Students riot over attempts to curb Muslims on council

April 28, 2000

Students at the University of Jordan have been demonstrating against attempts by the university authorities to prevent Islamic students from controlling the student council.

Riot police have been called to the campus several times this month following a series of protests in the run-up to this week's student council elections.

Teargas and water cannons have been used to break up groups of protesting students chanting slogans such as "respect democracy". Several arrests have been made, and a number of students have been taken to hospital after police used batons to break up the protests. Demonstrations are banned on campus.

Students have been campaigning against the decision of the president of the university, Walid al-Ma'ani, to amend the student charter. He will now appoint half of the student council himself, with the remaining 40 representatives to be chosen by the students. Until this year, students voted in all 80 members.

Dr Ma'ani will also decide who chairs the council.

Late last year, the predominantly Islamic council resigned in protest against the president's decision to amend the charter, which originally stated that elections must be held freely.

Students claim that Dr Ma'ani is trying to break the Islamic student groups' grip on the council. "We want Islamic candidates," explained Mona, a student of Sharia, or Islamic law. "What is happening is against democracy. We should be allowed to vote in all 80 council members."

Representatives from the Islamic Action Front have demonstrated in support of the Islamic candidates. The IAF is the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and is the biggest political party in Jordan.

Islamic candidates dominate the student council electoral list, but they say that they will refuse to take their seats if they are elected. Many students at Jordan are disappointed with what is seen as heavy-handed interference on the part of the university authorities in the running of student affairs.

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