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Jordan to create jobs for young people who undertook epic protest march

It started with one unemployed man. By Thursday, hundreds of job seekers had walked across the kingdom demanding work
Unemployed Jordanians walked 336 km from the port city of al-Aqaba to Amman: "Write down the status Aqaba, your youth are unemployed" (Supplied)

Jordan says it will create thousands of jobs for unemployed young people after protesters walked over 300 kilometres to demand work in the latest demonstration to hit the cash-strapped kingdom.

The Ministry of Labour announced on Thursday that 3,300 jobs in tourism, industry, construction, health and agriculture will be made available, urging the protesters to register at local job centres.

'After a few days, 350 people were walking. We walked all the way'

- Mohammed Mahateh, 39, from Aqaba

Jordan is battling a soaring unemployment rate that hit 18.6 percent last year, rising inflation as a result of taxes on basic commodities and a national debt which stood at $39bn in 2018.

The kingdom has seen regular demonstrations since last May when a massive gathering of protesters first rallied against the government's economic policies and rampant corruption, resulting in the resignation of the prime minister in early June.

Since December, protests have been held each Thursday evening outside the prime minister's office, calling for economic and political reforms.

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But the hundred-kilometres march that ended in front of the Royal Court in the capital this week with a sit-in demanding jobs was the first of its kind after months of turmoil. 

The walk kicked off when an unemployed PhD graduate and his family left their home in al-Tafilah, a town about 170 kilometres southwest of Amman, last week.

As they walked towards the capital, other unemployed Jordanians were inspired to march as well.

Unemployed Jordanians walked 336 km from the port city of al-Aqaba to Amman (Supplied)
Unemployed Jordanians walked 336 km from the port city of al-Aqaba to Amman (Supplied)

Mohammed Mahateh, 39, an unemployed Jordanian, walked with 60 people from al-Aqaba, a port city on the Red Sea around 336km from Amman.

Mahateh told Middle East Eye that they left on 14 February, taking a desert road, to arrive in front of the Royal Court a week later.

“After a few days, 350 people were walking. We walked all the way, but we had three cars that carried water, food and other stuff we need for sleeping and keep us going,” Mahateh said.

He said that Jordanian officials promised them jobs within two weeks.

A video posted on YouTube shows the head of the Royal Court meeting with the unemployed youth from Aqaba on Thursday.

In the video, he tells protesters that those under 30 will be recruited into four security agencies and the Royal Court would secure jobs in the private sector in Aqaba for older protesters.

“We will wait and see," said Mahateh, the former head of a boat department in a private company.

"We hope that they would fulfil their promise, and unemployed people in Aqaba get jobs. There are five thousand unemployed people in Aqaba."

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