Jul 21 2005

Yemen In Upheaval, Huge Protests

Published by at 8:34 am under All General Discussions

The Armies of Liberation site has been posting for weeks on events taking place in Yemen. The latest post is a tour de force on the massive protests and upheavels there. Some excerpts

After 25 years of President Saleh’s brutal rule, Yemen is among the most impoverished in the world, illiteracy is near 50%, and unemployment is very high, while the country’s elites have become richer and more powerful. They are so powerful, the ruling party this week closed down a lawful political oppositon party by taking over its headquarters and newspaper at gunpoint. But in addition to lacking free speech, civil rights, and an independent judiciary, the Yemeni people also lack food, an educational system, and doctors.

Saleh is reputedly worth 20 billion. Economic reforms repealing goverment subsidies on commodity items were instutited yesterday, the impact of which will be felt most keenly by the poor who are barely sustaining themselves now. The massive governmental corruption, noted as among the pervasive in the world, has not been addressed. So again the Yemeni people pay the price for the privileged postions of those in power. This time they’re protesting.

If this is even modestly accurate (and I believe it is), then Yemen is one of those pathetic examples of living with the status quo that ferments violence. Like Iraq, Yemen needs to be changed. It will be interesting to see how this plays out on the left and right. Given recent standings, the left should abhor action in Yemen since the US and West cannot impose our standards on the people of the world, no matter how brutal and inhumane the conditions. And on the right we will have a test of promoting freedom and democracy in one more country in the ME. A country that is the birth place of Bin Laden.

The sad thing about this situation is it is not Iraq. Saddam was a brutal person, but he wanted a powerful, modern state at his control. So he made sure his people were educated. If 50% of Yemenis are illiterate then it will be much more of a challenge to guide them into democracy verses replacing royal dictatorship with an Islamo-fascist dictatorship.

I also caution some, even those like the Armies of Liberation who have kept an eye on events there, who may be accidentally escalating the fever pitch. The protestors have done what they needed to do at this moment – gain world wide attention. They are paying a price for these acts in lives and injuries. But they need to also make sure they can control the outcome towards a peaceful end. If they continue to attack the countries foundations (police, banks, etc) they will create a maelstrom of anarchy which will push the country into a disasterous state. Things need to cool down so steps towards progress can be made.

Why do I say this? Well, Saleh decided to step down on 7/17. So now should be a time to demand certain steps forward – not more violence and destruction. Since he just announced his resignation it is clear there has not been enough time to change policies. It is clear the well to do seriously need to consider high taxes on themselves if they have any hope of retaining their wealth. If the country spirals into chaos they would not only lose money, but the assets that created that wealth. Taxes are an interim pain. Lost assets are permanent pain.

It is clear the US and the West need to do something about this. Just wish I knew what. Right now the news is to keep a low profile.

The violence prompted the US embassy in Sanaa to announce in a warden message on Wednesday that “it has advised embassy personnel to avoid non-essential travel within Yemen over the next week, July 20-July 27.”

“The Embassy security office has received reports of isolated incidents of rock throwing and gatherings throughout the country protesting recently announced price increases,” it said.

That link also has news of continued, wide spread problems popping up today as well.

For background this Rueters article is actually pretty good at a high level.


Indications are this is now out of control and escalating. The emotions may have become too hot to stop.

From the previous source we have these events today:

Twelve people were killed during clashes on Thursday between security forces and armed demonstrators in a second day of deadly protests against a government decision to hike fuel prices, witnesses said.

At least 50 protestors were also wounded in the capital and at least six towns in the south and north, with government forces, backed by army tanks and armored vehicles, deployed along main roads.

In Sanaa, an intelligence officer and an anti-riot policeman were killed and 10 protestors injured in an exchange of fire during attempts to disperse a demonstration in the Tahez neighborhood, witnesses said.

Four protestors were killed and 10 others wounded in the town of Al-Dali, 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the capital.

One protestor was killed in the southern town of Demneh.

Three protestors were killed and seven wounded in riots in the western city of Al-Hadida, located on the Red Sea, and 15 more protestors were wounded in the southern town of Ibb.

And two protestors were killed and eight others wounded in the northern city of Saada when angry protestors tried to storm the headquarters of the ruling General Popular Congress Party, the government oil company and a state bank.

A police car was burnt by protestors in the center of the city.

An exchange of fire also occurred during demonstrations in which protestors damaged vehicles and shops in the town of Loder, in the southern province of Abyan, they said. There were no reports of casualties.

In another story a group of 3 die in attacks on the oil refineries

Things are not cooling down there, obviously.

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