Yemen in 2011 – A Year of Revolution

January 6, 2012 5:56 pm0 commentsViews: 300

Yemen has archived an exceptional year in its history, a year that carried the dreams of millions of people throughout the country. Dreams of building a civilized country, free of tyranny.

The Yemeni Revolution came as an extension to the Arab Spring which has toppled three dictators at the present moment in time. Yemenis were able to
create a unique revolution. Their struggle came peaceful, unarmed, and lead by women and the youth. The young revolutionaries were able to create innovative methods to voice their demands and make their voices reach the whole world.

2011 started with demonstrations and protests, which were preceded in 2007 by the protests of the Southern Movement and the Yemeni Activist Tawakul Karman. However, the movement’s political life span was reaching a dead end, especially after the JMP parliament members in January held a protest in front of the Parliament refusing the policies of the ruling party – GPC – and announced that they will boycott elections if the regime didn’t make deep electoral reforms.

On the international level, the Tunisian ex-President, Ben Ali, fled the country on the 15th of January announcing the victory of the 1st Arab revolution in the year 2011, and the Egyptian ex-President Hosny Mubarak followed after less than one month. Those two revolutions had their influence on the Yemeni people and announced that it was never too late to make any changes or reforms, signifying Saleh’s regime being pushed to the edge of a cliff.

Launching the Squares:

On the 11th of February – the day Mubarak stepped down in Egypt – the youth of Yemen went out to the streets of Taiz, announcing the beginning of the Yemeni Revolution, while their revolutionary colleagues in Sana’a were still trying to find a place to set up a sit-in, eventually in front of the University of Sana’a, after regime loyalists occupied Tahrir Square to prevent them from copying the Egyptian experiment.

On the 18th February, youth activists along with Tawakul Karman succeeded in forming a ‘sit-in’ in Sana’a after a series of marches and protests in front of Sana’a University, and clearly called to overthrew the regime. Finally, on the 27th February, Joint Meeting Parties – JMP – announced officially that they had joined the revolution.

Core of the Revolution:

On the 10th of March, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, presented an initiative to get out of the crisis, declaring that he would form a new constitution, a parliamentary system, a federal system for governorates, and to change the electoral system. However, the initiative was refused by the JMP who said that the revolution had superseded it.

8 days later, on March 18th, came the ‘Friday of Dignity’, which was an important day for the Yemeni Revolution and probably in Yemen’s history, where 52 martyrs fell and hundreds were wounded by snipers, who turned out to be regime militias, in Change Square in Sana’a. This bloody day was about to bring the Yemeni regime to an end after a rain of resignations from government officials. In retaliation, Saleh quickly announced the dismissal of the government, and yet kept it as a caretaker government.

A month later, on the 10th of April, the GCC’s Foreign Ministers called on the Yemeni President to step down and present an initiative under their supervision. The initiative was refused by Saleh at the beginning and he accused Qatar of being behind formulating the initiative. Later on he announced that he agrees to sign but asked the GCC to exclude Qatar as a term of signing the initiative. However, he later refused to sign the GCC initiative, despite many visits by the GCC General Secretary and many amendments on the initiative formula as well. His refusal came only a few hour before he started armed confrontations with the Al-Ahmar family, leaders of the biggest tribe in Yemen. In this unfortunate incident, around 40 tribe leaders were killed and injured after a missile attack on the Al-Ahmar’s House in Sana’a. The tribesmen were in a mediation mission to end the clashes between Saleh forces and the Al-Ahmar family, which brought Saleh’s regime to face the whole tribal system.

However at the beginning of June, under mysteries circumstances, an assassination attempt on Saleh and senior government officials in a mosque in the Presidential Palace. Saleh and his officials left to Saudi Arabia, were many viewers addressed it as the end of his regime.

The Revolution Continues:

On the 7th of July, Saleh appeared on TV for the first time since the assassination attempt, and ended all assumptions about his death.

On the 17th of August, the revolutionary groups announced the National Council of the Peaceful Revolution. And later, on the 18th of September, a youth march was able to cross the ‘red lines’ set by Central Security Forces, resulting in the death of 20 participants. The Republican Guards led by Saleh’s son, shelled the Change Square heavily which forced the Pro-revolution army to interfere.

A few days later, Saleh suddenly returned to Yemen, many viewers said that he returned to save what was left of his regime after the clashes and confrontations between his forces and the Pro-revolution army. Nevertheless, upon his return he is welcomed by a series of visits by the UN envoy – Jamal Ben Omar – to convince Saleh to sign the GCC initiative.

During these negotiations, on the 7th of October, Yemen rejoiced amidst the chaos, Noble Peace Prize Committee announced Tawakul Abdulsalam Karman as the first Arab woman to receive the prize due to her active role in the Yemeni Revolution. Nevertheless, the UN Security Council was still pushing Saleh to sign the GCC initiative under resolution no. 2014. He signed. A government of National Reconciliation was then formed and Karman received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

However, Yemen carried on rallying, on the 20th of December, the pedestrian march “Life” come out of Taiz, and crossed 265 KM to reach Sana’a on the 24th of December. This was the biggest march in the history of Yemen, and sent a clear message to the Yemeni People and the International Community that the Yemeni Revolution was still yet to fulfil its goals.

The last days of December witnessed a parallel revolution that paralysed many governmental sectors and led to the resignation of some senior officials. It’s worth mentioning that the employee’s strikes are still continuing as the country forges its own mini revolutions, attempting to purge the remnants of Salehs regime, and foremost, the last scraps of tyranny in Yemen.

Baraa Shiban

Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East

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