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Protests continue over ‘Life March’ killings

Published on 28 December 2011 in News
Shatha Al-Harazi (author)

Shatha Al-Harazi


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Though many who marched as far as 270 km met with violence at the hands of Sana’a’s security forces, by nightfall a rapturous welcome awaited them.

Though many who marched as far as 270 km met with violence at the hands of Sana’a’s security forces, by nightfall a rapturous welcome awaited them.

SANA’A, Dec. 25 - Tension has returned to Sana’a, after a five-day  ‘Life March’ from Taiz to the Yemeni capital protesting Saleh’s GCC-sponsored immunity from prosecution ended in the death of at least 13 protesters on Saturday.

Although the interior minister had vowed to protect the peaceful march, at least 13 protesters were killed by live ammunition when they reached Sana’a on Saturday. Security forces were deployed all over the city. Tear gas and sewage were used to disperse the march.

However, the minister created a committee to investigate the killings revoking all rumors that claimed he resigned because of this incident.

Mohammed Basundwa, prime minister of the new ‘National Unity’ government has said that he will resign if those responsible for the killings are not identified within 48 hours, according to Al-Khaleej newspaper.

President Saleh, in a press conference on Saturday evening, held the new government responsible for the attacks, for the first time pointing the finger at the government rather than to his opponents, defected major Ali Mohsen and the Ahmar family.

At the time of writing, Sunday afternoon, violence continued in the capital’s Change Square, where protesters rallied to denounce the killings. At least seven were injured and others were detained over fighting on the square’s main stage. In other parts of the country,

marches also protested the killings.

Independent youth had decided to set out on the 250-km-long march from Taiz to Sana’a to protest against the Gulf initiative signed in Riyadh last November by Saleh and the opposition. Under the GCC-sponsored deal, Saleh’s power is transferred to his deputy but he remains honorary president until presidential elections planned in February

2012. The agreement ensures that 50 percent of government members are from the opposition, but grants Saleh and members of his regime immunity from prosecution.

On the Life March’s Facebook page, organizers had written: “It is a live expression of not recognizing the former government a part of which has been kept, and an expression of not recognizing the GCC initiative. It is a demonstration that we will uphold the objectives

of our peaceful revolution until they are achieved.”

Protesters marched to “show loyalty to martyrs and the injured in Taiz,” “demand the trial of those involved in crimes against protesters and those who steal our country’s resources,” “renew revolutionary energy in the different governorates crossed,” and “affirm the unity of te Yemeni people.”

Around 2,000 protesters left Taiz on Tuesday, Dec.20, and were received with joy in the villages and cities they passed. Others joined them on the way, and by the time they reached Ibb they were 4,000 protesters. By the time they reached Dhamar, they had become 7,000. At Naqeel Yasleeh, 60 kilometer from Sana’a, they were 100,000

protesters. Finally by the time they reached Sixty-Meter Road in Sana’a, they were over 500,000 protesters, according to a protest leader.

By the time protesters reached Sana’a they were exhausted. They marched peacefully in areas and neighborhoods that marches in Sana’a had previoulsy not reached. Protesters danced and chanted that the revolution would win and that Saleh would be executed. Residents received the march standing by the side of the road, with women ululating and men chanting “Welcome!” Some distributed candies.

“This is truly a historical day, we shall kiss the feet of those who came all the way from Taiz to reclaim our revolution after it was hijacked by the politicians,” said Mohammed Fare’e, a protester.

The march aimed to protest in Saba’een area near the presidential place, and parliament to protest against Saleh’s immunity from prosecution. The march however split in Sana’a, with part of the protesters marching through Sixty-meter Road to Change Square, while others at the end of the march decided to camp in Forty-five Street, less than two kilometers away from the presidential palace. They were attacked by security forces.

Meanwhile, controversy has stirred up over a statement made by US Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein in an interview with Yemeni journalists on Saturday saying, “Provocations could lead to further reaction and violence.»

On Facebook, some Yemeni users have read this statement as justification for killing the protesters.  A page entiltled “US ambassador Gerald Feierste leave or apologize” has appeared on the social networking website.

However, a source at the US embassy said that a day before the march, the embassy was in contact with Yemeni officials urging restraint and advising them to allow peaceful protestors to march to the square.

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