Thousands chant ‘revolution’ in rare protest against Jordan’s king

Jordanian gendarmerie police stand guard to separate pro-government supporters from anti-government protesters Tuesday. Muhammad Hamad /Reuters

By NBC News staff and wire reports:

Demonstrations and calls for general strikes hit key U.S. ally Jordan after the country’s prime minister added to the country’s economic problems by announcing price hikes for gas and other fuel.

Abdullah Ensour’s announcement on state television Tuesday cited a need to offset $5 billion in state losses by increasing fuel costs.

It sparked protests in the capital, Amman, and at least 12 other cities across Jordan.

The protesters, spanning an array of different political groups, also targeted King Abdullah II — a rare public display against the monarch.

Criticizing the king in public is forbidden in Jordan and is punishable by up to three years in jail.

“Revolution, revolution, it is a popular revolution,” chanted about 2,000 in an impromptu demonstration at a main Amman square, housing the Interior Ministry and other vital government departments.

“Freedom is from God, in spite of you, Abdullah,” they shouted

Tough test for regime

Cars jammed gas stations to stock up on fuel before the price hike takes effect on Wednesday.

The protests looked set to escalate toward the end of the week, setting a tough test for Jordan’s regime, although military suppression tactics – commonly used in Egypt and elsewhere – are highly unusual.

The country has traditionally been one of the most stable in the Middle East, despite its position at the fulcrum of the region’s deepest conflicts in recent years. Its longest border, with Israel, has been peaceful since a 1993 treaty.

Read more at NBC World News