Weekly News Update 10 January 2013

Khaled Abdullah/Reuters/http://news.yahoo.com/photos/view-village-haraz-mountains-west-yemeni-capital-sanaa-photo-193600423.html

Khaled Abdullah/Reuters/http://news.yahoo.com/photos/view-village-haraz-mountains-west-yemeni-capital-sanaa-photo-193600423.html

Highlights:
Finding Room for Positive Change and Growth in Yemen
Knowledge@Wharton — 8 January 2013
So, what does the business community have to do? We have organizations like the chamber of commerce and all this, but we need to get ourselves organized and get our act organized. It’s one thing to have a chamber of commerce that does what chambers of commerce are supposed to be doing, but we need to have a business community that can influence how the government is operated, how the government is run. And I’m not saying in a corrupted way, but actually making the government realize that this country cannot move forward unless the engine of the economy works. And the engine of the economy cannot work unless the private sector is strong. And again, you can’t have a private sector [that is] strong if it is in disarray, if it is working in different directions. So we need to bring together the different business leaders. Take a look at some of the laws that have been passed in the past — the VAT law, the investment law — these are laws that are in the heart of the private sector, yet the private sector hasn’t really been involved in discussing these laws with the government. The government will tell you, “Well, you have some members of parliament who are businessmen,” when that’s not enough; we need a broader discussion.

Saudi says its air force has not struck al Qaeda in Yemen
Reuters — 5 January 2013
Saudi Arabian fighter jets have not attacked al Qaeda targets in Yemen, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Saturday, denying a newspaper report that some strikes attributed to U.S. drones were made instead by the kingdom’s air force. Britain’s Times newspaper on Friday cited an unnamed U.S. intelligence source as saying “some of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions”. Any evidence of Saudi involvement in air strikes in Yemen risks damaging Riyadh’s efforts to target militants there by complicating its relationship with the government in Sanaa and with Yemeni tribal leaders, who control large parts of the country, including areas where al Qaeda members are present.

In Yemen, chewing khat offers ritual and repose
Los Angeles Times — 5 January 2013
This nation has long been defined by a flash of green at the tip of a stem. For many, chewing khat makes Yemen’s heat, poverty, rebellions, terrorist attacks, power outages, Islamic fatwas and political turmoil bearable. It calms at first. But its stimulant qualities kick in and suddenly men with leaves bulging in their cheeks, giving them the air of agitated blowfish, launch into talking jags, full of opinions and viewing the world with a restless clarity that eludes them in the non-khat hours. “It is our beer, our drug,” said one man, spitting out a sprig. Khat is the nation’s most lucrative crop, but it could also be its demise, sapping resources and resulting in countless hours of lost productivity.

Economy/Governance:
Yemen cuts Internet costs by half
Al-Shorfa — 8 January 2013
As per the ministry’s plan, prices will be reduced by 50% as compared to 2011 rates. The reduction will occur in two equal stages, the first of which started on the first day of 2013 with a 25% price drop, while the second will follow on the first of June.  “This reduction was one of the demands of young people and those interested in the digital culture and cyberspace,” said Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Ahmed Obaid bin Daghr. Yasser Hassan Thamer, director of communications and public relations at the Ministry of Telecommunications, said the government’s decision to cut costs was based on a market research, which compared Yemen’s prices to other countries’ access costs and also revealed high demand for the service. The number of Internet users in Yemen, according to Thamer, is estimated at two million, while internet subscribers exceed 630,000 between dial-up, ASDL and access for companies and factories. Yasser al-Emad, Director General of Internet and Data Transmission at the General Telecommunications Authority, said the first reduction is expected to increase the number of subscribers by 30%, while the second price cut should increase demand for Internet access by 60%.

