Thursday, 17 February 2011

Yemen streets simmering, clerics calling for last chance, politicians confused

By Nasser Arrabyee/17/02/2011

An influential Yemen cleric said Thursday the opposition must take to streets if President Ali Abdullah 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, an influential 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 in a press conference he held in his house in Sana’a on Thursday, February 17th, 2011.

Next Monday, he said, all Yemeni clerics will meet and issue an official and unified statement with more clarifications about their position on the ongoing limited but increasing youth demonstrations which call for the ouster of Saleh in Sana’a , Taiz and Aden and other provinces
Al Zandani’s statement came after rival small but violent demonstrations continued in the capital Sana’a and Taiz for the sixth straight day.

About 10 people were injured on Thursday when two rival demonstrations clashed with hands, sticks, and stones in the 60 ring road and Al Rebat street in Sana’a, before the security forces dispersed and separated them by firing to the air .

The clashes took place when hundreds of pro-government demonstrators attacked hundreds of the opposition demonstrators who were demanding the ouster of President Saleh in Al Rebat street, close to Sana’a university.

The anti-government protesters, mostly university students from Islamist party, Islah, tried to do their demonstrations at the gate of the university as usual, but pro-government demonstrators came earlier than them and occupied the gate of the university.

The pro-government protesters demand reforms, dialogue, security and development while sometimes drumming, dancing, and carrying the President Saleh’s pictures.

The anti-regime students quickly walked and re-assembled themselves in Al Rebat street instead of the gate of the university. They could not go to the main square , Tahrir, because it’s also occupied by the ruling party supporters.

“We came here after the thugs of the ruling party occupied the gate where we always sit in,” The 20-year old student, Ali, said “We’ll continue protesting anywhere and everywhere until the regime is toppled.”

Most of the protesting students tell press reporters they are independent and they are not belonging to any party, but it was clear they are from the opposition parties, mainly from the Islamist party, Islah, the largest opposition party.

The students know that their parties are still hesitating between taking to streets and sitting on the negotiation table with the government.

Some of the pro-government demonstrators tell press reporters they are not in the ruling party, and they even do not like President Saleh, but they do not want their country to collapse into chaos.

“I know the regime is corrupt, and we need change, but not this way, we need peaceful change, , the opposition now push people to streets to take power by force, this is not right, even if we die we’ll not accept this way,” Said, Salah Abdu, the 21-year old student who was carrying Saleh’s picture in the 60-ring road, after clashes with the anti-Saleh students.

Some of the opposition politicians say the angry young people will calm down if dialogue starts but some say they will take to streets soon when President Saleh fails to convince them.

“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 now,” Mohammed Kahtan, senior Islamist opposition, told reporters.

But, the ambitious businessman and Islamist leader, Hamid Al Ahmar, said, “ We’ll join the young people in the street soon, when everybody realizes that the regime is not serious.”

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