Weekly News Update 9 May 2013

Highlights:
Postcard From Yemen
New York Times — 7 May 2013
“Yemen suffered from two drugs: qat and easy oil money,” says Eryani. Qat drank all the water, and the easy oil money seduced the rural manpower into leaving for unskilled jobs. But now that most of the Yemeni workers have been sent home from Saudi Arabia, they are finding a country running out of water, with few jobs, and a broken public school system that teaches more religion than science. As a result, what Yemen needs most — an educated class not tied to an increasingly water-deprived agriculture — it cannot get, not without much better leadership and a new political consensus. There is a ray of hope, though. Yemenis are engaged in a unique and peaceful national dialogue — very different from Syria and Egypt and with about a third of the input coming from women — to produce a new leadership. They may be starting at the bottom. But, of all the Arab awakening states, they do have the best chance to start over — now — if they seize it.

Saving the South of Yemen from Itself
Foreign Policy — 7 May 2013
Mr. Hassan al-Yafa’ei, head of the secessionist “Hirak” in al-Houtta South of Yemen, spoke with passion and grief about his region. He is filled with indignation over the unfair discrimination of the South. He is completely convinced, however, that the 1986 civil war is a historical incident that will not be repeated. In his view, the almost 10,000 deaths that occurred in a single month is just an “aberrant phenomenon.” Al-Yafa’ei, just like many other Southerners, underplays the possibility of violence occurring if a Southern secession should take place. Such incessant denial of the possibility of the past repeating itself is convenient for many Southerners who want to become an independent Southern nation — putting the chapter of “Unity gone bad” behind them. The question of “What will happen to the South if a secession takes place?” has rarely been probed by Hirak. The mechanisms of this desired disunion are left to the same politicians who plunged the South of Yemen to its previous fate of wars and instability. And once again, sentiments of people in the streets are high on “self-determination” rhetoric, without adequately thinking through how this step would resolve their political differences and leaders’ penchant for popular exploitation.

Yemen National Dialogue Considers Federal Option
Al-Monitor — 7 May 2013
In this context, the option of “federalism” seems to be the most likely choice among the proposals made during negotiations so far. It is the favored option of the Yemeni Socialist Party, as was made evident by its proposed vision concerning the identity and form of a future state. It is also the most preferred choice of the People’s Congress Party, headed by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his allies. They were joined by the Baath Party, Nasserite Party and the South Yemen Movement, with small differences between them concerning the details of future governmental “decentralization.” The Socialist Party leans more toward establishing a composite state, with Yemen divided into an unspecified number of federal provinces possessing local governments and parliaments united by a central federal government located in Sanaa that administers all issues relating to sovereignty, such as defense, natural resources and the distribution of wealth. A central government would be overseen by a proportional parliamentary system and a presidency council composed of province governors.

Abdulelah Haider Shaye:
Yemen signals it may release journalist accused of AQAP ties
Foreign Policy — 8 May 2013
Yemen’s transitional government is signaling that it may release Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a Yemeni journalist who was arrested in August 2010 and who U.S. intelligence officials believe supported al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Shaye was sentenced to five years in prison in January 2011 in a trial that drew condemnation from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and human rights and journalist advocacy organizations have since campaigned for his release. In a meeting with U.N. officials on Monday, Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi told reporters that he has made plans to release Shaye, Yemen’s al-Masdar reports. Al Jazeera bureau chief Saeed Thabit Saeed, who attended the meeting, wrote on Facebook, “We received a serious promise from [Hadi] that our colleague Abdulelah Shaye will be released,” and Times of London correspondent Iona Craig confirmed with Hadi’s office that there “is an order from the president to release Shaye soon.”

Will Obama keep Yemeni journalist in jail?
X Index — 8 May 2013
In an interview last year with the US Ambassador to Sana’a, Gerald Feierstein reiterated to me America’s interest in his case. “Haidar Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating al-Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans and therefore we have a very direct interest in his case and his imprisonment,” he said. No evidence has ever been produced by either the US or Yemeni Government to support the claim that Shaye was facilitating any such attacks. Yemeni journalists have repeatedly expressed their lingering fear over America’s meddling in Shaye’s case. Many became afraid to report on air strikes. One Yemeni journalist, like Shaye a specialist on al-Qaeda, renamed himself an “analyst of Islamic groups” and refused to do TV interviews especially with Al Jazeera after what happened to Shaye.

Security:
Three military pilots killed in Yemen ambush: officials
Reuters via Yahoo! News — 5 May 2013
Suspected al Qaeda militants shot dead three Yemeni airforce pilots on Wednesday as they traveled to a southern airbase jointly used with U.S. forces to launch attacks on the group. The pilots were heading to the Al Anad air base in Lahj province when one of two militants riding a motor-bike opened fire on them with a machine gun, a security official said. “Three pilots were in one car and when they slowed down for a road bump, the militants ambushed them,” he told Reuters.

