Yemeni boy with a Kalashnikov rifle entering Marib, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Sheba | Hans Rossel
Secessionists have painted and hung South Yemeni flags all over the regional capital Aden, and have been demanding independence from the northern part of the country.
Many southerners have boycotted the National Dialogue Conference, which they see as pointless and doomed to fail.
South Yemen, where residents complain of discrimination by the Sanaa government in the distribution of resources, was independent from 1967 when the British withdrew until it was united with the north in 1990.
Yemen’s death row houses many children awaiting execution. Their stories of abuse and forced confessions are heart-wrenching. But now Yemen’s Children’s Parliament are calling their adult leaders to account.
In the dark, grim cells of Sanaa Central Prison, hollow and tear-filled eyes stare through the grill with alarming despair. Nadim, 15 when he allegedly committed the crime, tells us of the torture he suffered before he confessed to premeditated murder.
“They kept beating me with an electric cable until 1.30 at night, while I hung there.”
In theory nobody under the age of 18 can be executed in Yemen, but in a country with few birth certificates determining these young people’s age isn’t always easy. But the Children’s Parliament, a unique organization that allows child politicians to challenge their adult counterparts, are taking on the case of these death row kids. “We will stand by Nadim and innocent children like him, even if we have to camp outside the president’s residence.”
Moaad’s family offer him no support, following a conviction he strongly denies, because they fear a reprisal from the relatives of the murdered man. When asked why he thought three doctors judged him to be 16 and then changed their minds he says, “Bribes, by the adversaries.”
Yet the Children’s Parliament has succeeded in putting a stop to 3 executions and Moaad hopes that he will be the next one.
A leader of Yemen’s Southern Movement said on Saturday he was withdrawing from talks to draft a new constitution in protest at a “plot against the southern cause,” he said.
In a statement obtained by AFP, Ahmed bin Farid al-Suraimah said he had pulled out of the talks, which began on March 18, because they “avoid tackling the rights of southerners to self-determination.”
“The current dialogue is aimed only at reproducing a system similar to the one that exists now,” he said.
Most southern factions finally agreed to take join the national dialogue after months of negotiations and under UN pressure.
But Southern Movement hardliners led by the former South Yemen’s ex-president Ali Salem al-Baid have dug in their heels, insisting instead on negotiations between two independent states in the north and south.
Supporters of southern independence often stage demonstrations against the national dialogue, especially in Aden.
After the former North and South Yemen united in 1990, the south broke away in 1994, triggering a short-lived civil war that ended with the region being overrun by northern troops.
The dialogue, scheduled to run six months, brings together 565 representatives of Yemen’s various political groups, from secessionists in the south to Zaidi Shiite rebels in the north, as well as civil society representatives.
May 3 2013
Yemen has quickly become one of the most active theaters of operations for America’s drone fleet, though the killing of a local anti Al-Qaeda cleric underscores the rising collateral damage of the unmanned attacks.
Sheik Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, a prominent cleric within his small village in Yemen, was known for preaching of the evils of the al-Qaida network, warning villagers to stay out of the group and renounce their military ideology.
Unfortunately for Sheik Salem, US military drones that had been hovering in the area took a shot at two alleged Al-Qaeda fighters last August while he was meeting with them outside of the remote village of Khashamir.
According to the cleric’s brother-in-law, Faysal bin Ali bin Jaber, who retold the events to the Associated Press, Salem was called out by the local Al-Qaeda members, presumably to meet with him and intimidate him into dropping his vocal opposition to the group.
Sheik Salem had spoken “about how killing people and labeling people who work with the West as infidels is wrong,” said Faysal.
Following Salem’s death “everyone who saw that there is no differentiating between us and Al-Qaeda are asking why don’t we just join Al-Qaeda since it makes no difference?” he added.
Though the US does not report individual drone strikes in Yemen, groups including the UK’s Bureau for Investigative Journalism, the Long War Journal and the New America Foundation all attempt to track such statistics by using information from Yemeni security officials.
The Associated Press for one has reported nine strikes in Yemen so far in 2013, while the Long War Journal tallied 42 strikes in 2012, up from 10 the year prior. That increase is attributed to US backing of a Yemeni campaign to thwart the Al-Qaeda network and its allies, which took root in a number of southern cities and towns. The US considers the Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen to be one of its most dangerous, linking it with a unsuccessful airliner bombing attempt over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
Since information regarding lethal drone operations is not disclosed, it is not entirely clear how the US military makes determinations on when to strike, and how remote pilots determine whether to launch weapons when civilians may be nearby, as was the case in the death of Sheik Salem - which also resulted in the killing of three alleged militants.
According to a New York Times own analysis of drone strikes, one known pattern in similar attacks involves a drone hovering over an area for weeks before deploying weapons, presumably as military analysts attempt to confirm the identities of human targets.
