Four killed, six injured in Shia Ghadir day celebrations [Archives:2008/1217/Local News]

December 18 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Dec. 17 ) Shafeis, Zaidis and Ismaelis affiliated with the Shia sect of Islam in many Yemeni governorates, most notably in Sa'ada, Sana'a, Al-Jawf, Marib, Amran, Lahj and Dhamar, on Tuesday marked Ghadir day.

Ghadir day celebrations in Dhamar governorate were accompanied by acts of violence that left many supporters and opponents killed or injured. Some media outlets reported that four people were killed and another six injured in clashes between participants in the celebrations in the Manar area of the governorate.

Sources mentioned that the clashes broke out after individuals from outside the district arrived to the area of Manar to participate in the Ghadir day celebrations in the house of Sheikh Ghaleb Mohammed Al-Salami, a prominent Shia Zaidi reference in the area.

The sources added that the area's residents did not allow armed people, who came from other districts, to participate in celebrations held in their districts, which led to clashes between both sides that killed four people.

They confirmed that clashes may escalate if the conflicting sides did not reach an agreement on the issue, pointing out that residents of Manar area in Dhamar's Anes District, are currently besieging 35 people who organized the celebrations and abducted two of them.

Sa'ada governorate witnessed huge celebrations on Ghadir day by Houthis, who marked the occasion in an unprecedented manner after they were allowed by security authorities to hold this kind of controversial celebrations.

Sa'ada-based sources said that the celebrations were accompanied by Shia chanting and dancing throughout the war-ravaged governorate, mainly in areas of Saqain, Haidan, Mirran, Al-Hamazat, Juma'a Bin Fadhel, Baqem, Dhahian, Majaz, Al Homaidan, Razeh, Al Al-Saifi and Matra.

Many districts in Jawf, Mareb, Hajja, Amran and Sana'a witnessed similar celebrations on the Ghadir Day, a Shia religious occasion, which was also celebrated in other governorates.

The Houthi Media Office, based in Sa'ada, said this year's celebrations included unprecedented surprises while the festivals included speeches, poetry and popular folks.

While some media outlets reported that the government had allowed Houthis to mark the Ghadir day this year on a condition they don't shoot bullets, Houthi sources confirmed that Sa'ada security authorities launched a large arrest campaign during which they arrested many citizens and threw them in the city's Muqam Prison for celebrating the Ghadir Day. The campaign provoked rage among Shia communities countrywide.

Houthis complain of unfair government treatment

Other Houthi sources complained that the government doesn't treat Houthis fairly as it arrested many of those who participated in the Ghadir day celebrations, and allowed Salafis to distribute publications hurting Houthi ideologies.

Ghadir day was once an official occasion during the reign of Imamate before the 1962 September 26 Revolution that overthrew the rule of the Imamate. The occasion remained celebrated at the popular level in many northern governorates until the first Sa'ada war in 2004 when the government attempted to ban the celebration by force under the pretext that participants imitate Shia rituals practiced outside Yemen.

The government's decision to ban Ghadir day celebrations enraged Shia residents countrywide and human rights groups also condemned the decision, labeling it as an indicator of religious oppression against Shia citizens in Yemen.

Excessive gun fire and the attempt by both sides in the Sa'ada conflict to politicize the occasion shed negative light onto the celebrations.

In Lahj governorate, Shafei residents in Yafea district on Tuesday held on a popular rally that involved many participants from nearby governorates. Marked on 19 Dhi Al-Hajja (Hegira Calendar) every year, Ghadir day has no specific religious or sectarian background as many people celebrate the occasion without knowing what it means for them.

According to participants in the Yafea-based rally, which involved thousands of people, the event changed into a peaceful protest against the government for it to acknowledge the so-called issue of South Yemen, related to enforced retirement of many military and civil servants and dismissal of others from their government jobs.