There was a great outpouring of joy on Monday at Sana’a University, where the pro-democracy sit-in has been taking place. The revolution was transformed as senior officers announced their solidarity with the protesters.You could barely make your way to the stage, where crowds of protesters were dancing, cheering and carrying the soldiers who had joined the protest. Some of the youth protesters bought the soldiers roses and honored them. For the first time in a country that has around 60 million personal weapons, everybody was walking without their guns, including the police and soldiers. Instead, many were carrying flowers and roses. “I like you better with the flower than the gun,” shouted one of the audience to the soldiers.
Last week some members of the armed forces joined the anti-government protest and promised the public to start an armed forces coalition at the protest, with the hope that more members would join. Before Friday’s massacre there were only 200 members in the coalition according to Major Mohammed Al-Khodari. After Friday the numbers more than doubled to 480 members. When Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmer announced his solidarity with the protesters on Monday, the membership swelled to over 2000 with many still registering.
Ali Mohsen, the Major General of the Yemeni armed forces, on a video statement said, “Yemen today is facing comprehensive crises that threaten Yemen’s political and social entity and the Yemenis future… as a result of the authorities’ practices outside of the constitution and laws, the adopting of exclusionary and marginalizing policies, neglecting the national partnership and the absence of justice.”
Many felt more secure after Mohsen joined the protesters. One protester said, “It’s a transformation to the revolution that will hasten Saleh’s stepping down.” Most of the armed forces that were interviewed by the Yemen Times confirmed that they know they will be punished by the state for joining the protests.
“Everybody is scared for his salary and life. That’s why they hesitated to join before now,” said Al-Khodari. “They warned us against joining the protest when they knew about the coalition, and forbid any soldier to attend the protest for any reason. They said that they will be spying on us.” Al-Khodari also told the Yemen Times that the coalition was informed that one of the soldiers that joined the protest a week ago had since found his name on the state’s terror list.
|Soldiers joining Sana’a’s anti-government protest were showed with kisses and gratitude.
“The honorable people are at home, suspended from their jobs,” said Al-Khodari. He added that the state had threatened soldiers directly or indirectly, and had tried to find inducements to keep the soldiers on the government side. A rise in salary was one such incentive. Soldiers that previously earned only YR 25,000 a month (USD 116) should now receive YR 30,000.
Yahiya Al-Dheeb, the companion of the president from the special guards, was one of the first soldiers from the president’s soldiers to join the protests “The leadership denies that I worked for them. What can I expect from a lying leadership that has lied to 25 million people all this time?” Al-Dheeb said. “The leadership sent some of my friends to get me out of the protest, and I received phone call threats. That’s why I don’t feel secure outside the protest and I never leave. They told me directly, ‘Wherever you go, we will get you eventually’.”
Some told the Yemen Times about the cases of corruption that they faced during their work with the armed forces. Major Hamdan Abdalkareem was director of the office of the commander of the second infantry brigade of nautical marines.He has resigned from his job, but not from his military rank. He told the Yemen Times that he witnessed corruption during his work: “I have documents that show the smuggling of diesel, and how they sell it for Yemeni rial instead of the dollar, which means they sell it cheap because they are bribed. This has been happening weekly for four years now.” He said that although he has the documents and proof, he had not informed the general prosecution because “they are all part of the gang.”
Colonel Adalrahman Al-Khofashi from the planning division at the Ministry of Defense said that the killings on Friday are making more officials join now. “I was here for the first eight days of the protest, but in civilian clothes. I also coordinated with some of the protest organizers on a reform programme I’ve had since 1994. We made sure several times that the programme was delivered to the president, and we fought to make it happen, but all doors were closed in our faces and they didn’t respond,” he said. Colonel Saleh Al-Mauri is Al-Khofashi’s partner in designing the programme. Al-Mauri said “The president and his officials didn’t respond to the reform programmes that we have been trying to apply since 1994.” Both colonels decided to give the young revolutionaries and protesters at Change Square the reform programme as a gift.
Brigadier-General Abdalrhamn Al-Mahdi, former head of the Tarq center for air operations, that has had a tent at the protests for more than 11 days, but didn’t announce his presence until Monday. “Many pilots will join in the upcoming days. I asked to retire after I had an argument with the leader Mohammed Saleh Al-Ahmer. They wanted to import a French radar system for billions, but I told them that it had defects and suggested an alternative cheaper Italian radar system. They refused, so I left,” said Al-Mahdi.