Violent protests in Saada, peaceful in other citiesOverwhelming anger [Archives:2003/627/Front Page]

March 17 2003

Mohammed al-Qadhi
Yemen Times Staff

SANAA-Tens of thousands of Yemenis staged massive protests last Saturday against the potential US war against Iraq throughout the country.
A protest of thousands in Saada led to the outbreak of violence between protestors and police after some armed protestors approached the Political Security Organization (PSO) building in the city demanding the release of some people who were detained after they protested some time ago a visit paid by the US ambassador to Yemen Edmund Hull to the mosque of Imam Al-Hadi bin al-Hussein. Initial statistics say that one protestor died and injury of a dozen. In defense of the PSO building was the head of the PSO in Saada Yahya Al-Marrani whose efforts were instrumental in ending the conflict and preventing the protest from destroying the building. An eyewitness said that at least two people were wounded when police forces responded by firing at them.
Ten persons were arrested. In Sana'a the police fired at the protestors when they wanted to enter the UN office along with those political parties representatives who submitted a message of protest to the UN representative. No injuries were reported but one of the protestors was arrested but was later released.
Protests in the rest of the country were mostly peaceful. Protests staged in Sana'a and other governorates came as a result of president Saleh's call to his people last Wednesday to protest the war which he described as unjust and terrorizing. Senior political parties' leaders including Dr. Abdulkareem al-Iryani, political advisor to the President, Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, Sheikh Abdulmajeed al-Zindani and others took part in the demonstrations.
The protestors in Sanaa including school teachers and civil workers, who gathered at al-Tahreer Square in the city center. Al-Iryani addressed the crowd by condemning the war which he called an act of imperialism. He said that all Yemeni people are against the war which threatens peace and stability worldwide. Al-Ahmar urged the Arab leaders to act in a responsible manner that reflects the wish and will of their people who oppose the war. On his part, Zindani called for Jihad (Islamic holy war) and demanded that military camps be opened to train young people who can take part in the war against the US. He also demanded that borders should be opened for those fighters to go to Iraq.
Police imposed strict security measures on protestors who carried banners reading phrases condemning the war and both the US and the UK. These mottos indicated that the main purpose of the war is to support the state of Israel. Among the slogans were “death to US and Israel”. They also carried photos of Saddam Hussein and Hassan Nasr Allah despite the fact that the organizing committee requested them not carry any pictures except those of President Saleh.
Other protests took place in Taiz, Amran and other cities. In a unique move in Hajjah, thousands of people who protested the war there declared their readiness to donate their own guns and ammunition to support the Iraqi people.