Monday, October 31At least 10,000 children in Yemen have died from preventable diseases since the war began in March 2015-- one of many disturbing statistics included in a recent statement by UNOCHA. The press release was also a plea to all parties to end the bloodshed and find an immediate political solution.
“Repeatedly over the past 19 months, the people of Yemen have been robbed of their lives, their hope and their right to live in dignity. Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands have been injured, more than three million have been forced to leave their homes, and seven million suffer the daily anxiety of not knowing where their next meal might come from.”
State department spokesperson John Kirby said in a daily press briefing that there are still no updates on the Saudi investigation into the October 8 funeral bombing, in which hundreds of civilians were killed or injured. “[The Saudis] acknowledged that mistakes had been made. But they are still working through that, and we look forward to hearing from them as they learn more and uncover more lessons learned about what happened there. So I don’t have an update...even if I did, it wouldn’t be for me to speak to it. It would be for the Saudi Government to speak to.”
A statement by US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power called for an “immediate progress on three fronts [in Yemen]: an immediate cessation of hostilities; a humanitarian surge, the likes of which we haven’t seen in Yemen for the life of this conflict; and a prompt return to political talks.”
Reuters reports on Yemen’s north-south divide and the possibility of the country’s post-war fracture. As long as parties to the conflict cannot find a path to peace, let alone a path to a unified government, Yemen’s future remains uncertain.
"We realize that they have their own interests in supporting us because our forces are effective against the Houthis," a southern politician told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "They are worried that a break-up of Yemen into two states on their borders will lead to instability, but we know that separation is the only way to make a just peace."
A few Arabic language outlets reports on clashes in southeastern Ta'iz, which resulted in the deaths of ten Houthi fighters and one pro-government soldier.
The World Food Programme's Muhannad Hadi recently returned from Yemen, and describes in an interview with NPR the scenes of devastation and famine that he was faced with.
“The state of Yemen is broken...They feel that they are dying in silence. And they feel that they have been forgotten by the entire world.”
The report includes comments from former US ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine, who says the reason the US got involved with the war in Yemen was to facilitate the Iran deal, which Saudi Arabia clearly objected to.
“This is how we got into this. We need the Saudis for the Iran deal. Nobody anticipated this would last 18 months. No one anticipated the level of carnage...Now we are complicit in a fragile state being turned into a shattered state.”
VICE News also published a report on Yemen’s impending famine, including interviews with medical staff on the ground.
Tuesday, November 1 In a daily press briefing with state department spokesperson John Kirby, one journalist asked about the seemingly contradictory position of the US government on the war in Yemen; as the US assists the Saudi-led coalition yet claims to be seeking a peaceful political solution to the conflict. Kirby responded, stating repeatedly that the US is “on the side squarely of the Yemeni people,” but justified the coalition’s intervention by saying that “the Saudi Government has a right to defend itself and they are under attack almost every day from across that border. They have a right to defend themselves.”
Al Omgy Exchange, a firm accused of carrying out financial transactions with AQAP, has been placed on the US Treasury Department’s list of groups aiding terrorist organizations. Said Salih Abd-Rabbuh al-Omgy and Muhammad Salih Abd-Rubbuh al-Omgy are on the list as well for allowing AQAP to disperse funding throughout Yemen and receive deposits, including extortion payments from Yemeni businesses.
Monday’s comments by Samantha Powers at the UN have sparked criticism from US representative Ted Lieu and humanitarian organizations, who have pointed out US hypocrisy when it comes to condemning violence in Yemen.
"Ambassador Power's remarks, calling for an end to unlawful strikes that kill civilians and hit protected civilian objects, are certainly welcome. But the U.S. has repeatedly failed to acknowledge its own role providing vital support to those airstrikes by refueling coalition planes and continuing to supply Saudi Arabia with U.S. weapons," says Priyanka Motaparthy, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Wednesday, November 2 Houthi forces have reportedly displaced 150 families from their homes near Ta’iz since clashes between the rebels and pro-government forces escalated on Monday.
Fifty families were evicted from the towns of al-Dayh and al-Rawd, west of Ta’iz, while 100 others were forced to leave al-Silw district in the east.
RT interviewed Catherine Shakdam, the Director of Programs at Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, to learn more about Saudi Arabia’s military goals in Yemen and the sources of funding that allow the conflict to continue.
Thursday, November 3 Time outlines four important points about the war in Yemen, including the impending humanitarian crisis, America’s role in the conflict, and the economic and political impact that will remain far into the future.
Coalition spokesperson Ahmed al-Asiri was interviewed by the BBC, where he listed reasons that Saudi Arabia is not to be blamed for the catastrophic situation in Yemen, adding that “Saudi Arabia will not allow Yemen to deteriorate into ‘a failed state like Libya.’”
Assailants of last Tuesday’s suspected piracy attack in the Red Sea were found to be carrying a “substantial amount of explosives,” the vessel’s owner says, raising suspicions that the incident was an attempted suicide attack.
The shipping company stated that "While the intentions of the attackers and the use of the explosives is unknown, the investigation findings indicate that the explosives would have been sufficient to have caused significant damage to the vessel...It appears, however, that when the skiff was approximately 20m (meters) from the vessel, the explosives detonated, destroying the skiff and ending the attack."
Whatever the motives were for the attack, increased fears of piracy in Red Sea shipping lanes will tighten delivery of critical fuel and supplies to Yemen.
Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry to inquire about an official’s recent comment that US support for the coalition does not include target selection and review.
“I find it deeply troubling that the U.S. apparently has no advanced knowledge of what targets will be struck by jets that are refueled by U.S. personnel with U.S. tankers,” Lieu wrote.
“The U.S. would appear to be violating LOAC and international standards by engaging in such direct military operations if U.S. personnel are not aware if targets are civilians or military, if the loss of life and property are disproportional, or if the operation is even militarily necessary...U.S. personnel are now at legal risk of being investigated and potentially prosecuted for committing war crimes.”
An anonymous senior diplomat at the United Nations told Reuters that Saudi Arabia appeared broadly to accept a peace plan initiative and had encouraged Hadi to do so as well.
"As far as I'm aware the Saudis have accepted the roadmap ... they have certainly done a very good job behind the scenes of encouraging Hadi to get closer on the spectrum of accepting it than he previously was," said the diplomat.
A reporter from The Intercept asked Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Abdullah al-Saud if the kingdom will continue to use cluster bombs in Yemen, to which the ambassador replied, “This is like the question, ‘Will you stop beating your wife?’” He added that he was “not a politician,” and said that Saudi Arabia will continue to bomb the Houthis “no matter what it takes.”
Al Jazeera reports that thousands of Yemenis protested in Aden against the new peace plan proposed by UN Envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed, citing its support of the rebels “power grab.” Photos from the protests, however, appear to show participants waving the flag of South Yemen, with signs promoting a path to southern independence.
The founder of a pro-southern independence group, Salah Haydara, spoke with Aden Al Ghad and explained the southern movement’s presence at these demonstrations. Haydara said that southerners support the legitimate government as long as it is in the interest of southern independence, adding “There is no legitimacy without the legitimacy of the southern people.”
Nasser al-Sakkaf reports on the uptick of robberies in Yemen’s cities, a result of the desperate situation that many citizens find themselves in.
One prisoner that al-Sakkaf interviewed said that he had “sold most of the equipment and furniture in my house, including the bottle of propane and the beds. My children were starving to death so I had only two choices: either to beg or to steal.”
Friday, November 4 The US Department of State announced that Secretary John Kerry will travel to Muscat on November 14 to meet with Sultan Qaboos and Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi “to discuss Yemen and efforts to reach a peaceful settlement to the conflict there. The Secretary will then travel to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on November 15 to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to discuss challenges facing the region.”
Yemen’s ousted president Saleh, now allied with the Houthis, has reportedly welcomed a peace plan proposed by the UN, commenting on social media that it is a “good basis for negotiations."
Abdullah al-Ibbi, who lost 27 members of his family during a Saudi airstrike on his home, spoke to the BBC about his devastating loss and his attempts to recover.
"Sometimes I sleep two, three hours and then I wake up and stay up until morning... I remember my children and my home...Our lives were humble but it was a quiet life, a good life, we were happy...we lost everything."
Maia Baldauf, the program and reporting officer for Mercy Corps in Yemen, writes for Huffington Post to describe life in San’a under airstrikes and raise awareness about the desperately-needed food and medical aid that millions of Yemenis are lacking.
“Currently, over 14 million people ― more than half the population ― are unsure of how they will provide food for themselves. More than 19 million people lack access to safe water. Some 3 million young children and pregnant and nursing women are acutely malnourished or in need of services to prevent acute malnutrition...The world needs to understand this is one of the most massive humanitarian crises in the world.”
The Boston Globe examines America’s role in Yemen’s war, both as a potential peacemaker and as a current supplier for many of the weapons used in Saudi Arabia’s continued airstrikes.
Saturday, November 5 The Huffington Post reports that Nujood Ali, the subject of the film, “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced,” had met Hillary Clinton on a few occasions. The now 19-year-old has stated that she believes a Clinton presidency would mean a more peaceful Yemen.
“The moment I heard that she would be nominated as U.S. president, I thought things would definitely improve in Yemen. For sure.”
Hillary Clinton's position on the conflict in Yemen was subject to scrutiny last week when her national security advisor Michael Morell advocated for the US military to board Iranian vessels in international waters to demonstrate support for the Saudi coalition, a move that would be considered an act of war.
Vince Cable, a former Cabinet minister, says the UK defense ministry misinformed him about weapons deals with Saudi Arabia, leading the former business secretary to sign off on arms transfers. Cable said he was given assurances the UK would be granted oversight of where British-made weapons were used.
"My very clear understanding was that the equipment would be supplied to Saudi Arabia on the very clear basis that British personnel would have oversight of what the Saudi air force was doing, on the same basis as the Americans."
Overwhelming evidence indicates that both American and British-made weapons have been used in the commission of war crimes in Yemen.
Kerry thanked Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, adding, “We also recognize this positive gesture by the Houthis.”
Mareb Press reports that a Houthi delegation traveled from San’a to Muscat on Sunday. The reasons behind the visit are unclear, but is likely related to a recently proposed peace deal. US Secretary of State John Kerry will also be arriving in Muscat on November 14 to speak with officials.
An editorial in the Guardian calls for an end to Yemen’s war and a block of continued weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia. The article points out the absurdity and hypocrisy of American and British policy in the conflict:
“Half of the $115bn (£92bn) worth of weapons sales agreed under the Obama administration are still in the pipeline. Meanwhile, its ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, has urged Riyadh to halt indiscriminate strikes. The UK, which has licensed £3.3bn worth of sales since the Yemen conflict began, boasts of increasing aid by £37m. The pledge would be laughable if it was not so shameful. By August, the damage caused by war already stood at an estimated $14bn. The aid will go only a short way to repairing that – and no sum can restore lost limbs or revive the dead.”
The following piece was sent to us by a frequent guest blogger, who writes anonymously for professional reasons and safety concerns. The perspective of the author does not necessarily represent the positions of the YPP. The YPP's Hannah Porter assisted with editing and translation. Yemen’s internationally-recognized government and its allies—including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, local Yemeni salafi groups, and factions of al-Hirak (the Southern independence movement)—are trying to make real progress on the ground in the areas of southern Yemen they have retaken, although this appears to be an impossible task given the complex challenges facing them.
Granting the management and security of Yemen’s temporary capital Aden to the armed faction of al-Hirak led by Aydroos al-Zabidi (who was previously the chairperson of the Hatem movement) was an extremely clever move, one that may have been a result of President Hadi’s foresight into to Aden’s future. Hirak’s field leaders are experiencing a phase of infighting and disorder. After some of the leaders accepted administrative positions in the Hadi-Bahah government, they proved themselves unable to provide solutions to the people who supported them and listened to their speeches about reestablishing the southern nation.
