Saturday, 19 March 2011

2011 Yemeni protests

The 2011 Yemeni protests followed the initial stages of the Tunisian Revolution and occurred simultaneously with the 2011 Egyptian revolution[8] and other mass protests in the Arab world in early 2011. The protests were initially against unemployment, economic conditions[9] and corruption,[10] as well as against the government's proposals to modify the constitution of Yemen. The protestors' demands then escalated to calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.

A major demonstration of over 16,000 protestors took place in Sana'a on 27 January.[11] On 2 February, President Saleh announced he would not run for reelection in 2013 and that he would not pass power to his son. On 3 February, 20,000 people protested against the government in Sana'a,[12][13] others protested in Aden,[14] in a "Day of Rage" called for by Tawakel Karman,[15] while soldiers, armed members of the General People's Congress and many protestors held a pro-government rally in Sana'a


Yemen has one of the lowest Human Development Index ratings in the Arab world.

Yemen is facing a conflict with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,[17] as well as a revolt from secessionists in southern Yemen (where Osama Bin Laden's family is originally from),[18] who want to see the old South Yemen reconstituted. Additionally, there is also a Shia Houthi rebellion in the north of the country that wishes to be separate.
Ali Abdullah Saleh has been President of Yemen since 1990, and President of North Yemen from 1978 to 1990

Ali Abdullah Saleh has been president of Yemen for more than 30 years,[8] and many believe his son Ahmed Saleh is being groomed to eventually replace him.[19] Almost half of the population of Yemen live on $2 or less a day, and one-third suffer from chronic hunger.[20] Yemen ranks 146th in the Transparency International 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index,[21] and 15th in the 2010 Failed States Index.[22]

A draft amendment to the constitution of Yemen is currently under discussion in parliament despite opposition protests. The amendment seeks to allow Saleh to remain in the office of president for life. He urged the opposition to take part in an election on April 27 to avoid "political suicide." The current parliament's mandate was extended by two years after an agreement in February 2009 agreement the ruling General People's Congress and opposition parties seeking a dialogue on political reforms such as: moving from a presidential system to a proportional representation parliamentary system and a more decentralised government. Neither measure has been implemented.[23]
2009 alleged internal governmental dissent

According to a WikiLeaks report released 31 January 2011, in December 2009 United States diplomat Angie Bryan claimed that there had been opposition to Saleh from his closest advisors for several months. Bryan wrote, "Like other Saleh watchers, xxxxx[24] characterizes the multitude of threats facing Saleh as qualitatively different and more threatening to the regime's stability than those during any other time in Yemen's history. 'Saleh is overwhelmed, exhausted by the war, and more and more intolerant of internal criticism. Saudi involvement comes at just the right time for him' xxxxx said. Largely unprecedented criticism of Saleh's leadership within the rarified circle of Saleh's closest advisors has increased in recent months, even including longtime Saleh loyalists such as Office of the Presidency aides xxxxx, according to xxxxx. These names add to the growing chorus of Saleh loyalists that have shed their traditional aversion to disparaging the man they call 'The Boss'".[25]
Protesters with pink signs and headwear on 3 February.
Use of pink
Main article: Colour revolution

Yemeni protesters wore pink ribbons to symbolise the "Jasmine Revolution" and indicate their non-violent intent.[20] Shawki al-Qadi, a lawmaker and opposition figure, said pink was chosen to represent love and to signal that the protests would be peaceful.[26] The preponderance of pink ribbons in the demonstrations showed the level of planning that went into the protests.



