SANA’A, Apr. 23rd — The governor of Taiz confirmed to the Yemen Times that he has suspended his own job until the government takes serious action against the recent imprisonment of the director of Taiz University.
The academic teaching staff of the university are also on strike, condemning the arrest of Dr. Mohammed Al-Sofy, who was seized shortly after some of the institute’s students protested in favor of continued programming. Classes have been cancelled during the city’s ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.
Although some local press advertised his resignation, Taiz governor Hamood Al-Sofy told the Yemen Times that his decision was influenced only by the maltreatment of Dr. Al-Sofy.
Governor Al-Sofy demanded that the government release Dr. Al-Sofy and charge the head of Taiz’s Republican Guard, Murad Al-Uwaili, who ordered Dr. Al-Sofy’s arrest.
The Yemen Times has learned that the government is indeed moving to prosecute Al-Uwaili.
“A problem happened at Taiz University,” said Governor Al-Sofy. “Then the Republican Guard assaulted Dr. Mohammed Al-Sofy, the head of Taiz University. This is why I decided to suspend my position.”
Throughout Hamood Al-Sofy’s term as governor, many human rights violations have been reported by NGOs. For example, it has been alleged that 17 people were recently shot to death at Taiz’s Al-Huryya Square.
However, this is the first time that Governor Al-Sofy has taken action against an assault on human rights.
“Until now, no violations occurred that required me to take action. The deaths of the protesters were a result of the clashes. But assaulting the head of Taiz University is entirely unjustified,” said Governor Al-Sofy.
The ostensible justification of Dr. Al-Sofy’s arrest is that he failed to respond to students’ demands. Dozens of Taiz University students recently protested against Dr. Al-Sofy, demanding that classes be re-started. The institute has suspended courses for more than two months, on account of the tenuous political situation in Yemen.
Despite the fact that the students claimed not to have any specific political leanings, pro-democracy activist Al-Sararri confirmed that he saw the students carrying photographs of President Saleh.
“At the beginning of the demonstration, the students didn’t have any political position,” explained Al-Sararri. “But today, they are raising President Saleh’s picture. This shows that they were sent by the ruling party.”
According to Al-Sararri, the alleged pro-government protesters closed the road leading to the university’s head office, which is less than one kilometer away from the Republican Palace in Taiz.
The university is scheduled to re-open on Monday, after having been closed for two days. Classes will recommence on Monday as well.
Most of the academic teaching staff are deeply involved in the pro-democracy sit-in at Al-Huryya Square in Taiz. The city’s protesters recently launched a plan of political escalation, which includes civil disobedience.
“Who will teach the students when the academic staff are busy protesting and committing acts of civil disobedience,” asked Al-Sararri. “Restarting classes doesn’t cohere with our plans for escalation at all. We have already succeeded in applying civil disobedience to nearly 80% of Taiz.”
According to Al-Sararri, on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays, almost 80% of Taiz’s citizens commit themselves to acts of civil disobedience. During the rest of the week, on 60% of citizens do so.
Last week, a number of clashes over this case were reported. The pro-government students’ demands to restart their educations provoked the pro-democracy protesters.
According to Balqees Al-Qubati, a law student at Taiz University who helped organize the education protests, “The head of the university is afraid to take action and to help us continue our studies. He was scared when he saw us both – the students protesting in favor of restarting classes and the anti-government protesters who broke into our classroom while we were holding a lecture last Saturday.”