Weekly News Update 28 March 2013

Highlights:
Can Yemen Talk Its Way to Peace?
Foreign Policy — 22 March 2013
In a country with long memories, every politician’s gripe is now on the table — and many of the most contentious, bloodiest rivalries are on display at the dialogue. When the list of National Dialogue delegates from the General People’s Congress (GPC), Saleh and Hadi’s party, was leaked to local press, other groups balked at the names. GPC delegates include a handful of so-called “thug leaders,” who organized the killing of unarmed protesters in 2011. The Islah list elicited a similar response: Many of those named as delegates had waged war in the streets of Sanaa during the uprising and threatened to pillage southern governorates if the separatist movement resorted to violence. Not surprisingly, tensions ran high before the conference even started.

Yemenis voice cynicism and hope as powerbrokers discuss reforms
Reuters — 22 March 2013
Secessionist leaders in a coalition known as al-Herak al-Janoubi (Southern Movement) complain that unity turned them into second class citizens. Having taken to the streets to air their own grievances against Saleh’s rule, many in northern Yemen recognize the deep feeling of injustice that drives ordinary people to join regular protests in downtown Aden, capital of the former South Yemen. A divorce by southern Yemen, where much of the country’s dwindling oil is located, could set off further fragmentation of the country at a time when the central government is still struggling to impose its control over the country.

The flawed media narrative on Yemen
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
In mainstream articles and books, there is hardly any mention of the majority of Yemenis who dislike extremism. A notable survey in 2011 concluded that 86 percent of Yemenis have an unfavorable opinion of Al Qaeda. Media failed to report that when the American teacher Joel Shrum was killed, many protests were held in the city of Taiz against the killing, and against extremism. In fact one year later, people in Taiz organized a silent memorial to remember him on the anniversary of his death. Only local media reported this event. Al-Qaeda has overshadowed most reporting on Yemen. Mainstream media has not only perpetuated and enhanced stereotypes but by doing so, has unintentionally caused damage to Yemen’s reputation. Journalists are slowly erasing the long history of Yemen and its traditions, and depriving people of their voice. Yemen at large remains extensively unexamined. It is no wonder that at home, some have began feeling suspicious. “Are you taking pictures to make us look bad?” asked a taxi driver to a foreign journalist. “No that is not my intention, you have a beautiful country,” he responded. Driver exhaled in relief explaining that sometimes journalists pick the most un-common event and say this is Yemen.

National Dialogue:
Yemen’s National Dialogue Off to a Rough Start
Al-Monitor — 20 March 2013
This disconnected start will have serious repercussions on the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference. The conference will decide whether Yemen will be able to transition from tyranny to democracy and rid itself of a mafia-like regime, do away with centralized authoritarianism and establish a federal system that recognizes the rights of the regions, after an Arab- and internationally-supervised referendum settles the matter. Only if such steps happen can the Yemeni national dialogue be said to have succeeded.

Taiz launches local version of the NDC
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
One week after the start of the National Dialogue Conference in Sana’a — and amidst sporadic bouts of violence — Taiz is preparing to launch its own, local version of the national meeting. Participants in this months-long conference will include journalists, civil society organizations, public and private sectors and local youth. Taiz is one of the most populous cities in the country and faces many specific challenges of its own, which dialogue organizers think deserve to be discussed locally, too.

Yemen activists ‘sidelined’ in post-Saleh era
Al-Jazeera — 23 March 2013
“Forty seats is not enough for youth who gave their lives for change,” says activist Atiaf Alwazir. “The only reason they are having this Dialogue is because of the revolution. And now the same people that brought them here, the youth, are kind of marginalised.” While she says their inexperience is a disadvantage, their strong suit is honesty, which shows during the televised sessions, she explains. “The question is: can these independent groups really form a strong lobby inside to promote a third voice, and real change? That’s the hope. As individuals they don’t have power, but together they can form a strong group.” The odds are stacked against them. Independent delegates were only informed of their participation two days before the Dialogue kicked off on March 18, much later than those backed by political parties. This has forced the delegates to scramble to unite on their messaging.

