In another dispatch from our anonymous scholar in San‘a, we see some of the maneuvering behind the current dialogue (or lack thereof) between Saleh and the opposition. We also get details from an eyewitness of the recent violence against protesters in ‘Aden. Like earlier guest posts, the following has been only minimally edited, and does not necessary represent the positions of the Yemen Peace Project.
This past Wednesday saw another attempt by President Saleh to re-engage the opposition party (JMP) and revive the dialogue process that would aim at stopping the wave of protests throughout Yemen, as well as preventing a scenario similar to Egypt or Tunisia. This attempt was spearheaded by the same group of Ulama that met with Saleh and Abdul Majid al-Zindani last week. The Ulama met with the leadership of the JMP in order to persuade the opposition to rethink their decision rejecting Saleh’s offer of a national unity government.
The Ulama are identified with the regime, so their influence at this time seems to diminish, just as we’ve seen Zindani’s Friday sermon to have clearly failed to win Saleh any gains vis-à-vis protesting youth at Sana’a University. It was reported by an individual close to those meeting with the Ulama that Shaykh Hamid al-Ahmar was absent during the meeting but managed to relay a message via telephone to the JMP committee and instructed the group to reject any and all proposals. His influence clearly persuaded the group as they rejected proposals presented by the Ulama.
It is said that the Ulama are presenting an honest effort to avert any violence or a larger wedge between regions of Yemen. Some Ulama at the meeting attempted to persuade the party by indicating that if they rejected the proposals any social conflict would be on their shoulders and their responsibility for any injuries/deaths. Zindani’s role, in society and during the protests, played an important part in persuading the JMP to sit with the Ulama, but it is doubtful it will ultimately persuade non-Islah members of JMP to heed calls for Dialogue and a national unity government.
A Small group of around six JMP members drafted a document with five points on Wednesday. These points were then forwarded to Ali al-Ansi (Head of National Security and Saleh’s Presidential Office) who initially believed they were fairly ‘ambiguous’. This was reported by al-Wassat newspaper in the afternoon, which led some people to believe al-Ansi began to engage a media PR battle to influence the process. It is said al-Ansi called the JMP group and accepted the five points, which were forwarded to Saleh. The group presented the document, which it called ‘The Key to Solution’, primarily to appease the Ulama group and present an attempt at reconciliation, but people close to the group say it is in fact ambiguous.
5 key points to solution:
- [guarantee] right to demonstrate and protest
- open investigation [into] violence vs protesters / punish responsible and court /compensation to families
- smooth peaceful transition based on Saleh’s promises – no extension, no reelection, no inheritance
- provide time schedule within this year based on Saleh’s suggestions
- communication w/ all political actors inside and outside Yemen for dialogue
There are two issues that are most interesting about the five points. One, what is missing. None of the points demand the removal of Saleh’s family members from government positions. This has been a primary demand from protesters from Sana’a to Taiz and Aden. Second, the group mentions political actors inside and outside Yemen, clearly referring to southern exile leaders. While president Saleh has often mentioned they would be welcomed in Yemen and included in the National Dialogue process, not many people in Yemen really see a role for al-Attas, al-Baidh or Ali Nasser, never mind can they assure their safety.
It has also been reported that president Saleh’s uncle, shaykh Ali Maqsa’a (mashaykh of Senhan), in the presence of Shaykh Dah’mash and Shaykh al-Qardai gave his ‘assib (jambiyya and belt) to Khawlan tribe a couple of days ago as apology for having been stopped at Sana’a’s check point and prevented from entering Sanaa.
Soon after Zindani’s speech, youth at Sana’a University made their position clear through their strong chants of ‘No GPC, No Islah’. The chants reinforce speeches by young activists from the main stage during Zindani’s speech and since Friday. A clear message to all parties that the youth will not allow any party or political personality to hijack ‘their protests’. It is also clear that the youth believe there is no need for middle men in the process. Their problem is with the president and only they will solve it.
