Archive | November, 2011

Questions remain for Sana’a University students

28 Nov

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:28-11-2011

Sana’a, Nov. 27 — Students of Sana’a University are worried about resuming study at the headquarters of Sana’a University, where protesters have been demanding an end to Saleh’s regime.

Arbil Nasr, a sophomore student at the Faculty of Languages, said that she is concerned as she does not know where she and her colleagues are going to study in the coming days.

The Student Union at Sana’a University and the Teachers’ Syndicate said yesterday that lessons at Sana’a University’s headquarters are to be resumed on Monday.

According to Ma’een Al-Towaity, a soldier with the defected First Armored Division, they were told they would be evacuating Sana’a University and other schools within the next month.

However, Khaled Tumaim, the President of Sana’a University, told state news agency Saba that studying would not resume until the soldiers had first evacuated the university.

“Study should not be involved in any kind of political conflict. I want to focus on my studies and I do not know if we are going to continue studying in tents or at Sana’a University,” said Nasr.

Since September, Sana’a University students have been studying in tents in Sa’wan as an alternative while the university is occupied by soldiers of the defected army.

The union and the syndicate said at an opening ceremony at the Faculty of Law and Order on Sunday that study should resume.

Khalil Al-Ma’mari from the Student Union said that both the union and the syndicate have given Sana’a University’s leadership two weeks to decide whether or not study will resume on the grounds of the university.

If they do not respond, the union and the syndicate of the teachers in Sana’a and Amran will hold elections to appoint new faculty deans, according to the Student Union.

Al-Ma’mari said that Ali Muhsen Al-Ahmar, the leader of the defected first Armored Division, agreed to withdraw all soldiers from the university.

But to date, neither the presidency of Sana’a University nor the Student Union, who joined the revolution, have met to discuss a mechanism for resuming study.

“It has become a matter of conflict between the regime and the opposition. Each wants to make students study in the place they choose,” said Shady Yaseen, a junior student at Faulty of Mass Communication and member of the revolution.

Yaseen said that he would not be able to attend a lecture by professors who have been campaigning against revolutionaries.

“I respect everyone’s political affiliation but I cannot attend a lecture with a professor that has been against me as a revolutionary,” he said.

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Radio English helps rural learners

28 Nov

Malak ShaherPublished:28-11-2011

SANA’A Nov. 26 — For Mohammad Al-Tashi, 26, English has become more interesting with an educational series on Radio Shabab.

“I think that listening to lessons on the Radio is more interesting and exciting,” said Al-Tashi.

The series are part of the educational program by the British Council, an international organization for education and cultural relations.

The program, “Learn English via Radio and Newspapers”, creates convenient opportunities for Yemenis interested in learning English from native speakers. The program has been developed by a team of British Council experts, according to Edrees Al-Qadasi from the organization.

Al-Tashi is from Rada’a, a rural area in Al-Baida governorate, and graduated from high school six years ago. He has been following other educational series but said that the radio shows are more interesting.

The show, named Obla Air, is broadcast through Radio Shabab in the form of weekly lessons every Wednesday at 7:40pm, set around the interaction between a pilot, crew, staff and passengers of a small independent airline office called Obla Air.

“In Obla Air, people speaking English in many dialects are involved in the lessons,” said Al-Qadasi.

“This gives English learners the opportunity to adapt to the many dialects people from different cultures might use.”

The international context of the travel business provides a believable arena in which people from many different countries can interact – but the focus of the series is not so much on the airline and the experience of flying as on the relationships between the characters.

The series consists of 20 lessons and is developed by British experts especially for learners in Arab countries.

The rock of the business and the central character of the series is the redoubtable Betsy who runs the Obla office in a shed on the airport’s perimeter. It is she who has to handle the irate passengers who have missed their flights, the dreamers who try to blag free tickets and the strange crates that mysteriously turn up.

Much of the action takes place in the Obla office, but there are also scenes in the nearby shops and cafes, as well as plenty of banter with Bosie the taxi driver.

Al-Qadasi said that other than the radio series, two other print series are to be published on a weekly basis every Wednesday in Al-Wasat Newspaper and every Sunday on Al-Share’a newspaper.

Both are related to the British Council’s Premier Skills Program, which helps deliver English educational content.

The Premier Skills Program is the first of four, followed by General English, Family English and Business English. They are to be published in the advanced stages.

Each lesson finishes with a question so that learners feel more interested to follow and find the answer in the coming lessons. Learners are urged to answer questions via SMS and enter a prize draw to win laptops every week. These questions are developed in an educational yet fun way to encourage more people to learn English and ensure more engagement with the lessons.