Houthis suspend NDC participation after assassination attempt on leader
Yemen Times — 25 March 2013
The Houthis, a group of northern Zaidi Shiites who have long been at odds with state forces, announced a 24-hour suspension of their participation in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) on Sunday. This comes after an alleged assassination attempt on Sheikh Abdulwahid Abu Ras, a leading Houthi figure and deputy governor of Al-Jawf governorate on Saturday. An armed group wearing the uniforms of the Republican Guard and driving a taxi ambushed Abu Ras’ car in Al-Nasr roundabout in the Habra area of Sana’a, according to security officials.  “We are suspending our participation not only in protest against the assassination attempt but also against the negligence of the security personnel who were at the scene during the accident,” Al-Bukhaiti said. “The accident happened in front of their eyes, but they took no action.” Though the protest is only planned to last 24-hours, Al-Bukhaiti warned if the security authorities do not clear up the circumstances of the accident or apprehend the suspects, they might extend their boycott.

Best Friends Forever for Yemen’s Revolutionaries?
Foreign Policy — 19 March 2013
If, by the time the transitional agreement was signed, Yemenis were in the process of seeing themselves differently, imposing a transitional structure that forced people to abandon these newly-formed solidarities in favor of group identities as they were understood by the old regime and outside actors (like tribes, Southerners, women, etc.) was an intervention that should be recognized as such. Seeing the National Dialogue in this light, it becomes easier to understand that resistance to it has not been just about “who gets a seat,” but also about what it means to hold such a seat (or not), and in whose name each of the participants might reasonably be expected to speak.

Participant training and serious discussions to begin this week at national conference
Yemen Times — 25 March 2013
National Dialogue Conference (NDC) participants will receive training on Monday, before breaking up into their predetermined nine working groups, in which they will address contentious issues like the secessionist movement in the South and the armed conflict with Houthi rebels in the North. Dr. Ahmed Awadh Bin Mubarak, secretary general of the NDC, said that this training aims to equip participants with negotiation and listening skills that would help them engage in civil discourse during the NDC.

From protests to politics
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
The members of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) who are coming straight from the protest squares and various revolutionary backgrounds are having a problem at the conference. Their move from protests to politics has not really resonated and most of them are still thinking and behaving as protestors in the squares. Their anger and impatience is understood especially when faced with slow, bureaucratic and self-important politicians, also known as the “dinosaurs.” However, shouting and protesting is not really going to get them far.

Following clashes in Aden, Southern Movement members protest at NDC
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
Members of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a majority of whom are from the Southern Movement, commonly known as Hirak, staged a protest in Wednesday’s general session meeting, condemning clashes between  Central Security Forces and Southern Movement members in Aden that happened the same day. Three  were injured, one of whom is a woman, according to a NDC member briefed on the incident.

Secession for South Yemen would Lead to Catastrophe
Yemeniaty — 26 March 2013
Secession would not provide Hirak’s divided factions with the independence they seek; rather, it would result in the creation of several weak regional regimes, in constant conflict with each other. Yemen’s government should have addressed legitimate southern concerns long ago. Now the issue will not be settled easily or quickly. The present weak agreement among Hirak factions is the product of an interim alliance. The only thing uniting all of them is their common goal of secession, and their common enemy, the central government. Hirak members consider the South to be under occupation.

Over 30,000 Southerners file claims against government via assigned committees
Yemen Times — 25 March 2013
The two committees assigned to address the separate issues of looted lands and property and fired employees in Southern governorates following the country’s unification in 1994, has received more than 34,000 applications between them from aggrieved Southerners since the committees began working two weeks ago. The committees were formed at the beginning of the year as part of a presidential decree aimed at appeasing Southerners who said they would not participate in the country’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) without reparations on the part of the government.

