Protests escalate as opposition calls for nationwide revolution [Archives:2007/1101/Front Page]

November 8 2007

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
ADEN, Nov. 7 ) Thousands of citizens gathered on Monday for a huge protest to express solidarity with oppressed citizens and demand that authorities address a variety of social and political issues in the Yafe' district, of Aden governorate. The angry protestors resolved to continue the peaceful sit-ins until all the citizens' demands are met and appealed to different social groups, and local and international NGOs stand against authorities' arbitrary practices against peaceful protests.

Representative of Joint Meeting Parties Abdulkhaleq Bin Shaihun, who is also a member of Parliament, confirmed in a speech before the rally that the JMP is ready to back all demands raised by the Yemeni people advocating reform, adding that the opposition bloc will support their peaceful protests. All the speeches given at the rally unanimously agreed to continue peaceful sit-ins, denounce any arbitrary use of force against demonstrations and express solidarity with families of the dead and injured.

In a statement released by representatives of the sit-in, participants deplored the continued detention of Nasser Al-Nuba and Hassan Ba Aum without considering their health conditions. The statement additionally requested that authorities reinstate those who were dismissed from their jobs, tackle educational and health issues and allow Yafe'a locals access to colleges.

The statement also denounced inflammatory fatwas delivered by mosque preachers, as ordered the state, fomenting murder of protestors. The statement referred to the sermon given by former Minister of Endowment and Guidance Nasser Al-Shaibani in Al-Janad Mosque in the presence of President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Eid Al-Fitr, labeling demonstrators as disbelievers and dissidents from Islam. The statement insisted on punishing preachers who give such fatwas. According to the protestors, Al-Shaibani's sermon on Eid Al-Fitr implied the use of weapons against them.

In an unprecedented reaction since protests began in the southern governorates, President Saleh lashed out at some political leaders who ruled South Yemen prior to unification, citing the bloody events of January 1986, the assassination of former president Salimin Rabe'e and the mass graves.

During his visit to Abyan governorate, Saleh gave a speech, published by the official media, saying, “Our people have inherited nothing more than pain, tragedies, atrocities and murder by those who were accustomed to new waves of mass killings every 4 – 5 years in the southern governorates.”

Saleh mentioned that the same elements, whom he didn't name, are the ones who compelled him to open the closed files. The Yemeni President, who has been facing increasing opposition since he was reelected in September 2006, warned those whom he described as defectors against playing with fire, with the intention of fueling chaos and violence, and shaking Yemen's security and stability.

“Citizens of the southern governorates were scattered between North Yemen and other Gulf states in search of safety during the Yemeni Socialist Party's rule,” Saleh commented. “The protests organized by retirees' societies and opposition parties aim to hinder investment and freeze investor activities.”

He interpreted the wave of wide protests in the southern governorates as a form of malice by those whom he described as 'bats of darkness', adding that they only target national development.

Upon Saleh's departure from Abyan governorate and its provincial capital Zunjubar, hundreds of Cultural Institute students and idle youths streamed into streets in a demonstration, the fiercest of its kind for months. Demanding that authorities improve their living standards, the protestors found that police were shooting randomly and arresting some of them, who are still detained in an Abyan prison.

Security forces beat the demonstrators with cudgels while dispersing them, leaving many of them wounded, different media sources reported.

Al-Dhale' governorate witnessed last Thursday a eulogistic rally involving thousands of locals. The rally was attended by many representatives of political parties, societies and organizations in the governorates of Taiz, Ibb, Lahj, Aden, Abyan, Shabwa, Hadramout and Sana'a, as well as civil community organizations leaders and members of Parliament (MPs) from different governorates.

At the rally, some participants delivered speeches vowing to continue their peaceful demonstrations until the government responds to all the legal demands of Yemeni citizens regarding changing government systems and stopping the steady deterioration in various political and economic areas.

Many of those who gave speeches stressed the necessity of staging peaceful sit-ins, by which retirees and youth could collaborate with social and political groups. Civil community organizations provided the best examples of backing legal demands and denouncing policies of liquidation, starvation, corruption and price hikes.

Concluding the rally, participants announced preparations for widespread protests in all Yemeni governorates on the 40th anniversary of Independence Day, which occurs on Nov. 30. They called for holding activities in the different governorates at the same time of the anniversary , coinciding with a large festival planned to be staged in Aden city.

Journalist Abdulrahman Khabara said in an article published by Al-Ayyam Daily on Tuesday that “citizens in the South will no longer tolerate their miserable situation. They will no longer allow authorities to abuse their constitutional rights. They will insist on their reinstatement into the military, security and civil institutions in which they were working.”

“We told authorities to seriously deal with the current situation and suggest suitable solutions to the people's issues, as well as strengthen the principle of equal citizenship before the crisis exacerbates. But regrettably, it is the fault of the regime's arrogant policy that has been exercised since the 1994 Civil War ended,” Khabara lamented. “The protests came to resist injustice and violations of basic rights and freedoms. The government finds itself in a critical position, as it has neither negotiated with concerned organizations nor suggested radical solutions to the problems.”

According to Khabara, political instability and poor investment opportunities are not results of the sit-ins and protests. Rather, they are symptomatic of the regime's arbitrary conduct and the use of force against innocent citizens. Such conduct will only pour more oil on the blazing fire while dialogue is the best option for containing the crisis.

JMP leaders in Sana'a called on citizens of the southern governorates last week to escalate what they called 'a nationwide revolution' against the worsening situation in the South. They vowed to stand in solidarity with the oppressed citizens, who they claim suffer constantly and are denied their rights of justice and equality.

The opposition parties condemned the use of force against angry citizens claiming their constitutional rights, and demanded that the perpetrators who shed the blood of protestors be tried in courts to be punished for their actions against citizens in various governorates.