Archive | October, 2011

Political splits threaten social bonds

31 Oct

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:31-10-2011

Since the uprising began in Yemen, political conflict has spread from the streets, extending itself to create problems among friends, neighbors and even within family.

Khalil Thabet, a 22-year-old university student who has been active in protests, talked about an incident when he was taking attendance of the students in his class.

“One day, my professor said that I should no longer be responsible for taking the lead in my class because I was responsible for creating chaos outside of university,” said Thabet.

“It was extremely embarrassing when the professor told the students that he had deleted my number from his phone,” he explained.

He said that some of his relatives were talking maliciously about him that he often got into arguments with them.

But sometimes, the arguments go far beyond malicious words.

Intisar Mohammad, a resident of the Old City of Sana’a, said that their neighbor was killed because he was participating in a protest in September.

The father of the martyr refused to allow their neighbor, who is pro-regime, to take part in the funeral.

In some cases, people say they no longer know what is the right path to take – pro-Saleh or pro-revolution?

Conflict psychoanalysis

Salah Aldeen Al-Juma’e, a psychological professor at Sana’a University, commented that the excessive expression of feelings in political conflicts could cause serious problems in the future.

He said that when members of one family discuss the current political crisis without respecting each other’s point of view, future relationships could be damaged.

“In general, people in the Arabia society get very fanatic when they discuss political issues and it gets even worse when they represent two different standpoints,” Al-Juma’e said.

In one case two young men smashed their TV after an argument over what channel they would watch.

“It was in my village in Ibb governorate when two neighbors of mine, who always got on well, had an argument over what channel they want to watch,” said Salah Al-Deen Al-Juma’e, a psychology professor at Sana’a University.

He said that while one wanted to watch Suhail, an anti-regime TV channel, and the other rejected it because “it does not represent his views”.

Al-Juma’e said that while it is good to have attitudes toward political situations we need to respect other’s views or the country would become fragmented.

The political conflict is no longer restricted to the streets where people with either side sometimes have arguments with each other. It has spread among neighbors and even within the same family.

He added that the homes have become “like a ring for different political players”.

Change Square in the home

Amani Al-Ansi, a resident in Sana’a who supports the anti-regime protests, said that his house is now full of arguments.

“We call the living room, where my father and my two sisters watch Yemen TV channel, the regime square and we call the other room where we watch Al-Jazeera, Change Square,” he said.

But some families’ respect for one another shows their maturity. According to Ameen Dabwan, a protester in the Change Square, the relations between him and his wife’s family has “shifted”.

His wife had been a ruling party member but she, and one of her sisters, had switched their support to the protesters. Her father felt sad but respected their wishes.

“My father- in- law dealt with the situation in a good way and said that everyone was free to express their own beliefs”.

A famous case

Political debate has been a part of almost every house in Yemen, including the home of politicians. One famous case is that of Abdu Al-Janadi, the spokesman of the Ministry of Information with the regime. Although he is a Saleh supporter, his son has joined the protesters looking to oust the president.

Al-Janadi said in one of his interviews that the “opposition” set his own son against him and that he does not show him respect. However, his son Abuthar appeared on TV stating that he has never spoken against his father and that he remains a good son regardless of his political affiliations.

Trying to solve the problems of adults, children sometimes reveal what they hear from their parents of siblings.

“My 8-year-old daughter goes with her father to the protests and this reflects on her. The women in my neighborhood tell me they would appreciate it if she stops insulting their children for not being on her side,” said Muna Hasan, a housewife.

She said that she keeps telling her husband not to take their daughter to the protests because she might be in danger and because she has became more aggressive against her young peers.

“But my husband just argues that I should join the protest.”

ICRC: ‘Rarely a moment of calm in Sana’a’

31 Oct

By:  Malak Shaher

& Garnet Roach , Yemen Times

Published:31-10-2011

Sana’a, Oct. 30 — “The sounds of gunfire and shelling have become part of the daily lives of Yemenis,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Health care, electricity, water and education in Sana’a have all been hard hit, or completely suspended, due to the ongoing conflict, while power cuts and “severe” water shortages are adding to the difficulties.

In other cities such as Taiz, “the unrest is either just as bad or even more worrying”, according to a new report by the. Power cuts and “severe” water shortages are adding to the difficulties.

