Thursday, March 24, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Yemeni security forces used deadly force against largely peaceful protesters in the southern city of Aden last month, according to a Human Rights Watch report published Wednesday. Human Rights Watch says Yemeni security forces used a range of weapons against protesters in Aden, including assault rifles and machine guns. It says between February 16 and 25 at least nine people were killed and more than 150 people were injured, some of them children.
ADEN, 10 March 2011 (IRIN) - Some of the worst violence in Yemen as protesters demand the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in the southern port city of Aden, where at least 20 people have been killed since mid-February.
The first death on 16 February led to a surge of anger, and after Friday prayers on 18 February there were pitched battles with the security forces as the protesters tried to reach the main square in the city. At least one member of the security forces was reportedly killed.
“The government says the violence against the security forces is - more than anywhere else in the country - justifying their heavy-handedness, and two or three public buildings, including a police station have been torched,” said an analyst, who asked not to be named. “The demonstrators say the government is using agents provocateurs.”
There was more trouble on 7 March when masked men demanded the closure of schools in the al-Mansoorah and al-Mualla districts of Aden. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), students and teachers were threatened and told if they did not join the protests, their schools would be burnt down. Gun shots were heard in the area.
Schools were open on 8 March, but few students turned up for class. “Our main concern is that schoolchildren should not be involved by any of the parties - schools should be a safe environment for the children,” UNICEF field officer in Aden Mohammed al-Ebbi told IRIN.
“The situation is very unpredictable, our [risk] assessment can change from day to day,” a humanitarian worker noted. “Aden can be easily paralysed; there are few access roads and they can be blocked.”
Streets in the districts of Ma’alah, Crater and al-Mansoorah have been occupied by small groups of protesters, but local observers say the demonstrators, who are demanding jobs and an end to corruption, have been less organized and coordinated than in the capital Sana’a, and other cities.
Ibrahim Shaibi, a medical doctor leading the protest in Ma’alah, which has shut down Madram Street, the main commercial centre, said he was now “keeping in touch with Sana’a”, and committees were being formed.
As in the rest of the country, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), a coalition of opposition groups, are supporting the protesters in Aden. But the presence of the secessionist southern movement, al-Hirak, adds an additional dimension, and Al-Qaeda is also present in the rural south.
Until unification in 1990, the south was a separate country with a socialist government. It is an era remembered as one in which the state provided free social services; jobs and housing were readily available; and women were more empowered. In 1994 the political agreement unravelled over southern accusations of marginalization, and the north invaded, brushing aside the numerically inferior southern army and seizing control of the south’s oil and gas resources.
But the south was not a harmonious idyll before the north’s invasion. There were tribal-based political rivalries which boiled over into killings in the mid-1980s, and which could still exist.
Al-Hirak is a broad movement that is particularly strong outside Aden where state control is weak. Its emergence and growth is seen as the direct result of the north’s refusal to listen to southern grievances, and the monopolization of senior local positions and economic power by northerners aligned to the ruling party. Yemen is run on a system of patronage and contacts that further penalizes southerners who do not have access to those networks, analysts say.
But the protests in the north that began on 2 February have provided a political alternative to separation for southerners wanting change: the idea that Saleh could be forced to quit after 32 years is a novel option.
“In Aden it’s now less about separation and more about regime change,” said the local analyst. “For ordinary people, if the situation changes, if there is an end to corruption and chances for the youth - that will satisfy the people here.”
Amir Ali, listening to the speakers at an anti-government rally in al-Mansoorah on 6 March, told IRIN: “There are many opinions here, but I’m a believer in one Yemen. The problem in the south is that we feel disenfranchised; we are not stakeholders in the future of this country. This is a revolution by the youth who want a stake in the future.”
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Anti-government demonstrators in south Yemen are threatening to burn down schools if teachers and students do not join their protests in the port city of Aden, the U.N. children's fund UNICEF said on Tuesday.
Daily protests have swept Yemen for over a month, as tens of thousands of demonstrators demand the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's three-decade rule over the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state.
"Yesterday's confirmed reports ... tell of a number of schools in al-Mansoura and al-Mualla (districts in Aden) being attacked by demonstrators," UNICEF said in a statement.
"Reportedly, children and teachers were threatened and told if they would not leave the schools and join the protest, they (the schools) would be burnt down. Gun shots were heard in the area."
