January 8-15: US official optimistic about port access; WaPo previews UN Expert Panel report


The Economist published an article on the recent movements of the Yemeni National Army. The Army had previously been trapped in a year-long stalemate, but have recently started making progress toward Hudaydah, as well as making gains in al-Jawf in the north and Shabwah in the south. The Economist attributed these recent movements to the opportunities that have been created from shifting alliances since Saleh’s death in December.

Afrah Nasser asserted in an article published by openDemocracy that Yemen continues to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. One point of particular concern to Nasser is the face that the number of civilian deaths reported is inconsistent with the level of suffering that is occurring on the ground.

سقط النظام

The adjective most heard this hour on Al Jazeera has been "indescribable." Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has resigned and turned the country over to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, after an eighteen-day popular—and mostly peaceful—revolution. All of us at the Yemen Peace Project are overjoyed at this development, though I for one am also apprehensive. Military governments have a spotty track record, and have been known to hold onto power beyond their original mandate. The future of Egypt is still in question. Yemen today has also seen another round of popular protests, especially in the south, where February 11 was a day of mass demonstrations for independence. It's not clear to me to what extent the pro-secession movement has merged with other popular demonstrations against the regime. It does seem, from preliminary reports, that today's protests were handled peacefully by the Yemeni security forces, which is a change, and may be a result of the increased scrutiny that Arab regimes now face in these situations.

Hopefully we'll have more news about today's demos later on. For now, Jane Novak has posted some videos from 'Aden and Zinjibar (despite Jane's insistence, Zanzibar is still in Tanzania, not Yemen).


Alaa Isam, an activist and blogger from 'Aden, has new videos from today's protests in the south:


Mass demonstrations in San‘a are scheduled to begin at 10:0 am tomorrow—just ten hours from now. According to Yemeni activists on Twitter, San‘a's Tahrir Square, which is one block from the Yemeni parliament, and surrounded by other government buildings, has been occupied by "armed thugs." Accordingly, protest organizers plan to gather their followers near the university, on the other side of town, instead. Yesterday's announcement from President ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Salih that he would neither seek reelection nor allow his son to run for the presidency seems to have been accepted by the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP)—the opposition coalition that includes Islah and the Yemeni Socialist Party—but it may not satisfy the street. The internet is a poor indicator for real-world events, especially in places like Yemen, where so few people have internet access on a good day, but judging from the current buzz, I expect tomorrow's demonstrations to draw significant crowds.

Some observers have minimized earlier protests, saying that they were little more than opposition party rallies. Tomorrow will see events in several cities organized by the JMP, but I think we'll also see expressions of real popular anger, which the parties may not be able to contain. The presence of "thugs" in advance of the protests is very worrisome, especially in light of today's tragic events in Cairo. It also means that Salih and his party haven't yet decided how to handle these events. Will they offer more concessions and let the citizens blow off steam, or will they crack down? I think the answer may depend on the scale of tomorrow's demonstrations. But then again, I said in my last post that I wouldn't be making any more predictions. The best any of us can do is work for change, and hope for peace.


The sun is rising now in San‘a, and although I'm thousands of miles away, I am extremely uneasy about the coming day. Massive demonstrations are scheduled to begin in a few hours in San‘a and in other cities. These are meant to be peaceful protests, but recent developments make peace unlikely. As I write this I'm listening to Al Jazeera's live coverage of the battle in Cairo's Tahrir Square, which in 24 hours has changed, in Al Jazeera's words, from a festival to a war zone. According to Twitter, San‘a's Tahrir Square has been preemptively occupied by pro-government forces. Security forces have allegedly lined the streets in other parts of the city.

Governments do not send soldiers into the streets to maintain peace, but to enforce their will. I've promised twice now not to make predictions, but what's happening right now in Egypt feels like the prelude to a massacre. The government, which just days ago seemed to be on the verge of collapse, is still firmly in control, and its proxy forces now occupy positions surrounding the protesters. I really hope I'm reading the situation wrong, but the constant sound of gunfire gives some credence to my theory.