This may be understandable, as the Hirak field leaders have nothing in the way of experience in governance or societal management, and the treasury of Yemen’s government is practically empty. The funding that the government talks about consists of bonds given to them by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Gulf countries. It is true that a small amount of the money has been received, but the larger monetary influx comes as part of the war effort, which drains everything and is itself one of the biggest challenges to normalizing life in Aden.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have set their focus on security challenges in reclaimed areas, as well as promoting military operations against Ansar Allah (Houthi) and pro-Saleh forces. This means that development and normalizing life in the capital of Aden is a matter left to international and Gulf aid organizations, and to the Hirak leadership, which presides over Aden.
International and Gulf aid organizations active in liberated areas have discussed the difficulty of development occurring while security challenges disrupt normal life in Aden. Not only have assassinations increased since Hirak took charge of Aden’s security and administration (with Aden’s governor being subject to three assassination attempts since taking office) but Islamic State affiliates in Yemen have unleashed a tsunami of merciless attacks.
The utter incompetence that pervades Yemen’s government is one of its main challenges. The president and his vice president/prime minister cannot travel through Aden by private cars or even in convoys, but instead resort to helicopters to transport them to their destinations.
Even the services provided to citizens by the Southern Resistance in reclaimed areas are in decline after an initial period of relative stability. Sewage and garbage have begun to fill the streets of Shaykh Othman, al-Mansurah, and Dar Saʻad. Phone and Internet service is still weak and electric outages now last eight hours every day. Water threatens to be cut off due to the administration’s inability to pay their employees’ wages and petrol will sometimes be available for two weeks and then disappear for the next two weeks.
All the above-mentioned challenges may seem normal for areas recovering from armed conflict and still belonging to a country at war. However, these challenges can be used and manipulated as tools to remove an opposing power from the political scene. The search for improvement in current times is a difficult matter and there is nothing the people can do but be patient and hopeful.
تحاول الحكومة المعترف بها من قبل الأمم المتحدة ومن خلفها السعودية و الإمارات العربية المتحدة بالإضافة الى بعض قادة الحراك الجنوبي وايضاً سلفيي اليمن إنجاز تقدم حقيقي على الارض في المحافظات المسيطر عليها، إلا ان ذلك يبدو كمهمة مستحيلة امام التحديات المعقدة التي تواجههم.
إن إسناد ملف إدارة وأمن العاصمة المؤقته لليمن "عدن" لفصيل الحراك الجنوبي المسلح بقيادة "عيدروس الزبيدي" الذي كان فيما سبق يرأس حركة حتم "حركة تقرير المصير"، امر بالغ في الذكاء ! بالإمكان القول ان الرئيس هادي استخدمها وهو يتطلع الى مرحلة ما بعد ما تعيشه عدن حالياً.
إن القيادات الميدانية للحراك الجنوبي تعيش مرحلة من الإصطدام البيني و التوهان، فبعد ان قبل بعض قيادة الحراك الجنوبي بمناصب ادارية في السلطة الحالية للحكومة اليمنية قدمهم كعاجزين عن تقديم اي حلول للجماهير التي لطالما ايدتهم و انصتت الى حديثهم عن إستعادة الدولة الجنوبية.
وفي الحقيقية يمكن تفهم ذلك، فهؤلاء القادة الميدانيين لديهم لاشيء فيما يتعلق بالحوكمة وإدارة المجتمعات، بالإضافة الى ان الخزنة المالية للحكومة المعترف بها تقريباً لا شيء ! فالتمويلات التي تتحدث عنها الحكومة المعترف بها هي تعهدات قدمتها العربية السعودية و دولة الامارات العربية المتحدة وبعض الدول الخليجية، صحيح ان القليل جداً وصل الا ان التدفق المالي الاكبر يأتي للمجهود الحربي الذي يستنزف كل شيء وهو بذاته اكبر التحديات في تطبيع الحياة بعدن.
إن السعودية و الإمارات العربية المتحدة يضعون نصب اعينهم مسئلة التحدي الأمني في المناطق المسيطر عليها و تعزيز العمليات العسكرية ضد قوات انصار الله/صالح. وذلك يعني ان التنمية وتطبيع الحياة في العاصمة عدن ملف ترك لبعض المنظمات الدولية والخليجية بالإضافة الى قيادة الحراك الجنوبي المسلح التي اصبح على رأس السلطة في عدن.
والحقيقة التي تتحدث عنها المنظمات الدولية والخليجية العاملة في المناطق المحررة هي ان لا يمكن للتنمية ان تتقدم والتحديات الامنية تعصف بتطبيع الحياة في عدن، فعمليات الاغتيالات هي في إزدياد منذ تولي الحراك المسلح إدارة وامن عدن، بل وان الدولة الإسلامية في اليمن اطلقت تسونامي يضرب الجميع دون رحمة. فمحافظ عدن الحالي تعرض لـ 3 محاولات اغتيال منذ تولية حكم عدن !
العجز التام الذي يطبق على الحكومة اليمنية المعترف بها هو ايضاً احد التحديات، فكلاً من رئيس الجمهورية و ونأئب الرئيس رئيس الوزراء لايمكنهما التجوال في عدن بسيارتهم الخاصة او حتى بموكب ! عوضاً عن ذلك هم يتنقلون بطائرات هيلوكبتر للوصول الى بعض الاماكن !
حتى الخدمات المقدمة للمواطنين في المناطق المسيطر عليها من قبل المقاومة الجنوبية هي في تدهور بعد ان شهدت بعضها نوع من الاستقرار النسبي، فالمجاري والقمامة اصبح تملئ بعض المديريات كالشيخ عثمان والمنصورة ودار سعد. كما ان خدمة الإتصالات ما تزال رديئة كما الانترنت. الكهرباء التي اصبحت تنقطع لحوالي 8 ساعات يومياً والمياة التي اصبحت مهددة بالتوقف لعدم قدرة المؤسسة عن دفع رواتب العاملين. ايضاً البترول الذي يظهر لمدة اسبوعين ويختفي مرة اخرى لمدة اسبوعين !
إن هذه التحديات قد تبدو طبيعية لمناطق خرجت من النزاعات المسلحة وما تزال تعيش حالة حرب مستمرة في البلد الذي تنتمي له. وهي ايضاً ادوات تمسك بها القوة المتصارعة وتلعب بها بذكاء من اجل ازاحة اطراف من المشهد السياسي. إن البحث عن تحسن في الوقت الحالي امر صعب جداً وليس امام الناس إلا الصبر و الأمل.
We're pleased to present another guest post by a contributor we've featured on this blog twice before. The author, who is posting anonymously for professional reasons, is a resident of ‘Aden. I have edited the English version of this post for clarity. Our guest posts do not necessarily reflect the positions of the YPP. On July 17, Yemeni Vice President and Prime Minister of the government in exile, Khaled Bahah, announced the “liberation” of Aden from the control of Ansar Allah and the elements of Yemen’s armed forces loyal to former president ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Saleh (mainly the former Central Security Forces and Republican guard).
There is another side to the truth, neglected in official announcements but visible in reports from the ground. Behind the successful defense of Aden from pro-Saleh/Houthi forces was a collection of three kinds of active armed groups: youth inspired by the Southern independence movement (al-Hirak), Safali militants, and members of Ansar al-Shariʻah (AAS) and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) [editor’s note: some observers and foreign governments consider Ansar al-Shariʻah to be an alias or subsidiary of AQAP, but others insist that the two organizations maintain distinct identities.].
Each of these groups has its own headquarters and training sites. One fighter who was active on the Salah al-Din front in al-Burayqah Directorate of Aden said, “I don’t understand why the local media neglected to credit Ansar al-Shariʻah and al-Qaeda with the victory in Ras ‘Amran [Village, west of al-Burayqah]. This is not fair!”
The important role of AAS, AQAP, and the Salafi militias are well known to local leaders, media, and civilians, but most avoid speaking about this openly, in order to avoid confusion or disagreements which could harm the fight against the Houthi/Saleh forces. It is also commonly known that one of the prominent commanders of the local resistance who was killed during the liberation of Ras ‘Amran, Muhammad Harbaj, was a member of AAS.
Forces loyal to Yemen’s legitimate government [i.e. President Hadi’s government in exile] have been the weakest link in Aden. Though these forces have indeed participated in battles on all fronts, they are less prepared and less well-trained than other militias. One example of this is the pro-Hadi forces’ failure to properly take advantage of weapons air-dropped in Aden by the Saudi-led coalition. The reason for this failure is that these forces, like the Hiraki youth and Salafi militias, lack the experience and knowledge to properly use and maintain the American-made weapons provided. AAS and AQAP were better prepared to use such weapons, given their groups’ exposure to US weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the other militias are only familiar with Russian-style equipment.
The pro-Hadi forces also had less of a concrete reason to fight the Houthi-Saleh coalition. For example, Salafi militants sought revenge against the Houthis for the conflict in Dammaj [in Saʻdah, from which Ansar Allah forcibly expelled residents affiliated with a prominent Salafi institution]; AAS and AQAP are fighting to survive; Hiraki youth, for their part, are fighting for the cause of an independent Southern state. Pro-Hadi fighters, on the other hand, were encouraged to fight with promises of payments in Saudi Riyals and 40 liters of fuel from Aden’s refinery, which they could then sell on the black market.
The question of the moment is, what comes after the reconquest of Aden? Some of the most pressing concerns for Adenis include the reconstruction of roads, the restoration of electricity and water supplies, and the resettlement of the thousands of people who were displaced from the districts of Crater, Khor Maksar, al-Maʻala and al-Tawahi. Similar problems face the neighboring governorates of Lahj, al-Dhaliʻ, and Shabwah; there is also the matter of how authorities can compensate citizens affected by the conflict.
Perhaps even more important than these issues is the challenge of counterterrorism. Whatever authority comes to power in Aden will have to reckon with several armed Islamist groups, all of which have proved themselves in the battle for Aden, and all of which continue to be involved in the fight against the Houthi/Saleh forces.
For more on the uneasy alliance between AQAP and other Southern factions, read this piece by renowned Yemeni journalist Saeed al-Batati.
في تاريخ يوليو 17، 2015 اعلن نائب الرئيس و رئيس الوزراء اليمني "خالد بحاح" عن "تحرير عدن" من تقدم انصار الله المدعومة من القوات الموالية من الجيش (أمن مركزي و حرس جمهوري) للرئيس اليمني السابق علي عبدالله صالح.
للحقيقة جانب أخر من خلال المقال سنحاول التعرف عليه... يعود فضل عدم سقوط عدن بيد قوات تحالف انصار الله وصالح الى مزيج من مليشيات ثلاث مكونات فاعله بالوقت الحالي "شباب متأثر بأدبيات الحراك الجنوبي، السلفيين ، انصار الشريعة و القاعدة" جميعها تشاركت جبهات القتال ضد مد تحالف انصار الله وصالح.
فكلاً من المليشيات الثلاث كانت لها غرفة العمليات الخاصة بها والتي منها تدريب مواقها في جبهات القتال، يتحدث احد المشاركين في جبهة قتال منطقة صلاح الدين التابعة لمديرية البريقة " استغرب عدم تناول الإعلام المحلي لحقيقة انتصار انصار الشريعة والقاعدة في جبهة عمران، إن ذلك غير منصف !".
رغم علم الكثير من الشخصيات الاجتماعية و وسائل الإعلام وحتى العامة من الناس للدور المهم الذي يلعبه انصار الشريعة و القاعدة بالإضافة إلى السلفيين إلا انهم يتجنبون الحديث صراحة الاعتراف بذلك الدور علناً تفادياً للتشويش الذي قد ينتج على المعارك ضد تقدم تحالف انصار الله وصالح. فقائد اللجان الشعبية لمنطقة صلاح الدين الذي قتل اثناء تحرير منطقة رأس عمران ويدعى "محمد حرباج" احد اعضاء انصار الشريعة في عدن.
