The struggle of anti-government protesters in Yemen
Protest in the Middle East has risen recently since January 2011 and Yemen is not far off from the exchange of ideas sweeping the Middle East like a wind of change. Yemen has for the past few weeks now have engaged in peaceful demonstrations demanding an end to the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh which has lasted for over 32 years.
It was in late 2010 and early 2011, protesters started to demand President Saleh end his three-decade long reign in power with allegations of widespread corruption and human rights abuses carried out by Saleh himself, as well as the lack of democratic reforms. The growing unrest in his country led him to release statement on February 2, 2011, that he would no longer seek reelection in 2013, but rather would finish out his term. The people started to lose confidence in his regime and at least 11 Members of Parliament resigned from his party, with the growing protest in Yemen.
It was only on Tuesday March 8, 2011 when hundreds of tribesmen from the town of Khawlan in the Sana’a governorate organized a convoy of over 200 cars to join the anti-Saleh Protesters camping outside the Sana’a University campus in the capital. Protests were occurring all over the country simultaneously in Mareb Province which is approximately 170 kilometers east of Sana’a to also showed support. Police used live ammunition to disperse thousands of peaceful protesters in two of Yemen’s southern governorates, but no deaths or causalities were reported.
The peaceful anti-government protests were shattered with heavy gun fire being heard south of the Yemen Capital on Monday the 14th of March 2011 when almost 40 protesters were injured when police opened fire to disperse demonstrations in Yemen, a strategic US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, officials said.
At least eight people have died in a clashes since Saturday March 12th, raising the death toll from this unrest in Yemen to over 50. The United States, who have spoken highly of Saleh as a bulwark against the workings of al-Qaeda network in Yemen, has condemned the bloodshed and backed the human right to peaceful demonstrations.
Soldiers and armored vehicles tried to cut off an area in the capital of Sanaa, where around 20, 000 anti-government supporters have been camped out for weeks. Taha Qayed who was supporting the movement said in a statement “We’re expecting an attack at any minute, but we’re not leaving until the regime fails.” The anti-government protesters have attempted to demonstrate peacefully but they are facing a government that is armed and ready to shoot to kill at any given time.
Crowds have been recorded chanting “Leave, leave you murderer.” Police fired in the air to try to break up tens of thousands of protesters in Taiz, 200 Kilometers south of the capital Sanaa. There was at least three people hurt but protest continues in the Middle East.
Saleh already has made many verbal concessions to the protesters to return home, promising to step down in 2013 and offering a new constitution giving more powers to parliament, but he has continued to avoid the main demand of the people which is that he leave office immediately. He recently fired his entire Cabinet because their support of him as President was diminishing.
As an update: Tanks have been deployed in Sanna, the capital city and there are further reports of dozens of killings. Top General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar now says he will back the protesters. Another two senior army commanders have also resigned. Discussions are now taking place to arrange President Saleh’s resignation over the next year and a peaceful transition of power.