SANA’A, Oct. 16 – Following president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s refusal to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, violence has resumed in Yemen’s capital since Saturday. Pro-government thugs attacked and killed 12 protesters on Sunday. The protesters were marching from Al-Zera’a Street, past the fish market, and ending at Al-Zubairy Street.
“Snipers are located on the Youth and Sport Ministry buildings on Al-Zubairi streets, where today’s march is supposed to end” said one of the protesters.
The attacks against the protesters followed Saturday’s violence, when at least 17 were shot dead in different areas of Sana’a. According to medical personnel at the opposition-held field hospital, 12 of them were shot during the march that set out from Change Square, while six others were reported dead after clashes between government forces and members of the Hashid Tribal Confederation in the Al-Hasaba neighborhood. Fighting there began in May and lasted for sixteen days before a truce between the warring parties was reached. Despite the truce, clashes have re-occurred sporadically.
Most of these attacks can be heard from Change Square, giving an unavoidable air of violence to the heart of Sana’a’s peaceful protests.
“The shelling was crazy last night at Hail Street, and at the Electricity Round” said Ahmed Al-Wase’ei, one of Hail’s residents.
The violence on Saturday provoked more marches in governorates such as Dhale’a, Taiz and Aden, marches arranged in solidarity with fellow pro-democracy protesters in Sana’a.
Unlike other non-Friday marches, Saturday’s and Sunday’s marches were huge. Saturday’s march was the first to be announced two days in advance in opposition newspapers describing its path exactly.
“We [the protesters] used to fear announcing the marches’ plans or places, scared of thugs’ attacks,” said Ameen Dabwan, an independent protester from Change Square, “This time, the protesters thought that announcing the marches path would be a good way to avoid the security attacks.”
According to Dabwan, the protesters said that most of the attacks against their marches are due to the regime’s fear of the protesters attacking the presidential palace or ministries. The very reason behind the protesters’ organizational committee announcing their march plans in advance was giving the regime nothing to fear in advance.
“Although this time we made it clear to the regime that the protesters would only march peacefully away from the palace, they attacked and killed the protesters,” Dabwan added.
On the other hand, some independent protesters hold defected Major General Ali Mohsen and Joint Meeting Parties leaders responsible, accusing them of leading the youth to their deaths by way of marches designed to escalate the situation whenever negotiations on the GCC initiative do not go well.
Moteeb Al-Baydhani, independent youth leader of the square said that Mohsen and JMP leaders take advantage of the youths’ enthusiasm and proceed to lead them to their death.
“I dare Ali Mohsen or the JMP leaders to be present in any of these marches; they claim that they serve the revolution or protect the youth when their hands are covered with the protesters’ blood,” he said angrily.
The Yemen Times called Mohammed Qahtan, the JMP spokesman, to hear his comments on youth claims against the JMP. Qahtan seemed unsure how to justify the movement’s leaders’ physical absence from the square.
“This is the youth revolution; they were the ones who sparked it, and all the political talks we hold are to advocate for them,” said Qahtan,
He also confirmed that the violence is due to a failure by the president to sign the GCC initiative. “The youth when marching decide for themselves, without any interference by the JMP. The JMP assured them that the GCC talks had stopped,” he explained.
As a result, fear of civil war has returned, as both tribal leaders and The First Armored Division respond to shellings on their locations north of Change Square. Shelling that hit former government officials’ houses in Sofan city was unintended to strike those locations.
Al-Saeeda, a local independent channel, was also exposed to fire due to random shelling between the conflicted parties. Their three-floor building was engulfed in flames, and they lost six well-prepared studios.
“We cannot say who is responsible for this, as the shelling was random,” said Mohammed al-Naqeeb, an anchor for Al-Saeeda.
In a press release on Sunday, Ali Mohsen demanded that all the conflicted parties withdraw their armed forces, including what he called the “armed tribal forces,” from the capital. The suggested withdrawal would include the forces he himself leads. He proceeded to suggest the withdrawal of government Central Security and Special forces, and his own First Armored Division to move at least 200 kilometers from main cities. Mohsen also demanded urgent interference from international security and human rights NGOs, so that they may stop “Saleh’s massacres.”