“We are concerned that the violence in Sana’a and in other parts of the country has increased significantly,” said Eric Marclay, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen. “The face of the city has changed drastically,” he added.

The organization noted the fighting in several residential areas, specifically mentioning Al-Hasaba and Sofan areas of north Sana’a, which have seen intense fighting in the last few weeks.

Yusof Suroor, a resident of Al-Hasaba, said that his family had abandoned their home more than three times since last May. He lives with his family and his uncle’s family in a two -storey house.

“After we came back to our house, the fighting resumed. Yesterday, my little cousin was crying saying that we would die at any moment,” said Suroor who added that they saw shells near their house this morning.

Schools have also seen conflict, said the ICRC, with children’s lives being put at risk and their education severely disrupted. “Much harm could be avoided if weapons were kept out of public buildings,” it said.

“I did not send my two daughters to school at all this year,” said Amal Ali, a 30-year-old mother who also fled her house in Al-Hasaba.

“I am teaching them myself at home and will not send them to school before everything has settled down,” she said. “My children’s lives are more precious than studying.”

Along with the Yemen Red Crescent, the ICRC helped treat 1,500 injured people and retrieved 50 dead bodies in the past month, as violence in the capital escalated.

It said that “dozens” had been killed and hundreds injured in the past few weeks alone. The field hospital at Change Square put the number of deaths at 152 between September 18 and October 25 – including four children.

As well as the growing disruption to people’s lives, the ICRC added that roadblocks, closed streets and other obstacles had made it increasingly difficult to treat casualties in the growing conflict between government forces and those seeking the ouster of president Saleh.

Violent crackdowns and heavy shelling have also led to growing numbers of displaced people. “Hundreds of families have had to send their women and children to safer places, or had to leave their neighborhoods and live in nearby villages or with relatives in other parts of the city. Some do not even know if their house is still standing,” added Marclay.

The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent distributed food and household essentials to over 66,500 people in Abyan and Lahj over the past month as many were forced to flee their homes.

Too many Fridays a week

24 Oct
The naming of pro-Saleh Fridays focuses on themes of Home, Unity and Stability. The names of the Fridays of the revolutionaries focuses on themes like revolution, Victory and Peace.

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:24-10-2011

Yemenis no longer have only one Friday a week. Since February, when the revolutionaries started giving each Friday a special name reflecting their expectations and thoughts, the regime’s supporters have also felt obliged to make their Fridays distinctive.
Naming Fridays in Yemen soon became contagious just a few Fridays later, the Southern Movement leaders, who have been calling for secessionism from the north since 2007, joined the trend. Now, with the uprising in Yemen entered its 38th week, some people have begun joking that we need a dictionary of Friday names.

At noon every Friday, millions of Yemenis go to mosques to perform the Friday prayer.

However, since the uprising began in February, some Yemenis have stopped praying in mosques on Friday. Instead, they perform the Friday prayer in the streets; some against the regime and others with the regime.

Now each Friday in Yemen has at least three names, one given by revolutionaries, one given by the regime’s supporters and one by the Southern Movement leaders in the South. The Friday prayer they attend reveals their political demands and affiliation, rather than their religious beliefs.

Political affiliations

Three weeks ago at noon, when the sun was at its height, dozens of people from Change Square in Sana’a were approaching the 60 Meter Street – the widest street in Sana’a – to perform the Friday prayer along with thousands of other people.

The protesters have been living in tents in Change Square, in front of Sana’a University, since February, calling on president Saleh to step down.

Among them, 22-year-old Mo’tasem Thabet was on his way from the square to the wide street to pray.

That Friday was named the “Friday of the late President Ibrahim Al-Hamdi”. It was the 34th Friday since the organizing committee of the revolutionaries in Sana’a decided to give each Friday a special name outlining a previous incident or a prospective dream.

“I like it when they name the Fridays. They make the prayer more meaningful for me,” said Thabet, who added that it would be impossible for him perform prayers with regime supporters.

Thabet said that the name of the 34th Friday in particular made him remember “an honest president whose main goal in life was to make Yemen a civil country”. Ibrahim Al-Hamd, ruled from 1974 until he was as assassinated in October 1977.

