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Price Hikes Lead To Deadly Protests In Jordan


Israel's neighbor Jordan had largely avoided the unrest sparked by the Arab Spring until now. Jordan's king has outlasted protests that have been much smaller than in other nations, but a government move to raise fuel prices sparked fresh protests and even calls for King Abdullah to step down. A protester who died in a clash with police has become a symbol of protesters' fury. NPR's Leila Fadel has the story.

UM QAIS: (Speaking foreign language)

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: The wails of Qais Omari's mother fill this simple home in the northern village of Kafr al Assad. He's gone forever, she cries.

QAIS: (Speaking foreign language)

FADEL: Her 26-year-old son was killed on Wednesday night while watching hundreds of men protest in this northern Jordanian village just outside Irbid. He's the first and so far only death since enraged Jordanians took to the streets demanding the government reverse a hike in the price of fuel and gas.

QAIS: (Speaking foreign language)

FADEL: This is all the government's fault, his mother Um Qais says. It's all the prime minister's fault for making this decision. Between her sobs, she looks up and points to the young men in the room. They're all unemployed like my son. The family has refused to receive the body from the government until it agrees to key demands, including a reversal of the price hike that the government put in place Tuesday.

The family also wants a promise that the government will take care of Tice's family.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking foreign language)

FADEL: Someone needs to feed my children and the child inside me, Omari's wife says, holding her two young daughters and a picture of her husband. His blood will be paid for, his mother adds. A picture of King Abdullah hangs on the wall above the women sitting on cheap mattresses. Four families are crammed into this four-room home.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking foreign language)

FADEL: For now, they still distinguish between what they say is a bad and corrupt government and a king trying to help the people. But in other areas of Jordan, that taboo has already been broken. In the South, come are calling for King Abdullah's ouster, a punishable crime in Jordan. Across town, Qais's father sits in a tribal meeting where men hash out what the demands of the Omari tribe will be.

TAYSEER OMARI: (Speaking foreign language)

FADEL: My son is a national martyr, Tayseer Omari says. He says he was on the phone with his son when police shot and killed him. Police claim that some of the protesters were armed. This, the family says, is a lie. Maher Omari, a member of the tribe...

MAHER OMARI: Jordanian people, most of them, they poor. And they sucks the money from the poor pockets to the rich people, which we pay(ph) in taxes, and we are supporting the government for a long time. Now our turn to support ourselves.

FADEL: The protests have erupted largely outside of the capital. Many of the demonstrators have never protested before and the anger over the price hikes crosses socioeconomic and religious boundaries. South of the capital, protests have been the angriest. Demonstrators chanted against the king and in at least one case burned a governor's home. I asked Qais's father if he blames the king for his son's death.

OMARI: Sometime. Sometime. (Speaking foreign language)

FADEL: He shakes his head. The king keeps appointing one bad government after another, he says. A relative yells: We want this government's head, and today the Omari clan will protest with thousands of others. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Jordan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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