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Jordan: TikTok suspended after police officer shot dead amid ongoing fuel protests

Authorities say they will suppress protest as truck and taxi drivers and merchants demonstrate against rising fuel costs
Jordanian security personnel in Jerash carry the coffin of a senior police officer killed in riots on Thursday night, according to authorities, on 16 December 2022 (Reuters)

A senior Jordanian police officer was shot dead during protests on Thursday in the southern town of Al-Husseiniya, as protests against the rise in fuel prices continued, authorities said on Friday.

Colonel Abdul Razzaq Dalabeh, the deputy police chief of Maan province, was shot in the head on duty, while officers tried to "calm down riots", the Public Security Directorate (PSD) said in a statement.

The south of Jordan has been witnessing strikes and protests for several days in protest at a rise in fuel prices that has added to the cost of living crisis. The hikes include the diesel used by trucks and buses, and kerosene for heating.

Truck and taxi drivers, as well as merchants, joined strikes this week, while videos posted online showed some protesters blocking roads and clashing with security forces.

The PSD said in a statement on Friday that it would use "appropriate" force against "rioters".

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'We will strike with an iron fist anyone who attempts to attack lives and public property and threatens the security of the homeland and citizens'

- Jordan's Public Security Directorate

"We will strike with an iron fist anyone who attempts to attack lives and public property and threatens the security of the homeland and citizens," it said.

Reuters reported that streets were calm on Friday, but sporadic protests continued with a sit-in in front of the main mosque of Maan province in the south and a mosque in the capital, Amman, after Friday prayers, while activists called for more demonstrations.

The US government on Thursday banned its personnel from travel to the provinces of Karak, Tafilah, Maan and Aqaba until further notice.

The US embassy in Jordan said the travel restrictions are due to "reports of ongoing protests, [people] burning tyres, and throwing stones at vehicles on streets and highways throughout Jordan and particularly in the south.

"Road closures and related security incidents are frequent and unpredictable, and emergency services are experiencing significant delays when responding to calls for help," the embassy said.

Meanwhile, Jordanian authorities have suspended access to TikTok, with many users complaining that they could not access it on Friday. 

The Cybercrimes Unit of the PSD said that it had suspended the platform because of what it described as "misuse by its users, whether by glorifying violence, calls for chaos, promoting videos from outside the kingdom and falsifying them to influence the feelings of citizens".

Tax increase

Since the beginning of the year, the government has raised the price of diesel six times, and five times for petrol, although it brought down the cost of the latter twice in the past two months.

It began gradually removing all subsidies on fuel and regularly increasing taxes in 2017, as part of conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund with the aim of ending subsidies.

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Economic researcher Fahmy al-Kutut told Middle East Eye last month that the government has placed a 121 percent tax on 90 percent lead-free octane petrol, 182 percent on petrol that is 95 percent lead free, and 52 percent on diesel and kerosene.

The tax increase has further weakened the purchasing power of Jordanians already struggling with post-Covid 19 inflation and the impact of the war in Ukraine, both of which have affected the economy and sent prices soaring across the board.

Fuel bills constitute an estimated 40 percent of the average citizen's income, which is $493 per month.

In the financial year 2021-2022, the average annual income in Jordan, which is considered a middle-income country, ranged from $4,096 to $12,695. 

According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Jordan rose to 24 percent in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning that a quarter of Jordanians now live below the poverty line.

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