Thousands of Yemenis protested the streets of Sana'a since mid-January 2011[9][23][27] to demand a change in government,[28] though the protests in the south of the country were more aggressive.[28] The protests "appeared to be the first large-scale challenge" to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule;[29] protesters compared him to the ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, citing government corruption[10] and the poor economy of Yemen.[29] Protests occurred in many towns in both the north and south of Yemen initially against Yemeni governmental proposals to modify the constitution of Yemen, rejecting the proposals as insufficient, and over unemployment and economic conditions.[9] Protests on 20 January included thousands of protestors in Ta'izz.[9] Protests in Aden took place on 18, 19[27] and 20 January.[9] In Aden, car tires were burned, roads were blocked, and at least seven people, both soldiers and protestors, were injured.[27] Protests in Sanaa appeared to be weakening as of 20 January 2011 (2011 -01-20)[update].[9] Two of the protests occurred at Sanaa University, with a slogan "Leave before you are forced to leave", which Reuters interpreted as a criticism of "autocratic Arab leaders, including Saleh."[9]
Since 27 January

At least 16,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Sanaa on 27 January,[11] including at least 10,000 at Sanaa University.[11]

After the government announced intentions for political reforms, protesters rejected the proposals as not extensive enough to ensure Saleh or his son do not continue to rule indefinitely.[30] Protesters appeared to be pushing for reform rather than a revolution unlike in Tunisia.[31] A Yemeni journalist stated: "These were not spontaneous or popular protests like in Egypt, but rather mass-rallies organised by the opposition who are using events in Tunisia to test Saleh's regime. This is only the start of a fierce political battle in the run-up to Yemen's parliamentary elections in April."[20]

On 29 January, protesters in Sanaa demanded the ouster of Saleh. They chanted "Ali, leave leave" and "Tunisia left, Egypt after it and Yemen in the coming future" before plainclothes police officers attacked the demonstration, though no casualties were reported. Tawakel Karman, a leading parliamentary member of the Al-Islah, said a security force personnel tried to attack her with a dagger and a shoe but protesters stopped him. She also said that "We will continue until the fall of Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime. We have the Southern Movement in the south, the (Shia) Huthi rebels in the north, and parliamentary opposition [calling for political change]."
Protesters in Sana'a on 3 February.
3 February – "Day of Rage"

Karman called for 3 February to be a "Day of Rage."[15] According to Xinhua News, organisers were calling for a million protesters to participate in the demonstration in Sana'a.[32] The day before, the Interior Ministry stated that it was increasing security prior to the planned protests in order to prevent weapons from being introduced and "suspects" from entering major cities.[32]

About 20,000 people demonstrated in Sana'a.[12][13] Prior to the anti-government demonstration, armed members of the General People's Congress set up tents and portraits of President Saleh in Al-Tahrir Square, the original anti-government protest venue, forcing a change of venue for the anti-government protestors.[13][16] A protest in Aden was broken up by security services who reportedly fired tear gas and even live ammunition. Mohammed al-Sabri of the Common Forum called Saleh's attempt to halt protests "unacceptable;" though he also said that his group would "discuss the president's announcement."[14] Al Jazeera said Yemen had increased security the next day.
11 February

Human Rights Watch said that demontrators celebrating the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt turned violent when hundreds of men attacked the protesters armed with knives, sticks, and assault rifles.[33]
12 February

By noon, at least 4,000 protesters gathered to demonstrate in Sana'a, with numbers expected to rise.[34]

Approximately 5,000 police with clubs and government supporters beat the anti-government protesters who were celebrating the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and were also demanding the removal of Saleh. Protesters also tried to reach the Egyptian embassy in Sana'a, but police forces kept them back. The General People's Congress sent busloads of their members, equipped with food, water and tents, to Sana'a Square to prevent protesters from gathering there.[35] Clashes then broke out between the groups after pro-Saleh protesters, armed with knives and sticks, forced about 300 anti-government protesters to end their protests. The Associated Press reported government troops as beating the anti-government protesters who were chanting "After Mubarak, it's Ali's turn" and "A Yemeni revolution after the Egyptian revolution."[36]

The Al-Iman University, which was supposed to have been associated with the Muslim Brotherhood faced calls from MPs for its closure.[37]
13 February

About 2,000 protesters marched in Sana'a[38] in the third day in a row of protests.[39] The protesters chanted "the Yemeni people want the fall of the regime" and "a Yemeni revolution after the Egyptian revolution." About 1,000 protesters then broke off to march to the presidential palace where police then blocked access to the palace and clashed with them.

