ShareThis Page
U.S./World

Yemenis march in capital as Mideast unrest spreads

| Friday, Jan. 28, 2011

CAIRO -- The unrest in the Middle East spread to impoverished Yemen on Thursday as tens of thousands of protesters angry over unemployment and political oppression marched through the capital against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Instability in Yemen is a major concern for Washington, which has been working with Saleh's government to defeat an entrenched al-Qaida network that claimed responsibility for last year's attempted bombings of planes over U.S. airspace. Officials fear anarchy in the country would give militants a strategic base in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.

Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, has been unable to stem unemployment and improve education, health care and sanitation in the region's poorest nation. Anger toward him and his government has been steadily growing, especially among young activists and tribal leaders. He has faced an intensifying secessionist movement in the south.

The United States has expanded its intelligence and security roles in the country, and American military aid is expected to reach at least $250 million this year, a dramatic increase from previous years. But Washington has long been wary of Saleh, who runs a government based on patronage networks and has a history of making questionable deals with enemies, including Islamic militants, who years ago were tolerated.

"I saw many, many people today, in the thousands," said Ahmed Arman, a human rights lawyer in the capital, San'a. "There were four demonstrations, and they were organized by the opposition. The majority of the demonstrators were young people, but there were others there as well. They're calling for political change -- a complete reform of the political system."

The demonstrations unfolded as the region brimmed with anger and frustration that have sparked protests against authoritarian rulers in Tunisia and Egypt. Some Yemeni protesters joked that Saleh should "go the way" of former Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who fled his country Jan. 14 after weeks of uprising.

"I helped the students in organizing sit-ins after the Tunisian revolt," Tawakul Karman, a Yemeni activist recently released from jail after organizing demonstrations, told the Los Angeles Times. "There have been daily protests in Sanaa. I was arrested for a day because of the demonstrations and let out yesterday. The student protests will for sure continue."

Yemen is a "democratic multiparty country that allows people to express their views in accordance with the related laws," Interior Minister Mutaher al-Masri was quoted as saying by the country's SABA news agency. "We do not need chaos that harms public security and abuses democracy."

The protests took place on a day of rival rallies between opposition parties and government loyalists. Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee reported on his website:

"No violence, or riot cases were noticed, but security measures were exceptional in the city as anti-riot forces were deployed in almost all the places close to the rallies," he said. "However, these rallies are not new, not strange. Both sides have been holding similar rallies over the last two weeks in the provinces outside San'a."

Mohammed al-Basha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, said in a statement: "We are pleased to announce that no major clashes or arrests occurred, and police presence was minimal."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me