Monday, March 7, 2011

What is happening in Aden ?

Written by: Mr. Alaa Isam and Nashwan AlOthmani

The world’s media have been timid and weak when it comes to reporting what is going on, this is not to mention the unreliable reporting of the social networks (Facebook, Twitter, blogs). The only reliable evidence of what is going on is the growing number of videos and photos that have been taken by those who wish to show the world what is happening in Aden.

Daily life

In general, daily life appears to be to an extent ‘normal’, trading outlets are open, yet not for long, usually closing around 7 or 8 p.m. Buses and taxis are operating at a capacity to ensure that people are able to carry out their normal activities.

Except that all that was described of the normal Adeni day is dependent on the events of the day. For the days where there are announcements that there will be big protests via the social networks, text messages, or emails, there is a complete standstill in activity. Shops do not open their doors, roads are clear of pedestrians and traffic, and employees and students do not go their respective workplaces and schools.

The security situation

Whilst travelling around Aden it is clear that there is a feeling of an unnanounced security alert. The roads leading to and from the 8 departments that make up the governate are blocked with government checkpoints. The departments which have seen the most unrest, such as Mansoura, Ma’ala, and Khormaskar have seen armed army vehicles, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, and army personnel from time to time.

The road blockade on Aden means that those coming from other governates to Aden cannot, apart from rare cases such as families and medical emergencies, and of course qat, which comes from the governate of al-Dhalie, a distance of 92 km to the north.

Depending on the unrest in the day’s protests there is an equal ratcheting up of the security situation, and the inhumane response of the army and the security services, deploying their heavy artillery. It appears that the videos of the attacks on the peaceful protesters in Mansoura, Ma’ala, and Khormaskar are the only way of showing what is going on on the ground.

The protests

I believe that the day the security forces fear the most in Aden is Friday. After Friday prayers the worshippers leave their mosques in the various departments of Aden, and come out into the streets. If there was no response from the security forces in Aden it is probable that the city would fall to the protesters in a dramatic and fast manner. Therefore, on Fridays, we see a huge deployment of the security forces and the army, with their light and medium artillery, in an attempt to repel any gathering or movement that would take the situation out of the hands of their choking hold.

On a geographical note to the protests, there have been two major gatherings in Aden city, one in Mansoura, and one in Crater. This does not mean that there have not been protests in the other departments, for there have been sporadic protests in Dar al-Saad, Khormaskar, Sheikh Othman, Ma’ala, Tawahi, and Little Aden, and they could become permanent as the days go by.


Without a doubt it is the youth who have called for these protests and demonstrations, for they are the biggest demographic on the ground, and in the mix of the events. Howeverm, the Adeni street is not operating solely on the orders of the youth movement. There are other organisations which are attempting to move the youth in different directions, and are attempting to appear on the ground and in the media.

    The Southern Movement:

The principal movement. It has emphasised, since the beginning of the protests in Aden, that it should help this bravery of the youth, and it has translated this into the appearances that the leaders of the movement, have made at the protests. Notable leaders such as Hassan Ba’oum, Qassim Askar Jibran, Qasim Othman al-Da’iri, Ali bin Ali Shokri, Dr Yihya Shaif al-Shuaibi, and Dr Aidroos al-Hirri, have appeared, along with others. Calls have been made for the protests in the governates of Lahj, Dhalie, Abyan, and Hadhramout, to the city of Aden, in an attempt that can be seen as supporting the youth, and maintaining the momentum.

It is important to remember that the areas that can be said to be under the control of the Southern Movement are Khormaskar, Mansoura, Daar al-Saad, Sheikh Othman, and Little Aden.

    Islah Party (Muslim Brotherhood):

Members of the Islah Party have been moving energetically and clearly; in the protests in Crater, Ma’ala, and Tawahi, they led the street protests, and supported the movement in an orderly manner. In the Crater protests, especially the Friday protests, they joined with vehicles manned by members of the Islah Party, in order to help any of those injured during the protests, especially those under the fire of the security forces.

Also, the members of the Islah Party are those who carry the microphones that send out the slogans, and they are the ones that gather worshippers after Friday prayers to protest, and I have seen this up close myself.

In the other departments, such as Mansoura, Sheikh Othman, Daar al-Saad, and Little Aden, the members of the Islah Party do not take leadership positions, as they have done in Crater, Ma’ala, and Tawahi.

    Socialist Party:

The party ruled the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) for 12 years, and the state still talks of the agenda of the Socialist Party, which is apparently a call for the citizens to separate, or what is being called ‘breaking the connection’ by many of the Southern Movement. The movement’s message is becoming clearer now, with the announcements being made in the name of ‘The Socialist Party Movement – Aden’, in addition to the emergence of a number of leaders of the Socialist Party who are speaking to the media on behalf of the media. This is in addition to some of its youth members who are taking part in the demonstrations, despite the Socialist Party members not taking on the same level of leadership as the members of Islah have. However, they are appearing prominently in the Khormasker department that is seeing statements being released by the Socialist Party backing up the calls of the Southern Movement.

    Marginal movements:

There is also movement on the ground by other marginal movements which are not large in number. The current role of these groups is to simply grow. Firstly there is the ‘Association of the Sons of Yemen’ (Raiy) party, the party that brought about the first women’s protest in Aden calling for the fall of the regime. A number of the participants in this protest were female members of the ‘Raiy’ party, in addition to a number of prominent figures in the Socialist Party.

Independent and liberal parties have had little impact. A number of other groups with specific agendas have attempted to attract protesters from other parties. One such person at the protest in Crater said that he had left his job and had come to protest with his brothers, the youth, in Aden. When I asked him about how much he and those with him had, he replied that he had $10,000, half of which he had gathered from his old job in Sana’a where he was a manager at a maintenance company for medical supplies. The other half he gathered from donations from some businessmen relatives of his, who come from the Yafai region that is separated between the Lahj and Abyan regions, where they transfer to him sums of money in Saudi Riyals. In this manner he is able to support the youths in their protests to bring down the regime, according to him.

In conclusion…

Signs of local contestation over the leadership and direction of the street protest are clear to the observer. It has actually started in Crater, where there were fistfights between Islah Party members and some youth who supported the Southern Movement. This ended with there being two protests, one by the Islah Party calling for the fall of the regime and fighting corruption, and the other supporting the Southern Movement which raised banners calling for separation and the return of the separate country.

There have also been indicators of an alliance between the Southern Movement and the Socialist Party in Aden. The Islah Party has been incubating the other movements and parties who are more inclined to support them, and are more open to, in an attempt to make themselves familiar to the street.

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