Yemen… A Living Museum
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
Having the logistical support for tourism in Yemen is a key aspect in succeeding. Constructing the right infrastructure for tourism is also very important. Travelling from one city to another on a long, tiny or defective road does not appeal to any traveler, let alone a person who wants to enjoy and explore a foreign country. The infrastructure to support tourism must be established and focused to assure its success in making tourists happy and at ease. Having sufficient and effective services for tourists such as rest areas with decent facilities and directories is extremely important.

Taiz takes a note from Sana’a and launches its own city-wide ‘Sharik’ cleaning campaign
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
The local government in Taiz launched the first phase of the social cleaning campaign, “Sharik” on Saturday.  Just like the sister campaign that took place in Sana’a in mid-December, people from all walks of life, including soldiers, housewives, and college students participated. The campaign will last 56 days in Sala, Al-Qahira and Al-Mudafar districts.

Parliament takes action to preserve heritage sites
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
This first of its kind, the bill has been pending for 15 years according to Abdu Al-Muaiz Dabwan, a parliamentarian.  The bill would allocate money for the preservation of historic sites, especially those on the UNESCO World  Heritage List, like Old Sana’a and Zabid City in Hodeida.

Central Bank of Yemen employees strike
Yemen Times — 10 January 2013
Employees at the Central Bank of Yemen initiated a partial strike this week, calling for a restructuring of their wage package.  As a partial strike, employees refuse to work for a set number hours a day.  According to sources, the strike will continue until next week and if the Bank’s administration refuses to respond to their demands, it will become a full-blown strike, with employees refusing to work at all.

Youth:
Yemen youth group launches anti-terrorism campaign
Al-Shorfa — 8 January 2013
The Ibdaa Shabab (Creative Youth) organisation concluded in December its last training session for 102 team members tasked with carrying out awareness-raising and guidance activities in 50 schools during the programme’s first phase, which is set to launch in early February. At a meeting with team members last month, Mohammed Hadi Tawaf, undersecretary for the Ministry of Education, said it is important to instil national loyalty concepts in students at all academic levels, to safeguard them against subversive ideas and to teach them how to protect themselves from the dangers of terrorism.

Yemeni Girls Turn to Solar Energy To Keep Power On
Al-Monitor — 8 January 2013
Through an entrepreneurship program at their government school, an all-female team invented solar-powered appliances and established a company, Creative Generation, through which they’ve vended their wares to hotels and government offices. In November, they were named “best company of the year” in a regional competition for young Arab entrepreneurs organized by INJAZ Al-Arab, the regional member of Junior Achievement Worldwide, a Colorado-based business education organization. The Yemeni students say their motivation has always been to help their society. In the process though, they say they’ve also paved new possibilities of leadership for young women in a society where custom can keep females out of the workplace.

Security/Military:
Bomb halts Yemen Marib oil pipeline flows again – officials
Reuters — 10 January 2013
Flows of oil through Yemen’s main crude export pipeline have stopped again after it was blown up by unknown attackers on Thursday morning, government and oil industry officials said. Yemen resumed oil pumping on December 31 at a rate of around 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) after the latest repairs to a pipeline which used to carry around 110,000 bpd of Marib light crude an export terminal on the Red Sea before a spate of attacks began in 2011.

Yemen militants strike back in the south
The National — 5 January 2013
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is threatening to retake areas in southern Yemen that it was forced to abandon during a joint US and Yemeni offensive last year. Security officials in the south, anti-AQAP militia members and analysts told The National that AQAP still has large numbers of fighters prepared to reinstate its “Islamic Emirate” in parts of Abyan and Lahj provinces and expand attacks against government targets.

Yemen court sentences alleged 5 al-Qaida militants
AP — 6 January 2013
Yemen’s state security court on Sunday sentenced five alleged al-Qaida militants to up to 10 years in prison for carrying out attacks against security forces and supporting the group logistically in the southern province of Abyan in 2011. The court gave the defendants sentences ranging from four to 10 years. It was not immediately clear how many would serve the maximum sentence. The court ordered the release of six others who had already spent about 18 months in detention. They were found guilty of supporting al-Qaida but not direct involvement in attacks. They will be under government monitoring after their release.

