Protests continue, clerics advise government to reform situations [Archives:2007/1102/Front Page]

November 12 2007

Mohammed Bin Sallam
LAHJ, Nov. 11 ) Thousands of people took to the streets in Lahj city, demanding concerned authorities to immediately arrest those suspected of murdering a policeman, Majed Mohsen Ali Al-Rawaisi, who was shot dead in Dhamar last June.

Release of the accused murderers provoked rage and resentment among citizens in the victims' home district, who considered it an act of negligence and indifference on the part of security authorities against the murder of their local, who was doing his security job. The government's behavior compelled district locals to demonstrate, claiming leadership of Dhamar Security Department and the local authority to immediately capture the perpetrators and transfer them to the judiciary.

The enraged protestors blocked the Sana'a-Aden Highway, burned tires and moved rocks to the road, thereby causing traffic jams for many hours. They also raised banners on the road, demanding that concerned authorities recapture the accused and hold accountable those who freed them.

Many demonstrators opened fire at cars trying to pass through side roads and forced them to park aside. The situation compelled many cars loaded with qat leaves to detour onto rough roads, where two public transportation vehicles turned over.

Military and security troops deployed on the scene quietly dealt with the protestors, fearing confrontations with them. Receiving promises from security authorities to fulfill their demands, the protesters then unblocked the highway.

In Hajja, more than ten thousand citizens around the governorate gathered in a rally, chanting slogans against the government and ruling party and asking them to fulfill promises made by President Saleh in his electoral platform prior to his reelection last year.

“People strongly reject the government's fabricated reasons to justify price hikes and insist on it to fulfill the promises it made,” demonstration spokesmen said, listing various issues and concerns in the governorate, especially rampant corruption in government offices and the tragedies that take place at the Yemeni-Saudi border.

According to the spokesmen, locals in Hajj try to cross the border into Saudi Arabia to escape poor living standards in their homeland, but face severe abuse and attacks at the border. Hajja protestors vented their anger at the government over poor education and high school dropout rates, coupled with deteriorating healthcare in their governorate. They complained that the Hajja-based Saudi hospital is overloaded with patients, exceeding its capacity due to the unavailability of health units or government hospitals in their districts.

“Such situations will never change without popular support,” an Islah Party activist said, indicating that popular interaction with the rally is part of effective action. He clarified that change is not impossible, reminding the assembly of the ruling General People Congress's promises regarding the 'New Yemen'. The opposition activist urged the government to put a stop to security violations and misconduct spread throughout judicial agencies.

In Taiz, the Idle Youth Organization was declared on Wednesday. The organization's preparatory committee said it will organize a huge sit-in at the governorate premises on Nov. 14, along with the Unions Coordination Council and civil community organizations.

“After many years of education, you are now idle in the streets without jobs. Instead of being breadwinners for your families, policy makers in the government insist that you remain dependent on your families and community,” the committee said in a statement addressed to unemployed youth. It added, “Taiz, once the city of science, culture and talent, has turned into a venue for unemployment. Natives of the city are now migrating to other places in search of better incomes to sustain their families.”

The committee demanded that the government suggest a clear recruitment policy and endorse transparency and fair distribution of jobs. It also insisted that the government eradicate bribes and favoritism regarding job distribution, and end unemployment by the end of 2008, according to the promises made by the GPC presidential candidate during his campaign rallies for last year's elections.

The Yemen Center for Human Rights (YCHR) expressed its concern about the development of demonstrations staged by military and civil retirees in southern and eastern governorates, which are leading the nation to an unprecedented catastrophe, it claims.

According to the YCHR, current military institutions are the primary reason behind a monopoly of power, and is therefore leading the country towards devastating collapse. It confirmed that the Document of Pledge and Accord contained workable solutions to this problem, advocating a fair geographical distribution of military colleges and institutes throughout the nation.

The YCHR mentioned that the country is in urgent need of a comprehensive reform process to rescue the nation from fragmentation. It said that retirees are entitled to hold protests and sit-ins, voice their concerns and enjoy the rights of equal citizenship.

The center condemned the policy of imprisonments, threats and intimidation the regime exercises to subdue protests and crack down on demonstrators. It demanded that the government release the detainees, compensate those whose property was damaged and form an investigative committee with human rights groups known for their independence and neutrality.

The center strongly criticized the liquidation policy, which the regime exercises within military and security institutions to eliminate certain employees, like what has happened to some Taiz locals since the coup attempt planned by the Nasserite Party.

On a side note, Women Journalists Without Chains condemned threats against its chairwoman Tawakul Karaman over her participation in protest rallies in Radfan and Al-Dhale', as part of the escalated opposition to consequences of Yemen's civil war in 1994. The organization released a statement saying that Karaman received messages on her cell phone telling her to stay at her home if she wants to live in peace. The messages threatened her and her family, accusing Karaman of trying to damage national unity.

Religious scholars in Aden and Hadramout released a joint statement urging the state to correct its mistakes, review its policy and fulfill people's legal demands. According to the statement, the state should restore people's rights, take firm measures against corrupt officials, resolve price hikes, prevent a power monopoly in the country, and fight financial, administrative and judicial corruption.

Circulated by different media, the statement confirmed that Muslims are entitled to claim their legal rights and voice their demands and concerns via peaceful means, apart from rioting or chaos that helps encourage looting of property and embezzlement of public funds.

Signed by 22 religious scholars, the statement warned of underestimating threats of the most recent events that took place nationwide, particularly in the southern governorates. It stated that such events might shake Yemen's security and stability and do harm to national unity, urging the authority to resolve them.