On Friday, clashes broke out between pro and anti-government protesters who started hurling stones at each other.
A police spokesman said six officers were stabbed and 34 others were injured in the clashes.
Press TV has interviewed Maher Salloum, ambassador for peace with Universal Peace Federation (UPF), from Beirut, regarding the latest developments in Jordan.
Press TV: Opposition groups want free and fair elections in Jordan; they want an end to corruption -- I am just counting some of the issues that have brought the people on the streets in Jordan -- of course, that, under the auspices of the judiciary control. Reform of the constitution is another thing they want. How would you comment on the Jordan protests and basically the similarities and the differences they have with the uprisings elsewhere in the region?
Maher Salloum: This is not an uprising lately only, but this has been [going on] since the past few months and even years. I mean the social events coming down on the streets in Amman or in al-Zarqa, [and] in major cities in Jordan have been showing the real situation on the ground, [and of] what is going on in Jordan.
Now the people and, for sure, even some MPs or members of the incumbent parliament, represent Islamic parties, and Islamic jihadists, or different Islamic parties inside Jordan.
Now, the Kingdom of Jordan is a very important and very sensitive Arab state, because it is surrounded by Israel. This is a very important step towards any change inside Jordan, because this will be prevented maybe by the United States and the West. And Jordan is a bit strategic for the West and even the European countries, specifically the British empire, because the kingdom of Jordan has been administrated and supported by Britain since perhaps the past forty to fifty years so far, even in the days of King Hussein, the father of King Abdullah.
Now the situation in Jordan. We have anti-corruption movements. Anti-corruption measures should have been taken by the government, not this government but the ex-governments under the rein of King Abdullah. The youth have been expressing themselves, just like the whole Arab world so far. And the election laws should be amended, according to my own analysis. A new parliament should be founded in Jordan to have a fair representation and a thorough proportion representing the people.
We never forget that this is economic, and so this economic and social unrest is due to the measures that have not been taken by the government. So, it looks more like Tunisia and Egypt and not like Libya or Yemen and even Bahrain, in Amman.
But do not forget the tribal factor, because there are so many tribes in Amman that support the King himself, [and] the army. And there is no national party like Yemen. But it looks a bit like the Yemeni condition when it all started back two or three months ago.
Press TV: You mentioned the issue of corruption, as well as a new parliament that should be formed in Jordan, which I am sure is the case among other cases that people have come to streets for. But they also want apparently the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit. You add that to the issue of corruption in that country. Tell me how serious the issue of corruption is in the country.
Maher Salloum: Corruption has been in the Arab world, not [just] in Jordan, for decades. I believe in Lebanon since 1943. It could be [that] since the formation of the system of Jordan, corruption has been there due to the lack of resources in Jordan. You know Jordan is not like Saudi Arabia. They are not a wealthy state. They depend on international donations from international organizations, from Britain, [and] from America. The government, it seems, has embezzled or taken away the resources or the funds that have been given to them by the West. It wasn't proportionately and equally distributed among the ministries and even the people of Jordan.
This is the whole case. Plus -- and don't forget -- that because the low salaries that have been given to the employees in the government, government officials and even employees ... have to be corrupt in order for them to stand stable and to relieve their families from [the] economic and social conditions that have been suppressing or pressuring them inside Jordan.
Press TV: Unlike some activists who have been coming on to the streets of Amman and elsewhere in Jordan during the past couple of months, from January as a matter of fact, some of the protesters have been calling for changes in the government -- and that is very informative for our viewers as well I am sure -- but some within the protesters are asking for the removal of the system that includes the King, and they say because the country is “un-Islamic.” Tell me about the true nature of the protests in Jordan -- what is beneath.
Maher Salloum: Well, I think you have the true points and these are the most important points that need to be analyzed today.
The Islamic awakening inside the Arab world is not recent. This has been [there] since maybe the 1950s or the 1940s, early in the Arab world, specifically in Egypt. Now, today in Jordan there is an Islamic reawakening, and since the election of some of the members of the parliament inside Jordan, there have been signals that Islamic parties and nationalists have been leading -- on the front -- in the elections or in the parliament in Jordan.
Now, this move cannot be in just a week or two or in [a] one-month period; it needs years to be developed and to be created by the people and for the people and for their own interests, I mean the people's interests. Now the strong support by the people towards the Islamists shows a bit of a weakening side for the kingdom of Jordan and King Abdullah himself.
I don't envy King Abdullah in such a situation because he needs to be very wise in developing any solution and bringing in dialog between himself and the parties involved specifically the Islamic reawakening movements or the national parties that are in Jordan.
I do advise the King and the nationalist parties to have dialog between themselves and solve it peacefully, because, in case they want the regime to be ousted, then we can see bloodshed on the streets and aggression by the government which can be aggravated, and then torture and then killings and slaughter, and things that we have been seeing in Yemen or in Libya for example.
Press TV: Another guest was referring to the 1994 Wadi Araba Treaty that was signed between Jordan and Israel. That would be interesting to you to comment on as well. Many in Jordan still believe that a lot of the problems that Jordan is still experiencing today come from that treaty, or since that treaty was signed. Do you believe in that?
Maher Salloum: I truly believe in what my colleague has said. Part of it may be due to the Wadi Araba peace treaty between King Hussein back then and the Israeli government or the Israeli prime minister. We cannot blame only the Wadi Araba agreement, because the governments since King Hussein took power until now have been accumulating weaknesses in preventing any solutions for the people that we are seeing today on the streets of Amman and major cities in Jordan.
Now, what they need is reforming the taxing system, because taxes have been elevated by the governments, this government and the ex-governments.
They [the people] want reforms on the level of the economic and political movements. We need to change the political system. What we need is the political system to be reformed and altered by the people, so King Abdullah and his own government, whether headed by Marouf al-Bakhit or any other prime minister, should be listening to the people and what the people need, in order for them to walk or march parallel to with what the people need.
In case the government and the King intervene negatively, then we will witness bloodshed and chaos and, God forbid, slaughtering by the police or the army of Amman. And we do not envy Jordan in such a situation.
What Jordan needs today is anti-corruption measures by the government or any government coming up -- if this government wants to go down, that is fine, because the people do not want it. The King has to nominate a moderate, independent... and an economist is preferred to solve the economic and the social problems and give solutions to the people. Furthermore, the government services need to be reformed and increased for the people.
Do not forget that King Abdullah himself, in a very important speech lately, within a month I remember, promised a lot of alternative measures, or reforms that need to be taken or undertaken. I hope that he will follow up on his promise.
I think those ... constitute the basis of a new possible solution or alternative solution for the people who are expressing their own views and their own human rights as the citizens of the kingdom of Jordan.
Press TV: The other question, of course, is the prospect of what is happening in Jordan today. What is it that these protests are going to bring about? We have had the situation going on in Egypt, we see to some extent what has happened to them; there is a military council in Egypt. We have seen what happened in Bahrain. And to some extent in Tunisia, we know what is happening, although not completely. But the question on many minds these days about Jordan when they hear the news about it is that what the prospect is for Jordan.
Maher Salloum: I believe a certain step needs to be taken by the government today in the kingdom of Jordan under the King himself. There should be an initiative to be undertaken here. He should open up dialog between himself and the tribal system and the people and the Islamists for sure in Jordan. Because the Islamic reawakening today will not stop unless the system is changed or altered politically through reforms, through measures that need to be taken by the government against corruption. And giving the youth in Jordan employment opportunities, and, for sure, reforming the taxing system is a major step that needs to be taken by another government.
Do not forget that the election laws need to be amended in order to give opportunities to all the people inside Jordan to be elected and to represent their own nation.