القوات التابعة للشرعية في عدن هي "الحلقة الأضعف"، صحيح انها شاركت ايضاُ في جبهات القتال إلا ان جهودها ببقية المليشيات المسلحة المشاركة معها فإنها تعتبر الأقل جاهزية للقتال، فعلى سبيل المثال الاسلحة الامريكية التي قدمت من قبل قوات التحالف السعودي لإستخدامها ضد تقدم انصار اللخ و صالح لم يستفاد منها بالشكل الكافي ! والسبب يعود بأن القوات التابعة للشرعية بالإضافة إلى المليشية المتأثرة بأدبيات الحراك الجنوبي بالإضافة إلى السلفيين لا يملكون المعرفة الكافية لإستخدام ذلك العتاد العسكري الأمريكي خلاف انصار الشريعة و القاعدة الذين يملكون معرفة ممتازة بإستخدام العتاد العسكري الأمريكي والذي عدد من عناصر القاعدة تمكنت من إستخدامة في افغانستان و العراق. خلاف بقية المليشيات المسلحة التي تملك خبره جيدة بإستخدام العتاد العسكري الروسي فقط !
النقطة الأخرى، بقية المليشيات المسلحة التي قاتلك مع القوات التابعة للشرعية عندما قاتلك فإن اسبابها اكثر صلابها فعلى سبيل المثال السلفيين يقاتلون إنتقاماً "لحرب دماج" بينما انصار الشريعة والقاعدة التي تقاتل كي تبقى واخيراً المليشية المتأثرة بأدبيات الحراك الجنوبي فإن سبب قتالها إستعادة ما تعتقد انه إستعادة الدولة الجنوبية".
خلاف القوات التابعة للشرعية التي تقاتل لأجل مجموعة من الريالات السعودية و 40 لتر بترول ممنوح من مصافي عدن ليتم بيعة لاحقاً بالسوق السوداء !
السؤال المستحق في هذه اللحظة، ماذا بعد استعادة عدن !؟
إعادة إعمار عدن ويشمل ذلك البنية التحية من طرقات وكهرباء وماء ... و عودة النازحين الى بيوتهم التي تركوها في مديريات كريتر، خورمكسر، المعلا و التواهي.
بالإضافة إلى إعادة إعمار المحافظات الاخرى المتأثرة بالصراع المسلح كلحج، الضالع و شبوة وتعويض المواطنين عما فقدوه.
والأهم من ما سبق... قضايا مكافحة الإرهاب الذي بلا شك سيكون الملف الأبرز وهنا سيكون التحدي اكبر لأن الجماعات الاسلامية قد اثبتت وجودها في معركة عدن وماتزال تعيش نزوة الانتصار بعدما كانت سبب ايضاً في صمود واستعادة عدن !
Editor's note: This week we welcome a new contributor to the YPP blog, Shuaib Almosawa. Shuaib is a freelance journalist based in San`a; his reporting is regularly featured in The New York Times, among other publications. Over the next few months he'll be providing our readers with weekly summaries of ongoing and emerging stories. You can also find him on Twitter at @shuaibalmosawa. Yemen’s political parties have for the past week been holding UN-brokered talks to fill a vacuum caused by Houthi forces’ January offensive, which led to the resignation of both the government and President Hadi. The Houthis, who stormed the capital in late September taking control of all government buildings, had objected to a constitutional draft that divides the country into six regions. On January 17 they kidnapped Ahmad Awadh bin Mubarak, President Abdu Rabu Mansur Hadi’s office director. Two days later, Houthi Popular Committees clashed with Hadi’s Presidential Guards. The Houthis have since put Hadi and key ministers under house arrest.
The sudden takeover by the Houthis, as well as increasing demands by Hirak factions for southern secession, have necessitated another round of UN-brokered talks that include the Houthi leadership and other main political powers. Talks aim to agree on a presidential transitional council that will address the constitutional draft and prepare for elections.
Concerned over the Huthis’ tightening grip on power, the GCC countries, which sponsored the 2011 agreement that installed Hadi as president, have called the recent events a coup. The events have also led France’s embassy in Sana’a to close to the public this Monday; the US and UK embassies have also reduced their staff and services.
University students and youth activists have also staged rallies denouncing the Houthi coup. Protests have been met with violence, and arrests of activists and journalists by Houthi militiamen.
In his recent speech after Hadi’s resignation, the group’s leader, ‘Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, called for a peaceful transition of power, echoing a US White House official who commented on the Yemen situation. After speculation that recent events could bring the US drone campaign to a halt as America’s preferred ally is out, eastern regions of Yemen have over the past week seen three drone attacks against suspected al-Qaeda militants. There have been no public talks between American officials and Houthis.
Simultaneously with the UN-brokered talks, the Houthis held three massive meetings of supporters and allies in capital, the last of which ended on Sunday. It gave a three-day ultimatum for the political powers to come up with a solution. “Otherwise,” read the meeting’s final statement, “the Revolutionary Committees will take necessary actions.”
Following his excellent post on the al-'Arudh Square protest encampment, our guest blogger returns with an in-depth look at the different factions involved in southern Yemen’s independence movement, commonly known as al-Hirak. The author, who is posting anonymously for professional reasons, is a resident of ‘Aden. I have edited the English version of this post for clarity. Our guest posts do not necessarily reflect the positions of the YPP. The day of November 30, 2014—which Hirak leaders hyped for weeks as a day of definitive revolutionary action—has passed, and it seems it did not meet with the desires and wishes of many of the protesters in the ongoing sit-in in Khor Maksar district. Especially disappointed were the many who expect the day to be a historical turning point in the struggle of Hirak.
Despite the anticlimax of November 30, southerners continue to join the ranks of al-Hirak’s several factions. Though nearly all Hirakis are united in their demands for independence, there are significant factional differences within the movement.
The factions of al-Hirak can be grouped into three umbrella categories:
- Factions with a non-religious orientation,
- Factions with a religious orientation,
- Factions with a solely militant orientation.
Factions with a non-religious orientation
The most influential of the non-religiously oriented factions include:
The Supreme Council of the Revolutionary Movement for the Peaceful Liberation and Independence of the South This important group contains two sub-factions with even more cumbersome names: the Supreme Council of the Peaceful Movement for the Liberation of the South, and the Supreme Council of the Southern Revolution for Liberation and Independence. The first of these is commonly referred to as the Ba‘um Faction, as its members follow the prominent Hadhrami activist Hassan Baʻum, while the second is known as the al-Baydh Faction, after the self-proclaimed president of South Yemen, ‘Ali Salim al-Baydh. The split between the two factions came in September 2012; more recently, fear of losing popular support to competing factions has pushed the Baʻum and al-Baydh Factions closer together.
The League of the Free Sons of South Arabia/the Preparatory Committee of the General Southern Conference The South Arabian League, founded in 1951, was one of the oldest political parties in the Arabian Peninsula. Shortly after its founding, the United Kingdom (which controlled southern Yemen until 1967) expelled the party’s leadership from Aden. In 1989 ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Jifri established a breakaway faction called the League of the Sons of Yemen (RAY). Further schisms within the RAY included the establishment of the Path Correction Party by ‘Umar al-Jifri.
Recently, the League launched a prominent initiative called the Southern Comprehensive Conference, which aims to unite a number of Hirak factions in a common front for the sake of communicating with the outside world.
National Conference of the Southern People/Southern National Council for Salvation Formed by Muhammad ‘Ali Ahmad, a politician from Abyan, after his return to the country in 2012, this faction has support from a number of prominent Adeni families and individuals. These include the Bashrahil family, which owns al-Ayam newspaper, Radiyah Shamshir, and Yasin Makkawi, in addition to a number of Hadhrami politicians and tribal leaders. The faction also received support from Ahmad bin Farid al-Surimah, a wealthy businessman from Shabwah who holds Omani nationality.
Following the decision of other southern leaders—including the expatriate leaders who participated in the 2012 Cairo Conference—to boycott Yemen’s post-revolutionary National Dialogue Conference, Muhammad ‘Ali Ahmad’s NCSP took up the seats in the Conference allocated to al-Hirak. However, controversy over the group’s participation in the National Dialogue led to internal divisions, as al-Surimah withdrew financial support, and several of the faction’s delegates to the NDC pulled out during the latter days of the Conference.
Currently, the National Conference of the Southern People counts on Muhammad ‘Ali Ahmad's relations and contacts, as well as the limit media support which is still provided by al-Ayam newspaper and the Bashrahil family.
More recently, Muhammad ‘Ali Ahmad launched the Southern National Council for Salvation in yet another attempt to unite various factions and constituencies. The project has not accomplished much, though the threat of another major center of power within Hirak encouraged the al-Baydh and Baʻum factions to reunite, as noted above.
The First Southern Conference/Cairo Conference Held in Cairo on November 20-22, 2011, this conference brought together a number of prominent southern leaders, some of whom had been living in exile. Those in attendance included former PDRY presidents ‘Ali Nassir Muhammad and, in addition to Muhammad ‘Ali Ahmad.
At the end of Cairo Conference, the former president ʻAli Nassir Muhammad was elected to be the chairperson, with Haydar al-ʻAttas elected as first deputy, and Salih Ahmad Ubayd as second deputy.
The Cairo Conference could be considered an elitist grouping, and it has no real control over those working on the ground in southern Yemen.
Factions with a Religious Orientation
Lawfulness (Sharʻiah) Committee This group consists of religious leaders, most of whom are moderate Salafis or jihadi Salafis. Some members of this faction were involved in the recruitment of southern young men for the jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and some are involved in the mobilization and funding of Ansar al-Shariʻah, a militant movement affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Committee members have claimed the exclusive right to speak at Hiraki Friday prayer services. The location of such Friday prayers are announced by local Hirak leaders in various areas. The estimated numbers of attendees in each place of religious gathering is between 30 to 1,000 people.
Islamic Awakening (al-Nahdah) Movement This Salafi-oriented movement uses humanitarian relief and charity as a way to expand its work and attract new members. It works mainly in remote rural areas, far from the civic center of the provinces.
Al-Nahdah is active throughout southern Yemen, though its founder, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rab al-Salami, is from Yafiʻ.
Islah Party/Muslim Brotherhood Before the entrance of Ansar Allah/the Huthi Movement into Yemen’s capital, the Islah Party, which includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood, had a very important role to play in southern Yemen and in particular the provinces of Aden and Hadhramawt. But this role completely disappeared after the departure of both Hamid al-Ahmar and General ‘Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, who fled Yemen in the face of the Huthi advance.
A large number of Islah party leaders in southern Yemen have met in Aden, and rumors have circulated about their intention to create a new political faction called the Southern Platform Party. Moreover, a number of Islah Party leaders in the south have announced their support for the right of self-determination and secession, which is strange as it was well known that Islah Party members previously espoused unity between north and south.
Ansar al-Shariʻah The armed group known as Ansar al-Shariʻah is generally considered an affiliate of AQAP, though there is an increasing affinity within the movement toward the Islamic State/ISIS. The group has been based mainly in the south since its establishment, and a large number of its members are from the south. Recently, though, its operations in the south have slowed, and its focus has shifted to combatting Huthi expansion in areas like al-Baydha and Ibb.
The Militant Orientation
The Southern Security and Military Council The creation of the Southern Security and Military Council could be understood as a “third generation" of activism by former members of the PDRY army and security forces. The forced retirement without pay of these men was one of the original drivers of the Southern Movement. The military retirees first formed associations in 2007. The military commander Nassir al-Nubah, from Shabwah, is the real founder of this trend.
The formation of Southern Security and Military Council at Aden’s Coral Hotel on September 19, 2014, astonished many observers, who interpreted the move as an explicit declaration of armed resistance to the “Yemeni Occupation.”
According to statements by one of the Council’s commanders, the main aim of the Council is to fill the gap in security that will result from the eventual withdrawal of Yemeni security forces. But this raises the question of whether the Council really has the manpower and materiel required for such a task, especially given the presence of other armed groups in parts of the south.