Escalating violence in Sa’ada hinders IDPs return

25 Nov
More than 280,000 people remain displaced from their homes due to violence in Sa’ada. IDPs live in tents, relying on aid agencies for food and shelter.Yemen Online NewsMalak ShaherPublished:25-11-2010

SANA’A, Nov. 24 — Renewed fighting between Houthi rebels and a pro-government tribe had left at least 20 people dead and several wounded. The clashes are the worst since the cease fire signed in Feb. 2010, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).Since Nov. 13, violence between the pro-government Galga tribe and the Houthis have killed at least 20 and injured another nine. Further fighting broke out in Bani Owaibary to the north of Sa’ada, killing six and injuring three.

“How can we return to our villages while the clashes continue to increase? We cannot return back as our houses are destroyed and danger is everywhere,” former Sa’ada resident, Ali Ahmad, told the Yemen Times. “Now I live with my three children, my wife, mother, brother and sister in a small tent suffering from the cold weather. I cannot risk taking them back and exposing their lives to danger, let alone that our house in Sa’ada has been destroyed.”

Dozens of families, like Ahmad’s, want to return home but the escalating violence between Houthis and pro-government tribes, which erupted again without warning, is forcing the internally displaced people (IDPs) from Sa’ada to stay in the camps.

The recent conflict began on Nov. 15, paused for five days over Eid, and resumed on Nov. 20. More than 12 armed Houthis were killed before Eid.

UNHCR’s public information assistant, Jamal Al-Najjar, told the Yemen Times that the clashes, which started just three days before Eid, prevented dozens of IDPs from returning to their homes. UNHCR has not had access to other IDPs living in tents in Qataber and Manbah, near the Saudi border.

“The intermittent clashes between the tribes and the Houthis have stopped many IDPs from returning home,” said Al-Najjar. “Only 20,000 IDPs out of 300,000 went back.” He added that other tribes have mediated between the Houthis and the Galga tribe to stop the clashes at least during Eid.

“This is an alarming escalation. UNHCR adds its voice to that of the local mediation committee in calling for calm and protection of the civilian population,” said spokesperson Andrej Mahecic in a press conference in Geneva. “We remain very concerned about the lack of access and the humanitarian situation in other parts of the governorate.”

Ahmad Ali is currently one of 280,000 displaced people. He has been displaced for nearly a year after leaving his house during the last Sa’ada war, which started in Aug. 2009 and ended in Feb. 2010. Although he receives aid and food in the camp, he dreams of the day he can return back home with his family, where his children can go to school and his family can live peacefully.

Car bomb attack

In a separate incident in the northern governorate of Al-Jawf, a car bomb struck a religious procession of Shiites, killing at least 15 people on Wednesday. A car packed with explosives detonated alongside a crowd of Houthis, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam told AFP.

Abdulsalam said the attack targeted Houthis who were preparing to mark Al-Ghadeer, the day on which Shiites commemorate Ali Bin Abi Taleb, a key figure of the Shiite Houthi faith, as supposed successor to the Prophet Mohammed in ruling the Islamic Umma.

The anniversary has long been a source of conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. A tribal leader told AFP that the bombing was the work of Sunni militants loyal to Al-Qaeda.

“A suicide bomber driving a four-wheel drive vehicle blew himself up alongside the procession,” the tribal chief told AFP. “Among the dead was the provincial tribal chief Hussein bin Ahmed bin Hadhban and his son.”

Other tribal sources warned that the death toll was likely to rise. One told AFP “it could reach 30.”

The Yemen Times issue was confiscated in Aden becasue of this story

20 Nov
Yemeni army accused of recruiting child soldiers
Marwan Al-Emad (Left), a 19 year-old soldier with the deflected first armored division, said that he was recruited in 2009. Ahmed Saglan, 18, joined the central forces a month ago. He is the only one earning a wage for his family. YT photos by Amira Al-Arasi

Amira Al-ArasiPublished:17-11-2011

SANA’A, Nov. 16 — The Yemen army and armed opposition recruit underage soldiers according to SEYAJ, a Yemeni organization for the protection of children

“The situation is beyond control and there are thousands of Yemeni children in the army, which is a breach of all international conventions,” said Ahmed Al-Qurashi the director of the organization at a press conference on Wednesday. “This happened because we have been silent for too long.”

Responding to similar reports, the Ministry of Defense recently announced that it would immediately release all underage soldiers from its ranks. However, SEYAJ has demanded an investigation into the recruitment process stating that it has evidence of the names and cases of remaining child soldiers.

The organization has also launched an awareness campaign highlighting the problem of child soldier recruitment through mass communication and events.