Saleh and an unnamed opposition group were preparing to start talks to avoid an "Egypt-style" revolt. Saleh also postponed a trip to the United States "due to the current circumstances in the region."[40]
14 February

Several thousand protesters, mostly university students, demanding Saleh resign and for political reform started at Sanaa University. Pro-government demonstrators then came to the university and attacked the other demonstrators, before the latter started to march ahead. Though police initially managed to keep a counter-demonstration apart from the anti-government protesters, violence was reported. Police also then pushed back the anti-government protesters using clubs. Reports suggested many injuries and 23 arrests.[33] Protests that turned violent were also reported in Aden and other cities.
15 February

In Sana'a, about 3000 people protested against the President and were attacked by about 2000 government supporters and plain-clothes police with tasers.[41]
16 February

About 500 people protested in Aden, calling to "overthrow the regime" and for President Saleh "to leave". Two were shot dead by police.[42] In Sana'a, hundreds of students protesting against the President were attacked by supporters of the President armed with batons, stones and daggers.[42] Judges continued a sit-in that started on 15 February calling for greater independence for the judiciary, for the members of the Supreme Judicial Council to be dismissed, and for higher salaries.[42]

Various witnesses said the anti-government protesters had gathered at Sana'a University in the capital and clashed with loyalists armed with batons and daggers. At least 4 people were wounded in a similar confrontation 16th, as student demonstrators were trying to march from the university toward the city centre and threw rocks at their government attackers, as they continued marching from the university. 1 person was also killed during a clash between demonstrators and police in the southern city of Aden.[43]
17 February

About 2,000 protesters faced off against each other on Sana's Al Rabat Street around noon. Stones and pieces of concrete were thrown and the anti-government and pro-government groups sometimes ran towards each other.[44] Both anti-government and pro-government protesters on Al Rabat Street wore Yemeni flags as headbands and capes. Police arrived after over an hour of clashes and fired warning shots into the air until all protesters left the area.[44]

A group of influential clerics in Yemen have called for the formation of a national unity government that would see the opposition represented in key ministries, followed by elections in six months. They say the move would place Yemen in the same situation as Egypt and Tunisia, without suffering bloodshed.[45]

Some supporters of the Yemeni government clashed with anti-government demonstrators calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh broke out for a seventh day, in Sanaa, Yemen, February 17.[43]
18 February - Friday of Anger

In the largest demonstrations yet, tens of thousands of Yemenis have taken part in anti-government demonstrations in the cities of Sanaa, Taiz and Aden for a "Friday of Fury", as it was termed by protest organisers, with pro-government supporters also rallying in several cities. In the capital, Sanaa, the crowd marched towards the presidential palace, chanting anti-government slogans, despite riot police attempting to stop them from doing so. Three people have been killed in the demonstrations with one of the deaths happening after a hand grenade was thrown at anti-government protesters in the city of Taiz. There were also reports of gunfire during a rally in the city of Aden, where riots flared overnight, with protesters setting fire to a local government building and security forces killing one demonstrator.[46][47]
19 February

Several anti-government protesters have been injured in clashes with supporters of Yemen's President, as both sides fired pistols and assault rifles, the first reported use of firearms by demonstrators. Five Saleh opponents were wounded by gunfire, three of them seriously, and three were wounded when demonstrators threw stones at each other outside the university. Around 1,000 anti-government demonstrators chanted "Leave! Leave!" and "The people want the fall of the regime!", and between 200 and 300 Saleh supporters called for dialogue.[48]

In south Yemen, where resentment of rule from Sanaa runs high, dozens of men used their cars in the town of Karish to block the main road between Taiz and the southern port city of Aden, shouting for "the fall of the regime". In Aden as many as 400 protesters staged a peaceful sit-in, holding banners saying: "No to oppression. No to corruption". The local council of Sheikh Othman, a directorate in Aden, said in a statement it resigned in protest at the use of live bullets by security forces against protesters which led to deaths and injuries in the city on Friday. In Sanaa, the editor of the defence ministry newspaper was wounded when he was beaten and stabbed by anti-government protesters.[48]
20–21 February
Some tribes joined student sit-in at Sana'a University on 21 Feb.

