September 2019 Analysis: Jordan, Egypt & Israel
During the month of September, the MENA region has witnessed some political unrest and instability, most notably in Jordan, Egypt and Israel. In Jordan and Egypt, people have been taking to the streets and protesting against the countries’ worsening economic conditions. In Israel, the crime rate is increasing with as many as four murders happening in a single day.
In this blog, we go over the major incidents that occurred in Jordan, Egypt and Israel during this month with the aim of providing an incident and security response recap.
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Ten years ago, teachers and other undercompensated workers in the region may not have felt the support to voice concerns about their wages or quality of life, but things have changed after the Arab Spring. Now, people are more willing and empowered to push back against outdated social contracts between Arab governments and their citizens.
Teachers in Jordan carried out strikes throughout the month of September in what is known as one of the longest strikes by educators in the MENA region’s history. A 50 percent salary increase was promised to teachers back in 2014, but not by the government nor by an authorized entity. The Jordanian Teachers’ Syndicate reached out to the prime minister, the parliament, the Ministry of Education and other governmental entities in May 2019. However, negotiations with the government have stalled and as a result, strikes have continued.
More than 85,000 teachers are on strike across nearly 4,000 schools, which affects Jordanian households and further disrupts the already unstable economy. These economic challenges translate into Jordanians’ dissatisfaction with the government. According to a recent survey by Arab Barometer, the majority of respondents (71%) agree that the primary challenge facing Jordan is the economy. Almost 90 percent of Jordanians attribute the deteriorating economy to the corruption in the government. Moreover, only 38% of Jordanians state that they have trust in their government (down 34% from 2010 prior to the Arab Spring) and just 14% say they have trust in their parliament.
Jordan has always been portrayed as an island of calm in the middle of the MENA region’s chaos, despite its fair share of protests against corruption and raising concerns about the country’s relationship with Israel and the new income tax law. The protests did, however, cause several government reshuffles in an attempt to muffle public outcry over governmental inadequacy concerns.
Police and riot control prevented protesters from reaching the prime minister’s premises as main roads were closed in the Jordanian capital, Amman. Although the protest was largely peaceful, protestors were met with tear gas and water cannons as ‘the protests were unauthorized’ according to the Jordanian security forces.
Security personnel response was met with criticism as the use of violence against teachers’ protest was considered a violation of their right to free speech. According to Jaber Besan, protesters were threatened with arrests as police were “paralyzing the whole city center.”
Egyptians have taken the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities to demonstrate against the current regime. Since President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi took power in 2014, this is the first time demonstrations were held demanding him to step down due to accusations of corruption against him and the army. The recent accusations are the main reason behind the anti-regime protests, but other conditions have further triggered these include deteriorating economic conditions in the country.
The protests were in response to a call for action from Egyptian businessman Mohamed Ali, who stated that el-Sisi was wasting public funds on vanity projects rather than acknowledging the country’s poverty status.
Protesters are calling for an end to the deterioration of living conditions in Egypt as well as the government corruption and freedom of speech restrictions. Around 32.5 million people live below the poverty line, with citizens experiencing years of deep subsidy cuts and price increases.
However, many still fear that continued protests could bring more unrest and further destabilize the economy, as well as the rising risk of taking out even more of the population (arrests, kidnappings and shootings by Egyptian forces). On the other end, some people felt that protesting may be their only option.
Security forces and police are firing tear gas, live ammunition and rubber bullets to disperse the protestors. Moreover, security forces are closing off entrances to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the epicentre of Egypt’s 2011 revolution. The police are maintaining a heavy presence near the square and at junctions in the city centre. In addition, police are currently stationed near the exits of Cairo’s Al-Fateh mosque during prayers. Some plainclothes police are being stationed while others are carrying large guns and wearing masks. At least 20 security vehicles are stationed around the premises and patrolling nearby. Security forces are also being deployed in main squares in major cities.
According to residents, the shooting followed a brawl that broke out during the wedding. The dispute was over alcohol consumption at the wedding. According to wedding guests, the two families have a history of domestic disputes and disagreements.
In just one day, two people were killed in the Wadi Ara area. Adib Dirawi (38 years old) was driving to the main square near the entrance of Kfar Yasif where he was shot dead. Another man was found dead in a car who was later identified as Iyad Hamza Badir (35 years old). Details of the murders are being investigated. Since the beginning of the year, 63 Israeli Arabs have been murdered: 52 men and 11 women. In 2018, according to the Aman Center - The Arab Center for a Safe Society, 75 Arabs were murdered: 61 men and 14 women.
Earlier this week, two brothers Ahmad Sami Mana’ (30 years old) and Khalil Sami Mana’ (23 years old) from the village of Majd Al-Kurum have been killed after a fight that escalated to the use of firearms. The shooting happened in el-Shikunat neighborhood in the afternoon. The citizens of the village have called a general strike on Thursday to express their anger towards the inefficient role of the police in limiting crimes in Arab towns.
The police took steps to tackle the violence among Arab Israelis, setting up a plan three years ago to build police stations in Arab towns and hire Arab officers. The police’s aim is to solve at least 60 percent of the murder cases.
Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh tweeted, “We have no choice but to bring security back to the streets and live in a firearms-free society.” State Comptroller Matanyahu Engelman stated that security forces and the police failed to gather illegal weapons and that is what caused the increase in the homicide rate among the Israeli Arabs.
Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen released a statement claiming that while the police are responsible for public safety, they can’t operate on their own without the cooperation of the Arab community.
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