By Nasser Arrabyee/23/02/2011
At least one protester was killed and more than 10 injured in clashes between armed tribesmen protecting anti-and pro-government hundreds of demonstrators at the gate of Sana’a university before dawn of Wednesday.
Independent eyewitnesses said the clashes started with hands and sticks when the pro-government demonstrators tried to install their own tents in a place close to the tents of the anti-government demonstrators nearby the university.
When the security forces, deployed in the area failed to disperse the night demonstrators (few hundreds of young people from each side), the armed tribesmen of each side clashed with each other killing one at least and injuring more than 10.
Armed tribesmen loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh were there to protect the pro-government demonstrators and armed tribesmen loyal to Hamid and Hussein Al Al Ahmar were there to protect the anti-Saleh demonstrators, according to eyewitnesses.
Hussein Al Ahmar , chairman of a tribal group, called council of national solidarity, publicly said last week he would send tribesmen to protect demonstrators in Sana’a from violence of the tribesmen loyal to the government.
Earlier during the daytime of Tuesday, the anti-regime demonstrators attacked by stones and set fire to a car belonging to the pro-government demonstrators, which tried to distribute posters and pictures of President Saleh around their area.
The Yemeni President Saleh says he will never leave the power by the force of the limited but increasing demonstrations of the young people who have been demanding his ouster over the last few weeks.
The opposition parties say they want guarantees for “serious reforms” and they never said, until now, they want the ouster of President Saleh, even though they support these young people in the street who insist on Saleh’s sep-down.
In such a conservative country like Yemen, where illiteracy is still more than 50 % of the 24 million population, the civil society and educated young people who mainly contact with each other by face book and twitter for their daily anti-regime protests, are not yet the most effective players.
The tribal leaders and the religious scholars are still the most effective players on the society of Yemen where 70% of the population are living in the rural areas where basic services like education, health, electricity and communication are very poor.
Most of the religious and tribal leaders still support President Saleh, or at least, have not yet called for taking to streets. They both seem they want to give Saleh the last chance if things will remain in their hands.
The Association of the Yemeni clerics held an exceptional meeting on Monday February 21st, 2011, and said in a statement President Saleh should remove all corrupts around him and take “serious steps” for reforms.
One of the most influential Yemen cleric said the opposition must take to streets only if President Saleh has not accepted their conditions for a guaranteed peaceful transfer of power.
“A national unity government must be formed, with the most important ministries shared between the opposition and the ruling party, to prepare for elections within six month,” said Sheik Abdul Majid Al Zandani, a leader in the largest Islamist opposition party, and chairman of the religious university of Al Eyman.
If the President has not accepted this condition, then the people must take to streets peacefully until he accepts, said Al Zandani.
Over the last two weeks, President Saleh was holding extensive meetings every day with the tribal leaders and their tribesmen from the Yemen’s most influential two tribes Hashed and Bakil in the provinces of Sana’a, Amran and Hajja.
The opposition politicians considered President Saleh’s meetings with the tribesmen as a tactic of “Divide to rule”.
“It’s a foreign agenda, and conspiracy against security and stability of the nation,” said President Saleh in one of those big gathering of tribesmen who came to Sana’a to express their support for him.
“He who wants to take the power, should take it through polls, not through sabotage and chaos ,” he said.
He said it’s only the citizens who will pay the price if the country collapsed into a civil war. “ Those who pay and push citizens to the streets will be hiding in the bad-rooms, with their bags in their hands to go abroad where their bank credits are.”
President Saleh was obviously referring to Hamid Al Ahmar, a politically ambitious businessman and Islamist leader, and also the son of the chief of Hashed, the departed Abdullah Al Ahmar. The Hashed tribesmen can be divided into two groups at least, one with Saleh and one with Hamid and his brother Hussein who says he will send his tribesmen to protect the demonstrators in Sana’a from the “thugs” of the government. Hamid Al Al Ahmar has his own satellite TV, Suhail.
Under the influence of some people like Hamid, both the opposition coalition and tribesmen seem to be spilt over the question of what to do now to accept Saleh’s concessions and go for dialogue or take to streets.
“ We’ll join the young people in the streets soon, when everybody realizes that the regime is not serious,” Hamid Al Ahmar incited the opposition and tribesmen in a meeting in Sana’a last week.
In the most recent official statement on Sunday, February 20th, 2011, the opposition parties they support the young people who demonstrate in the streets for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
But those parties , which includes mainly the Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserites, did not say they would join them in street and they never the support was for the ouster of President Saleh.
“We support their peaceful protests against tyranny”.
Meanwhile, the President Ali Abdulah Saleh repeatedly said on the same day he is ready to meet all the “legal” demands of the opposition through dialogue.
“We are ready to sit on negotiation table and meet the demands of the opposition, if they are legal, the dialogue is the best way, not the sabotage, blocking roads, killing innocents, and looting public and private properties,” President Saleh addressed about 40,000 of his supporters in the country’s largest hall, May 22 Hall, in the capital Sana’a.
The Islamist-led opposition coalition in a statement issued at the end of an exceptional meeting held by the top leaders said, “No dialogue with bullets, batons, and thugs, no dialogue with the power who mobilizes mercenaries to occupy the public squares.”
President Saleh regretted for the violence that happened on Friday and Saturday, February 19th, 20th, 2011, in Aden, Taiz and Sana’a in which dozens were killed and injured. He also regretted for what happened to journalists in Sana’a on Friday and Saturday by “hired thugs”.
“Those elements are not from the ruling party or its allies , they were hired thugs, and this will never happen again ,” Saleh said.
While President Saleh was speaking, two rival demonstrations were going on at the gate of the Sana’a university: hundreds of students were demanding Saleh’s ouster, and hundreds others demanding dialogue and security and stability. Both ended peacefully after the security separated them meters away from each other.
After violence stopped, the anti-Salehof hundreds students started a permanent sit-in at the gate of Sana’a university on Sunday February 20th, 2011, like their colleagues in the province of Taiz where hundreds of youn people started day and night sit-in about week earlier.
Because of violence against demonstrators, 10 members of parliament from the ruling party said they would resign if the violence against demonstrators and journalists continued.
In southern province of Aden where always the protestors would demand the separation of the south from the north which united in 1990, small but violent demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Saleh started last Friday when at least five people were killed in clashes with security forces.
The new position of the southern separatist movement was viewed by some observers as an implicit agreement between the movement and opposition coalition to focus on toppling of the regime.
In Sada’a, for the first time, the Al Houthi Shiite rebels, who are in a fragile truce after the 6-year old sporadic war with the government, staged demonstrations on Monday, February 21st, 2011, in cooperation with the opposition coalition in the province to support the young people in Sana’a, Taiz, and Aden and other provinces.
Some of the opposition politicians say the angry young people will calm down if dialogue starts but some .
“The young people protesting in the streets now will calm down when we start dialogue and show them guarantees, it is not like the previous times,” Mohammed Kahtan, a senior Islamist opposition, said.