In the early morning hours Monday, Yemeni army units supported by Central Security forces blanketed Aden City, the former capital of southern Yemen, in advance of a planned civil rights demonstration.
By the end of the day, the 14th anniversary of the end of Yemen’s civil war, government forces had arrested more than 300 in Aden and detained numerous reporters. Security blocked all the routes to the public square at al Hashimi station, the site of the planned sit-in.
The clashes marked a year of near continuous civil unrest in southern Yemen. The movement is spearheaded by former southern military officers, the Military Retirees Coordination Council (MRCC), who demand equal opportunity for southerners.
“The security forces directed by the Sana’a regime were not satisfied with closing up the exits and entrances to al Hashimi square, but in addition they launched a random arrest campaign targeting anyone near al Hashimi square and took them to military prisons,” a member of the MRCC leadership commented on Monday’s events to this reporter.
Demonstrations were held throughout southern Yemen on Monday. In Lahj, dozens were arrested. In Dhalie, 80 miles from Aden, a grenade wounded eight when police moved into to break up a demonstration. Protests in Dhalie have previously drawn tens of thousands with protesters’ arrests and deaths sparking more demonstrations.
Security forces arrested reporters from Al Jazeera TV, Marebpress.net, Alhadath.net, and Elaph newspaper and held them incommunicado for several hours until the crowds had broken up.
The demonstrations marked the 14th anniversary of the 1994 capture of Aden by President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s northern military forces, which ended a bloody two-month civil war.
Some activists charge the South has since been treated as the spoils of war, with jobs, scholarships, and leadership positions denied to Southerners, and land and natural resources plundered by the victors for over a decade. The unity of North and South Yemen, President Saleh’s crowning achievement, is described by some in the South as a military occupation that contravenes the UN resolutions governing the cessation of hostilities in the civil war.
Officials in Aden last week warned against unauthorized demonstrations and against persons from outside Aden coming to the city to disturb the peace. The central government defends its tactics as necessary to maintain stability. Dozens of protesters have been killed by security forces since 2007. Earlier in the year, the regime announced that deaths or damage that occur during a protest are the liability of the protest organizers.
In May, Hassan Baoum and other Socialist Party officials were charged in state security court with instigating civil disorder, a death penalty offense, for speaking at a demonstration where police later killed several protesters.
Prominent opposition leaders, newsmen, and activists are among the nearly 1,000 arrested since the protests began in 2007, and many remain in jail. “All of these acts which were committed by the Sana’a regime never frighten us,” the MRCC source said, commenting on the government’s tactics. “We will continue in our peaceful struggle until we get all our legal rights.”
At an afternoon press conference held on Monday, Dr. Mohammed Saleh al Qubati, spokesman for the opposition Joint Meeting Parties, demanded an official, impartial inquiry into the day’s events, saying Aden has become “a military checkpoint where citizens cannot go out for shopping.”
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