Protests continued as students started a sit-in at Sana'a University.[49] Tents have also been set up in front of Sana'a University gate, while thousands of people also staged sit-ins in the cities of Ibb and Taiz. Some tribal representatives came from Arhab, Nahm, Anis (in Dhamar), Shabwah, and Abyan to support the peaceful protests, engaging in traditional Yemeni dances with the students. Students from Al-Razi institute declared a sit-in as well.[50][51]

On 21 February, a teenager was killed and four people were wounded in a clash with soldiers in Yemen's southern port of Aden. In a press conference, Saleh said that only defeat at the ballot box will make him quit, while the EU delegation to Yemen also issued a statement strongly condemning the use of violence against peaceful protesters and urging Saleh to respond to "the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people". Yemeni clerics declared that the use of force against protesters is prohibited, which they described as a "crime," and calling for a ban on arbitrary arrest and torture. Amid the ongoing turmoil, authorities have detained, Hasan Baoum, a leader of the separatist Southern Movement.[52]
22 February

Anti-government protesters in Yemen continued to demonstrate. A car belonging to Saleh's supporters in Sana'a was burnt. Thousands or protesters also rallied at Sana'a university, while hundreds continued to camp out in a nearby square.[which?] Protesters also set up checkpoints around the Sana'a square and searched those trying to enter. Pro-government protesters, armed with daggers and batons, clashed with students resulting in five injuries, before police intervened.[53] The protests result in one death.

In Aden, 12 people died within the last week.[49] Schools were also closed, most government employees were not working and many shops were closed as hundreds gathered to protest. Protesters in Ash Shihr chanted "Down, down with Saleh." In Taiz, thousands of protesters marched in the Safir square. Hundreds have been camping in the square for at least a week, having renamed it "Freedom Square." A spokesman for the opposition rebuffed Saleh's offer of dialogue and a group of Islamic leaders called for a national unity government that would lead the country to elections.[53]
23 February

Eight MPs of the ruling party resigned from the party in protest against the violence used by the government against the protesters.[54] The President of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh orders security forces to protect protestors.[55]
24 February

Protests were reported across the city, including in the southern secessionist stronghold where one anti-government protester was reported killed as a result of a landmine blast at an anti-government protest in Lawder.[49] [56]

Reports suggested Saleh had "instructed all security services to thwart all clashes and prevent direct confrontation between pro- and anti-government protesters."
25 February

Meanwhile, up to 180,000 people marched across the country in yet another "day of rage."[57] In Sana'a about 30,000 anti-government protesters, ten times as many as had become "normal," convened in front of Sana'a University.

Police opened fire on the protesters killing 4-11 and wounding 43.[58]
26 February

Major tribes in Yemen have joined the anti-government protests. These include the Hashid and Baqil tribes.[59]
27 February

Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni pro-democracy protesters took to the streets Sana'a demanding for Saleh steps down.[60]

Saleh also called for his army generals to "defend the country."[49] Various opposition parties said they are joining the young protesters to seek Saleh's removal.[61]
28 February

Anti-government protesters increased in number. By the end of the day, Saleh said he would make a proposal for a national unity government even if the opposition parties reject his proposal he said that he would invite independent personalities that would then lay the groundwork for constitutional reforms. Having initially said he the protesters' demands could not be met through "anarchy and killing" he later invited opposition parties to form the new government.[58] Mohammed Saleh al-Qubati, an opposition leader, rejected the effort saying Saleh should step down instead of offering outdated "tranquilisers."[62]
1 March

Tens of thousands of the anti-government protesters as well as members of opposition parties took to the streets of Sana'a again. At Sana'a university they chanted "Leave" to Saleh after having rejected his demand of a new government.[58]

The head of the Council of Islamic Clerics and Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood Abdul-Majid al-Zindani joined the protesters.[63] Previously he had been an ally of Saleh and called for end to protests.[64]

A senior member of the South Yemen Movement, Yassin Ahmad Saleh Qadish, stated that they wanted a referendum on secession (similar to the Southern Sudanese independence referendum, 2011) if protests succeeded in getting Saleh to step down, stating that "sharing power and resources" did not take place as promised for Yemeni unification.[65]
2 March