Nation watches as first round of speeches delivered at NDC
Yemen Times — 21 March 2013
Monday marked the first day of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), during which members delivered speeches, broadcast live on government television channels. Amal Al-Basha, spokeswomen for the NDC, said conference members will be divided into nine working groups in the coming days to discuss targeted issues. Each member will have the opportunity to speak and present grievances, which will be revisited later in the conference. Approximately 28 members were absent during the first session held on Tuesday, Al-Basha said.

South settles after days of NDC protests in Aden
Yemen Times — 21 March 2013
Following days of ongoing acts of civil disobedience by Southern Movement affiliates, commonly known as Hirak, streets in the southern city have calmed, Hirak activists say. But, leaders say future mass protests are being planned so Southern groups can continue to voice their disapproval of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which began Monday.

NDC working groups to be announced Saturday
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
Participants for the nine working groups for the National Dialogue Conference will be announced on Saturday by President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. With the exception of about eight participants who also hold executive government positions—including the city’s mayor Abdulqader Hilal—all members will be divided into the teams that will tackle the overarching issues facing the country, including Southern secession and violence  in the North between the state and an armed group of Houthi rebels.

Religion:
Who can issue a fatwa
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
It is common in Yemen for people to seek out a fatwa from well-known religious clerics who have devoted themselves to the study of Islamic laws and teachings. This practice is generally accepted and largely unregulated. Well-known sheikhs (religious leaders) whose fatwas are rarely called into question do not receive any sort of certification but people say “they are just known and trusted.” However, the line between someone who can issue a fatwa and who cannot is blurred and subjective and many prominent sheikhs (who are regarded as qualified to issue fatwas say people like the man in Eman’s village should not be permitted to declare these rulings, but they don’t always have a clear definition of who can.

Turkish Relations:
Turkish Public Diplomacy Faces Challenge in Yemen
Al-Monitor — 27 March 2013
Just a quick look at trade data shows that Turkey barely imports anything from Yemen, but Turkish exports to Yemen have doubled since 2009 — more than Turkey’s exports to Bahrain, Kuwait or Oman. Since 2008, Turkish aid to Yemen has been quite intense. The Turkish Cooperation and International Development Agency, which opened a coordination office in Sanaa in June 2012, has been active in coordinating aid in the health, education and transportation fields. There have been high-level visits since 2010, including the January 2011 visit of President Abdullah Gul, the October 2012 visit of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the February 2013 visit of intelligence head Hakan Fidan to Sanaa. Yemen has a Turkish school, and Turkey extends scholarships for college students to study in Turkey. Turkey has promised financial aid, and Kimse Yok Mu and other Turkish NGOs have delivered food to Yemen. But not all Yemenis appreciate these Turkish efforts. Indeed, a group of parliamentarians asked the Yemeni government to sever diplomatic relations with Turkey in December 2012. When events cannot be verified through independent sources, rumors spread. The Middle East, where even the simplest government matters are shielded behind a veil of secrecy, provides fertile ground for conspiracy theories. Successful public diplomacy should minimize unwarranted doubts and rumors.

US Policy:
Atlantic Council and Project on Middle East Democracy send second Obama letter
ACUS and POMED — 26 March 2013
These positive developments, however, are considerably hampered by the chronic and pervasive perception both here and in Yemen that the United States pursues its security interests with little regard to the strategy’s impact on Yemen itself. The perception that the United States is singularly focused on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is a symptom of this problem. Yemenis understand that AQAP is a threat to both Yemenis and Americans, and most recognize the need to confront those who plan and pledge to attack the United States. However, the current approach to combating these threats is proving itself counterproductive and in need of urgent reevaluation.

Media:
New television channels changing Yemen’s media landscape
Al-Shorfa — 27 March 2013
Media officials say the new satellite channels, which proliferated in Yemen after the popular uprising, have mobilised a large-scale media and cultural movement and contributed towards job creation. Several private channels have been launched in Yemen. Some are news channels, such as Yemen Today, while others — such as the Suhail, Shabab Yemen and Al-Aqeeq channels — cover general interest topics. There also are special interest channels such as Maeen sports, which began broadcasting pilot programmes earlier this year.