The Council’s leader, Muhammad Qassim Tamah, is one of its main strengths. It is important to note that he is a former southern military commander from Yafiʻ. His tribal connections in Yafiʻ mean that he has significant human and material resources. However, most of the members of the Council are relatively old, and their influence is largely limited to the Yafiʻ region.
[Editor's note: As one reader pointed out, it's not really accurate to list Ansar al-Shari'ah as a faction of al-Hirak. However, some elements of AAS and AQAP have, in the past, explicitly supported the call for southern independence, and according to our blogger there are financial and personal connections between some official Hirak members and AAS. I also think it's important to remember that while the first generation of al-Qaeda in Yemen was explicitly anti-socialist and opposed to the PDRY regime, AAS emerged in the post-Hirak south, and many of its members identify with southern nationalism, even though southern nationalism is closely tied to the legacy of the PDRY. Finally, if all of this factionalism reminds you of this scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian, you're not alone.]
في عمق الحراك...
مضى يوم الـ 30 نوفمبر، 2014 ويبدو انه لم يتوافق مع رغبات الكثير من المعتصمين في الساحة او ممن توقعوا لهذا اليوم إحداث "منعطف تاريخي" في مسيرة الحراك السلمي الجنوبي. وذلك يبدو محبط للكثيرين من الجنوبيين الذين ينضمون يوماً بعد يوماً للقوى الجنوبية المنضوية تحت مظلة الحراك الذي يطلب "فك الارتباط" و "استعادة دولة جمهورية اليمن الديموقراطية الشعبية" شريك "الجمهورية العربية اليمنية" في عام مايو 22، 1990 .
ترتكز تلك المظلة المسماة "بالحراك الجنوبي" على ثلاثة اعمدة وهم:
- مجموعات دون توجه ديني
- مجموعات ذات توجه ديني اسلامي
- المجلس الجنوبي الأمني و العسكري "التوجة القتالي"
اولاً: مجموعات دون التوجه الديني
يمكن جمع كل المكونات الجنوبية المنضوية تحت مظلة "الحراك الجنوبي" والتي لا تتبنى كهدف اساسي في نشاطها "توجه ديني" في بوتقة واحدة حيث تتنوع تلك المكونات فمنها على سبيل الذكر "مجموعة الاكاديميين الجنوبيين" و " المجلس الاعلى للحراك الثوري السلمي لتحرير واستقلال الجنوب" بالإضافة "لمؤتمر القاهرة" ... إلخ
نتناول اهم تلك المجموعات كالتالي:
- المجلس الاعلى للحراك الثوري السلمي لتحرير واستقلال الجنوب
يتكون من فصيلين اثنين وهما: المجلس الاعلى للحراك السلمي لتحرير الجنوب "تيار باعوم" و المجلس الاعلى للثورة الجنوبية للتحرير و الاستقلال "تيار البيض" حيث ان في الاساس يعد المكون واحد لولا اختلاف وجهات النظر ادت في انشقاق فيه بما اصطلع على تسميته "تيار باعوم" و "تيار البيض" وحصل ذلك في تاريخ سبتمبر 7، 2012م .
في الواقع، ان اعادة التئام المكونان جاء كما يتحدث احد المراقبون بسبب خوف مشروع مؤتمر شعب الجنوب المتمثل في " مجلس الانقاذ الوطني الجنوبي" خوفاً من خسار كلا المكونين للتأيد و الزخم الشعبي الذاني يحضيان به و تحول التأييد الشعبي الى "مجلس الانقاذ الوطني الجنوبي" .
- رابطة ابناء الجنوب العربي الحر – اللجنة التحضرية للمؤتمر الجنوبي الجامع
يعد حزب "رابطة الجنوب العربي" من اقدم الاحزاب على الساحة اليمنية وشبه الجزيرة العربية حيث تأسس في عام 1951م حيث قامت بريطانيا بنفي قادته للخارج، تلى ذلك عمليات انشقاق للحزب تزعمه السيد "عبدالرحمن الجفري" وسمي تياره المنشق "رابطة ابناء اليمن (رأي)" في عام 1989م.
شهد الحزب ايام عصيبه اثر محاولة تقسيمه من خلال خروج جزء من قيادته وتأسيس حزب سياسي منه سمي "حزب رابطة تصحيح المسار" يقيادة عمر الجفري.
من ابرز مبادرات حزب رابطة ابناء الجنوب العربي الحر بقيادة "عبدالرحمن الجفري" مبادرة المؤتمر الجنوبي الجامع والذي تهدف للخروج بحامل سياسي يضمن فيه اكبر عدد ممكن من المجموعات الجنوبية امام العالم.
- المؤتمر الوطني لشعب الجنوب – المجلس الوطني الجنوبي للإنقاذ
بعدما عاد محمد علي احمد وهو احد السياسيين الجنوبيين نفوذاً في ابين تحديداً وبعض مناطق الجنوب، و ربما بعيداً عن مؤتمر القاهرة الذي كان احد اهم الذين حضروه وجد ضالته بتأسيس كيان جنوبي اخر اسماه "المؤتمر الوطني لشعب الجنوب" بتاريخ ديسمبر 16 -18، 2012 بعدن.
اعتمد محمد علي احمد بشكل رئيسي على استيعاب الرموز العدنية في مكونه السياسي مثل "صحيفة الايام متمثلة بأسرة باشراحيل" و "رضية شمشمير" و "ياسين مكاوي" بالأضافة الى بعض سياسيين حضرموت وقبائلها كما لا ننسى إستقطاب احد اكبر رئوس الاموال الجنوبية الخارجية متمثلاً برجل الاعمال احمد بن فريد الصريمة الذي يحمل الجنسية العمانية ويعود بالأصل إلى محافظة شبوه.
ويمكن ان نجد تفسير لخروجة عن إجماع مؤتمر القاهرة وتأسيسة لمكون "المؤتمر الوطني لشعب الجنوب" حيث شارك لاحقاً بمكونة في جلسات مؤتمر الحوار الوطني ! وخلال مؤتمر الحوار الوطني شهد المؤتمر الوطني لشعب الجنوب محطات مثيرة تمثلت بخروج حليفة المالي من المكون وهو رجل الاعمال "احمد بن فريد الصريمة". كما خروج ومقاطعته للجلسات النهائية لمؤتمر الحوار الوطني حيث تم استنساخ مشاركة المكون في مؤتمر الحوار الوطني وخروج عدد من حلفائة وعلى رأسهم "ياسين مكاوي - عدن" و "العقيد خالد باراس – حضرموت" .
في الوقت الراهن يرتكز بشكل رئيسي "المؤتمر الوطني لشعب الجنوب" على محمد علي احمد بالإضافة إلى الدعم الإعلامي المحدود الذي ما تزال اسرة باشراحيل صاحبة صحيفة الأيام تقدمه له.
و ربما يمكن الحديث ان مبادرة مجلس الانقاذ الجنوبي الذي طرحها محمد علي احمد التي تفاعل معها عدد من المكونات الجنوبية لكنها سرعان ما تجمدت ! يعود لها الفضل بشكل غير مباشر بدفع كلاً من تيار باعوم و تيار البيض إلى إعادة التوحد في محاولة منها لمواجهة المشروع الذاني نجحى حقاً الى حد كبير فيه تجميده و الحفاظ على مناصريهم في الساحة الشعبية الجنوبية التي كانت تطالب القيادات الجنوبية بالتوحد.
- المؤتمر الجنوبي الأول "مؤتمر القاهرة"
تكمن اهمية المؤتمر الجنوبي الأول المعروف بإسم "مؤتمر القاهرة" كونه أول اجتماع جنوبي شمل عدد كبير من السياسيين و النشطاء الجنوبيين في الداخل والخارج وهو الذي انعقد في القاهرة بتاريخ نوفمبر 20 – 22، 2011، وممن حضروا هذا المؤتمر الرئيس السابق علي ناصر محمد، و السيد حيد العطاس بالإضافة إلى محمد علي احمد .
وقد تم انتخاب كلاً من الرئيس الاسبق علي ناصر كرئيس للمؤتمر الجنوبي الأول بالاضافة الى نائبين له وهما حيدر ابوبكر العطاس "نائب اول و صالح عبيد احمد كنائب ثاني.
والحقيقة ان مكون "مؤتمر القاهرة" هو في الاساس نخبوي ليس له فعل حقيقي على الأرض حيث يعتمد بدرجة رئيسية على برجماتية و الحنكة السياسية التي يصف المراقبون بها كلاً من علي ناصر و حيدر العطاس.
ثانياً: مجموعات ذات توجه ديني اسلامي
هناك المجامع ذات الايدولوجية الاسلامية وهي بطبيعة الحال تتكون الي:
- الهيئة الشرعية
تتكون من مجموعة من المدنيين الاسلاميين ذات التوجه السلفي المعتدل و السلفي الجهادي ولبعض الافراد المنتسبين للهيئة الشرعية تاريخ يرتبط بدور مهم إبان فتره تجنيد الشباب في جنوب اليمن للمشاركة في ما سمي بالجهاد ضد القوات الروسية في افغانستان، بالإضافة للمشاركة في الحشد المالي و الدعوي كما الاستقصائي لصالح المجموعة المسلحة المدعوة "انصار الشريعة" .
للهيئة الشرعية الحديث حصراً يوم صلاة الجمعة حيث يجتمع عدد كبير جداً من المصلين في تجمعات محلية تحددها قوى الحراك الجنوبي كلاً في منطقته حيث يتراوح عدد الحضور في تلك التجمعات الدينية ما بين 30 – 1000 شخص في جميع مناطق جنوب اليمن.
- حركة النهضة السلفية
وهي حركة اسلامية ذات توجه سلفي تتخد من العمل الاغاثي و الانساني وسيلتها للتمدد و استقطاب اعضاء ومناصرين جدد لها. ويلاحظ عليها انها تركز في انتشارها على العمق الريفي البعيد عن مركز المدني للمحافظة حيث تعمل في جميع المحافظات الجنوبية. ويعتبر مؤسسها الشيخ عبدالرب السلامي الذي ينتمي جغرافياً الى منطقة يافع .
- 3. حزب الاصلاح "الاخوان المسلمين
في سبق دخول انصار الله للعاصمة اليمنية "صنعاء" كان لحزب الاصلاح اليمني "اخوان المسلمين في اليمن" دور غايه في الاهمية في جنوب اليمن وعلى وجه الخصوص محافظات عدن و حضرموت. لكن ذلك الدور اختفى تماماً بعد خروج كلاً حميد الاحمر و الجنرال علي محسن الاحمر خارج اليمن ليتبدل ليصبح الدور الذي يلعبه حزب الاصلاح في جنوب اليمن بالمنتهي !
فقد اجتمع عدد كبير من قيادات حزب الاصلاح في جنوب اليمن في عدن ويقال عنه توجه جديد لهم للضهور مجدداً في المشهد السياسي الجنوبي لكن بإسم اخر يدعى "حزب المنبر الجنوبي"، كما واصبح الموقف السياسي لأعضاء حزب الاصلاح في جنوب اليمن داعمين لحق الجنوبين في حق تقرير المصير بل ان بعض قيادات حزب الاصلاح في عدن تحدث صراحة عن دعمة لفك ارتباط جنوب اليمن ! ويأتي هذا الموقع المستجد من حزب الاصلاح بعد ان كان اعضاءه سابقاً احد اهم الداعمين لإستمرار الوحدة الاندماجية بين جمهورية اليمن الديموقراطية الشعبية و الجمهورية العربية اليمنية.
- انصار الشريعة
تعتبر المجموعة الاسلامية المسلحة المدعوة "انصار الشريعة" احد الاذرع المحلية التي تدين بالولاء بشكل متزايد الى "الدولة الاسلامية" وما يزال جزء لا بأس منه ما يزال يحتفظ بالولاء لتنظيم القاعدة بقيادة "ايمن الظواهري".