Protests continued, largely centering around Sana'a University. Protesters have called for massive demonstrations on 4 March.[66]
3 March

Houthi rebels in the north said that the Yemeni Air Force bombed a protest in Harf Sufyan, where thousands had gathered, killing four and injuring 13.[67]

The opposition groups agreed on a transition plan which they would offer Saleh, which would foresee him leaving office by the end of 2011.[68][69]
4 March

Saleh rejected the opposition's offer, as Yemeni cities saw the biggest anti-Saleh demonstrations yet, with one protest stretching over 2 kilometres in length.[70] Yemeni soldiers fired rockets and artillery at anti-government protesters in the country's north, in Semla, a village in the province of 'Amran, killing at least two people and wounding around seven others, according to a statement issued by the Houthi rebels. According to Al Jazeera, local security forces dismissed the Houthi's account of events, saying armed tribesmen tried to enter one of the city's security checkpoints by force, after which "clashes ensued, three tribesmen and four policemen were injured"[71]

Tribal sheikh Ali Ahmad al-Umrani, an ally of Saleh, resigned on this day.[72]
5 March

Tens of thousands continued with protests in several cities across Yemen, including Sanaa, Aden, Taiz and Hadramawt. The government has suspended classes at the universities in the capital Sanaa and the southern city of Aden.[73]

Hashid Abdullah al-Ahmar, Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports, resigned in protest against the violence used against demonstrators.[72] Several members of Yemen's ruling party, including members of parliament and some ministers have resigned, bringing the number of resigned ruling party MPs to 13. They include Ali Al-Imrani, a MP from al-Baida province, and Fathi Tawfiq Abdulrahim, head of the finance committee of parliament, Sam Yahya Al-Ahmar, the deputy culture minister, whose brother Hussein left the party a week earlier, Hashid Abdullah al-Ahmar, the deputy minister for youth and sports as well as Nabil Al-Khameri, a businessman.[74]
8–10 March

On 8 March, Army troops joined protesters in Yemen.[75] About one million people have staged a protest in southern Yemen, as forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh have killed a boy and injured several others.[76] However, the army stormed the Sanaa University campus, injuring 98, and there were protests in several prisons, causing at least one death.[77] Doctors who treated protesters claimed that what had initially been assumed to be tear gas, used by military to disperse the protesters, might have been nerve gas.[78]

On 9 March, a supporter of the president was killed during clashes with anti-government protesters, in the southern province of Hadramawt, while another person was injured.[79]

On 10 March 2011, Saleh announced a referendum on moving to a parliamentary system of government would be held later in 2011; spokespeople of the protesters stated that this was "too little, too late".[80]
11 March "Friday of no return"

On Friday in a massive protest dubbed "Friday of no return", tens of thousands of people gathered in Sana'a calling for the ousting of President Saleh.[81] Hundreds of thousands more protested in other cities through out the country.[81]
    Wikinews has related news: Four dead after Yemen police fire on protesters

Overnight, after the Friday protests, Yemeni police surrounded protesters encamped in a square in Sana'a. Shortly before dawn, they fired on protesters using tear gas and live ammunition.[82] Three people were killed in Sana'a, while another was killed in the city of Al Mukalla.[82]
13–16 March

For the second time in two days security forces fired ammunition and lobbed tear gas during protests in Change Square outside Sanaa University on Sunday, March 13. Witnesses say at least ten people were injured.

On 14 March, in the Ma'rib Governorate, a group of protesters stabbed Governor Naji al-Zaidi and four bodyguards with daggers, while three soldiers were reported killed in Al Jawf Governorate. The city of Al Jawf has been taken over by the protesters.[83][84][85] Al-Zaidi was flown by helicopter to a military hospital in the capital Sanaa.[85]

One of Yemen's largest tribal federations, Baqil, has officially sided with the protesters.[83]

On 16 March, at least 120 people have been wounded in clashes in the city of Al-Hudaydah as police and government loyalists attacked anti-government protesters with tear gas, rocks and bullets.[86]
17 March

