AMMAN (Dispatches) – Protesters have clashed with security forces in Jordan as hundreds of people took to the streets to demand the release of leading members of an opposition-run teachers’ union.
Demonstrators staged a rally in the southern city of Karak to voice objection to the detention of the members of the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate.
The protesters tried to block roads and threw stones at the security personnel, who came to disperse them.
Security forces then used tear gas to break up the gathering.
A government source said seven security forces were injured during the demonstration, the official Petra news agency reported.
The Jordanian government on July 25 arrested leaders of the 100,000-strong union, raided its offices and suspended its activity for two years, in what was considered as a major crackdown on a group that has become a leading source of dissent.
Prosecutors charged Nasser Nawasreh, the acting head of the syndicate, with incitement as well as financial and administrative wrongdoing.
Murad Adailah, head of the Islamic Action Front – Jordan’s largest opposition party, said at the time that the crackdown on the union would "only further aggravate political tensions by the government at a time when people are being choked under hard economic conditions.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also criticized the crackdown last week.
"Shuttering one of the Jordan’s few independent labor unions following a protracted dispute with the government and on dubious legal grounds raises serious concerns about the government’s respect for the rule of law,” said Michael Page, the deputy director of the HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division.
Last year, the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate went on strike and closed its offices across the country for a month.
In recent weeks, its leaders have criticized the government of failing to stand committed to a deal struck last October that ended the strike.
The agreement included a 50 percent pay rise this year, which authorities now say cannot afford due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Opposition activists say the government has been exercising stringent emergency laws since March, when the coronavirus lockdown was enacted in order to curtail civil and political rights.
Protests have grown in recent years in the kingdom over degrading living standards, corruption and the slow pace of political reforms.