerous neighborhoods, including a large demonstration Ashrafiyyeh, Ras El, Jebel al-Jofeh, Wehdat, and a joint demonstration from Jafaileh and Mahasreh. The protesters from Wehdat later joined those in Ashrafiyyeh. Protesters chanted against the regime and said that they would not stand outside the palace and beg. @joanarchists reports that plain-clothes security forces attempted to arrest protesters at the Ashrafiyyeh rally.

During the protests police attempted to arrest hunger striker Abdullah Mahadeen along with other activists but they failed to do so, @Freedom_Jordan reports.

Irbid

The Yarmouk University Student Union, as we mentioned yesterday, plans to hold an open strike beginning Sunday, citing its opposition to the government’s decision to raise fuel prices. The University administration has announced that despite the strike classes will be held as scheduled.

Maan

Al-Hussein University said that classes would be held as scheduled despite a student strike for tomorrow.

Tafileh

Tafileh Technical University’s Student Union announced that a strike would be held on Sunday while the university claims that classes will go forward.

Zarqa

Zarqa Private University announced that classes would go forward as scheduled and urged students not to participate in the student strike scheduled for tomorrow.