Government and opposition quarrel on the control of the most important youth organizations in YemenStruggle over controlling students union [Archives:2004/699/Reportage]

January 1 2004

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
The Students Union election at Sana'a University turned into a problem between the government and the opposition last week when the two sides exchanged accusations of practicing violence and terrorism. Some members of the union conducted a sit-in at the university campus last Monday demanding the release of their colleagues to be able to take the final term exams due next Saturday. Leaders of the union were arrested following the violent conformation between security people and members of the union who wanted to run the election to choose new leadership for the union dominated by the opposition affiliates, mainly from Islah. They even went to the parliament, delivered a message to the speaker Abdullah bin Hussien al-Ahmar, appealing his interference to get the detainees free. Security measures were intensified to face any violence or riots just like that of Tuesday where three guards of the university were injured. Dr. Saleh Basurrah, rector of the university, told Yemen Times that 12 students have been arrested due to the violent acts inside the university. “Some students will be released but those who have been involved in the violence will be prosecuted.”
Yemeni authorities said Thursday that some of the suspected people who attacked faculty of education Tuesday 23 December were arrested . But it seems that the Students Union election at Sana'a University turned into a dispute between the government and the opposition which exchanged accusations of practicing violence and terrorism as they both want to control the union.
An interior ministry official said that “some students of Sana'a University affiliated to one of the political parties, meaning Islah, backed by armed extremists from outside the university attacked one of the education college halls, crackling doors as well as hitting the guards of the university who were limited in number.” He said they were planning to conduct election for the student's union without obtaining a license from the students' affairs department of the university. He pointed out that security authorities arrested some of the perpetrators and will arrest others who will be prosecuted according to the law.
He said no leniency will be shown to law breakers, urging the people to respect law and order as well as the university campus meant for acquiring knowledge rather than exercising violence and fanaticism shown by the perpetrators. PM Abdulqader Bajamal said that those people who “broke the law and practiced violence and terrorism” would be held accountable, pledging that “it will not go unpunished.”
On its part, the opposition parties denounced arrest of the students and interference of the government to control the students union. In a press statement issued Monday, they denounced the arrest of the students, demanding their immediate release and stop of the government's interference in the independence and freedom of civil society organizations. They also demanded that “security people who were behind escalation of the problem should be held accountable”. Mohammed Kahtan, head of the political department at Islah said that “what happened at Sana'a university is a clear-cut example of the government being displeased with the remaining democratic margin,” adding “police did not only abuse the university campus but also the law and Constitution as it fired to disperse students and ban them from having their election.” “This is the true terrorism,” he stressed. The students union leadership denounced the behavior of the security authorities and described the allegations of the authorities on what happened on Tuesday as baseless as security people have been reported to have used sound bombs to disperse the angry crowd, insisting to run the election. They also condemned the arrest of tens of their friends who, according to their press statement, are now at the intelligence jail.