What puzzles even supporters of the military operations against Al-Qaeda in Yemen is why drone strikes are increasingly targeting fresh recruits, and why the US is resorting to drones at all when they could be apprehended by Yemeni security forces instead.
Naji al-Zaydi, a former governor of Marib Province and opponent of Al-Qaeda who spoke with the Times in February, believes these men represent low-level targets.
“Even with Al-Qaeda, there are degrees — some of these young guys getting killed have just been recruited and barely known what terrorism means,” al-Zaydi said. He also added that, in a tribal culture such as Yemen’s, both the identity and background of Al-Qaeda recruits targeted by these drone strikes are not exactly a secret.
According to CIA director John Brennan, drone strikes are only used as a last resort. Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in August, he made no excuses for the deployment of drones in Yemen.
“In short, targeted strikes against the most senior and most dangerous AQAP terrorists are not the problem, they are part of the solution,” said Brennan, referring to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Last week during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on the US drone program, Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni activist and writer whose village had been struck days earlier, told that panel that drones are “harming efforts to win hearts and minds” and are now “the face of America” to many Yemenis.
“What violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike achieved in an instant,” he added.
With a weeks-long hunger strike focusing new attention on conditions at the United States’ controversial detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the minister of human rights for Yemen is due in Washington on Friday for talks she hopes will lead to the repatriation of at least some of the scores of Yemenis held at the island prison.
Speaking on the eve of her trip, Hooriya Mashhour told McClatchy that the Yemeni government’s ultimate goal is to gain custody of all its citizens currently held at Guantanamo – a number that is uncertain but includes at least 84 of the 166 men imprisoned there. But she said her current hope is more modest – the return of the two dozen or so Yemenis that a special Obama administration task force determined in 2010 could be returned to their homeland.
“At the very least, we want the release of the detainees who have been cleared – those who have already been determined to present no threat to the U.S.,” she said. “That, however, is just the first step.”
What to do with the Yemenis at Guantanamo is one of the major decisions that President Barack Obama must make if he is to accomplish his first-term campaign pledge to close the detention center – a goal he [sort of] reiterated at a news conference Tuesday.
The State Department said this week that 26 of the Yemenis at the center have been cleared for release, and that 30 others could be transferred to Yemen if the government could take “appropriate measures to reduce the risks associated with their return.” But their return is blocked by a moratorium on the transfer of any detainees to Yemen, which Obama imposed after the attempted Christmas Day 2009 midair bombing of an aircraft over Detroit. The Nigerian who confessed to that attempt said he’d been recruited for the mission by al Qaida-linked people in Yemen.
[…] With whom Mashhour will meet in Washington is unclear. The State Department did not respond to requests for information. Last month, Mashhour said she would seek permission to visit the prison to see for herself the conditions of the Yemenis there. But previous requests for such a visit have been denied, and Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale said Thursday he was unaware of any current request from Mashhour to visit Guantanamo.
Breasseale said such visits typically are restricted to foreign intelligence and law enforcement officials.
Mashhour’s delegation includes officials from Yemen’s intelligence service and the Foreign Ministry, she said.
Aden, Yemen - As the National Dialogue debates Yemen’s future in Sanaa, state security gunfire crackles here in the decrepit port city of Aden, where protesters block downtown streets with flags of the former southern state.
Many Aden residents complain the south has been marginalised in Yemen. Among the principal grievances are widespread land grabs and the dismissal of the military and civil service workforce by the administration of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the 1990 unification of north and south Yemen.
Contentious issues such as these are what the National Dialogue - brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states with US support during Yemen’s 2011 revolution - seeks to redress.
My father’s family lost their land too, after the civil war. A free South Yemen seems so close to becoming a reality now, but it feels almost too good to be true.
Saudi Arabia has provided fighter jets to assist the United States with its drone strikes against Al-Qaeda targets in Yemen, the London Times reported on Friday.
US drones are backing Yemeni forces combating militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The group’s Yemen branch is considered by Washington to be the most active and deadliest franchise of the global jihadist network.
The Times cited a US intelligence source as saying that “some of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions”.
US drone attacks in Yemen nearly tripled in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the Washington-based think tank New America Foundation, and for the first time totalled more than in Pakistan last year.
A new US drone strike on Thursday killed three Al-Qaeda suspects in the town of Rada in Yemen’s central Al-Bayda province, the site of similar recent attacks, tribal sources there said.
AQAP took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising in 2011 against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.
But after a month-long offensive launched in May last year by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more “lawless” desert regions of the east.
For an independent South Yemen!
Not even a full day had passed before newly reelected President Obama ordered another drone strike in Yemen. Huffington Post:
On Wednesday morning, as many Americans sifted through the voter data and exit poll numbers of President Barack Obama’s reelection the night before, the Twitter feeds of close watchers of Yemen lit up with reports of another sort of presidential event: an apparent U.S. drone strike had killed several individuals in that country.
There was no way of being certain if the strike was indeed American, or for that matter if it was a drone strike at all, although it had all the markings of one.
