Ra’ash locals stage sit-in before Parliament [Archives:2007/1025/Front Page]

February 15 2007

By: Moneer Al-Omari
SANA'A, Feb. 13 ) Dozens of Ra'ash locals staged a sit-in Tuesday in front of Parliament to protest against suppressive acts by Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed Mansour and his son, Member of Parliament Mohammed. The sit-in came after local authorities in Ibb failed to solve their problems.

The demonstrators lifted photos of President Ali Abdullah Saleh while repeating, “We have none but Ali!” the same slogan frequently heard during last year's presidential campaign. Protestors said they chanted the words in order to show that they belong to the General People's Congress and not to opposition parties as alleged by those close to Sheikh Mansour.

Reacting to the villagers' demands, Parliament formed a fact-finding committee chaired by Hymir Al-Ahmar to look into their complaints. The committee immediately sent a letter to Interior Minister Rashad Al-Alimi and Attorney General Abdullah Al-Olifi requesting clarification of the incidents.

The committee said it will make a field visit to Ra'ash to better understand the circumstances of the incidents if both the Interior Ministry and prosecution don't respond positively to their letter.

Attorney Khalid Al-Anisi, executive director of the National Committee for Defending Rights and Freedoms (known as HOOD), criticized the committee's delay in making a field visit to investigate the issues, which have become public knowledge and known both inside and outside Yemen.

He also requested the majority ruling party bloc stand by their party affiliates in Ra'ash and furthermore, to visit the area and sort out their affiliates from those of other parties.

Attorney and HOOD member Abdurrahman Barman expressed his surprise at the lax attitude of Ibb security authorities toward Sheikh Mansour's violations.

He told opposition newspaper Nass press that such attitude reveals their leniency toward the sheikh. He further declared that those who appeared on the Al-Jazeera satellite program, “This Evening” were all from Ra'ash and that HOOD has the material evidence.

For their part, the Joint Meeting Parties in Ibb denounced Ibb security department's stance regarding the troubles of Ra'ash villagers and asked the authorities to form a national committee, including representatives from Parliament and civil society organizations, to conduct a field visit to more fully understand what's going on.

In their letter to Parliament, Ra'ash locals alleged that Sheikh Mansour's militia had arrested and abducted numerous villagers, adding that many also had been detained in the sheikh's private prisons.

The letter mentioned other violations the sheikh's henchmen committed, including levying taxes on villagers, confiscating furniture, cattle and land, forcing citizens to buy back their own land and suspending employee salaries.

Earlier this month, dozens of men and children left Ra'ash and camped for seven days in a deserted area approximately an hour's walk from the village. They sought to make a political statement to protest Sheikh Mansour's continual mistreatment and violations against them, implying that they couldn't bear it any longer and asking concerned authorities to curb such violations.