Revolution brought tribes together causing decrease in revenge killings
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
Tribal leaders report that revenge killing rates have decreased since the onset of the revolution in 2011. Revenge killings are a long running problem between feuding tribes who lock themselves into a cycle of retaliation for crimes they accuse the others of committing.  There have been especially gruesome cases reported from areas like Marib, Al-Jawf, Dhamar and Al-Baida’a.  However, several social leaders have said that many of their disputes were provoked by the government under former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saudi Arabian jets ‘aiding US strikes on Yemen’
The Independent — 4 January 2013
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”.

Large-scale security campaign throughout country in bid to increase security and stability
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
On Saturday, Yemen’s Ministry of Interior launched a campaign to confiscate arms and unlicensed motorbikes in Sana’a and other governorates in an effort to reduce the number of assassinations and improve security. Over the last two years, several soldiers, military officials and civilian have been targeted by an increasing number of assassinations. On Saturday, security forces were deployed at key entry points to Sana’a and other governorates as well as on main streets. A source at the Interior Ministry told the Yemen Times that the campaign aims to confiscate weapons and unlicensed cars and motorcycles as a legal procedure to prevent crimes before they happen.

Yemen in crusade to end hit-and-run motorbike shootings
AFP via Al-Arabiya — 7 January 2013
Yemeni authorities impounded 500 illegal motorbikes in a three-day campaign to put an end to hit-and-run shootings which killed dozens of security officers last year, officials said on Monday. “The campaign has succeeded in stopping 500 unlicensed motorbikes and 72 cars without number plates, some of which are suspected to have been used in assassinations,” an interior ministry report said, adding that 50 weapons such as Kalashnikovs and other firearms were seized during the crackdown.

‘Senior al-Qaeda figure’ killed in Yemen
Al-Jazeera — 4 January 2013
Three al-Qaeda fighters, including “a senior figure”, have been killed in south-central Yemen following a strike from an unmanned aircraft, security forces have told Al Jazeera. Moqbel Ebad Al Zawbah and his two companions were killed on Thursday while in a car in the province of Al Bayda, the sources said.

Man charged with spying for Israel in Yemen
Reuters — 4 January 2013
A man in Yemen has been charged with spying for Israel and will soon face trial in the southern port city of Aden, official sources said on Friday. The man was arrested three weeks ago in the city of Taiz after a period of surveillance, and was named as 24-year-old computer engineer Ibrahim al-Dharahi, the defense ministry’s official newspaper reported on Friday, citing a judicial source. Dharahi had travelled to several Arab countries as well as to Israel, the report said. “The man carried two ID cards – one Yemeni, one Israeli,” a security official in Aden told Reuters, declining to be named.

‘Husband killings’ become crime phenomenon in Yemen
Al-Arabiya — 8 January 2013
About 50 Yemeni women were arrested in 2012 for murder, most were accused of deliberately killing their husbands, Yemen’s interior ministry announced this week. According to a report released by the ministry’s Information Security Centre, the Yemeni women were between the ages of 25-50 and most had committed the crimes with the help of male relatives.

Occupying soldiers unwelcome in local stadium
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
As a keen athlete, Mohammed Al-Zinj, used to spend his days at the sports club in Sha’b Sana’a Stadium, but for over a year he hasn’t been able to go. A space that was once dedicated to its customers’ workout needs, allowed local soccer teams a space to compete and housed a large library of books, is now a military barricade. “The majority of the club’s activities have stopped, and the bulk of the athletes and fans are unable to enter the stadium,” Al-Zinj said, referring to the club’s takeover by General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmer’s troops, a pro-revolution military figure, who was recently removed from his position as Commander of the First Armoured Division.  The soldiers of the Division took control of the stadium in September 2011 following the breakout of the revolution against former President’s Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime.

