Yemen: Huge demonstrations against regime

Mass anger after 20 killed by security forces

Tuesday 1 March saw the biggest demonstrations, so far, in the mass opposition movement in Yemen, even larger then last Friday. One million people participated in Sanaa and Ibb respectively. Around 300,000 took part in Aden, despite the ongoing military seige and checkpoints in the city. 500,000 demonstrated in Taiz, 200,000 in Mukalla and thousands in many other cities.

The preparations for Friday’s mobilisations took place under different names. In Sana’a, it was ‘The unification Friday’, in Taiz ‘The stand-up Friday’ and in Aden, ‘Resistance Friday’.

The response from the regime included banning Al-Jazeera’s from ‘Change Square’ in front of Sana’a university. They also paid a mob in Tahrir square to praise president Saleh and to demand so-called “stability” in the country. A similar attempt in Aden failed completely. Here the security forces used brutal force. Shotguns and even anti-aircraft arms were used against peaceful protesters. Twenty people were killed and more than 80 people injured. Eighteen reporters from local media were arrested in Aden last Friday. Some were released on Sunday but others are still held in custody. After this massacre, even the UN and the British foreign minister were forced to make hypocritical criticism of the use of live ammunition, calling for the president to listen to the people.

Because of the events in Aden, last Saturday, an influential member of the president’s party and the head of one of the strongest clans in Yemen, Hussein Al-Ahmar of Hashed, resigned from the party in front of 200,000 people from his clan. He announced he was joining youth in their struggle against the regime. He added that neither he nor his rich and influential brothers would run for president.

On Saturday also, 150 employees of the presidential office and palace went on strike, demanding an immediate end to corruption, arbitrary firing and hiring, and demanding wages that have not been paid for the last three months. The strike grew to 400 workers. They also demand the resignation of the head of the president’s office and the right to form a trade union.

On Monday, Hameed Al-Ahmar advised the president, before Tuesday’s Day of Anger, “to work effectively and to appoint a president from the south”. He wanted the opposition to support this proposal. The people’s comment to this statement was “No to appointed presidents – Yes for the people’s righteousness!”

An attempt was also made on Monday to unleash counter-revolution in Hudidah, a city well-known for sporting activities, but this failed. Two ministers were sent by the president to hire youth to act as thugs against the people protesting in the city square for five days. After failing the pay the thugs, however, the mayor resigned and the youth joined the protesters!

No to deals with the regime!

Tuesday 1 March witnessed the biggest mass demonstrations so far, in almost every Yemeni city. The main slogans, “People want the downfall of the regime” and “Peacefully, we will overthrow the regime”. Only in Taiz was there successful repression against a demonstration. The whole city was besieged by military checkpoints, where soldiers demanded from people ‘loyalty’ to the president.

On Tuesday afternoon, the president gave a speech in which he accused his allies in the White House, “aiming to take down the Islamic-Arabic systems, running the operation in a room from Tel Aviv”. But the Yemeni people know that he is lying through his teeth, changing the colour of his political rhetoric faster than a chameleon. In September 2010, the same president allowed the US air force to make strikes in Yemen, supposedly against “Islamic terrorists”, which killed 60 civilians, of which 18 were children.

Alongside the revolutionary movement now developing in Yemen, there are now attempts by pro-capitalist forces (a so-called “Wise Committee”) and the ‘official’ opposition to cut some kind of deal with the regime. However, ‘youth revolutionary committees’ rejected proposals from these forces for talks regarding “political reforms”.

The revolution in Yemen continues to gain momentum. Already, five generals have declared they have joined the masses. The key to splitting and neutralising the army, to overthrow the regime, is to win over rank and file soldiers, by creating democratically run committees in the armed forces.

Committees of workers and youth have been formed; these need to be organised on a democratic basis, and linked at all levels. To successfully back the courageous determination of the masses, it is necessary for the organised masses to discuss how to get rid of the regime and what kind of system should replace the present one. The struggle is for democratic rights, but also against corruption, feudalism, capitalism and imperialism.

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March 2011