Yemen Follows Tunisia's Lead: Thousands Demand Ouster Of President Ali Abdullah Saleh
Observer by: Mr. Alaa Isam
ADEN, Yemen — Drawing inspiration from the revolt in Tunisia, thousands of Yemenis fed up with their president's 32-year rule demanded his ouster Saturday in a noisy demonstration that appeared to be the first large-scale public challenge to the strongman.
Clashes also broke out Saturday in Algeria, as opposition activists there tried to copy the tactics of their Tunisian neighbors, who forced their longtime leader to flee the country more than a week ago.
The protests in Yemen appeared to be the first of their kind. The nation's 23 million citizens have many grievances: they are the poorest people in the Arab world, the government is widely seen as corrupt and is reviled for its alliance with the United States in fighting al-Qaida, there are few political freedoms and the country is rapidly running out of water.
Still, calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down had been a red line that few dissenters dared to test.
In a reflection of the tight grip Saleh's government and its forces have in the capital – outside the city, that control thins dramatically – Saturday's demonstration did not take place in the streets, but was confined to the grounds of the University of Sanaa.
Around 2,500 students, activists and opposition groups gathered there and chanted slogans against the president, comparing him to Tunisia's ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose people were similarly enraged by economic woes and government corruption.
"Get out get out, Ali. Join your friend Ben Ali," the crowds chanted.
One of the organizers, Fouad Dahaba, said the demonstration was only a beginning and they will not stop until their demands are met.
"We will march the streets of Sanaa, to the heart of Sanaa and to the presidential palace. The coming days will witness an escalation," said Dahaba, an Islamist lawmaker and head of the teachers' union.