UNICEF communications officer Mohammed Al Asaadi, who is based in Sanaa, told Reuters he knew of two schools being threatened and said many children in Aden were now being kept at home by their parents.
"Some schools were already closed down because parents did not want their kids to go to school in anticipation of violence or attacks on schools," he said, speaking by phone.
The reported threats on schools were the first of their kind since unrest hit Yemen in January, with protesters galvanised by successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
But schools have been targeted in previous disturbances in Yemen. Last May, UNICEF reported that gunmen had seized schools in north Yemen despite an uneasy truce between Shi'ite Muslim rebels and the government.
Saleh, a U.S. ally in the fight against al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, was struggling to maintain stability even before the latest protests broke out. He has been trying to sustain a cease-fire with northern rebels while also seeking to curb a secessionist rebellion in the south.
In Aden, once the capital of an independent southern state, several children have been wounded and killed in this year's troubles, Asaadi said. In all, an estimated 27 people have died across Yemen in the protests.
"UNICEF is concerned about the safety of these children and their access to basic rights such as education and health services," he said.
(Writing by Erika Solomon; editing by Crispian Balmer and Sonya Hepinstall)
Monday, March 7, 2011
Written by: Mr. Alaa Isam and Nashwan AlOthmani
Yemen's political crisis is fast approaching a tipping point, with ever-growing numbers of anti-government demonstrators calling for Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to step down, after more than 30 years in power. They are also calling for an end to elite corruption, widespread poverty and high levels of unemployment. They want a more legitimate, responsive and inclusive government.
Last month, as Egypt's political crisis began to gather speed, President Saleh promised he would stand aside in 2013, at the end of his current term in office. He offered to form a national unity government and agreed to postpone April's parliamentary elections until he could reach a bi-partisan deal with the opposition coalition.
In an attempt to reach out beyond the political elite, Saleh announced several waves of bread-and-butter inducements, including public sector salary hikes and new jobs for graduates. He also shored up his patronage network among the tribes, distributing cash gifts and cars to loyalists in a bid to keep key sheikhs onside.
However, the scale of the street protests has created a new momentum in Yemeni politics, which is forcing many of the key players within the established political elite to reassess their alliances.
A television channel owned by business tycoon and opposition politician Hameed al-Ahmar broadcasts regular updates on defections from within the regime and the ruling party. Hameed's eldest brother, Sadek, heads Yemen's most powerful tribal power bloc, the Hashid confederation, while his brother Himyar is the deputy speaker of parliament. Hameed's personal wealth is said to bankroll the opposition's grassroots activities but his ambition to be president - or at the very least, a kingmaker in a future transition of power - also divides the coalition.
Politics in Yemen are highly personalized, and power is not fully structured through institutions. Neither government ministries, nor the ruling party nor the opposition coalition represents the real distribution of political power. Even some factions within the opposition are loyal to President Saleh, and different army divisions have not always acted entirely as instruments of the formal state. This adds to the confusion, when journalists - both Yemenis and foreigners alike - try to report on the status of political dialogue or rumoured deals, such as the opposition's latest counter-offer demanding that President Saleh steps down by the end of this year.
International media coverage of the protests currently lags behind reporting from other countries in the region. There are very few camera crews on the ground and al Jazeera staff face threats and intimidation. The Yemeni government has imposed a ban on new visas for journalists and researchers, and English-language reports are filed by a handful of Western freelance journalists already living in the capital, Sana'a, when the protests began. Yemeni activists are using YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to get their message to the outside world.
Yemen's street protests are amplifying existing tensions within the country's power elite but activists reject the idea of lending their support to a leadership bid from a new face who will simply perpetuate the current system. They want to see a fundamental reconfiguration of the political space. Under this model, any new president would need to build an inclusive coalition that attempts to balance the conflicting interests of the southerners, the rebels in Saada, the clerics, key military officers and key tribal leaders, as well as the urban protestors. Successful confidence building measures would probably include a degree of devolution, or even federalism, to keep the southerners on side.
The protestors also want better economic conditions and a higher standard of living. In a country where a third of the population is already living below the breadline, that's already a tall order but Yemen's falling oil production means economic conditions have the potential to deteriorate even further over the coming years. This has undeniable political consequences when power is brokered through cash-based patronage networks, and it opens up the potential for foreign powers to try to influence, or prolong, the coming power struggle.