Security:
Security at NDC questioned following alleged assassination attempts in Sana’a
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
The identities of the group of armed men who fired on Dr. Abdulla Al-Fadli, who is head of State Lands and Real Estate Authority, are still unknown. Fadli’s car was attacked on Monday in Asser roundabout, killing the driver and leaving the state official wounded. Violent incidents during the opening sessions of the NDC—though not necessarily politically motivated—have made some members uneasy.

Gunmen wound official in Yemen, tribal dispute likely
Reuters — 25 March 2013
Gunmen wounded a senior Yemeni government official and killed his driver when they ambushed his car in Sanaa on Monday, an attack police said was probably an act of tribal violence. The assailants, themselves in a car, shot at the vehicle carrying Abdullah al-Fadhli, head of the State Land and Properties Department, before driving away, a state security source told Reuters.

Suspect tied to African, Yemen militants pleads guilty to U.S. charges
Reuters — 25 March 2013
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed a guilty plea by Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame to nine U.S. criminal charges. They alleged he once commanded hundreds of fighters for the Somalia-based militant group Al-Shabaab. Law enforcement and legal sources said Warsame is one of the most important militants connected to Somali-based al Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab and Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to be captured by U.S. forces and to agree to become a U.S. informant. In late 2009, the documents say, al Shabaab leaders sent Warsame to meet and train with AQAP in Yemen. There, U.S. authorities allege, he received “military, explosives and weapons training from AQAP, assisted in the exchange of communications between senior members of al Shabaab and AQAP,” and allegedly facilitated al Shabaab weapons purchases from AQAP.

Islah’s headquarters struck with grenade in Hajja, partisan disputes cause security vacuum
Yemen Times — 21 March 2013
Yesterday, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the headquarters of Islah, an Islamist party with links to the Muslim Brotherhood. The facade of the building was damaged and a fire erupted; no causalities were reported. As of yet, the perpetrators of the attack are unknown. This northwestern governorate is experiencing increasing instability, in part due to divisive partisan disputes, which cause the security mechanized to function poorly. Abdulhameed Al-Ashwal, a leading figure in the Islah of Hajja, called on the security authorities to launch immediate investigations and identify those involved in plotting this attack.

Yemen court jails 10 for Al-Qaeda plotting
AFP via Daily Star — 25 March 2013
A Yemeni court specialising in terrorism cases sentenced 10 people on Tuesday to between four and 10 years in prison for plotting attacks on behalf of Al-Qaeda, a judicial source told AFP. Five of them were released on time served.

Security forces prepare for more Al-Qaeda confrontations in southern governorates
Yemen Times — 25 March 2013
Security forces intensified safety procedures in Abyan on Saturday, south of the capital city Sana’a, in anticipation of retaliation by Al-Qaeda affiliates following the death of two suspected members of the terror group in clashes with pro-government militia men on Friday.  The head of intelligence department in Abyan, Brigadier Mohammed bin Mohammed, said security plans are in place without revealing any specifics of the government forces strategy to keep Abyan out of the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates, who overran the governorate in 2011 following a security vaccum created by the popular uprising, commonly referred to as Yemen’s Arab Spring.

Gunman wounds Russian Red Cross worker in Yemen
Reuters — 26 March 2013
A Russian aid worker working for the International Committee of the Red Cross was shot and wounded by unidentified gunmen in the Yemeni capital on Tuesday, a security official said. “The foreign worker was in the car of an international organisation when she was shot in one of Sanaa’s streets,” the official said, adding that the woman was in critical condition. However, an ICRC spokeswoman in Geneva said the aid worker had not been seriously hurt. She confirmed the shooting incident but said it was not clear whether its staff member had been wounded by a bullet or by shattered car window glass.