The Friday of the beginning

The first of Yemen’s “named” Fridays was February 25th when the organizing committee in Change Square called it “The Friday of the beginning” to mark the start of the revolution.

Four Fridays later, those allied to the president started to give their Fridays a special name too. Since March 25th, Fridays in Yemen have had two different names – one in the 60 Meter street where people against the president pray and the other in 70 Meter Road where pro-Saleh supporters pray.

As a result, where someone prays has become a sign of their political affiliation. For Thabet, it is very important to pray with the people in 60 Meter Street because he wants the president to step down and this makes it clear to others that he is a “revolutionary”.

The organizing committee in Change Square is responsible for “naming” the Fridays, according to one of its members, who asked not to be named. He explained that names are usually chosen according to the incidents that have occurred in the previous week.

“When we were attacked on March 12th, one person was killed by toxic gas and another had suffocation signs,” he said. “We decided that the following Friday would be named ‘Dignity Friday’.”

The names of Fridays are chosen after talking to the people protesting on the streets.

After two months of naming Fridays, each name became a matter of proving the legitimacy of the revolutionaries’ demands of the revolutionaries as well as those allying the regime, said Fateq Al-Rudaini, a journalist writing in Saba Press in May.

Naming Fridays even becomes a matter of internal conflict among the revolutionaries, said Al-Rudaini. For example, the 12th Friday was supposed to be named the “The Friday of loyalty for Sa’ada’s martyrs”. However, much to their surprise, the young people who do not belong to any party found that the name has changed to “The Friday of determination” – determining the destiny of the revolution.

The Fridays of the ruling party

But for those allied to the president, naming Fridays has never been a matter of conflict. According to Tareq Al-Shami, spokesman for the ruling General People’s Congress, the names are chosen after consulting with civil society organizations.

He said that naming Fridays depends on the current situation. Two weeks ago, they named their Friday “The Friday of insisting on the right and supporting the people of Palestine”.

When the president appeared on TV on July 7th after being injured in an attack on June 3rd, his supporters rejoiced. That Friday, July 8th, was named “The Friday of thanking God for the safety of the President and the leaders of the state”.

The revolutionaries named that Friday “The Friday of rejecting custody on Yemen”.

A third Friday in the south

Naming Fridays has become contagious. In Aden and the southern governorates, where people have been calling for secessionism since 2007, people have also begun to name their Fridays.

Even though there are revolutionaries against the regime in the south, the names of their Fridays are not the same as those in Sana’a.

For example, the last Friday in Aden was named “The Friday of Ba Awm”.

Hasan Ba Awm is an active leader in the Southern Movement who has been in jail for more than a year and many people believe he is being tortured, said Nuha Ahmad, a resident from Aden.

“The Fridays in Aden are named after leaders of the Southern Movement,” she explained. “They do not take the names of revolutionaries in Sana’a because they have different claims against the state.”

However, in Mukala, the capital district of Hadramout in the far east of the country, Sa’eed Al-Muhsan, a protester who has been living in a tent for eight months, said that they keep same Friday names as the revolutionaries in Sana’a.

Friday prayer should be a religious ritual

If the issue of naming Fridays is preferable for some to help them achieve their political goals, it is not well-liked by others.

Mahmoud Al-Matari, a 21 year-old university student in Sana’a, does not like to participate in either of the Fridays. He prefers to pray at the mosque near his house.

“Religious rituals like the Friday prayer bonds Muslims and they should not be part of politics,” he said.

“When I go to pray, I want to listen to an Imam who reminds me of my morals and the things we should do in our world to go to heaven. I do not want to listen to Imams allying the regime or the opposition,” he added.

The Friday of Doomsday

Since a keyword for the revolutionaries calling for Saleh to step down has been “leave”, the president’s supporters shout “he will not leave” at their gatherings and protests.

A funny comment about the naming of Fridays has been inscribed on a wall in 60 Meter Street.

It reads: “Let’s wait for the Friday of Doomsday and we ALL shall leave.”