Abducted foreigners handed over to Omani authorities
Yemen Times — 9 May 2013
The foreigners were kidnapped in Sana’a and moved to outskirts of Sana’a before taken to Hareeb area in Marib then Al-Shihr in Hadramout and finally Hawf in Al-Mahra at the Omani boarders. Yemeni intelligence has been closely following their track trying to identify the best time and place to release them unharmed. However, the actual rescue came from the Hawf tribe itself who incited by the Yemeni government turned against the Al-Qaeda militants. The Omani side of the tribe went to the Yemeni side and warned them that by hosting Al-Qaeda and their hostages they will bring evil and doom to the tribe and hence worked together to arrest the terrorists and release the hostages.

Protest in Al-Dailami Air Base in Sana’a leaves four injured
Yemen Times — 6 May 2013
On Tuesday, four soldiers from Yemen’s air force were wounded following an exchange of gunfire with the personal bodyguards of Brigadier Abdul Malik Al-Zuhairi, the chief of staff of the air forces and protesting soldiers. The gunfight took place at Al-Dailami Air Base in Sana’a. Prior to the shooting, dozens of soldiers had been calling for the release of salary bonuses which had been promised to them by the Ministry of Defense, said Lieutenant Colonel Abdulrahamn Al-Helaly. What began as a verbal argument with Al-Zuhairi escalated into something more violent, Al-Helaly added.

Soldiers in Marib defy senior officers
Yemen Times — 6 May 2013
Soldiers from the Third Infantry Brigade were acting alone when they set up checkpoints on the outskirts of the northern city of Marib last week. Despite complaints from locals—and disapproval from senior officers—these unofficial military checkpoints are still in place. Soldiers from the brigade disobeyed orders from their commander, Brigadier General Mansour Ayed, when they established roadblocks on main roads and the parameters of the city, where they say they are searching for Al-Qaeda suspects who may have killed four soldiers from the brigade last week. Brigadier General Ameen Al-Waeli said the men took the law into their own hands because “their colleagues were killed last week by terror groups.”

Arms seized in Taiz, but origin of weapons in question
Yemen Times — 6 May 2013
Security forces in Taiz arrested one suspect on Friday believed to be involved in an illegal arms shipment that came through Yemen last week in the Dobab district, a coastal area near Mocha Port in Taiz governorate. On Thursday, a boat filled with an estimated 20,000 various arms entered into a two-hour long gunfight with security personnel as it pulled into harbor. One soldier was wounded in the clashes and all suspected smugglers fled the scene, according to Taiz security.

Four killed and six injured in ongoing tribal confrontations in Sana’a
Yemen Times — 6 May 2013
Tribal confrontations between the Bani Al-Harith tribe and the Bani Hushaish that broke out on Saturday in the northern area of Sana’a continue. Men began firing at each other after a member of the Bani Hushaish tribe was killed, breaking a truce called by sheikhs from both parties last week. The two powerful tribes originally began attacking each other last week in a tribal dispute that claimed three lives and injured six injuries. All casualties were from the Bani Hushaish and details surrounding the original source of the dispute are unclear. Names of victims have not been released.

Rising US drone strikes against al-Qaida in Yemen start to fuel anger over civilian deaths
AP via Washington Post — 2 May 2013
Civilian deaths are breeding resentments on a local level, sometimes undermining U.S. efforts to turn the public against militants. The backlash is still not as large as in Pakistan, where there is heavy pressure on the government to force limits on strikes — but public calls for a halt to strikes are starting to emerge. Several dozen activists protested on Monday near the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, denouncing the strikes. “The drone program is terrorizing our people,” the activists wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama. “One never knows where the next drone will strike nor how many innocent victims will die.”

Drone Strikes Are Winning War in Yemen — for Al-Qaeda
Bloomberg — 5 May 2013
There are good reasons the U.S. has made Yemen a central front against jihadis: It was where the plot was hatched to blow up a U.S. jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009 and the base for the propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S. citizen killed in a drone strike in 2011. Unfortunately, the effort’s destabilizing effect has given that divided nation, long the poorest in the Arab world, the additional distinction of being the most likely to collapse. That would be both a tragedy for its citizens and a golden opportunity for al-Qaeda to establish a haven similar to Afghanistan in the 1990s.

Yemeni tribesmen kidnap 2 Egyptian technicians
AP via Boston Herald — 7 May 2013
A Yemeni security official says tribal gunmen have kidnapped two Egyptian technicians working in a cement factory in the south. The official said the tribesmen abducted the two on Monday in Abyan province and took them to an unknown destination at gunpoint.

Making enemies in Yemen
Al-Jazeera — 5 May 2013
In a broader sense, the US misunderstood the historical reasons why the southern tribes were fighting against the government in Sanaa, a conflict which was expanded and exacerbated by the involvement of the US. In order to understand the reason behind the current volatile situation in South Yemen, it is necessary to look at the distinct history of the region. For centuries, the strategic region around the ancient port city of Aden on the Red Sea shipping lane would trade hands between various colonising powers and local tribal sultanates. When the British established their strategic colony at Aden in 1838, they found it expedient and necessary to work through the traditional tribal leaders already endowed with authority to maintain stability.