يتواجد جزء كبير من عناصر و مناصرين انصار الشريعة في الوسط اليمني و عدد لا بأس منه في جنوب اليمن. ومؤخراً تكاد تكون عمليات انصار الشريعة في جنوب اليمن "شبه متوقفة" حيث تركز بشكل متزايد لمقاومة التمدد الجغرافية لأنصار الله للوسط الأمني. تأخد المقاومة شكل "حرب كر وفر مفتوحة" في كلاً من محافظة البيضاء و إب. حيث تغدى تلك الجبهات بدعم من عناصر انصار الشريعة الموجودة في الجنوب.
ثالثاً: المجلس الجنوبي الامني و العسكري "التوجة القتالي":
إن تأسيس "المجلس الجنوبي الأمني و العسكري" يمكن فهمة بأنة "الجيل الثالث" من التطور الأمني و العسكري الذي يصنعه المتقاعدون قسراً العسكريون و الامنيون الذي كانوا فيما سبق المحرك الرئيس للجيش الجنوبي المندثر حيث لاحقاً وفي عام 2007 شرع المتقاعدون قسراً العسكريون و الامنيون بتشكيل جمعيات سميت "بجمعيات العسكرين و الامنيين" ويعد القائد العسكري "ناصر النوبة" الذي تعود اصوله لمحافظة شبوه احد اهم الفاعلين فيها !
لقد شكل تأسيس المجلس الجنوبي الامني و العسكري في فندق كورال في مدينة عدن بتاريخ سبتمبر 19، 2014 إندهاش عدد من المراقبين حيث ما يزال لا يفهم كيف يتم تأسيس مجلس امني وعسكري يناهض الجمهورية اليمنية ويدعو صراحة للمقاومة ما اسماها "قوات الاحتلال اليمنية" جهاراً دون خشية من اي تبعات مثل هذه الخطوة التصعيدية الامنية و العسكرية !
وبناء على حديث احد قادة المجلس فإن دورة الرئيسي يكمن بسد فراغ اي تراجع للقوات الامنية و العسكرية التابعة للدولة اليمنية في جنوب اليمن، وهنا يبدو السؤال مشروعاً عن "العدد البشري و العتاد العسكري الذي يملكه هذا المكون ومدى انتشاره في المساحة الجغرافية الجنوبية في ظل وجود مجموعات مسلحة اخرى !؟"
في الحقيقة، احد اهم نقاط القوه في المجلس الجنوبي الامني و العسكري هي رأسه المجلس المتمثلة ب"محمد قاسم طماح" وهو قائد عسكري جنوبي من منطقة يافع القبلية وهذا يعني ان سيتلقى دعم قبلي مالي وبشري بالاضافة لكون جميع المؤسسين لهذا المكون العسكري هم في الاساس من كان يوماً في قوات الامن و الجيش الجنوبي المندثر !
إلا ان اهم نقاط ضعفة ان نسبه المنتسبين له هم من كبار السن ! وهم المشكلين للفئة العظمى حيث ان التمثيل الشبابي يكاد يكون "غير موجود" كما ان المساحة الجغرافية التي يتواجد فيها هذا المكون تكاد تكون مقتصره على مناطق صغيرة جدا في يافع فقط ! بالإضافة ما يزال غير واضح مدى العتاد العسكري الذي يملكه المكون والذي يرجح ان يكون ايضاً بسيط وبدائي !
We're pleased to present a guest post on the current situation in Khor Maksar District of 'Aden, where southern activists have occupied a public square. The author, who is posting anonymously for professional reasons, is a resident of 'Aden. This is our first bilingual blog post; the Arabic version has not been edited. Guest posts do not necessarily represent the position of the YPP or its staff. It has been approximately seventeen days since the first tents were installed on al-‘Arudh Square, in Khor Maksar district of ‘Aden, which has become the revolutionary square for all who demand the restoration of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY).
Al-‘Arudh Square sit-in is a unique and exciting experience, and an important phenomenon for all Southern factions, in addition to the powers in the North and certainly the regional and international players. The sit-in has drawn a large number of revolutionaries coming from different areas of southern Yemen: protesters from Lahj, Abyan, Shabwah, al-Dhali‘, a few from ‘Aden, and fewer still from Hadhramawt. So far there is no representation in the sit-in from al-Mahrah, Soqotra, or the other southern islands.
Today al-‘Arudh Square sit-in is shaping the contours of the southern state tomorrow. It is true that the largest proportion of the protestors are from the Yafi‘ area, which is divided between Abyan and Lahj governorates the next largest constituency is from al-Dhali‘.
The Shari‘ah Committee and the Islamic-Salafi trend are the groups controlling the al-‘Arudh Square sit-in, in terms of management and receiving donations, roles from which the liberal and socialist factions are completely absent. Judging from the current moment, it seems the Salafi trend will be very prominent in the future of South Yemen, based on its ability to manage and resolve a number of issues and its monopolizing of Friday prayers in the Square.
As of the moment of writing this report, no tent in the Square carries the name of a southern governorate, but a large number of tents carry the names of tribes, villages and prominent families. What does this mean? This trend sends the message that there are many local players preparing for the next stage, and suggests the southern governorates could fragment along tribal or other lines as these local players work to impose their own agendas.
The absence of tents representing particular governorates—for example, an “‘Aden tent” that might contain activists from local Hirak, Islah, GPC, and socialist groups—is a major shortcoming of the current sit-in. Such gatherings would allow for discussion of mutual concerns between different groups and the formation of stronger links between them. At present, no such discussions are taking place.
Protesters have spent more than two weeks in al-‘Arudh Square sit-in without a having serious discussions about the escalatory steps the movement should take after the November 30 deadline they've announced. Nor are they having debates about the future of southern Yemen or the role of southern leaders.
It would be bad for the larger southern movement, if the southern leaders were restricted to discussing those issues outside the sit-in among themselves, away from the protesters, leaving them to an unknown destiny.
In addition to all the above, there is still a conflict within the Southern Movement between those who support the idea of a Yemeni federal republic made up of two regions--North and South--in which southerners would have the right of self-determination and a referendum on independence after 5 years, and those who want immediate secession. The conflict between these two trends has reached its peak.
Both parts are trying to gain support from the protesters in al-‘Arudh Square sit-in, as well as to seek control of the sit-in. Immediately after Shaykh Husayn bin Shu‘ayb, a federalist, was selected to manage the sit-in, the protesters were surprised by another announcement from those who want immediate secession announcing the name of Shalal ‘Ali Sha‘i—a Hirak leader from al-Dhali‘—as administrator of the sit-in.
Such actions firmly entrench this intra-southern division, and even call to mind the old factional conflict between “al-Tughmah” (representing Yafi‘, al-Dhali‘, and Lahj) and “al-Zumrah” (Abyan and Shabwah), but reenacted by contemporary southerners living in different circumstances.*
Although there are good initiatives from southern groups, such as the initiative of 33 group in al-‘Arudh Square sit-in, these still pale in comparison to the vast amount of challenges, which are made by the Southern leaders and their factions. The current moment is really critical, and requires dialogue and partnership in making a common future…but the future of southern Yemen is far from clear yet.
*Editor’s note: The author is referring here to a conflict that emerged in the 1980s between different factions within the Yemeni Socialist Party, which ruled the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen at the time. Al-Zumrah and al-Tughmah refer to the factions loyal to ‘Ali Nasir Muhammad and ‘Abd al-Fattah Ismail respectively. In January 1986, a brief and bloody civil war erupted between the two. ‘Ali Nasir and his supporters (al-Zumrah) eventually fled to North Yemen, while ‘Ali Salim al-Beidh—the most senior surviving member of ‘Abd al-Fattah’s al-Tughmah faction—took control of the PDRY.
جنوب اليمن... افق غير واضح
سبعة عشر يوماً تقريباً منذ ان وضعت الخيام في ساحة العروض بمديرية خورمكسر وتحولها إلى ساحة ثورية لجميع ثوار جنوب اليمن المطالبين لإستعادة دولة جمهورية اليمن الديموقراطية الشعبية.
يشكل مخيم ساحة العروض تجربه فريدة... مثيرة و مهمة ايضاً لجميع المكونات الجنوبية بالاضافة إلى قوى الشمال وبالتأكيد اللاعبين الإقليميين و الدوليين. فمخيم الاعتصام هو المكان الذي يجتمع فيه عدد كبير من الثوار القادمين من مناطق مختلفة من جنوب اليمن، معتصمين من عدن،لحج،ابين،شبوه،الضالع و قليل جداً من حضرموت! ولا تمثيل حتى الان في ساحة الاعتصام للمهرة و سقطرى وبقية الجزر الجنوبية!
إن ساحة الإعتصام اليوم تشكل ملامح دولة الغد التي يتحدث عنها الجنوبيين. صحيح ان النسبة الاكبر من الحضور هم لأبناء منطقة يافع التي تقع بين محافظتي ابين و لحج بالاضافة إلى ابناء الضالع إلا ان ثمة حضور مقبول لبقية المحافظات المذكورة في ساحة الاعتصام.
الهيئة الشرعية و القوى الاسلامية ذات الاتجاه السلفي هي المسيطرة على إدارة ساحة الإعتصام وإستلام التبرعات المالية و المعنوية مصاحب لذلك دور غائب تماماً للقوى الليبرالية وحتى الاشتراكية ! فيما يبدو ان اللحظة الراهنة تريد ان تخبرنا ان مستقبل جنوب اليمن سيكون من نصيب القوى الاسلامية ذات الاتجاه السلفي التي اظهرت حتى الان قدرتها على الإدارة وحل عدد من القضايا مما يدفع بالمواطن في جنوب اليمن للثقة بشكل متزايد بتلك القوى يوماً بعد يوم خصوصاً انها من يحتكر حديث يوم الجمعة ايضاً.
إلى لحظة كتابة هذا التقرير لا يوجد خيام بأسماء المحافظات الجنوبية ! بل مجموعة كبيرة من الخيام بأسماء القبائل و القرى و العائلات الجنوبية، فماذا يعني ذلك.
إن غياب خيمة المحافظة الجنوبية الجامعة واستبدالها بخيمات تتبع قبائل، قرى و عائلات جنوبية يرسل لنا رسالة مفادها ان ثمة لاعبين محليين كثر يستعدون للمرحلة المقبلة وذلك يعني ان المحافظات قد تشهد تشضي نتيجة الصراع الذي سيأتي بين اللاعبين القادمين من قبائل وقرى و عائلات المحافظة الواحدة والتي سيتصارعون فيما بينهم في سبيل فرض اجنده معينه.
إن غياب خيمة المحافظة الجامعة كسبيل المثال، خيمة عدن التي يجتمع فيها: الناشط الحراكي، الاصلاحي الجنوبي، الاشتراكي الجنوبي، المؤتمري الجنوبي... إلخ جميعاً يتحدثون فيما بينهم حول هموم محافظتهم وتذوب حواجز الماضي لتتشكل فيما بعد رابط اقوى يجمعهم معاً هو اكثر الامور تعقيداً وتحدياً لمخيم الاعتصام اليوم.
أن ذهاب الوقت الذي يمضيه المعتصمين في ساحة الأعتصام دون نقاش جاد حول مستقبل الخطوات التصعيدية و مستقبل جنوب اليمن تديرة النخب الجنوبية يعد خسارة كبيرة اولاً.
وثانياً بالإمكان ان يكون انانية و إحتكار بل وتضليل إذا ما تم إقتصار مناقشة تلك المسائل خارج المخيم بين القيادات الجنوبية فقط بعيداً عن المعتصمين في ساحة الاعتصام تاركينهم لمصير مجهول.