“I found that I am not good in school and instead of staying useless at home I decided to join the army,” said Abdu Al-Abbal who has been in the army since he was 17 years old. “When I joined I found that there were many my age and even younger than me but we all got the same training and treatment.”

Although he understands the risks of joining the army he is happy with his position and says that his family approves as well. “The army gives us shields and training and they give us food and blankets – I feel safe and content. I even get my daily qat from the army,” added Al-Abbal.

One of the main problems of identifying child soldiers is the lack of, or counterfeit, ID cards. Marwan Al-Emad, who clearly looks younger than the 19 years he claims to be, said that he joined the opposition army protecting the revolution’s Change Square in Sana’a.

“Three of my seven siblings are in the division. My three brothers and I believe that we made the right decision. I feel like a man and that I can defend myself or my family when needed,” he said. However, he admitted that the minimal salary of a soldier, which does not exceed USD 150, does not go far. But he hopes that once the revolution is successful there will be more respect and care for the soldiers.

The recruitment process on either side of the conflict is far from flawless and according to Major Hassan Sabra, Central Security VIP protection officer, there are measures that can be taken without completely eliminating child soldiers.

“However, the economic conditions of the country have forced some much younger boys to want to join the army and we do receive applicants as young as 13 years old. We train them and equip them and when an armed conflict occurs we keep them in the rear lines for their protection,” he said.

Yemen: Back to the dark ages

19 Nov
Many in Sana’a are forced to make do with just one or two hours electricity a day amid chronic power shortages.Photo by Luke Somers
Story by: Malak Shaher

Published:17-11-2011

Wood fires, oil lamps and candlelight. It’s not the dark ages:  it’s the year 2011, and Yemen is often without power.
Mona Hasan, a resident of Sana’a, said that sometimes she does not feel she lives in the 21st century After sunset, forced to live in near-darkness, she usually waits only an hour or two before going to sleep.

“No more TV, no more cooking gas, I can’t even do my housework. The electricity is usually off for 22 hours a day,” Hasan, 40, said.

Hasan said that her family no longer buys candles. “What is the use of candles when they finish but the power is still off? We live like our great grandparents lived.”

The mother of four added: “I am not the only one rushing to the power sockets. My daughters and my sons have fights over who can use the sockets as there aren’t enough to go around.”

Hasan lives on Airport Street in Sana’a, where she receives one or, at most, two hours of power a day. When the power comes back on, she rushes around the house, doing laundry and using the iron or vacuum cleaner.

“One day, I was using the iron when the power cut off. I was so angry and I tried to think of a way to get the work done. I heated a pan on the stove, put a thin scarf over my husband’s shirt, and started ironing using the very hot pan,” she said.

According to a report published by the Ministry of Electricity and Power, the cause of this return to a darker age is repeated attacks on power stations. The report states that there have been at least 64 attacks on different power stations between April and October 2011. The Marib Gas Station – which provides Sana’a with 40 percent of its power – has been specifically targeted.

The Minister of Electricity said that grids between Sana’a and the Marib Gas Station were attacked in many places since the uprising to bring down President Saleh’s regime began in February.

There are, however, conflicting opinions about the true causes of the power cuts. Since the beginning of the protests, both the government and opposition have been exchanging accusations over responsibility for the electricity crisis. At odds with the Ministry of Electricity and Power’s report, opposition members have claimed that power cuts are politically motivated, with both sides blaming the other for attacks on power stations and lines.

Electricity bills

Many Yemenis are complaining that even while they barely receive electricity at home, its cost is on the rise.

“The electricity bill sometimes goes up to YR 21,000, or USD 90,” said Nusaiba Ahmad, 33, a housewife in Sana’a.

“We now enjoy nearly four hours of electricity a day, but even so, I cannot understand why my electricity bill goes up when I do not even have a full day’s power.”

Ahmad said she feels as though she has returned to the time when she was a little girl, when her mother hand washed clothes in a big container.

Afraid that her washing machine will break down due to sudden power cuts, she has not used it in a month.

More than YR 15 billion, or USD 60 million, has been lost from the Sana’a-Marib grid over the past 10 months. Yemen’s Electricity Corporation has stated that it was not able to raise the YR 19 billion needed to pay power investors and oil companies, not to mention the funds needed to purchase spare parts and repair grids.

In a recent statement, Awadh Al-Socotri, Yemen’s Minister of Electricity, said that the National Bank of Yemen ceased providing the Electricity Corporation with employees’ wages as a result of the company being unable to pay its bank debts.

Gas shortage

In Sana’a, the prohibitive price of cooking gas is causing people to cut ration its use.