80 percent of Abyan locals without money

24 Oct
Displaced locals appeals to human rights organizations: ” We need to be heard”
Nearly 30,000 people from Abyan have fled their homes since May, many have been forced to live in schools in Aden.Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:24-10-2011

Sana’a, Oct. 23 — At least 80 percent of locals from Abyan have stopped taking loans from banks and fled to Aden over the last four months of political crisis, according to Khalil Almikhlafi from the Yemen Microfinance Network (YMN).

Almikhlafi said even the office of the YMN, which coordinates loans between banks and the public, was plundered when employees were unable to come into work due to the shelling in Abyan.

The network’s office in Abyan was coordinating loans between 4,700 women with micro-businesses and banks.

“Everything including the computers, the desks, the doors and the windows were stolen,” said Almikhlafi.

Since Abyan was first shelled US drones and the Yemeni government fighting jihadists, some 30,000 people have become internally displaced people (IDPs) living in Aden’s schools.

Sa’eda Abdulla, is a 50-year-old woman who was earning a living making incense. She had been taking loans – not more than USD 100 – from banks offering micro-loans to poor people, almost all of whom are women.

Now Abdulla and hundreds more like her have stopped taking loans and no longer have any source of income.

“We escaped because of the panic, because of the planes [areal shelling] and because of the blasts,” said Abdulla who lives now in Aden with her family in a small house they rented in Al-Arish.

“We have no electricity, no water – we need help, and we need to be heard.”

Almikhlafi said that the two biggest offices in the company’s network, in Abyan and in Al-Shiher, Hadramout, have now closed completely and the firm’s employees might be laid off due to financial difficulties.

Awatef Abdulla, from the YMN’s office in Aden, said that almost 98 percent of their clients were women. She said that a large amount of them were no longer taking loans and had defaulted on their previous debts.

Aerial shelling by American drones and the Yemeni air force, have killed many Al-Qaeda members in Yemen but have also caused thousands of people to flee their homes since May.

According to Anees Mansor, a freelance reporter from Aden, there are now nearly 30,000 IDPs in Aden, with a large number forced to live in schools.

Mansoor said that the situation of the IDPs, especially those who live in schools, was becoming increasingly difficult.

“In some places, three families live in the same class. Even the support they receive, like food and clothes, is not enough,” he said.

There is only two restrooms, with five toilets each, in every school in Aden, he added. According to Mansoor, nearly 60 schools in Aden are now occupied by IDPs from Abyan.

“Their life is really miserable,” he said. “The people of Abyan suffer now not because they fled their homes but because the infrastructure was destroyed in Abyan due to the shelling.”

However, it is not only the IDPs of Abyan living in schools that suffer because of this situation. Those who live with their relatives or in rented houses say they have spent almost everything they have.

Hanan Abdulla, a 32- year-old woman of Abyan, said that she left Abyan with her family after the shelling began to threaten their lives.

They came to Aden late in May looking for a house to rent. She was one of the many women who stopped taking loans for her sewing business.

“When we came to Aden, we had to sell some of the gold jewelry we [me and my mother] had”, said Hanan. “We are afraid that soon we will have no money since have no source of income.”

http://yementimes.com/defaultdet.aspx?SUB_ID=34710

Yemeni fishermen confused for Somali pirates

24 Oct
Yemeni fishermen in Mukalla port on the Arabian Sea. The dark complexion of some Yemeni fishermen means they are confused for Somali pirates, leaving them vulnrable to attacked by the international navy. Photo: Lindy & David’s Gallery

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:24-10-2011

Sana’a, Oct. 23 — Fifteen Yemeni fishermen were reportedly arrested and beaten on Thursday after they were accused of piracy by an Indian ship tasked with protecting international waters off the coast of Yemen.

This is the second incident in a week after seven men were beaten and their belongings taken, last Sunday, according to According to Umar Salim, the head of the Fishermen Association in Hadramout.

At present, five Yemeni fishermen from Mukala, Hadramout, remain in jail in India after the authorities assumed they were Somali pirates in May.

But according to Umar Salim, the head of the Fishermen Association in Hadramout, the men were fishing in Yemeni waters, five miles off the coast of Mukala.

The issue of assuming Yemeni fishermen to be pirates is not a new one. Since 2010, Indian ships – as part of an international navy fleet concerned with protecting international waters from pirates – have been the most aggressive, and quick to accuse Yemenis of piracy, according to Salim.