Five people were killed and 80 wounded in the city of Ta'izz, and there were reports of one person dead and 200 more injured in the city of Al Hudaydah, as well as four injuries in the capitol of Sana'a.[87][88] Security forces were reported to have used live ammunition and tear gas against protesters.[87]
18 March
    Wikinews has related news: 45 killed after Yemen protesters fired upon

At least 45 anti-government protesters died and over 200 were injured as unidentified gunmen opened fire in Sana'a.[89][90][91] Tens of thousands of people also took to the streets in other cities across the country. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has declared a state of emergency across the country, while state media blamed the violence on "clashes among citizens".[92] It has been reported that the attackers were pro-government gunmen, though President Saleh states that his security forces did not fire, and were even unarmed at the time. There are also reports that some of the protesters who were injured in the attack were taken away in national security vehicles to a local prison for treatment instead of to a regular hospital, sparking fears that the injured will be harassed further. The U.S. President and Secretary of State, the government of France, and the opposition parties in Yemen all condemned the attack

Resignations from the ruling party

    * Minister of Tourism Nabil Hasan al-Faqih, from his post and the ruling party
    * Head of the party's foreign affairs committee
    * Former ambassador to Russia
    * Jalal Faqira, a member of the ruling party's central committee who heads the political science department at Sanaa University
    * 50 professors

Other instability

Southern secessionist groups said they were holding three Yemeni soldiers kidnapped towards the end of January. On 2 February, clashes in the south also resulted in 3 injuries.[96] A growing number of protesters in the north sees with interest the rise of the South Yemen Movement, maybe hoping that the southern secessionists may overthrow the government.

On 6 March, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the shooting of five soldiers two separate attacks during the ongoing protests. Four of the soldiers were killed in Marib province when the perpetrators opened fire on a passing military vehicle. Two of the soldiers were part of the Republican Guard. The other death was that of an army colonel who was shot as he went shopping in Zinjibar, Abyan province

Arrests and repression

On 23 January, Tawakel Karman was detained and charged with "'inciting disorder and chaos' and organising unauthorised demonstrations and marches".[98] Karman was a leader of two student rallies in Sana'a and called for the overthrow of Saleh's regime.[23] Her husband said her whereabouts were not known.[23] Several hundred students protested outside Sanaa University demanding her release.[23] Thousands of people protested against the arrest of Karman and other protestors by a sit-in outside of the prosecutor's office. She was freed 30 hours after her arrest on parole, with the condition not to violate "public order and the law".[98] Karman returned to participating in demonstrations hours after her release.[98]

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Yemeni journalists are facing increasing harassment.[99] On 14 March, security forces raided an apartment shared by four Western journalists and deported them. Reporters Without Borders condemned the move, noting that two other foreign journalists were deported two days earlier. New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the expulsions, adding that two Yemeni journalists informed them that a group of 20 people, believed to be government supporters, went to the Journalists Syndicate in Sanaa a day earlier and threatened to burn it down

Opposition factions

According to Al Jazeera English, the deeply fractured opposition includes the Islah (Reform) Party, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), the al-Ahmar family, and various insurrection groups in the north and south. These groups include socialist, Islamist and tribal elements, with differing goals. Islah, which currently holds about 20 per cent of the seats in the legislature, includes some members of the Ahmar family, Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood, and Salafi preacher Abdul Majid al-Zindani, labeled a "specially designated global terrorist" by the United States. The JMP includes the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), Al-Haq, the Unionist party, and the Popular Forces Union party. The al-Ahmar sons, whose late father was a former leader of the Hashid tribal confederation, want power. The Houthis and Sanaa have fought in the north since 2004. The Southern Movement has temporarily dropped its calls for secession with calls for Saleh's ouster.[100]
[edit] Tactics

Students and human rights activists disagree with political parties regarding tactics for political change in Yemen. Some political parties are calling for reform to take place under President Saleh, while students and human rights activists wish to "channel the momentum of the uprisings in the region."[101] In late January, a lawyer and human rights activist involved in organising protests, Khaled al-Anesi, stated "There is a popular movement and a political movement in Yemen. But there is no support from the political parties for the popular movement, which is not organised. It is still weak and in the beginning stages."