US officials have expressed deep concern at President Saleh's use of violence against the protestors but they currently have all their eggs in one basket in Yemen. The US is channeling millions of dollars in military aid to President Saleh's son and nephews, who command the elite security and intelligence units that tackle al-Qaeda. The royal family in Saudi Arabia, who also fear al-Qaeda's presence in Yemen, maintain an extensive network of influence among Yemen's tribes and have allegedly paid billions of dollars direct to President Saleh in recent years. Riyadh and Washington might prefer the status quo and fear the chaos of transition but it may already be too late to stop the forces unleashed by nationwide street protests from pushing the issue towards a resolution.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
The Dutch ambassador in Yemen has urged all Dutch nationals to leave the country unless their stay is absolutely necessary.
The foreign ministry issued a travel warning for Yemen on Saturday, saying there is a heightened risk of political unrest, terror attacks and hostage taking.
There are thought to be around 95 Dutch nationals in the country.
The United States urged its citizens on Sunday to avoid travelling to Yemen and said those already there should consider departing, adding the security threat in the Arabian Peninsula country was extremely high.Skip related content
"The Department (of State) urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should consider departing Yemen," the U.S. State Department said in a travel warning. "The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high due to terrorist activities and civil unrest."
(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam; Writing by Cynthia Johnston)
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Yemeni security forces arrested 16 protesters in Aden on Saturday, as thousands continued to demonstrate in the south demanding the fall of the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The anti-government demonstrators were nabbed as police dispersed protesters who were gathering to hold a sit-in outside Al-Nur mosque in Aden, police said.
Witnesses said police used tear gas and fired warning shots to disperse the protesters and that two demonstrators were wounded after being beaten with batons.
Meanwhile, thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in the city of Ataq, in the eastern province of Shabwa, on the third consecutive day of protests, witnesses said.
"People want to topple the regime," demonstrators chanted, echoing a slogan that has gripped many Arab capitals and that has already forced the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt to quit.
An MP from the neighbouring Al-Bayda province announced Friday his resignation from the ruling party of Saleh in protest to using force against demonstrators.
Ali al-Umrani announced his decision to quit the General People's Congress and join anti-government protests at an anti-Saleh demonstration in the capital, Sanaa.
Another member of the GPC, prominent businessman Nabil al-Khameri, also announced his resignation to protest the violence.
Eleven MPs who had quit GPC last week have since announced forming a new parliamentary bloc, named as the "Free Deputies", headed by MP Abdo Bisher.
Yemeni troops killed four demonstrators and wounded seven others on Friday when they fired on an anti-regime rally in the northern Amran province, officials and Shiite rebels said.
The shooting came a day after the opposition and clerics offered embattled Saleh a smooth exit from power.
Saleh's government has been rocked by a wave of protests in which at least 19 people have been killed since February 16, according to an AFP toll based on reports and witnesses.
Rights group Amnesty International has put the toll at 27.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh Saturday reiterated that he would remain in power until his term ends in 2013, rejecting an opposition plan for him to step aside this year.
"The peaceful and smooth transition of power is not carried out through chaos but through the will of the people expressed through elections," an official source at the presidential office said in a statement.
The opposition Friday said Saleh was sticking to an earlier plan to step down in 2013 but had agreed to a proposal by religious leaders to revamp elections, parliament and the judicial system.
Saleh, an ally of the United States in its battle against an al Qaeda wing based in his country, has struggled to cement a truce with Shi'ite rebels in the north and quell a budding secessionist rebellion in the south.
Protests have taken place across Yemen, a country of 23 million which borders the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.
The protesters say they are frustrated with widespread corruption and soaring unemployment in a country where 40 percent of its 23 million people live on $2 a day or less and a third face chronic hunger.
Earlier Saturday witnesses told Reuters three protestors were wounded Friday evening when Yemeni security forces fired into the air and used tear gas to disperse demonstrators at a sit-in in the southern port city of Aden.
Protestors were dispersed after they had gathered at a square in the city's Sheikh Othman district following Friday prayers, the witnesses said.
Possibly more than 100,000 protested Friday in one of the largest demonstrations in Sanaa yet and similar numbers rallied in Taiz, south of the capital, a Reuters reporter said.
More than 20,000 protesters marched in Aden and tens of thousands marched in Ibb, south of Sanaa.
Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north of the country Friday accused the Yemeni army of firing rockets on a protest in Harf Sufyan, where thousands had gathered. Two people were killed and 13 injured.
(Writing by Jason Benham; Editing by Angus MacSwan)