علاوة على كل ما سبق، ما يزال الصراع بين اولئك الذين يؤيدون دولة يمنية من اقليمين جنوبي وشمالي مع حق تقرير المصير بعد 5 سنوات للجنوبيين . و فك الارتباط المباشر قد وصل الى اوجه هذه الاثناء.
فكلا الفريقين يحاول ان يحضى بالتأييد الاكبر في ساحة الاعتصام كما يسعى إلى السيطرة على إدارة شئون مخيم الاعتصام ففي الوقت الذي تم فيه إختيار الشيخ حسين بن شعيب لأدارة مخيم الاعتصام تفاجئ المعتصمون في الساحة ببيان اخر من قوى فك الارتباط المباشر تتحدث عن إختيارها لشلال علي شائع من محافظة الضالع كمدير لشئون مخيم الاعتصام بخورمكسر عدن ! إن مثل ذلك الفعل يرسخ بقوة للأنقسام الجنوبي بل ولا ابالغ ان قلت بأنه يستدعي صراع الماضي بين الطغمة (يافع/لحج و الضالع) و الزمرة (ابين وشبوة) ولكن هذه المرة بشخصيات معاصرة و ضروف مختلفة.
ومع ان ثمة مبادرات جيدة من بعض المجاميع الجنوبية كمجموعة ال 33 لساحة الاعتصام الا ان ذلك ما يزال ضعيف امام الكم الهائل من التحديات التي يصنعها قادة المكونات الجنوبية فيما بينهم.
ان اللحظة الحالية حرجة وتتطلب حوار ولقاءات وشراكة في صنع المستقبل المشترك... لكن في جنوب اليمن يبدو بأن افق مستقبل هذه الرقعة الجغرافية غير واضح.
On this episode we talk with journalist Iona Craig about the complex reality of the Southern Movement, and we meet Ahmed Alshaiba, a young Yemeni ‘oud player who wants to change the future of Yemeni music.
Iona Craig writes for The Times of London, The Sunday Times, and USA Today, among others. She is also part of an exciting new subscription-based online platform, Beacon, which is trying to make freelance reporting a bit more sustainable by allowing subscribers to support writers directly. I recommend you read Iona's latest article on the Southern Movement once you sign up for Beacon. Iona tweets at @ionacraig.
You can check out Ahmed Alshaiba's Facebook page, and his Youtube channel, where he posts his latest tracks. Ahmed's tracks featured on this episode are, in order, "Adhhak 'ala al-Ayam," "Smooth Criminal," and "Dance in the Rain."
Here's the full video of Youth delegate Mubarak al-Bahar's opening address to the National Dialogue Conference, quoted in Act 1:
Here's the Aden Live TV segment quoted in Act 2, in which the pro-Hirak satellite channel covers demonstrations and crackdowns in 'Aden.
Welcome to the home of the new YPP podcast, Mafraj Radio! Our podcast will cover contemporary political, social, and cultural affairs in Yemen and the Yemeni diaspora from a range of sources and perspectives. Our aim with this podcast is to make Yemen accessible to casual listeners who don’t necessarily have a background in Yemen or Middle East studies, while still providing a level of depth and context you can’t get from mainstream media coverage of Yemen. On this episode, we take a look at two growing movements that are threatening the established political and social order in Yemen: the Peaceful Southern Movement, also known as al-Hirak, and the Huthi movement.
Our guests on this episode are:
Adam M. Baron is a freelance journalist based in Sanaa, Yemen who reports regularly for the Daily Telegraph, McClatchy Newspapers and the Christian Science Monitor. His writing has also appeared in Foreign Policy, The Nation (US), The Daily Beast, The Economist, The Independent (UK), Brownbook, Vice and Sports Illustrated. He has been interviewed by radio and television outlets in the United States, Canada and Europe, including CBS Radio, ABC Radio, CNN, the CBC, NPR, RTE and various arms of the BBC.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, he graduated from Williams College with a dual degree in Arab Studies and Religion. He has lived in Sanaa since January 2011.
You can follow Adam on Twitter: @adammbaron
Stephen W. Day Stephen Day is Adjunct Professor of Middle East Politics at the Hamilton Hold School at Rollins College in Florida (USA). He has written for many journals, including Middle East Journal, Middle East Policy, and publications of the Carnegie Foundation. His latest book, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen: a troubled national union, is published by Cambridge Press.
Madeleine Wells Goldburt is a 2013 visiting research fellow at the AUK and a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the George Washington University, where she concentrates on comparative politics, ethnic politics, and international relations. Her dissertation research focuses on the politics of citizenship and social benefits in the Arabian Gulf. Prior to attending GWU, Ms. Wells worked for two years at the RAND Corporation analyzing rebellion and insurgency in Arabian Gulf and Horn of Africa. She also assisted with research for the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. Ms. Wells is a co-author of the 2010 RAND monograph Regime and Periphery in Northern Yemen: The Huthi Phenomenon. She holds an MA in Islamic Studies from Columbia and a BA in Government and Near Eastern Studies from Cornell.
You can follow Madeleine on Twitter: @SwellWells
The video for the song Dana mentions at the end of act one can be found here:
A note about this episode: we make a serious effort to include Yemeni voices in each episode, but in this case it was not possible to record interviews with any of the three other guests we had planned to speak to before our deadline.
Earlier today someone commented on the YPP Facebook page that the YPP isn't doing anything to highlight or address the "southern issue." I think this is not quite true, but I thought I'd take a minute to write about the subject in the hopes of fostering a public discussion here on the blog. First, what exactly is the "southern issue"? It depends who you ask. If you ask a representative of the central government, for instance, he might tell you about the "lawlessness" and violence that pervades some parts of the south, and the refusal of southern activists and political leaders to participate in the transition process.
If you ask your average southerner, she or he will probably tell you that southerners have been systematically disenfranchised ever since unification in 1990, and that a peaceful protest movement that began in 2007 has been violently repressed since its very first sit-in. He or she would probably also mention the 1994 civil war, in which northern forces destroyed the southern army and sacked the southern capital, 'Aden, and other cities. Many southerners will also say that the south has been "occupied" ever since 1994, and that the Saleh regime and its inner circle of northern shaykhs, generals, and businessmen systematically stole southern land and wealth in the early years of unification. An increasing number of southerns will go on to tell you that they are, in fact, not Yemenis at all. They prefer to be called South Yemenis or South Arabians, and they demand complete independence for the former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen.
If you were to ask me about the southern issue, I'd probably mention some of the same things as our hypothetical southerner above. I'd tell you that the government's response to southern activism since 2007 has been excessively violent and militarized. I would note that, in today's transitional, post-revolutionary Yemen, government forces would hardly dare to attack protesters in San‘a or Ta‘iz (although some government agencies still hold political prisoners from the revolution), but those same forces don't hesitate to bully, beat, or fire upon demonstrators in the south. I would also mention that although both the new president and prime minister are from the south, the current central government has done nothing to demonstrate good faith or otherwise address the demands of southerners in a constructive fashion.
But there's more to the issue than just a conflict between north and south, or between pro-independence activists and the central government. Southern secessionists are divided among themselves. There are several different political leaders who claim to speak for the south (or specific parts of the south), and even more ground-level factions that mount demonstrations and even armed attacks on government assets. And of course, there are plenty of southerners who aren't asking for independence. Some support the idea of a federal state with strong local government, and others want to see southern grievances addressed in the context of a new, unified, revolutionary republic. And yes, there are southerners who support neither independence nor the revolution (not a popular thing to say, but it's certainly true).
Personally, I believe that self-determination is an inalienable right for all people. That said, if the southern governorates were to declare independence today, the results would not be good for anyone in Yemen (except the arms dealers). I think some kind of progress on the nation-wide transition and stabilization process must be achieved before any serious talk about dividing Yemen into smaller states. I think a successful, peaceful, equal southern Yemen--independent or not--can only come about if the various factions and political leaders of the southern region can find a way to work together under a democratic framework (something they've never managed to do before, it must be said.
Now that I've said my piece, I very much want to hear what other people have to say. How do you see the "southern issue"? What do you think the government can do about it? What do you think about independence or federalism, and do you think either of these things is actually feasible? How can northern citizens help create a more positive political atmosphere? What should outside powers and the international community be doing with regards to the south? What should non-governmental organizations and foreign activists like us be doing? Please let us hear your opinions. Thanks!
While I work on a couple of long, detailed blog posts—one on the tactics and messaging strategies of AQAP and Ansar al-Shari`ah, and one on why President Hadi might want to take a page out of his predecessor's playbook—I needed to take a minute and flesh out two questions that keep coming up in my interactions on Twitter, but are too big to easily tackle in that format. I don't have answers to either of these questions, so I would love it if readers would offer their thoughts, either here in the comments or on Twitter.
Big Question Number One:
AQAP and Ansar al-Shari`ah: are they one and the same? Most serious analysts and specialists who know a lot about Yemen and/or al-Qa`idah believe that they are. More specifically, they accept the explanation that AQAP itself has offered, that Ansar al-Shari`ah (AAS) is simply a new brand name that AQAP operatives use when they think the al-Qa`idah name might not go over well with locals. This is the interpretation Gregory Johnsen, Aaron Zelin, and Will McCants—three very smart analysts I tend to agree with—accept, and it's the one presented on last week's PBS Frontline special. That program reached a much broader audience than usually pays attention to news from Yemen.
But there are others who don't accept this easy explanation of the relationship between AAS and AQAP. Wall Street Journal correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer has been very vocal, on Twitter at least, in insisting that locals in Abyan view the two organizations as separate and distinct. Knickmeyer claims that "a sizeable number of researchers currently working in Yemen" understand the two to be distinct, although she became inexplicably hostile and refused to talk to me when I tried to discuss this with her on Twitter. Another San`a-based American analyst whom I respect a great deal told me recently that AQAP's leadership has no direct relationship to AAS, and that AAS was originally, according to his sources, made up primarily of mercenaries, though it's not clear exactly to whom they answered.
The two groups still maintain separate media operations. As I'll explain in more detail in an upcoming post, I think that the messaging and media of the two groups tells us a good deal about their relationship. Most importantly, no one in the "AAS and AQAP are the same" camp has yet presented a detailed explanation of the whole operational structure of the unified organization. If AAS is just a marketing campaign, we have to understand how AQAP has been able, in just one year, to transform from a rather small network of militants primarily focused on carrying out bombings and other small operations to a quasi-state entity, capable of commanding a small army and governing whole towns.
Big Question Number Two:
Who really controls armed groups associated with Islah and the Southern Movement in 'Aden and elsewhere in the south? A few minutes ago I had the following interaction with Tweeter Haykal Bafana` after tweeting a story from the Yemen Post about new recruits in the Yemeni army firing at the Defense Minister's car:
This conversation reminded me of another one I had last week with tweeter Amel Ahmed about recent fighting between armed men identified as members of the Southern Movement (al-Hirak) and others identified as Islahi gunmen. Now, it's commonly understood that al-Hirak is not a unitary group with a single, central leadership. So it's very hard to know whom we're talking about when we use phrases like "Hiraki gunmen" or "southern separatist fighters." A recent story in the Guardian explained how some Southern Movement factions are seeking support from/being courted by foreign powers or other factions, including Iran and AQAP. So it's always important to ask, when clashes involving "separatists" are reported in 'Aden, Hadhramawt, or elsewhere in the south, who exactly these separatists are, and who commands, supports, or arms them.
Likewise, it's not clear (at least to me) who the so-called Islah party gunmen are in 'Aden (or in Abyan, as per Haykal's assertion above). Most analysts will tell you that party membership has never been the primary mode of identification, or the primary loyalty, of most Yemenis. Party ranks below family and tribe for most people. But in the past year there have been fighters described as "Islahi" involved in conflicts in al-Jawf, San`a, Arhab, `Aden, and now Abyan. So who are these fighters, and who commands them? Should we assume that all of these groups are in fact commanded and paid by the Islah party leadership? Of course, Islah has never been a perfectly unified entity either, so who among the leading figures in the party is responsible for these militias? Hamid al-Ahmar? 'Abd al-Majid al-Zindani?