He said that they beat the fishermen and take all their belongings. Since June, a number of Yemeni fishermen have been charged in Indian courts as pirates.

Last month, another boat in Yemeni waters was attacked by an Indian ship – the fishermen’s belongings, along with their fish, were thrown overboard. The men were also beaten, according to Shuja’ Al-Mahdi, the head of the Operational Unit at the Yemeni Coastal Guards Authority (CGA).

However, the Indian embassy was unable to comment on the issue at present.

“Some Yemenis are looking to piracy themselves, or even just ‘facilitating’ the piracy of others, be they Yemeni or Somali or even others,” Michael Frodl, head of US consultancy firm C-Level Maritime Risks, told the Financial Times last month. He blamed the situation on the ongoing political crisis in Yemen.

Riad Kahwaji, chief executive of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, seconded the accusations. He told the Financial Times that he sees that there is collusion between Yemeni “coastal actors” and the pirates operating in Yemeni and Somali waters.

“Ships being intercepted so precisely should indicate that there is a sophisticated intelligence network for the pirates, providing them with information on the whereabouts and heading of ships,” said Kahwaji. “You can only gain this information [through] ports overlooking the Gulf of Aden.”

However, Al-Mahdi argued that these allegations had not been proved against any Yemeni “coastal actor”.

He said that the CGA spares no effort in catching the pirates and that the international navy forces should take more care of who they accuse, and arrest, on suspicion of being pirates.

“Most of the fishermen are dark-skinned so they are falsely believed to be Somali,” explained Al-Mahdi.

He added that of those pirates who have been arrested and have been, or are now being investigated, none confessed to having received help from Yemenis.

“Yemenis do not help pirates in one way or another,” said Al-Mahdi. “They are victims of piracy.”

Abu Baker Hadi, a 23-year-old fisherman Hadramout, was beaten last year when he was out fishing with 11 other men.

His father, Hadi Ba Alam, head of the Fishermen Association in Hadramout, accused Indian ships of repeatedly attacking Yemeni fishermen. He said that his son had to swim with the other fishermen after they were all beaten. None, however, were arrested.

According to the CGA, Somalis have hijacked nine Yemeni boats since the beginning of the year. The last one was a week ago.

Records also show that 64 Yemeni fishermen have already been kidnapped this year – but have still not been released. Negotiations between the pirates and the boat owners are ongoing until the owners pay the requested ransoms.

Despite the ongoing issue of piracy and its affects on Yemeni fishermen, Al-Mahdi said more than 45 pirates had been arrested by the CGA so far this year.

Soldiers, not students, occupy schools in Sana’a

18 Oct
Young activists renovating Al-Rammah School in Al-Hasaba conflict zone Sana’a after it was used as by the army as a temporary military stronghold. There are other schools used by either conflicting sides depriving by that the students of their education. photo by: Ayoon Shaba

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:17-10-2011

SANA’A, Oct.16 — For Mohammad Al-Wadi’e, a resident of Al-Hasaba district, sending his six-year-old daughter to school has become a matter of risking her life.

“She always feels bored staying at home and wants strongly to go to school, but I prevent her from going there as we live in an area where students can be in real danger in schools if fighting starts,” said Al-Wadi’e.

His daughter studies at Al-Irtiqa’a school in Al-Hasaba. The school is not occupied by soldiers but is in the midst of the most dangerous area in Sana’a, where fighting between government-aligned soldiers and Hashid tribesmen revives from time to time. Adjacent schools such as Al-Rammah are occupied by state soldiers.

As of now, nearly two-thirds of the schools in Al-Hasaba, Al-Tahreer, Ma’een and Al-Wahda districts are completely paralyzed due to occupation either by government soldiers or defected armed forces, according to Mohammad Al-Fadhly, head of the Education Ministry’s office in Sana’a.

Abdulkareem Al-Jendari, head of the Projects Sector in the ministry, said that two schools, Al-Furat and the 26th of September School, have recently been evacuated  after soldiers from the defected First Armored Division fired in the air, causing panic among students.

When the defected army fired in the air near Asma School for girls, the students were terrified and the school was evacuated at 10 AM on Wednesday. The school sits near Change Square, where the defected army has taken on the responsibility of protecting opposition protesters.