Clashes in southern Yemen between al-Qaida militants, pro-government fighters kill 4
AP via Washington Post — 22 March 2013
Yemen’s Defense Ministry says clashes in the south between al-Qaida and pro-government fighters have killed four. A ministry statement on Friday says the fighting in the town of Jaar in Abyan province left two militants and two pro-government militiamen dead. Five were wounded and three al-Qaida members were captured.

Video: Millions of guns held by civilians in Yemen
Al-Jazeera — 24 March 2013
Yemen’s first gun control law dates back to 1992, but arms dealers are taking advantage of loopholes and impunity and their business is flourishing. According to the Ministry of the Interior, 4000 people are killed every year in gun-related crimes.

Sana’a’s motocycle ban to be lifted, bikers get curfew
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
Security forces say they will lift the ban restricting motorcycle use in Sana’a’s streets on Thursday, but they will begin enforcing a curfew. On Thursday motorcyclists will allowed to resume their street presence, but between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. no bikes will be allowed on the road.  The ban is part of the city’s elevated security plan to ensure stability during the opening general session of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which began March 18.

IDPs:
Hundreds of Yemenis still without homes, victims of regional violence
Yemen Times — 21 March 2013
This number of internally displaced people, or IDPs, is now more than 500,000, according to the Executive Unit for IDPs Camps in Yemen, a state organization formed in 2009. Many of these people live in appalling conditions. The camps, the majority of which are in Aden and Hajja, are crowded. Food, water and warm blankets are hard to come by. Outbreaks of malaria, cholera and tuberculosis, among other sicknesses are reported.

Women:
The restoration of human dignity in the women of Yemen
Al-Jazeera — 22 March 2013
Yemeni women have come to the forefront a little more. Tawakkol Karman, a journalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, founded the group Women Journalists Without Chains in 2005, while Amira Al-Sharif, a photographer, gained international attention for her work with UNICEF and Oxfam International. Yet they are not the women we think of when we think of Yemen, or even Arab women. Instead, we hold tight to an orientalist vision of the Middle East that makes women into oversexed and illiterate haram maidens. While human rights abuses and other ills are undoubtedly important issues that must be addressed and cannot be sugarcoated, they also cannot be simplified into issues that are purely the result of sexism imposed by allegedly inherently misogynistic Arab and Islamic cultures, a claim that further simplifies rich and complex traditions through stereotypes and ignorance.

Local female leaders overcome career hurdles with new program
Ahram — 21 March 2013
Asma’a Al-Saiaghi has a master’s degree in sociology and is the director of a local charity association. By many measures, she is an already accomplished woman but every morning she makes the two-hour journey from her home in the Hiziz area to a local hotel in Sana’a to attend a training program that is providing tools for 30 Yemeni women to propel them forward as social leaders.  The six-month program called Female Leaders Project is funded by the World Bank and run by the National Organization for Development in Society (NODSYEMEN), a local non-profit that works on the empowerment of many social groups. “The program effectively meets the needs of women as political and social activists,” Al-Saiaghi said.

Water:
Awareness campaigns insufficient to address Yemen’s water problem
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
For Abdulkhaleq Alwan, from the National Water Resources Authority in Sana’a, it all starts with education. Or rather, that’s where it goes wrong. In a study released in January, Alwan surveyed the books used in primary and secondary schools in Yemen, looking for mentions of water resources and advice for proper use of this scarce resource. Alwan found that the most of the information was outdated, at best—or just wrong. Blatantly untrue statements—claiming that Yemen is a rainy country with plentiful rivers—were found, Alwan said. The Ministry of Education should start working side-by-side with the Minsitry of Environment, Alwan suggested. This might help clear up some of the confusion.

Water dispute claims two more lives in Taiz
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
Despite an increase in security measures announced earlier this month, two more men were killed on Friday in an ongoing dispute between the neighboring villages of Qurada and Al-Mirzah. The villages—which are in the outskirts of the city, in Sabir district—have been fighting sporadically for nearly a decade over access to a natural spring which lies between the two. One man from each village was killed: Akram Abdulrahman Qatan, from Qurada, and Abdullah Sadeq Mohammad, from Al-Mirzah.