As armed groups continue to proliferate throughout Yemen, and as the United States becomes increasingly involved in the Yemeni state's fights against some of these groups, those of us who seek to understand Yemeni affairs need to do a better job of understanding and explaining the issues raised above.
*********** Update: The first response to this post came via Twitter. I can't post Storify pieces in the comments section, so I'll add it here:
We're honored once again to offer our readers a guest-post by University of Exeter PhD candidate and renowned Yemen-watcher Fernando Carvajal. I should probably stop calling them "guest-posts," though, since Fernando is responsible for more of our recent content than we are. This one offers some much-needed insight into the behind-the-scenes politics of the formation of the new unity government and the immediate future of Yemen after the signing of the infamous GCC agreement. Fernando prefaces his post with a phrase familiar to American readers: "Sic semper tyrannis"
So far this has been one of those intense weeks for Yemenis and our group of observers. Events began to develop on Saturday November 19th with news that UN Special Envoy Jamal Ben Omar would cancel a planned trip to Riyadh with Opposition leaders and representatives from president Saleh’s government, and instead would remain in Sana’a until the final deal would lead to agreement on the GCC Initiative introduced in April. Ben Omar pressed both sides for a final agreement as the 30 day deadline imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 2014 approached. This deadline would require Ben Omar to produce a report on the situation, which would not paint a favorable picture for President Saleh, who already began to feel the heat from calls to freeze his assets outside Yemen and impose sanctions on his relatives and government officials by activists like Tawakkol Karman and others online. Such efforts against Saleh gained the ear of French officials who made their opinion public and threatened to act on sanctions if the stalemate and killings continued in Yemen.
As I left Yemen on Monday November 21st it looked like I would miss another historic event this year, even though my Yemeni friends remained pessimistic about the president’s intentions. On Wednesday, as I waited for my flight from London to Los Angeles I began to read the news that President Saleh had signed the GCC initiative in Riyadh, which was then followed by a series of signatures elsewhere of the documents containing amendments and additions to the initiative as agreed by the Joint Meeting Parties and government officials like FM Abu Bakr al-Qirbi and Dr Abd al-Kareem al-Iryani. As people in Sana’a informed me before my departure, two points were essential to ensuring signatures on both sides. First was the issue over immunity. Many people still think this only concerns President Saleh and his relatives, but indeed the deal includes immunity for about 16 major personalities directly involved in the conflict since February in areas like Aden, Arhab, Sana’a and Taiz. All individuals involved in violent clashes with official posts are covered by the immunity deal, even so-called defectors who curiously enough have remained on official government payrolls since March 20th.
Second, the Southern question had been a vital issue to address before any deal could be agreed. This was Dr. Yasin Saeed No’man’s main agenda. Dr. No’man, head of the Yemen Socialist Party, has remained the primary face of the Southern issue since the failed National Dialogue process. Al-Harak, or Southern Movement, has been unable to become a legitimate representative of the South within political negotiations as an ‘unconstitutional’ entity. This leaves Dr. No’man with the burden to carry on under pressure from the population in the South and obstacles created by ‘leaders’ in exile. Dr. No’man, and his junior political allies within the JMP, had to press for the issue to be included in the agreement in order for it to remain in the agenda for the Dialogue process leading to the interim government. The issue had to be recognized within the agreement in order to marginalize any communiqué produced during the two day meeting of southern leaders in Cairo between November 21 and 22. Fortunately for Dr. No’man the meeting in Cairo was a fiasco. Only a few activists attended the meeting and the few opted to continue supporting secession, moving away from loud voices supporting negotiations on the establishment of a Federal Republic, whose political entities are still debated inside and outside Yemen. The matter remains highly volatile but at least the Southern question has not been completely ignored as the Houthi issue, which remains completely outside the political process today.
Finally, today we began to hear news of Mr. Mohammed BaSundwa as the most probable candidate from the JMP for the post of interim Prime Minister for the 90 day period under the GCC Initiative. The Twitter-sphere also began to transmit opinions of many at Change Square who claimed BaSundwa was not the ideal candidate but would be acceptable, we assume this is the case for JMP youth, not independents who continue rejecting the legitimacy of the GCC deal. I was told last weekend that the other two candidates would be Dr. Yasin No’man and Abd al-Wahhab al-Anesi of al-Islah. The former would be the ideal candidate but Dr. No’man failed to accept President Saleh’s offer after 22 May 2010 and he would lose further credibility in the South by merely participating in the interim government. People have hopes for No’man as a Prime Minister after the elections, not merely within the 90 day transition period. Mr. al-Anesi would be problematic as a candidate since he is the head of al-Islah party, blamed for hijacking the youth revolution, and representing the old guard within the party with a more conservative image. His candidacy would also represent Islah’s hegemony over the JMP and would raise red flags for the US and UK governments at a time when Islamist parties begin their ascent through the Arab Spring in North Africa.
As for Mr. BaSundwa, a former UN Ambassador and Foreign Minister under president Saleh, his candidacy appears the most appropriate for the interim period. I spent my Fridays during Ramadan this year with him and a group of opposition personalities in Sana’a, where I had the opportunity to gain further insight into the complexities faced by the National Transition Council. It was also a great opportunity for me to understand some of the personalities involved. My most memorable exchange with Mr. BaSundwa and company was when I complained to the group about the Council’s holiday announcement. I was a bit harsh, in a diplomatic way, when I expressed my disgust of the idea that politicians could go on Eid holiday in the middle of a ‘revolution’ while youth remained at Change Square and Freedom Square away from their own families. Many agreed with me but at the end they said ‘this is Yemen’. Mr. BaSundwa impressed me with his understanding of the crisis and international actors, but I have to say that we must keep our expectations low during his brief term in office. His role will be to maintain the parties engaged, as he did during the National Dialogue process. We must also keep in mind that his presence will not be well received by President Saleh, who still holds BaSundwa responsible for the direct attacks on him produced by the final communiqué from the Central Committee of the National Dialogue. Saleh also opposed BaSundwa’s presence during the signing of the GCC Initiative in May. We must also keep in mind that the interim government, if it includes BaSundwa, will actually be an ‘all Southern government’. Both VP al-Hadi and BaSundwa are southerners, and if we look at the overwhelming majority of Deputy Ministers they too are Southerners. We need to see who will be the new Vice President and how many Deputy Ministers are changed after the 90 day transition period. I guess Hamid al-Ahmar will get his wish.
Some analysts in Sana’a also point to BaSundwa’s relations with Hamid al-Ahmar as a major point of friction between him and President Saleh. After all these negative points against BaSundwa one may wonder why him? We must keep in mind the process engaged in ending the nearly ten month long stalemate merely included regime actors, not the youth or groups beyond existing political parties. Choices are few from within the political elite. Many of us will agree this has been a direct negative consequence of the many opportunities missed by the independent youth to organize themselves and become active participants rather than marginalized and co-opted numbers contained by Firqa and al-Islah. The major theme over the past ten months in Yemen has been the absence of viable alternatives. None have surfaced, even from among the defectors, like Muhammad Abu Lahum of the Justice & Building Bloc or from within the newly announced Democratic Awakening Movement. No individual or group has been able to challenge the JMP leadership, yes, not even Tawakkol Karman. The lack of viable alternatives leaves the elite to negotiate among themselves and to proceed along expected political lines without any plans to change the status quo.
We must keep in mind that no political actor, not Abu Lahum or the Democratic Awakening, have produced any vision for progress following the transition process. It is a shame that after ten months neither the government nor groups of activists have a program for constitutional reform, economic recovery or national reconciliation. We are now in the days after the signature and since March all I hear is ‘the plan will come out after the signature, it will be ready’. Well, where is it? As a foreigner I understand that my role should be limited to that of an observer, but after spending so much time with activists and government officials I cannot avoid asking such questions. I truly hope that some vision is announced within hours, otherwise the youth will find themselves having thrown away ten months of their lives for nothing. Occupation of streets in Sana’a or Ta‘iz will mean nothing without a vision of what the ‘post-Saleh period’ should look like.
The events of the last few days deserve a long and thoughtful blog entry, or several, but right now I just want to get a few thoughts down on various subjects. Yesterday the GCC foreign ministers met to discuss the Yemen situation "after hearing from both sides." The fact that the ministers think there are but two sides in this revolution tells us right away that the revolutionary Youth are not going to get what they're after from the GCC. The plan that has leaked out of these meetings so far confirms this. It goes something like this: President Saleh steps down within the next 30 days, handing power to his vice president (as per the constitution). It's not clear whether he would retain the current VP, 'Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, or appoint someone more likable. Then, 60 days after the transfer of power, new elections would be held.
Now, Yemen's ruling party--the GPC--and its main opposition bloc--the JMP--have been at loggerheads for about three years now over the country's election laws, and parliamentary elections have been postponed twice. Why anyone thinks elections could be organized in three months is beyond me.
Then again, maybe I'm being unfair. Unlike many countries, Yemen has at least held successful elections before; maybe it would be best to just push ahead with them, if the parties could agree to a set of emergency election rules. Previously the main bone of contention was the fact the the GPC effectively controlled the election process, and could disqualify whomever it saw fit. If this system were to be suspended and elections monitored by some third party (the GCC has lots of experience with democratic elections, right?), perhaps 90 days would be enough time.
But I forgot to mention real selling point of the current GCC plan: Saleh and his whole family get a guarantee of immunity from prosecution. They probably don't even have to leave the country, and there's no mention of assets being frozen nationalized. That's right: the family that has run Yemen into the ground, and motivated millions of people to revolt, and has allegedly emptied the central bank in the last two months, gets to stick around, maybe run for office, maybe start that civil war 'Ali 'Abdullah's been promising.
So why would the GCC and the Saleh regime put forward a plan that the other side will certainly refuse? Because, as I suggested earlier, there isn't an "other side." The other way to put it is that there are at least five different "other sides" (maybe a hundred, it depends on how you count). The GCC can play dumb, but they know this quite well, as does the president, of course. Sure, the Youth in the protest squares will be disgusted, and the regime is counting on that. But the other rebellious groups--the major tribal confederations, the Huthis, several pieces of the military, the JMP establishment--will all understand that a compromise is being offered here, one that could give them all exactly what they want. General 'Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, the shaykhs of Hashid and Bakil, the JMP leadership; they all know how to talk a good revolution, but for the most part they are in this revolution because it's where the action is. They will stand behind the Youth until they hear a good enough offer, and no longer. And of course, the Youth will catch the bullets and the beatings until then. Once these various segments of the political mainstream agree to negotiate with the regime, the Youth will appear to be the sole rejectionists, and will be blamed for all the chaos and disunity.
Oh, and of course the Southern Movement folks will also be left behind, and the regime will be given all the excuse it needs to intensify its crackdowns until the revolutionaries can no longer sustain their movement.
So that's what the regime and the GCC are really working toward in these negotiations, or at least that's how I read it. The big question is whether the activists who started this revolution have learned enough about politics in the last three months to prove me and the regime wrong. Can the Youth maintain their shaky coalitions long enough to outlast Saleh? Can they convince the mainstream opposition forces to take a chance, when cutting a deal with the devil would probably pay off faster and better? The GCC plans to send an envoy to Yemen later this week with the official details of the deal, so perhaps we'll learn the answers to these questions very soon.
Oh, and as a footnote: the UN Security Council met this week to talk about Yemen as well, for the first time and at the request of Germany. They failed to draft an official statement, as China and Russia blocked all proposals (I really doubt the US was too upset about this, either). The next time you catch me or any other Yemen watcher saying that all Saleh has left are his own relatives, remember that two of the most powerful nations in the world are still unwilling to criticize him.
