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Middle east

Faced with violence, students hold their ground

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-25

A student youth movement in Jordan demanding widespread reforms and tougher measures to fight corruption vowed to continue a sit-in in Amman on Friday, despite being pelted with rocks by alleged government supporters.

AFP - Jordanian students vowed on Friday to press on with their sit-in protest in central Amman to demand reforms, undeterred by a stone attack they blamed on government supporters.

"They are trying to push us to leave," Saddam Basrawi, a 21-year-old university student, told AFP.

"Last night, they attacked us with stones, but we will endure and we will not budge no matter what happens."

Around 500 youths from different movements, including the powerful Islamist opposition, had camped out in the rain and cold weather to call for reforms to the current regime and more efforts to fight corruption.

They staged their demonstration next to the Interior Circle, or Gamal Abdel Nasser Square, in the capital.

"Our gathering is peaceful, but this did not prevent the attacks. Does the king (Abdullah II) agree with such actions? We are Jordanians and we have the right to express ourselves," said Reda Darwish, 20.

"If they think that the attack will force us to go home, they are wrong. Attacks will only make us stronger and determined to stay here."

At nightfall on Thursday, police attempted to disperse the youths, cutting off electricity to the square around 11:00 pm (2100 GMT), an AFP journalist witnessed.

Protesters said around 50 "loyalists" attacked them with rocks after the power supply was lost, saying police who surrounded the scene did not intervene.

"We hold the interior minister responsible for this incident and we call on the king and the people to protect us from these thugs who are attacking us," said Nihad Zuhair, another protester.

Police spokesman Mohamad Khatib told AFP he was not aware of any casualties.

The protest camp came in response to a call on the social network site Facebook, a tool of many of the recent protests that have sprung up in Arab countries.

The students called for corrupt officials to be put on trial and demanded security services stop interfering in their affairs.

"The revolution is happening all around us," they shouted: "Jordan, your turn is coming."

"We want constitutional amendments to have parliamentary governments," said Alaa Fazaa of the Jayeen (We are Coming) group, adding the protests would go on until their demands were met.

Since January, left-wing activists have joined forces with nationalists and the Islamist opposition in calling for far-reaching political reforms and an end to what they say is rampant corruption.

The Islamist movement is planning a demonstration after Friday midday prayers to push for reforms and mark the 43rd anniversary of the Battle of Karameh with Israel.

The government has formed a national dialogue committee to speed up reforms, but the panel is facing problems after the Islamists and others refused to take part.

Date created : 2011-03-25


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