Economy:
Change in labor law in Saudi could leave 300,000 Yemeni migrants out of work
Yemen Times — 25 March 2013
Last week, Saudi Arabia tightened labor restrictions on foreigners working in the country, threatening to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants. A new amendment to Article 39 of the Saudi Arabian labor law stipulates that foreign workers cannot work for anyone other than their sponsor—the Saudi Arabian individual or company that originally brought them to the country—and they cannot open their own business. If migrant workers are found to be violating these laws, they will be deported. The Saudi Press Agency reported the new amendment is an attempt to curb the overwhelming number of foreign workers flooding the country, the majority of who are Yemeni.

Proposed economic plan divides Yemen into regions
Yemen Times — 25 March 2013
The economic proposal will be presented at the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) in April to be discussed by participants, a team expert said. Dr. Sa’ad Al-Deen bin Talib, the minister of Trade and Ministry, told the Yemen Times that regions need more autonomous economic decision-making authority. Governorates boasting diverse economic potential are currently stifled by centralized decisions controlled by a limited number of people, says Mustafa Nassr, the head of Studies and Economic Media Center.

Painting the town green, city plants over 60,000 trees
Yemen Times — 25 March 2013
The Capital Secretariat launched a five-day campaign on Saturday to plant 63, 000 trees along streets and roundabouts in the capital city’s 10 districts.  The campaign was planned to coincide with the launch of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) that started Monday and is aimed at improving Sana’a’s urban appearance.

Shops and restaurants in Sana’a sponge business off of famous names
Yemen Times — 25 March 2013
Mohammed Adusalam Al-Shamiri, who has owned a tailor shop with his father for 23 years called “Taiz Tailors,” says for 17 years they have been trying to prove that a competitor stole their name. The Ministry of Trade and Industry meets every Tuesday to review commercial complaints like those of Al-Shamiri. In order to file a complaint, a business has to pay a fee of YR20,000, around $100, an amount that deters many from putting their complaint forward. However, about 20 percent of businesses that register are revoked of their commercial license due to name infringement, according the Ministry’s deputy minister, Iqbal Bahadir. “The majority of issues are resolved,” said Nabeel Mansour Al-Hafit, a law advisor at the ministry, but he admits issues can linger because even if the ministry revokes a commercial license–crippling a business’ right to operate–they can dispute the decision. If a claim is disputed it ends up at the commercial court where it can sit for years like what has happened to Al-Shamiri.

Social Fund for Development suspends projects in Hajja
Yemen Times — 28 March 2013
The Social Fund for Development (SFD), a local organization that allocates money for development projects throughout Yemen, suspended all of its activities in the poverty-stricken Hajja governorate, located northwest of Sana’a, on Tuesday. The decision was issued as a form of protest against what the SFD is calling a “negative reaction” from Hajja’s security forces in response to a complaint SFD filed accusing local armed tribesmen of pointing loaded weapons at SFD employees.

Stations cut corners to cheaply refill gas canisters
Yemen Times — 25 March 2013
The Gas Vendors Assembly advises people to never refill their gas canisters, which are designed for one-time use. The canisters were not designed to be refilled, Mohammad Mofareh, head of the assembly said. When they are damaged.  many problems are caused. Specifically, a rubber stopper—which acts as a sealant—can tear and cause the noxious gas to leak. If overfilled, the canisters can also explode. Gas stations are meant to sell gas to vehicles, Abd Al-Bade’ Thabet, the head of the Technical Control in the Inspection and Control Department in the Yemeni Gas Company (YGC), said—not refill these small containers. This hazardous practice spread during Yemen’s popular uprising which began in 2011. Among the other legacies of the revolution was the proliferation of black markets and unauthorized business practices such as this.

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