Mazen Hasan, married with one son, tells his wife to reduce the amount of cooked meals in order to make each canister last longer.

“We no longer enjoy food like we used to. My wife only cooks lunch now.”

Um Khaled, of Hodaida – one of the poorest governorates in Yemen – said that the cost of gas canisters keeps on rising. The price of a canister has increased from YR 900 or USD 4 at the start of the year to YR 2,500 or USD 10 today.

“We cannot afford the price of cooking gas, which increased two days ago to YR 2,500,” said the mother of five.

She has now resorted to using wood to prepare meals instead of the “very expensive” gas canisters that she can’t afford.

No electricity, no refrigeration

The electricity issue has presented yet another problem, as people can no longer keep food in refrigerators.

Heba Saif, 26, a housewife living in Sana’a, said that sometimes the food spoils.

“We bought meat for Eid but could not keep it for the next day so we gave it to our relatives,” she said.

Saif said that the electricity doesn’t just cause problems for herself or her husband, but added that it causes her children to experience a great deal of boredom.

Saif, who lives with her family in Al-Sunaina, said that she does not allow her son to go out and play with other kids because it is filthy outside. She is also afraid that conflicts could erupt at any time.

“He has become more nervous, he breaks his toys, and he always asks why we don’t turn on the TV anymore.”

Hadi warns of ‘hunger revolution’

19 Nov

Malak Shaher & Garnet Roach

Published:14-11-2011

Yemen Times

SANA’A Nov. 13 — Yemen is facing a “hunger revolution” if the UN’s power transfer deal is not secured soon, Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has warned.

Hadi voiced his concerns at a meeting with members of the Security Council and UN envoy Jamal Bin Omar on Saturday, reported state-run Saba news. Bin Omar is currently on his sixth visit to Yemen in a bid to get President Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign a power transfer deal.

“We fear that a hunger revolution will ensue from the 10-month- long political impasse if the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative is not finalized soon,” said Hadi.

He added that although more than three quarters of Yemeni’s have no relationship to the conflict or any political party, they are the most affected.

Ali Fare’, a street vendor and a father of eight, said he does know the difference between the ruling General People’s Party and the Joint Meeting Parties, in opposition. But he does know that he doesn’t earn enough money for his family.

“I do not know if I am going to join any protests but I am sure that

I will spare no effort to feed my family,” he said.

Fateh Al-Rahman Al-Jassaf, the head of the Street Vendors Syndicate, said he knows hundreds of street vendors who do not belong to any party or even understand “what the political parties in Yemen want”.

But he added that while he himself does not support either side, he definitely would participate in protests against hunger and unemployment.

However, while Hadi said that “the remaining differences between the ruling party and the opposition still hamper the signing of the deal,” he added that “85 percent of the differences were resolved”.

The GCC deal, backed by UN resolution 2014, calls for Saleh to hand over power to vice president Hadi within 30 days in return for immunity from prosecution. However, the November 21 deadline is drawing near.

If Saleh signs, Hadi would then form an opposition-led government, calling elections within 60 days.

The ongoing conflict has claimed more than 1,500 lives since protests calling an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule began in February.

Saleh has three times agreed to sign the GCC initiative only to pull out at the last minute.

Generator giveaway at FunCity

19 Nov

Malak Shaher & Garnet Roach

Published:14-11-2011

SANA’A, Nov. 13 — Visitors to Sana’a’s FunCity amusement park won 12 generators during Eid Al-Adha as the capital continued to struggle with chronic power shortages.

The park gives away special prizes during the two Eids, and this year decided that generators would draw the most customers.

“Every year we give quilts, blankets and heaters as the cold weather looms but this year we assessed the need for power and decided to give generators away instead,” said a spokesperson from FunCity.

“We also distributed six electricity chargers that hold power when the electricity is on and can then light a lamp or power a TV when it goes off,” he said.

Each contestant had to pay YR 2,000 to enter the prize draw and be in with the chance to win one of two generators or a “power saver”, worth up to USD 450 (YR 96,400).

Nagat Al-Azani, a high school student who lives on Sixty Meter Street with her family, won a generator on Friday. Without a generator, they usually have just two or three hours of electricity a day. “My family is really happy for me as they can receive more hours of power now,” said Al-Azani.

A FunCity representative said that the generator promotion was successful enough to hold again if the electricity crisis continues.

Sana’a has seen severe power cuts since the popular uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule began in February, with many homes and businesses forced to rely on generators or go up to 22 hours a day without electricity.

According to a Ministry of Electricity and Power report, Yemen’s power stations have suffered at least 64 attacks this year, with the Marib Gas Station, which provides 40 percent of Sana’a’s electricity, being specifically targeted.