Book Review: The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia by Gregory D. Johnsen
Lawfare — 9 January 2013
Johnsen makes clear that Yemeni jihadists, unlike the Arabs hiding out in remote parts of Pakistan, are part and parcel of Yemeni society.  Some of these jihadists are from important tribes or have intermarried with leading Yemenis.  This creates a counterintelligence problem, as planned counterterrorism operations are often leaked to the targets.  Even more important, it makes the Yemeni government hesitant to act, as it would alienate important societal players.  From a U.S. point of view, it also means that drone strikes that kill bystanders end up alienating important tribes and voices in Yemen – far more so than a similar campaign in Pakistan. Perhaps most troubling, Yemen in some ways needs a jihadist problem to ensure that the spigots of U.S. aid remain open.  As Johnsen acidly contends, “Without Al-Qaeda, Yemen was just one more poor country.”

UAE militant cell linked to Yemen’s al Qaeda: Dubai police chief
Reuters via Yahoo News — 9 January 2013
A suspected militant cell detained in the United Arab Emirates had links to al Qaeda, Dubai’s police chief has said, including the Yemen-based wing that is widely regarded as one of the its most effective affiliates. “Some of the (cell) members are affiliated with al Qaeda in Yemen,” said Khalfan, referring to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

National Dialogue:
President Hadi orders to address lands, employees issues in southern governorates
Saba Net — 8 January 2013
President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi issued Tuesday a decree forming two committees to address the issues of lands and employees excluded from jobs in the southern governorates. The preamble of the presidential decree No. 2 for 2013 stated that it was issued for achieving the national dialogue and reconciliation.

National Security offers journalists unprecedented olive branch
Yemen Times — 10 January 2013
On Tuesday, the National Security Bureau Chief, Dr. Ali Al-Ahmadi, held his first meeting with journalists in Sana’a. Al-Ahmadi confirmed his willingness to open a new page between the bureau and journalists.

Spiritualizing the National Dialogue Conference
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
To give an example, given the lack of attention to true dialogue as defined above, I foresee the group working on the Southern case proceeding as follows. The Southerners will come in and talk for hours about all the injustices they have suffered since unity and say that they handed in a functioning state in 1990, only to be deprived of every right and dignity that they had. They therefore want to regain their independence. The Northerners will acknowledge that there were mistakes made in the past but say all regions of Yemen suffered from these injustices, and the regime that was responsible for that is now gone. They will then say, “So let us start a new chapter and build our future together.” The U.N. will bring in experts to explain the different options of local governance that could resolve grievances, and only God knows whether the participants will reach an agreement or not. The sessions will be held in a big, brightly-lit hotel meeting hall, with constant interruptions of people walking in and out. The discussions will of course be interrupted every day after lunch, as the participants will want to go home to chew qat. They will probably invite each other to continue the discussions over qat.

Yemenis torn over potential federal
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
With the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) approaching and the country still recovering from revolutionary wounds, experts, politicians, organizations and ordinary citizens are all talking about how to form the new Yemeni government. Federalism has emerged as a prominent option to solve the current political crisis and no doubt will be a hot topic amongst those who now hold one of the allotted 565 seats at the NDC.  However, as many see it a solution to propel Yemen forward, the opposition puts forth arguments that this approach overlooks the Southern issue, the Houthi conflict in Sa’ada and the varying dogmatic schools of thought in the nation.

Yemen’s ex-president to seek treatment abroad before talks start
Reuters — 3 January 2013
Yemen’s ousted president will go abroad for medical treatment, an aide said on Thursday, and his opponents say his absence will improve the chances of success in reconciliation talks seen as crucial for stabilizing the impoverished country. The talks are expected to start in February.