Earlier today, according the website of Yemen's ruling party, US President Barack Obama called President Salih to congratulate him on his "wise decision" to offer (totally meaningless) concessions to the opposition. The US government has continuously criticized Egypt's violent crackdown on protests, but has done nothing at all to really discourage the repression. Now with the blessing of his American patron, what reason will President Salih have to restrain his own response to anti-government demonstrations?

We at the YPP want nothing more than to see the Yemeni people express their grievances in public, and to have their voices heard. I and my co-directors would give anything to be in San‘a this morning. At the same time, I am terrified for the Yemeni people. The international community, despite its harsh language, is content to stand by while Mubarak's regime in Egypt attacks its own citizens; America has not hesitated in the recent past to fund and carry out attacks on Yemeni civilians, so we can be sure that if tomorrow's protests turn violent, no one in the outside world will come to the aid of the people.

We support and praise our brothers and sisters in Yemen who are exercising their rights of expression and protest, and we strongly condemn any violent response to popular protest. We hope that the United States government, from the lowest embassy officers to Secretary Clinton and President Obama, understand that they will bear responsibility for any violence against the Yemeni people, and we urge them to do everything in their power to prevent such violence.

Finally, we encourage our friends in Yemen to share their views and their experiences with us, and with the wider world, by sending emails, writing on our discussion boards, tweeting, and texting; and we urge the Yemeni and foreign media to cover today's events responsibly, in all their complexity. We will post updates as we are able.

P.S. Yemenis without internet access can post messages to Twitter by leaving voicemails at the following international phone numbers: +16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855.

A Jordanian interlude

I said in my previous post that Yemen has been given short shrift by the Egypt-obsessed media (though not without reason). Recent protests in Jordan have also missed out on the limelight, though they may prove to be as successful (if not more) than the demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt. I know almost nothing about Jordanian politics; today's guest blogger knows a great deal. Dr. Catherine Warrick is Professor of Political Science at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. She is the author of the book Law in the Service of Legitimacy, a brilliant scholar, and a friend of the Yemen Peace Project. She generously shares her observations on Jordan here: As protests have spread across North Africa and through the Arab world, news reports have speculated about whether Jordan’s regime will “fall” just as Egypt’s is poised to do. The short answer is “no” – and that’s probably a good thing. As delighted as we all are by the ouster of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, it’s important to keep in mind that these countries are not all the same. Even the protesters, inspired by similar conditions and taking to the streets with similar demands for reform, don’t all want the same outcomes.

Egyptians have made it clear from the beginning that Mubarak himself must go; the regime is deeply unpopular all the way to the top, and with nearly every sector of society. But Jordanian protesters, although serious about demanding reform, are not calling for the crown to topple. No one is demanding that the king step down – they’re demanding that he do a better job of addressing specific economic and governance problems. So far, he’s listening. King Abdullah has replaced his prime minister, Samir al-Rifa’i, condemned corruption, and promised reforms. If he follows through on these reforms quickly, this will likely be enough to satisfy most protesters in Jordan.

This is not to say that King Abdullah is particularly beloved throughout society, or that he can magically erase all of Jordan’s problems right away; he’s an authoritarian leader, not a fairy godfather. But he seems willing to do the job required of him in the present circumstances, and if he makes real reforms in Jordanian politics, then in the interests of peace and development, we should probably wish him well. --CW, 1 Feb. 2011

Rage and roses

While the eyes of the world have shifted from Tunis to Cairo and become fixated there for the time being, Yemen--always the global blind spot--has been stirring as well. The always-insightful Brian O'Neill has been blogging up a storm at Always Judged Guilty since last week; we at the YPP meanwhile have maintained a cautious quiet. It is far too soon to make predictions about what the ongoing public protests in Yemen will achieve, but it's clear that they will have a serious—and possibly permanent—impact on the larger political and social situation there.