A visit by king Abdullah of Jordan turned violent yesterday when his bodyguards opened fire on protesters. This incident occurred one day after the Jordanian minister of foreign affairs, Nasser Juidah, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "Jordan under Abdullah was different than Mubarak's Egypt," as "democratization was well under way in Jordan."
The king was on a field visit to Al-Hashemiyah University, in the rural area of Mafraq, East of Jordan. Upon the King's arrival at the university, protesters from Bani Hassan tribe, one of the biggest tribes, gathered before the King's motorcade; they were protesting their living conditions and the fact that the government has been stripping them from their rural-land possessions.
Members of the Royal Jordanian Guards accompanying the king opened fire on the protestors, injuring at least four according to several stories leaked to the Jordanian media. Official reports claim only two protesters were shot and nobody killed; nonetheless rumors circulated over several Jordanian website spoke of four dead young men.
The King's visits to the area seemed to be a public relations move following a harsh statement released by the Bani Hassan tribe, in which they criticized the King for his "constant absence from the country on leisure travel" and "for not making the time for Jordan.". The Jordanian Minister of the Interior, Sa'ad Hail Srour, has since met with tribal leaders; nonetheless, vows of revenge and threats of "an eye for an eye" were circulated by several tribesmen online, and on several Jordanian and Arab internet websites.
King Abdullah of Jordan has been facing extreme criticism lately also from Jordanian tribes other than Bani Hassan, which, although a minority in the predominately Palestinian population, have control of the army and security agencies, and therefore secure the Kingdom's stability as well as having upper hand over the Hasmite kingdom's resentful Palestinian majority.
The King has also come under serious criticism from Jordanians of Palestinian origin for the discrimination and exclusion they have been facing for decades by the Jordanian monarchy.
Despite the Jordanian king's verbal support of change and democratization of the country, he has shown a much less tolerant approach for opposition and criticism than his relatively forgiving father, the late King Hussein. Recently, an outstanding opposition figure, Leith Shubilat, wrote an open letter of advice to King Abdullah; in it, he claimed the king had sent him a message stating, "I am not like my father, I do not put people (the opposition) in jail; I just kill them;" however this message has not been verified.
It seems that King Abduallah's claim of running a stable country will soon come under scrutiny.