It is reported that up to 12,000 meals per day are being provided each day by ‘caterers’ paid by donors. This information continues to show evidence of a clear presence of organization and contact between the youth and major donors. Islah is making attempts, through youth from the Student Association, to inject funds to the movement in order to control protests and agenda.
Deaths in southern provinces did not originate with the February 3rd protests, rather they have been a constant reality since 2007, when the Southern Movement began to demonstrate from al-Dhale to Abyan in favor of secession. Nonetheless, what we witness in Aden (Crater, Shaykh Othman, al-Mansura and other areas) the whole month of February has clearly been a part of a strategy from the top to legitimize aggressive policies.
Observers indicate president Saleh’s strategy is to have Southern populations express such hate for him that it will have southerners simply focused on a secessionist discourse. this will allow Saleh to rally support in the north and grant him a ‘legitimate’ purpose for his use of force there. He would hope this strategy will safeguard his ONLY legacy, Unification.
A friend who just returned from Aden provided some very intimate accounts of what occurred last week, when deaths were reported from among peaceful protesters.
The most revealing information addresses the role of security forces in the killing of peaceful protesters. Observers mentioned that Central Security forces, training by the US for CT operations, are on the frontline in shootings and killings by snipers who were given different army uniforms in order to avoid being identified and avoid repercussions from governments such as the US and UK who have committed further funding for the army and special forces for CT operations. Personnel trained for operations against AQAP are now used against Yemeni civilians in the south.
The following is the account as written by my friend….
Five people were arrested and the criminal investigation stalled with their families, they were taken to al-Mansura jail, then they were transported to Sana`a on a military aircraft. These five people are thought to be members of the Southern Movement .
They are at least three university professors and one engineer and a former ambassador. They were arrested at the house of one of them when the Central Security forces broke into the house.
Another case of forceful disappearance for a man called Hasan Ba`um, which is around 75 years old , and believed to be a leader in the Southern Movement, he was at Al-Naqib hospital for medical check up, he suffers from diabetes and hypertension, and he was arrested in the hospital .
12 people confirmed and reported killed from the 15th – 25 of February 2011.
These are called martyrs in the local society and funerals took place for some of them, and others are still in the morgue of Al-jumhuria hospital since their families refuse to take the bodies and their families demand a just forensic examination and a just trial for the criminal behind their sons murder .
The families of the killed people claim that the central security forces shot and killed those people in the protests, and the families also say that some of the people killed were protesters and others were trying to escape and some others were just walking in the street and at least one of them – Moqbil Al-Kazimi – was murdered while he was trying to save and rescue a shot kid named ” Muhammad Munir “.
Locals and protesters and eye witnesses accuse central security and national security with these murders, forceful disappearances and arrests.
Eye witnesses testify the presence of snipers from central security, climb on top of buildings and hotels during the times of demonstrations which are described as peaceful.
False names and incidences are being exchanged in the local society for killed and arrested people , and unfortunately these false names might be confirmed by doctors , paramedics and journalists , despite the fact that we had interviews with the families and relatives and confirmed our own list.
In some lists , same people are mentioned twice by changing the last name or the second and last name , for instance Muhamad al-Alwani was verified to be Muhammad Sha`in , and he was mentioned twice .
At least one is reported unknown where no one knows anything about him except his first name which is claimed to be Ghassan .
Central security forces have violated so many of human rights , and after the statements and the press releases which say that the Yemeni forces and counter terrorist unit , trained by American funds, were used against the charters agreed on”, the central security forces changed their uniforms to Army uniform, but they still drive around in Central Security vehicles and receive daily food through Central Security cars and their former hats which are of blue color, the fact that exposes them .
Also one of the names reported killed , and during my visits to the families of what is so called martyrs, we drove by the house of Muhammad Salih Bin Salih , and he was reported killed, and we met this very man, and he said that he was shot with a rubber bullet in his left leg , and was attacked by water cannon with boiled water on his feet , and also while he was throwing the tear gas grenades towards the sea near Aden Hotel , his right hand got burned .
Muhammad Salih thinks the reason why he was reported dead was because he lied on the ground for 10-15 minutes after he was shot in his leg and right before he managed to stand up again and run away.