“All signs (after dark, suspicions of locals, target) point to Sanhan strike being a US drone,” Yemen-based freelance journalist Adam Baron wrote on Twitter.
Several other analysts concurred.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. If it were a American strike, of course, it would have to have been authorized by Obama.
The drone war violates both domestic and international law, and the Obama administration’s vehement disdain for transparency in government is the only thing keeping it from public and legal scrutiny. Beyond the law,it’s terrorism.
Thousands of Yemenis gathered Monday in the southern city of Daleh demanding the secession of the formerly independent south which was merged with North Yemen in 1990, witnesses said.
The demonstrators, who are supporters of the separatist Southern Movement, gathered at a stadium to pay tribute to those killed in clashes with authorities since the movement was launched in 2007, witnesses said.
Yemen’s main southern opposition leader, Hassan Baoum, who was released from jail last year took part in the rally amid cheers from the participants who waved his pictures alongside those of former vice-president Ali Salem al-Baid.
The protesters also carried the flags of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, the formerly independent socialist state in the country’s south.
“No unity, no federation. Out out colonialism,” the crowds chanted, apparently referring to northerners, particularly businessmen who settled in the south after the 1994 failed secession attempt.
“We assure you that we are with the south and will continue with the struggle to regain it,” Baoum told the crowds. “This is a revolution until victory.”
Southern separatist movements will hold on September 30 the General Southern Movement Conference aimed at unifying the coalition’s ranks.
The Obama administration has sent a platoon of US Marines into Yemen, reportedly on temporary deployment with the sole task of providing extra security for the American Embassy after it was stormed by protesters.
“Because of the split in the army and the security forces, we allowed a limited number of Marine forces to protect the American embassy only,” Yemen’s Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa’s media adviser Rajeh Bady told Reuters.
“They are here temporarily for a limited amount of time and they will leave Yemen,” he said.
But Yemenis aren’t so sure the approximately 50 new US soldiers will only have a temporary presence. The US constantly deploys Marines to countries on an allegedly temporary basis, only to have an effectively open-ended mission there.
The Marine killed at the US consulate building last week, for example, had been there for months on a long-term mission to track weapons spread over the country following the collapse of the Gadhafi regime last year.
The attack on the US consulate in Libya, and protests at US embassies throughout the Arab world, including Yemen, occurred following a YouTube video gone viral depicting crude and insulting images of the Prophet Muhammad. But sending US Marines in response to these uprisings may be exactly the wrong thing to do.
The violent storming of the US Embassy in Yemen was “not solely a response to the controversial film, which few Yemenis—including those taking part in the demonstrations—have seen,” writes Adam Baron in The Nation. “Rather, the film struck a nerve in Yemen because of long-simmering resentment of American policy.”“Specifically,” Baron continues, “Yemenis resent what they characterize as the United States’ persistent meddling in Yemen’s internal affairs,” with regard to propping up a brutal dictatorship and constantly bombing Yemen via drones, which often kills civilians
29 dead in a little over a week. Nearly 200 gone this year. The White House is stepping up its campaign of drone attacks in Yemen, with four strikes in eight days. And not even the slaying of 10 civilians over the weekend seems to have slowed the pace in the United States’ secretive, undeclared war.
At this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, you’ll hear lots of talk about the Obama administration’s pursuit of al-Qaida and its allies — including, of course, the raid that ultimately took out Osama bin Laden. But the hottest battlefield in this worldwide conflict isn’t likely to receive much attention. It’s a shame, because the fight in Yemen is one that demands discussion. Not only does the White House consider al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to be the extremist group most likely to strike in the United States. But the American response to that threat was been widely questioned by regional experts, who wonder whether U.S. drones and commandos aren’t being duped into fighting on one side of a civil war.
The latest attack came in Hadramout province, where a barrage of eight missiles slammed into a suspected militant safe house on Wednesday, killing six people. “The exact target of today’s strike has not been disclosed; no senior AQAP leaders have been reported killed in the attack,” the Long War Journal notes. Most of those killed were fresh recruits; only one could be considered an extremist veteran, a security official tells CNN. Several others were able to escape the hideout alive.
On Sunday, at least 10 civilians were not so fortunate. They were killed in a strike gone awry near the town of Rada’a in al-Baitha province. An aircraft — believed to be an American drone — fired a pair of missiles at a vehicle supposedly carrying a local AQAP leader. One of the missiles instead hit a nearby minibus. A 10-year-old girl and her mother were among the dead. “Families attempted to carry the victims’ corpses to the capital, Sana’a, to lay them in front of the residence of newly elected President Abdurabu Hadi, but were sent back by local security forces,” according to CNN.
“You want us to stay quiet while our wives and brothers are being killed for no reason. This attack is the real terrorism,” one Rada’a resident tells the network. Members of parliament and Yemeni human rights groups were quick to condemn the killings, as well.