“The girls were in a state of panic. We went there and called their parents to come and take them,” Jindari said, adding that “Schools should be the place for education…students should not be involved in these conflicts. Both sides have to find an arena for fighting far away from the students.”

According to Khaled Al-Babili, a resident of Al-Hasaba district who lives near the Health Ministry, state soldiers first tried to occupy Othman school in May, but the residents organized a protest and compelled the soldiers to shift their move to Al-Rammah school, which stands a few meters away from a house belonging to Sadeq Al-Ahmar, leader of the biggest tribe in Yemen, the Hashid Tribal Confederation.

Ever since, the school has served as something of a trench for government soldiers engaged in conflicts with the Al-Ahmar family in Al-Hasaba. “I am afraid that when firing occurs, my daughter will be wounded. The firing is random most of the time,” said Al-Wadi’e.

Since last May, schools in Sana’a have been occupied by both government forces and soldiers from the defected First Armored Divison.

Al-Babili said that most of Al-Hasaba’s residents have fled their homes, and that people are afraid for their kids’ safety. He added that the number of students in a normal class used to be about seventy or eighty; now, no more than ten children are found in a given class.

“Every day is a problem,” Al-Babili said. He added that people are always thinking the situation over one thousand times before they allow their children to go to school. Most of the time, the children do not attend school on Saturdays and Sundays, as these two days follow what tends to be the most bloody day, Friday.

Up to the present moment, schools in Al-Sabeen and Al-Safia districts – as well as schools located in the outskirts of Sana’a – are considered to be “safe” for children to attend.

 

http://www.yementimes.com/defaultdet.aspx?SUB_ID=34676

163 registered projects waiting to be implemented

10 Oct
Jobs for 3845 unemployed Yemenis are pending because of bureaucracy and instability.

Malak ShaherPublished:10-10-2011

SANA’A, Oct. 9 — It is now commonplace and a known fact that the political crisis Yemen, now in its eight month, has affected the financial situation and the economy adversely. The result is that many projects continue to remain suspended until the conflict is resolved.

The Arabian Trading Company had a project involving the production of glass in Nahm, 30 kilometers away from Sana’a. It stopped working on the project in February. The reason was attributed to the uncertain political climate.

Nageeb Hailan from the company said that the start of protests resulted in German experts — who were working with the company — left country as they feared uncertainty in the months to come.

The investment in Yemen too has been affected by the crisis. However, the registration of new projects did not stop. By the end of September 2011, 163 projects have been registered at the General Investment Authority. These however are on hold as the concerned are waiting for the political situation to smoothen until they renew the contracts with the authority.

“The current political situation closed many projects that were in an active phase in Yemen prior to the uprising,” said Mohammed Hussein, head of the promotion sector in the authority.

“However, the registration rate of projects has increased this year during the uprising as adventurous investors did not have contestants,” he said.

Hussein added that the time span for the registered projects is two years in which the investors can renew their business at any time.

According to the records published by the authority, the number of registered projects in Yemen in the first quarter of 2011 has increased by 114 per cent when compared to the number registered in the first quarter of 2010.

At least 96 per cent of the investors that have registered their projects are Kuwaiti. Other investors are Chinese, Emiratis and Uzbeks. At least 39 of the planned projects will be in the fisheries sector of which 61 per cent will be in the coastal city of Al-Hodaida.

It was expected that the investment seen in this quarter would offer jobs to 1,454 people.

When the political crisis ended, these registered investors would have the chance to renew their contracts with the authority. It would be less expensive for them to implement the projects they have already registered when there were no contestants, according to Hussein.

The registered investment projects in this quarter were distributed in 11 governorates in which most of the projects were shrimp farming, steel melting plant and construction work. Other investments were focused in the capital in the air cargo, auto gas filling stations and tourism suites fields.

The registered projects in the second quarter of this year were mainly focused in tower construction and residential complexes. Other areas also included gas, tourism and granite production.

The report mentioned that 77 per cent of the investors were Saudi. Others were Indian, Romanian and Egyptian. Sana’a had the highest rate of the registered investment with 63 per cent of the total investment. These investments registered in the past nine months would create 4,480 job opportunities.