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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Unrest in Jordan over the Coronavirus and the Economic Crisis

Filed under: Jordan

Unrest in Jordan over the Coronavirus and the Economic Crisis
Anti-government demonstrations in Jordan on March 13, 2021. (Arab press)

Demonstrations continue throughout Jordan against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis, rising unemployment, and severe economic crisis.

The demonstrators’ protests against King Abdullah II threaten the stability of the Kingdom. Jordan urgently needs health and economic assistance.

The tensions and outrage in Jordan followed the cancellation of Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah’s visit to the Temple Mount on March 10, 2021, and news of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plane being barred from flying in Jordanian airspace. But the emotions were replaced by angry demonstrations against the government and the Jordanian royal household over the coronavirus crisis, unemployment rising to about 30 percent, and the severe economic crisis.

In Jordan, large demonstrations have been continuing since March 13, 2021, during which there were also protests against King Abdullah II. The most vigorous demonstrations were in the area of Tafaileh, east of the capital Amman, Irbid, and in the area of Ziban, 70 km south of Amman. Jordanian security officials detained dozens of demonstrators.

The protests erupted following a tragedy at the New Public Hospital in Salt, where at least seven patients in the hospital died after their oxygen supply stopped for two hours. King Abdullah ordered the firing of Health Minister Nazir Obeidat, a medical professor. The King visited the hospital and instructed the hospital director to submit his resignation.

King Abdullah II confronts the director of the hospital in Salt, Jordan
King Abdullah II confronts the director of the hospital in Salt, Jordan. (Al Arabiya screen shot)

Jordanian police arrested five hospital employees who will be charged with causing seven deaths. The Jordanian government convened to discuss the disaster at the hospital and announced that it would punish those responsible for the tragedy.

Coronavirus Hits Jordan Hard

Jordan cannot cope with the coronavirus crisis despite the measures it has taken that included a general and night curfew. The number of people infected is increasing. As a result of the worsening pandemic, the economy and the education system have entirely shut down.

Jordan received 144,000 AstraZeneca vaccines, but they are not enough to deal with the rapidly-spreading British coronavirus mutation in the Kingdom. Seventy percent of those infected were hit by the British variant.

The daily number of people infected with coronavirus exceeds 8,000 cases per day. The number of deaths from the virus since the outbreak of the pandemic has reached 5,285 people, and so far, about 505,000 people have been infected with the virus.1

Even before the coronavirus crisis, Jordan was in a difficult economic situation, dealing with more than one million new refugees from Syria. Jordan received no financial aid from Saudi Arabia, and the International Monetary Fund demanded that it carry out reforms as a condition for receiving loans.

In mid-2018, there were large demonstrations in Jordan against the government’s intention to impose new taxes, and Prime Minister Hani Mulki’s government was forced to resign.

The Jordanian public seems to be fed up with Abdullah’s method of replacing government and ministers whenever the economic situation worsens to alleviate the unrest. The public wants a deep-rooted solution to its problems, and now criticism is directed at the Jordanian Royal House.

How the Virus Invades Jordan

At first, the Jordanian regime managed the coronavirus crisis with a steady hand. There was strict enforcement of the guidelines to prevent the spread of the pandemic throughout the Kingdom. However, a year after the pandemic outbreak, the regime is struggling with its effects and the worsening economic crisis.

A principal reason for the increased spread of coronavirus in Jordan is the government’s failure to close its land borders with Syria and Iraq. The truck drivers who enter Jordan daily, without tests, spread the virus within the Kingdom.

Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh, who was appointed to office last October, has been unable to contain the epidemic. The ongoing demonstrations are transforming into protests against the Jordanian monarchy, and this dangerous situation could destabilize the government in Jordan.  The Hashemite monarchy urgently needs external assistance to deal with the medical and economic crisis.

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