King Abdullah II of Jordan recently formed a royal committee to review and propose amendments to Jordan's constitution. In an email interview, Jillian Schwedler, a Jordan expert at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, discussed protests and reform in Jordan.
WPR: How has Jordan been affected by the popular upheavals in the region?
Jillian Schwedler: Like citizens throughout the Middle East, Jordanians of various political and socio-economic backgrounds were inspired by the protests in Tunisia and then Egypt to raise questions about their own government. Small protests took place throughout the country for nine consecutive Fridays beginning in late-January. The most visible protests were in Amman, where crowds reached the thousands on some occasions, but the demonstrations failed to emerge on the scale seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and even Bahrain. The most provocative event took place on March 24 outside the Ministry of the Interior, and ended when pro-regime "protesters" clashed with the pro-reform demonstrators. The police and gendarmerie were heavily represented but failed to stop the pro-regime contingent from attacking the pro-reform group, resulting in hundreds of injuries and at least one confirmed death. Many activists inside Jordan argue that failure of the security forces to intervene effectively lends evidence to the claim that the pro-regime contingent was primarily made up of plain-clothed agents of various security agencies.