Yemeni Jews:
Yemen’s Few Jewish Citizens Remain Marginalized
Al-Hayat via Al-Monitor — 4 January 2013
The Jews are forbidden from carrying weapons, including the Yemeni dagger known as the jambia, although they are among the most skillful of dagger makers. This is a profession they have been famous for in the past, in addition to the making of jewelry and silver ornaments, as well as trade. During the past few years, dozens of Yemeni Jews immigrated to Israel following attacks, harassments and murders targeting some of them. In Yemen, only 350 Jews are left in the Amran district, north of Sanaa, in addition to 50 people living in the tourist city. Most of the latter are from the al-Salem region in Saada, which they were kicked out of by the Houthis. Moussa says, “Houthis destroyed our houses and sanctuaries, bombed our cars and took our money and property.” He also indicated that they took over a library holding historical manuscripts, including a rare copy of the Torah that Americans of Israeli origin tried to buy for $100,000, yet their offer was rejected. With the continuous harassments, Yemen became almost devoid of any forms of Jewish culture, which had existed there for centuries.

Yemeni Jews Threatened with Extinction
Yemen Times — 10 January 2013
A dwindling, tiny Jewish community in the northwestern Yemeni province of Ammran is threatened with extinction amid continued immigration of its members due to increasing harassment and persecution against them and a lack of security. Of the hundreds of families who used to live in the town of Raida in Ammran province, some 37 miles northwest of the Yemeni capital Sana’a, only four families remain. While some members of these families are already living outside the country, mainly in the United States or Israel, many of those who remain are considering immigration. Yemeni Jews trace their origin to the time of King Solomon. The majority of what was Yemen’s 50,000-strong Jewish community immigrated to Israel upon the declaration of the Jewish state in 1948.

Foreign Affairs:
Security, trade top U.S. talks with Yemen
UPI — 8 January 2013
U.S. and Yemeni officials addressed security, trade and immigration issues in two days of meetings this week in Yemen, the head of the U.S. delegation says. “The United States has a profound interest in advancing Yemen’s security and prosperity,” Homeland Security Undersecretary Rand Beers said Tuesday in a statement. “By enhancing collaboration with the government of Yemen, we reaffirm our commitment to more effectively secure our two countries against evolving threats and improve the trade and investment climate in Yemen.”

Iran’s ambassador denies accusations of espionage
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
Mahmoud Hassn Zada, Iran’s Ambassador to Yemen, held a press conference at the Iranian Embassy in Sana’a on Sunday that addressed increasing concerns about Iran’s influence in Yemen. Regarding recent accusations made in several media publications that Iran has been running a spy ring in Yemen for the last seven years, Zada said, “We requested the Yemeni government to prove that by evidence, instead of accusing others. This affects relations between the two countries negatively.”

Qat:
Weddings emerge sans the green stuff
Yemen Times — 7 January 2013
Chewed by millions of men and women every day, the green leaf draws ire from many water experts, who say the cultivation of qat is consuming too much of the country’s water resources. However, qat, a mild narcotic, is entrenched in social customs and is typically a staple at weddings, often provided by the bride and groom as a gift. At large social occasions, the cost of supplying qat for the entire wedding party is often huge, impacting the couple and their family long after the day has ended. Praised by several social and political figures, Bara’a’s wedding encouraged several others to follow suit. Marking a turning point, since then the number of qat-free weddings has noticeably increased in Sana’a and other governorates such as Hodeida and Taiz.

Yemeni government starts campaign to eradicate qat trees
Al-Arabiya — 8 January 2013
In Yemen’s mountainous region of Haraz, a group of men dig deep into the ground, pushing and shoving through the area’s famous qat trees, their aim is to uproot them. Located between Tihamah and Sanaa, Haraz is known for qat and coffee trees.  The men are part of a group who are attempting to eradicate the country’s qat trees once and for all. “We will uproot qat trees completely in the next two or three months from our land in order to clear our country from qat completely. There won’t be any qat tree in the next two to four months,” said local councilman Ahsan al-Qadi. One in every seven working Yemenis is employed in producing and distributing qat, making it the largest single source of rural income and the second largest source of employment in the country after the agriculture and herding sector, exceeding even the public sector, according to the World Bank.

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