Today we have the honor of sharing a guest post by James King, an expert on Zaydi history and the Huthi movement. James has written extensively on these topics elsewhere, and has done first-hand research in northern Yemen. His insights are extremely valuable. Enjoy! The days of President Ali Abdullah Salih are likely numbered. We’re still miles from that point, but it appears increasingly doubtful that he can survive the end of his term in September 2013, despite his insistence otherwise. More and more, the question is one of how rather than if.
Will he step down at the year’s end to allow for presidential elections, as called for by the JMP? If the protests continue to escalate, will he attempt to mount a Gaddafi-esque megalomaniacal crack-down, likely forcing civil war(s)? Or will the protest movement coalesce around even bolder demands, not merely Salih’s departure, but the fundamental transformation of Yemen’s political order?
As analysts debate how a post-Salih Yemen might look, we must remember that the regime already faces three existing conflicts. These run the gamut from full-blown revolutionary groups like AQAP that seek to overthrow the republican system; to the al-Hirak coalition, whose members’ ambitions range from greater Southern autonomy to secession; to the Huthi movement, a family of prominent Zaydi sayyids and their tribal allies that have spearheaded armed confrontation with the state in Yemen’s northernmost provinces.
Perhaps the most pertinent question on Yemen’s future is whether these groups will play (or be allowed to play) a role in any new government. And does this represent a unique opportunity to resolve conflicts by drawing them into a more inclusive state?
For the Huthis in particular, I am convinced that if given the opportunity, they would participate in any pluralistic state that respects Zaydis' communal rights, whether led by a transitional government or in the context of a new constitutional order.
For starters, the Huthis’ relationship to the Salih regime is far more complex than most people realize. In the early 1990s, Salih supported a nascent Zaydi revival movement in Sa’dah and its neighboring provinces in response to the proliferation of radical Sunni groups. This included the Believing Youth (BY), a sort of predecessor group to the Huthi movement (many of the latter’s eventual leadership were key figures in the BY), whose camps and schools received small amounts of government patronage. While some BY leaders were politically active (including Husayn al-Huthi, who served in Parliament), it was a primarily religious and educational movement, aiming to repel Wahhabi and Salafi influence in traditionally Zaydi areas.
The BY-Huthi transformation from pietistic movement to loyal political opposition to militant resistance group was neither linear nor straightforward.
In fact, the disparate groups that either support or participate with the Huthis’ core leadership remain loosely defined and without a concrete political agenda. Their demands have evolved from the first round of fighting until now, particularly as the conflict escalated. Both employing resonant Zaydi and Islamic rhetoric and appealing to the Yemeni Constitution and human rights discourses, they claim to defend their religious and constitutional rights in the face of government aggression and tyranny. In many ways, their grievances parallel other opposition groups in Yemen, whether al-Hirak or the unaffiliated youth now pouring into protests.
Despite a concerted propaganda campaign from the Yemeni state that labels them as foreign-funded and inspired (Iran, Hizbollah, even Libya) or separatists seeking to re-establish the Zaydi Imamate, the Huthis and their allies have not declared independence or overthrowing the Republic of Yemen as their ultimate goal.
That is not to understate the massive gap between the Huthis and the Salih regime, particularly as the former now de facto controls several provinces in and around Sa’dah. But the point is, this isn’t simply a “rebel” group that categorically rejects the Salih regime, let alone a Republican, non-Imamate form of government.
The Huthi leadership could be brought into a robust process of national reconciliation and dialogue, even if in the context of reform rather than revolution. As one Huthi supporter told me months ago, before these protests: “If the Huthi movement were given the opportunity, it would evolve into something more, even a political party. Because of the current context, they’re unable. They’re not allowed by the government.”
To guarantee their constructive involvement in this process, any future state must prioritize political and religious freedoms, embrace democracy and broad-based participation, and perhaps most significantly, reject the political, economic and military cronyism that cripples Yemen. And it must respect the Zaydi madhhab and cultural and religious rights of Zaydis.
The challenges involved in establishing the framework for such a state, let alone achieving it, are immense.
Ideologically, it would require reforming Yemen’s educational institutions and mediums for public discourse – school curriculum, the media, mosque programming, etc. – which now reflect a Salafi bent. Considering the political and economic influence of hostile Sunni movements, as well as the strength of anti-Shi’i discourses in general, this will not be easy. Politically, any future government must reverse the divide-and-rule politics that have defined the Salih presidency and which re-enforce these communal tensions. It would also need to grant at least the Sa’dah province, where the government presence has remained weak since it first entered in 1967, considerable autonomy.
Like in the South, the best hope for achieving long-term stability in Yemen’s northwest is to bring together diverse – and until now, alienated – leaders into a negotiation that can facilitate meaningful change and democratic transition. In other words, invest them in the formulation and implementation of a framework for Yemen’s constitutional, political and economic future that is more inclusive and representative.
The Huthi movement would participate in such a negotiation, and if realized, a new Yemen.
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.
I've neglected this blog for a few days, as I've been spending most of my time this weekend trying to keep up with developments in Yemen and responding to these via Twitter and Facebook. But there are a few people who read this blog who don't follow the YPP elsewhere (they really should, though), so I thought it would be useful, while I work on my next piece of forward-looking analysis, to post some of my recent updates here. Things are going to change a great deal in the next few days, so this post will help us remember what came before. The excerpts below are in reverse chronological order. All times are Yemen time (GMT +3).
2/20 10:30pm: Protests in San'a are very organized, and have persisted throughout the day. This looks like a turning point, the first day of sustained, peaceful occupation of public space in San'a. If San'a and Ta'iz can both sustain such protests, a significant shift will have occurred. Large demos are also reported in Ibb today.
The military seems to be in control of Aden, though large protests continue in every district of the city. One protester was reported killed by gunfire in the Shaykh Othman district, north of the city.
2/20 8:00pm: San'a demonstrations are more peaceful today. Protesters at the university massively outnumber thugs, who have seemingly given up for the day. President Saleh addressed tribal leaders this morning; foreign journalists were invited to attend as Saleh tries to undo the damage to his image after journos were attacked and intimidated earlier this week. No concrete news from Aden, but last night the city was surrounded by military forces and phone service was cut. A major leader of the Southern Movement, Hasan Baumi, has been kidnapped by security forces for the second time this year, if I'm not mistaken.
2/19 12:00pm: Tweeters from Aden report two children are among the latest casualties, shot by security forces.
2/19 10:39pm: Security forces in San'a have just now started shooting at protesters near al-Zubayri bridge. Students and others were marching away from the University. Police told them to disperse, which they did. Then police began shooting.
Yemen's main opposition bloc, the Joint Meeting Parties, has announced that it stands with protesters in advocating an end to the Saleh regime. It will not engage in dialogue until the protesters' demands are met.
2/19 9:20pm: Yemen gov. says that if the regime falls, anarchy will prevail and "tribes may raid the capital." Translation: "if you keep protesting, we will pay loyal tribes to raid the capital." It's happened before. The struggle between the president and other leaders for the loyalty of northern tribes may determine the success or failure of this movement, especially in San'a. For related analysis see: http://bit.ly/eL6oWy
2/19 7:30pm: One protester has been killed and at least ten injured after security forces opened fire on protesters at San'a University [it was later reported that all of those injured had in fact survived]. According to Al Jazeera, guns have been used today by both sides. It's unclear to me whether clashes are still going on.
The military has cut off the city of Aden and imposed a curfew there. Protesters have burned government buildings and continue to gather.
2/18 2:15am: As of now it seems that protests/clashes might still be going on in some neighborhoods of Aden. Sources indicate that at least 2 have been killed there today. Either one or no deaths from the grenade in Ta'iz, and around 80 injuries. Protesters there are maintaining a round-the-clock occupation of the public square there. In San'a it seems that there were no night-time clashes. Protesters were attacked and beaten this afternoon.
2/18 10:00pm: Witnesses say army and special forces have emerged on the streets of Aden. We may see a much more intense crackdown tonight.
2/18 8:36pm: Today's protests in San'a: protesters stopped, attacked, turned back by police. Other sources claim greater violence against protesters than this report indicates.
2/18 6:18pm: At least one killed in Aden today. That's three days in a row with protesters killed there. Government has appointed a new head of security for Aden, a man who yesterday blamed Southern Movement activists for deaths.
2/18 5:52pm: A man said to be an employee of the mayor of Ta'iz threw a grenade into a group of peaceful demonstrators there earlier today, killing one and injuring at least thirty. Marib Press also reports that the entire army garrison near Ta'iz was emptied as ruling party officials paid soldiers to participate in mandatory pro-regime rallies.
2/18 5:42am: Protest organizers in all of Yemen's major cities have called for massive protests today. Most groups had planned events for the 24th or 25th, but events seem to have pushed the timetable ahead. This could mean that organizers have less control over the protests (that was certainly true in San'a yesterday).
2/18 12:04am: "Tens of thousands" of demonstrators have gathered in Ta'iz's Tahrir Square, and plan to remain there as long as possible. The locals have been joined by crowds from all over the province, and demonstrators have begun to form committees to protect the crowd from security forces.
2/17 10:21pm: A shaykh of the northern Hashid tribal confederation and member of the al-Ahmar family has said that his group is ready to intervene to protect demonstrators if the government continues its crackdown. This is likely more a bargaining maneuver than a viable threat, but we'll see.
2/17 6:30pm: Today seems to have been a very bad day in San'a. Lots of violence between pro- and anti- government demonstrators on the streets, but it seems to have ended peacefully. It's not clear to me whether Aden was calmer today [it wasn't].
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.
Alaa Isam, an activist and blogger from 'Aden, has new videos from today's protests in the south: http://opinions-alaaisam.blogspot.com/
...Crowds were celebrating in the streets, as indeed they were in all Yemen's major towns. The concrete-filled barrels at check-points on the border between North and South had been rolled away and crowds chanted ba‘d al-yawm ma ‘ad baramil, after today, no more barrels!
Those lines come from the anthropologist/historian Paul Dresch's description of Yemen's Unification Day, May 22, 1990. I thought of this description one night back in July when, driving past the President's Mosque in San‘a, it occurred to me that there are far more "barrels" in Yemen today than there were before unification.
A single militarized border between two states has been replaced by a heavily militarized single state, militarized not against outside enemies but against its own citizens. Today in Yemen, no one can drive from one city to another without stopping at multiple checkpoints. Inside the cities, police and Federal Security forces are omnipresent.
Today the news and the Tweet-o-sphere were full of reports of the tremendous success of the Gulf Cup Tournament in Aden. I should know, as I contributed to Yemen's PR victory by noting these stories on the YPP's own Twitter feed and Facebook page (and again here, just now). Of course, Yemen deserves a bit of good news, and a bit of positive coverage in the world media. As I noted on Facebook, this was the first time I've ever heard a non-Yemeni Arab say anything positive about Yemen. But the narrative of these cheerful stories is a bit sad, and very revealing. Most of the articles revolve around two points:
- Yemen hosted an international event and nothing got blown up;
- security was overwhelming, but everyone had a great time.
The underlying assumptions are that there would have been terrorist attacks at the tournament had the government not provided adequate security, and that, to put it simply, the South is crazy and unsafe without thousands of soldiers all over it. The conclusion that a rational reader would draw, then, is that an overwhelming and "proactive" domestic security posture (or, in South Yemeni dialect, an occupation) is totally justified and a good thing for everyone involved. Just look how much fun those Saudi tourists are having! And hey, what was the threat that all of those soldiers were protecting us from, anyway? Al-Qa‘idah? Secessionists? Most foreign reporters don't know, and didn't bother to find out.
A few happy stories about football might do a lot to legitimize the central government's repressive policies towards the South. What President Saleh wants, after all, is to associate the Southern Movement with AQAP in the minds of his allies. By depicting an amorphous danger in the south and crediting the government with defending people against it, the press has helped him accomplish this goal. His security measures—which have repeatedly failed to defeat actual threats—have been congratulated and welcomed by the international community, while southerners who complain of northern aggression have been discredited.
After today, more and more barrels.