National Dialogue:
Yemen separatist quits national dialogue over ‘plot’
AFP via Daily Star — 4 May 2013
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.” 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.

Conference officials remain optimistic but public interest is floundering
Yemen Times — 9 May 2013
In a little less than a month, on June 18, Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference will be half way over. This reconciliatory meeting of over 500 representatives from all over Yemen is meant to draw a road map for Yemen’s future including the drafting of a new constitution and laying the groundwork for national elections in early 2014.  On the day of the conference’s inauguration on March 18, there was hardly a television channel or radio station in Sana’a that wasn’t tuned into the broadcasting of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and the rest of the representatives’ opening speeches.

NDC Update
Yemen Times — 9 May 2013
The Sa’ada Issue Working Group threatened to suspend their work on Wednesday as they still have not agreed on their groups’ two deputies and rapporteur. Representatives  from the Houthis and the Islah Party are at odds regarding the candidates.

Economy/Governance:
Yemen fights poverty with literacy, vocational training
Al-Shorfa — 7 May 2013
Two agreements in this regard were signed by Yemeni president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi on April 27th, after they were approved by the Yemeni parliament three weeks earlier. They had been agreed on by the Yemeni government in 2010 but had been delayed due to the country’s political crisis. The first, signed between Yemen and the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development — a special fund within the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) — includes a $10.9 million loan and a $370,000 grant. The second, signed with the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), involves a $9.1 million loan.

Rusty and forgotten: The oldest textile factory in Yemen
Yemen Times — 9 May 2013
The buildings at the Spinning and Weaving Factory in Sana’a lay vacant. Stockrooms and warehouses are empty. Scattered in the sun-bleached lawn are broken-down and rusted machines. There are no sounds of industry here—only the distant voices of the security guards. Work stopped here eight years ago, in 2005. The factory—the oldest of its kind in the country, built in 1964—used to be the main producer of textiles in Yemen, specifically the fabric used in army uniforms. In the 1990s, the factory produced 1,000,000 yards of cloth a day.

Yemen hands UNESCO old Sana’a’s preservation report
Yemen Observer — 3 May 2013
The Republic of Yemen delivered recently, Old Sana’a’s preservation report to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Council.  Failure to deliver the report would’ve cost Old Sana’a its place on the World Heritage List and suspend Yemen’s participation in the meetings of the Council, including depriving Yemen of attending the Council’s meetings in Cambodia in June.

Press:
Information commissioner chosen, journalists celebrate move
Yemen Times — 9 May 2013
About one year after approving a law that grants citizens and journalists alike the right to request public information from government ministries, President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi appointed Samir Amin Noman as the information commissioner on Monday. The appointment is an essential step to implement the law as the information commissioner will be the point of contact for anyone who is denied requested information by the government. Noman’s office, which is an independent ministry and has its own budget, will receive complaints of violators of the law.

Migrants:
Yemen: Migrants Abused, Tortured by Smugglers
Doctors Without Borders — 2 May 2013
Authorities in Yemen have freed more than one thousand migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia, many suffering from torture and sexual abuse while forcibly held by human smugglers, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has treated the migrants, said today. Since April 7, Yemeni authorities have freed 1,620 people held by smugglers in farms in Haradh region in the north of Yemen. Some of the migrants had been held for months and displayed signs of torture and other physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Some had their fingernails pulled out or their tongues partially cut off. Others had been severely beaten.

Youth:
Yemeni Youth Take Lead In The Slow Revolution
As-Safir via Al-Monitor — 2 May 2013
The students from Sanaa University formed a crucial bloc for just such a revolution. The student organization from the Yemeni Socialist Party at the Sanaa University announced a revolution against the regime in a statement just days after the declaration at the beginning of 2011, which came to be known as the “students’ revolution.” In the course of three weeks, the students were able to mobilize the civil forces in general and the youth in particular to announce a revolution against the regime. It started in Taiz city’s freedom square and the youth revolution has continued to be the inherent name of the Yemeni revolution up until today, in spite of the participation of the Yemeni public of all ages and social, political and ideological strata in the squares of freedom and the plazas of change established by the youth in 17 governorates across Yemen. At the same time, people from the south withdrew from their demands for “secession” and replaced it with chants of “the people want to topple the regime”.

Tribes:
Yemen’s Power Wedding
Foreign Policy — 2 May 2013
Past political or military battles with the Ahmars were no obstacle to receiving a wedding invite. Sheikh Naji al-Shayf, the vociferously pro-Saleh head of the rival Bakil tribal confederation stopped by — out of respect for his age and tribal status, he was one of two tribal leaders granted an exception to the gun ban. I bumped into an official who in a conversation last fall cast the Ahmars, his rivals for decades, as the epitome of everything that’s wrong with Yemeni politics. A number of officers from military units that helped lay siege to the family’s compound in the capital in 2011, during the Ahmars’ clash with the government, made an appearance as well. Meanwhile, soldiers from the recently disbanded Republican Guard, a bulwark of support for Saleh, secured a nearby hilltop.

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