(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Gendarmerie forces reopened the Maan desert highway on Monday after 62 unemployed university graduates demanding jobs blocked it for around three hours, according to political activist Akram Kreishan.
Protesters burned tyres and placed them in the middle of the road, disrupting the movement of trucks and trailers heading from Amman to Aqaba via Maan, according to eyewitnesses.
"No one was arrested, but some journalists who were at the site were hit by the Gendarmerie, who prevented them from taking photos," Kreishan claimed.
The Public Security Department media office could not be reached for comment despite several attempts by The Jordan Times to contact them.
Kreishan, a member of the Maan Popular Youth Movement and a professor of international law at Al Hussein University, said he supported the graduates' cause because they wanted a chance to earn a living and had always been peaceful in their protests, which was something that he believed in.
Stressing that he did not support their closure of the highway, the activist said their plans to close the road were made in secret.
"They must have gotten frustrated and desperate as promises of jobs made to them by officials so far have turned out to be false. Last week, they staged a peaceful protest at the Eshidiya mines, but that did not pay off. They must have realised that peaceful protests were no good so they decided to block the road," he told The Jordan Times.
During a meeting with Maan Governor Abdul Kareem Rawajfeh after they ended their protest, the graduates told him they wanted jobs at the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC), which is the main business in the southern governorate, around 220 kilometres from Amman.
"The governor wanted to resolve the issue with the mediation of dignitaries, and they wanted to keep the popular youth movement out of it," Kreishan said.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Maan resident said the unemployed youths had stopped their protest as soon as they realised that Gendarmerie forces were approaching the highway.
"This time, no arrests were made, but if they block the highway again, for sure, there will be some arrests," he said.
"It is a matter of greed. They want jobs in this company in particular, because they know they offer extra salaries and fringe benefits."
According to Kreishan, however, the protesters would be happy with any job, but since the public sector has not been offering many jobs for the past few years, graduates have been pinning their hopes on the private sector, which in the case of Maan means the JPMC.
"Some of these young men have been jobless for five to six years now. The government must come up with reasonable solutions to eliminate unemployment," he stressed, alleging that "some fresh graduates are hired the second day because of their family connections but poor people are not given a chance".
In addition to the unemployed male graduates, Maan has more than 2,000 female university graduates who are not working, but do not usually go out to demonstrate, Kreishan pointed out.
In the absence of recruitment opportunities, the government should give them loans to start small projects and follow up with them to ensure their success, he said.
According to residents, protests demanding jobs have been taking place in Maan on an almost daily basis.
Zu'bi Al Zu'bi, chairman of the University of Jordan business management department, said the increasing number of protests shows the degree to which the ceiling of freedom of expression has been raised in Jordan.
As for the Maan residents' demands for jobs at the JPMC, in particular, he added, this is because of their understanding that mega-companies should contribute to the local community by creating jobs.
Highlighting the imbalance between supply and demand in the labour market, he said steps should be taken to improve the skills of these job seekers to make them more attractive to employers.