When children cried out: Where’s the water, governor? [Archives:2007/1050/Front Page]

May 14 2007

By: Fouad Mossed
For The Yemen Times

AL-DHALE', May 11 ) Ayman didn't spend a regular day last Thursday. Rather, he was a part of a children's demonstration led by parents demanding water. Asked what brought him out to the streets, Ayman replied, “Thirst!”

Around 100 children marched in a demonstration on the main streets of Al-Dhale' governorate last Friday, demanding clean drinking water. They held signs and shouted, “Where's the water, governor?” and “When will the water problem be solved?”

However, security forces broke up the demonstration and arrested its organizer, Mahmoud Obaid, a concerned parent from Al-Dhale'.

“There isn't a drop of water in my home, so we had no choice but to head to the streets and demand something be done. We're asking for our basic rights and what do we get in return? I was arrested for three days on charges of disrupting traffic!” Obaid complained.

Parents and local citizens in Al-Dhale' organized the march due to the area's scarce water resources. Marchers highlighted the main problems as being lack of a central water network and unavailability of nearby wells to meet the needs of Al-Dhale', a governorate of 450,000 inhabitants.

Locals depend on buying water trucks to fill rooftop tanks for their daily use, costing them large amounts of money every month.

But why involve children in the demonstration? Ayman answered this question by saying, “We leave politics and political parties to the adults, but water is our issue too. We all need water because water means life. The children were shouting, 'Water is life!' because this is the slogan of our demonstration today and it will be that of many others to come,” he added challengingly.

When security came to break up the demonstration, the children and their parents decided to turn it into a time of prayer for rain. Their prayers where answered and rain poured in Al-Dhale'. “God is merciful and kind. He answered our prayers, but the authorities just ignore our pleas,” Obaid remarked.

The district's local council Secretary-General Ahmed Talib Amin affirmed that there is a problem. “We contacted the Water Ministry and told them our concerns and the required budget to finance a central water network. The ministry agreed to the proposal and it's planned for inauguration this October.”

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Security officials justified disrupting the demonstration by saying that it wasn't licensed. However, Obaid rejects this excuse, saying that when it comes to a life and death matter such as drinking water, citizens have every right to demand water in a peaceful demonstration led by children. Yet, the head of the local council's Service Committee Abdulghani Al-Khateeb, disagreed with him and condemned the attack against the protestors and sided with the locals' right to demand water.

The problem with citizens buying water is that even when there are those in Al-Dhale' who can afford it, it isn't always available. “We have to fetch it from faraway locations, so many times, we can't attend to the requests we get from citizens,” said Fawaz Abbadi, a water truck owner who sells water in the governorate.

The water problem still persists in Al-Dhale' and parents await a solution from authorities. In the meantime, some are being driven from the city because of the problem, as housewife Umm Hamza noted, “Water is the main concern for all of us in this governorate. We're seriously considering leaving because of it.”