Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Yemenis walking a tight rope

By Nasser Arrabyee/03/05/2011

Yemen has become on the brink of collapsing into a civil war after stalling of a US-backed and Saudi-led GCC plan to transfer power from the defiant President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Although Saudi Arabia and UAE officials said efforts are still being exerted to convince both parties to sign the deal that would see Saleh step down in one month after signing, tension has increased as all parties prepared for armed confrontations.

The main point in the GCC deal that led to the deadlock was about stopping all kind of tensions including the protests and sit-ins.

The opposition refused to stop the protests saying military and security deployment is the source of tension not the protests. President Saleh and his supporters say the step-down will only happen after stopping the protests according to the final and non-negotiable GCC deal.

“President Saleh would step down after ending the protests and sit-ins, military defection, the secessionist activity in the south, and armed rebellion in the north,” said Abdullah Ahmed Ghanem, a senior official in Saleh’s ruling party.

To add insult to injury, this tension has increased even more after the death of the top leader of Al Qaeda Osama Bin Laden. Fears of retaliatory acts against Americans by the active Yemen branch Al Qaeda increased as well.

President Saleh supporters were happy to see many anti-Saleh protesters express their anger and sadness over the death of Bin Laden whose pictures were spread in the sit-in squares as “a hero and martyr” despite the warnings from opposition leaders against any activity that would glorify Bin Laden.

The tension could reach its climax if the GCC officials stop helping Yemenis who all are walking on a tight rope and could fall down at any moment if they do not hold each other and rescue themselves.

A civil could be the only other option, and that would not impact the already conflict-torn Yemen, but also the neighboring GCC countries.

The young protesters in the street, who have been demanding the ouster of President Saleh for about 3 months, absolutely refuse the GCC deal and threaten to march forward to the Presidential Palace to force Saleh out.

All conflicting parties seem to be getting ready for armed confrontations: President Saleh and his supporters, the Islamist-led opposition, Al Houthi rebels in the northern province of Sa’ada, the secessionist movement in the south, and Al Qaeda and its sympathizers everywhere especially in the south and east.

Weapon pieces were and are distributed to sincere supporters of both the largest Islamist opposition party, Islah, and Saleh’s party in the neighborhoods of Sana’a city at least, according to people who already received their weapon pieces over the last few weeks.

Furthermore, about 2,000 students from El Eman fundamentalist University, run by the extremist cleric Abdul Majid Al Zandani, have been receiving weapons and military training in the 1st armored division of the defected general Ali Muhsen, according to some students who believe that doing this is Jihad.

“Yes, we joined training courses with Ali Muhsen about one month ago, now I have my gun and I safeguard as a sentry,” Said the 20-year old student who identified himself only as Jamil.

“I’m very happy to work with a straightforward and devout man like Ali Muhsen,” said Jamil who now works as a sentry close to his university El Eman which is adjacent to 1st armored division of Ali Muhsen at the northern outskirt of the capital Sana’a.

In a such a tense atmosphere, the US embassy in Sana’a called the conflicting parties in Yemen to avoid all provocative acts after about 10 Yemeni were killed in clashes between two rival demonstrations in the capital Sana’a Wednesday April 27th.

The embassy, in a statement sent to media late Thursday, urged all Yemenis to commit to peaceful demonstrations, marches, and speeches specially now as they are on the eve of signing the “historic agreement for peaceful transfer of power and having new elected president next July”.

Furthermore, the death of Osama Bin Laden, by the American forces in Pakistan Monday May 2, 2011, sparked various reactions ranging between anger, joy, and shocking among Yemenis.

“All of us are Osama Bin Laden, Obama,” wrote in their face-book pages, many of the young people who have been demanding the ouster of the defiant President Saleh for more than three months.

“Yes, he is the martyr of the Umma, he is the most respected hero of Islam , and we will be like him if Obama continues to support Saleh,” said the 24-year old activist Ameen over phone from the sit-in square in Sana’a.

Those young people who established the face-book pages “All of us are Osama Bin Laden” are not necessarily religious or sympathizers of Al Qaeda, but they are angry from Obama administration for supporting Saleh, said Ameen, who said he advised the face-book protesters to be careful about declaring their support for Bin Laden.

“I know Saleh and his supporters would exploit any support and sympathy with Osama Bin Laden for their interest, but this is the truth, many young people look at Osama as a hero they hate Obama who supports Saleh,” said Ameen, who preferred to give only his first name.

Aidaros Thuraya, who is working in a clinic, does not care very much about the death of Bin Laden, but he was very worried this after he heard the news of Bin Laden’s death.

“The Americans killed Bin Laden, Al Qaeda would kill the Americans here in Yemen, and we do not need any more problems, we have enough, we want to live like other people in the world,” said Mr. Thuraya, who happened to be from the same village of the top leader of Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, Nasser Al Wahayshi, Ghul Al Wahayshi in Al Baidha province east of Yemen.

“I know very well how these people think, they do not care about killing and destroying,” he said.
However, there are many Yemenis who were extremely happy to hear the news of the death of Osama bin Laden, but they were not as brave as those who were sad and angry to express their feelings and views in such a conservative society where there is almost no difference between a terrorist and Jihadist or Mujahid.

Those who were sad and angry were boasting to express their love and respect to Bin Laden publicly and without any fear. But those who were happy would prefer only to whisper, looking right and left, while expressing their hate and refusal to Bin Laden and his sympathizers.

“I’m very happy to hear such a news, it’s a victory over terrorism and extremism, and it’s actually a victory for Islam, because Bin Laden presented Islam in a very bad image to the world,” Said Essam who works a public relations officer.

“Wherever I go in the world, I can not say I’m a Muslim, if I say I’m a Muslim people only imagine Bin Laden, and remember his killings of innocents and destruction of every beautiful thing,” Said Essam who travelled to many places in the world including US.

Abdul Salam Mohammed chairman of the newly-established think tank, Abaad for Strategic Studies, said that should open a new page with Islamic world after the death of Osama Bin Laden.

“The US should support the new democracies in the Arab world which result from the popular revolts,” Said Mohammed.

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