Thankfully , I'm not a journalist nor a professional photographer but an amateur who took the chance to capture some of the street pulse in Amman along with a wanna-be local friend of mine who's co-writing this post. The demonstration was against the massacre in Gaza calling for the closure of the Israeli embassy in Amman and the ousting of the ambassador from the Kingdom. It was a good experience because I learned a lot but at the same time it was not pleasant as I witnessed things I never thought I'd see in the Kingdom.
Delivering the news is not an easy task at all - especially in the Arab world as you will be labelled with the special markers. One marker is
with usand the other one is
against usand of course there is the analytical point of view which will use the affiliation marker without using with/against us statement so if you think G.W Bush invented it you must know you are wrong.
There were no leaders in the demonstration. Some people were trying to pray for Gaza , while others were shouting at the top of their lungs. Again others were so cool and civilized and we even saw some families with kids as the clash was not expected. I could see several centers to the demonstration, however, some demonstrators were very aggressive and kept adding fuel to the fire from the very beginning.
At one point, everyone began pushing forward against the line of police blocking the street. The officers were gentle in trying to keep people from moving forward toward the embassy by firmly pushing them back and talking to them. You can imagine the demonstrators like the waves at the beach – they kept moving forward onto the beach and back to the ocean. At that time the obligatory flags were burnt. On one side of the demonstration a separate women's demonstration formed blocked off by female police officers. Women were shouting slogans.
For a while it stayed like this, before the confrontations between the two parties became more serious. The group leaders of the police squads were holding their men back, the demonstrators started seriously pushing and throwing water bottles, shoes and stones at the officers. One of those group leaders literally stuck out – he was very much taller than any of his colleagues and was very calm. He was a giant being and we were not honestly sure if he was a human or an alien just landed on our planet from Mars or somewhere else. Him trying to contain the conflict proves he was human - just a family sized one.
Then it happened – the police moved forward against the demonstrators while trying to intimidate them by hitting their plastic shields with the clubs. People frantically ran away – struggling to hide anywhere they could – in garages, house entrances, behind trash cans. The police officers followed them everywhere pushing people back away from the Israeli embassy toward Duar Kilo. Tear gas and clubs were used, stones flew in response. After the demonstration had moved away from Duar Etisalat, it looked like a war zone with littered streets and damaged cars.
In the middle of the clash some people approached the police officers in the area of Kaloti Mosque. As the squads were regrouping and taking off their gas masks a group of people tried talking to them and make them stop going after the demonstrators. Even in the middle of the conflict with adrenaline running high, they were treated with utmost respect and care. An ambulance drove onto the scene. When the driver was asked to help an injured police officer, he refused. A journalist standing in that area got very upset. He ended up writing down the ambulance number to report the driver. Being asked by the people around him
why he would help that doghe answered that in war nobody would do this to his enemy. We did not witness this ourselves but we saw the ambulance and we heard the journalist's conversation with others on the roof. Anyway it's good to see level-headed people.
Then a water cannon moved in to chase people out of Kaloti Mosque backyard. Water was sprayed several times directly at the Mosque backyard. People were screaming. The imam was trying to calm both sides by asking the police not to use tear gas and at the same time asking the demonstrators to refrain from throwing stones. I was trying to fight off the effects of tear gas by having onions under my nose and covering my face with a hatta. Everyone was helping everyone else as good as they could. People were sharing onions with each other and making sure that everyone in their surroundings was OK.
In the middle of the confusion, my friend tried to rescue her car from any worse damage, and was surprised by how helpful and caring the police officers were. At first we were reluctant to leave our good spot on top of a roof because we were not sure how the police would react to us walking around in the street with cameras, but then they did not only give her more water for her hatta to minimize the effect of tear gas but also escorted her to her car being worried for her safety.
Welcome to Jordanhe said as he left her by the car and we are sure that if he was not on duty he would have invited us to mansaf. Now that was unexpected and she wishes she'd be treated like this by police in her homeland.
At that time, a group of demonstrators had reached KFC around Duar Kilo, reassembling on its patio. They were being followed by the police and were being pushed into heavy traffic on Medina street. Eventually the demonstration resolved in that area and the police officers returned to the assembly point at Duar Etisalat. Demonstrators were spread out all over the area and one by one left.
We understand that this scene is not a familiar one in the Kingdom where I'm able to do whatever I want whenever I want and on the other hand, what happened is less than what usually happens in a soccer game in a country that many Arabs are so passionate about for unexplained reasons.
During this demonstration serious mistakes were made by both sides and I really wish that I'll never see something like this again in the Kingdom. As for the damage to our car, I really wonder who's going to compensate us for that – the Palestinian government[ Fateh or Hamas]?, their embassy?, the demonstrators or the police? we guess no one will and it's an educated guess. In any case, if someone decided to reimburse us, we will use that money to purchase medication and send it to Gaza along with the Aramex/Pharmacy One campaign.
[tags]female police officers,g w bush,professional photographer,israeli embassy,fuel to the fire,group leaders,good experience,confrontations,demonstrators,embassy in amman,arab world,slogans,gaza,marker,lungs,demonstration,clash,affiliation,ambassador,point of view[/tags]