Weekly News Update 16 May 2013

Highlights:
The Yemeni Way
New York Times — 11 May 2013
The official dialogue has stimulated an even bigger unofficial one. Yemeni Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have exploded with debates about politics, women’s rights and the Army. After decades of being silenced, everyone wants to talk now. Women are one-third of the dialogue delegates, and the men are having to adapt. An American democracy adviser here told me this story: “We find that the women members of the dialogue usually come prepared and show up on time. It’s open seating, so sometimes they sit in the front row. The other day a tribal leader came late and went to the front seat, which was already occupied by a woman, and he said, ‘That’s my seat.’ And she said, ‘No, it’s not.’ ” The dialogue is possible because of the gradual (and messy) way Yemen’s awakening played out. It started in 2011 with youth-led protests that escalated into near civil war and a government breakdown until then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh handed power to a transitional government. Saleh’s party and his followers, along with the biggest opposition bloc, Islah, Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood, still retained influence. There was no “de-Baathification” or “de-Mubarakization” in Yemen — but much more of a “no-victor-no-vanquished.”

Iran’s Angle in Yemen
Al-Monitor — 14 May 2013
On May 10, the president of the political council of the Houthi movement (Ansarullah) in Yemen, Saleh Habra, met the Iranian ambassador in Sanaa, Mahmoud Hassan Ali Zadeh, in a first public meeting between the two sides. The senior representative of the Houthis in the National Dialogue Conference, Mohammed Nasser al-Bakhiti, confirmed the meeting and told Al-Monitor in a phone interview that the Iranian ambassador had visited Habra in his office in Sanaa. A Zaydi cleric, close to the Houthis and based in Beirut, told Al-Monitor that the Zaydi conditions for the imam apply also to Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, since he is a Hashemite Alawite and he declared his opposition to the unjust rulers and enemies of Islam. Thus, the Houthis and some other Zaydis consider Ayatollah Khamenei, and previously Ayatollah Khomeini (1902-1989), a just imam. Bakhiti did not deny that connection and said to Al-Monitor that since the majority of members of the movement are Zaydi and believe in the Imamate of the prophet’s family, but that the new approach of the group is that the ruler should follow the values of Islam, and he should not necessarily be from Hashemite descent.

Will military rebellions lead to a fractured country?
Yemen Times — 13 May 2013
Hadi’s military restructure—originally announced in December, but really put into action in April—moved troops to other governorates and placed them under new leadership. However, troops have had a tough time making the transition and some are maintaining their loyalty to commanders they served under former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime, Hizam believes.

Security:
Military plane crashes in Yemeni capital during training flight
AP via Washington Post — 13 May 2013
A Yemeni military plane on a training exercise exploded in midair over the country’s capital on Monday, killing the pilot and slamming into a residential neighborhood, according to an army official. Fragments of the plane hit buildings on the ground in Sanaa and set small fires in four houses. Three people were slightly injured, according to the official. The plane was a Russian-made Sukhoi Su-22 fighter. Military experts were investigating the cause of the incident, the Yemeni official said. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with military rules that prohibit personnel from speaking to reporters without authorization.

Red Cross says staff held in Yemen are fine
AFP via Google News — 13 May 2013
Three International Committee of the Red Cross employees kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen are in good health, but the demands of their captors remain unknown, an ICRC spokeswoman said on Tuesday. But a tribal dignitary who is involved in negotiations to secure the hostages’ release told AFP later on Tuesday that the kidnappers were demanding that the trial of fellow tribesman Abdelbaset al-Markashi be moved to their hometown Jaar from the main southern city of Aden. However, “negotiations have failed,” Abdullah al-Marakishi said.

Tribesmen shoot electrical lines in Marib
Yemen Times — 13 May 2013
Armed tribal men are accused of attacking and preventing the repair of electrical power lines at the Marib power station, located 173 kilometers east of Sana’a. On Sunday power was still out in much of Sana’a as the alleged perpetrators continue to intimidate repairmen with guns.

Security stops protestors marching against Saudi fence
Yemen Times — 13 May 2013
Security authorities in the Al-Khushm area of Hodeida shot rounds of ammunition into the air and used tear gas and batons on 200 people on Saturday who were a part of a marching protest against a wall being built along the Saudi Arabian border in order to curb illegal migration.  Dr. Ibrahim Al-Adrisi, the head of the organizing committee of the march, said 13 of the participants were injured by the tear gas and batons.

Yemen’s leader warns of al-Qaida expansion in the country
AP via Washington Post — 9 May 2013
The president of Yemen on Thursday warned that the al-Qaida branch in the country was expanding and using assassinations and abductions of foreigners as a way to challenge the central authority. President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi issued his warning during a closed session of the National Dialogue, which brings political, religious and other leaders together to decide on the country’s political system before writing a constitution. According to the participants, Hadi said that although his government has been going after al-Qaida militants around the country, dealing them some setbacks, “the group is recuperating” and sleeper cells are waiting for the right time to carry out terrorist operations. One of the participants said Hadi told them that he was speaking “honestly” and that the security grip on the country was not as good as it should be. Hadi also told the gathering that al-Qaida was increasingly using modern technologies to facilitate communications and avoid being tracked.

Yemen police dismantle Qaeda cell, kill militant
AFP via Google News — 12 May 2013
Yemeni police Sunday raided a house in the southern city of Aden, killing one suspected Al-Qaeda militant and arresting three, an official said, adding that the cell was plotting attacks on vital installations. “We have dismantled a terror cell in one of the houses near Mansura district” in Aden, the security official said. “Security forces managed to kill one of its members who tried to blow himself up using two explosive-laden belts.”

Yemen intensifies coastal security
Yemen Times — 13 May 2013
The Interior Ministry, in cooperation with the Coast Guards and other security forces in coastal governorates, announced on Saturday they would be stepping up surveillance on Yemen’s shores—which run for 2,500 kilometers—in order to deter the smuggling of weapons into Yemen, which the ministry has assessed is an increasingly serious problem. One week ago another shipment of 20,000 arms was confiscated in Mocha Port. Nearly 2,000 arms were confiscated in Amran governorate in March. In January, a shipment of arms was confiscated in Aden. Some of the arms bore stamps indicating Turkish manufacture.

Three arrested and one killed in Al-Qaeda raid in Aden
Yemen Times — 16 May 2013
Security forces said Tuesday the three alleged Al-Qaeda affiliates that were arrested on Sunday in a raid in the Al-Mansura district of Aden were referred to the General Prosecutor for investigation, adding that preliminary investigations reveal they were planning to carry out a terrorist attack in the area. Brigadier General Sadeq Haid, Aden’s Security Chief, said while trying to make the arrests, the state’s counterterrorism forces exchanged gunfire with the believed Al-Qaeda affiliates.  One man wearing two explosive belts was shot dead. He has been identified as Yasser Ahmed Tarmom.

Sukhoi plane’s explosion was no accident, Air Force officials say
Yemen Times — 16 May 2013
Sources in the Yemeni Air Forces revealed Wednesday that the black box from the military plane which exploded on Monday in the Bait Baws area of  Sana’a, killing the pilot, has been unearthed from the crash site. Initial investigations have ruled out the possibility of an electronic or mechanical malfunction in the Sukhoi 22. Abdulrahman Al-Helali, the spokesperson for the Air Force told the Yemen Times the crash was either caused by an explosive device or gunshots, fired at the body of the plane.

Yemeni tribesmen kidnap Swiss aid worker: security source
Reuters — 13 May 2013
Armed Yemeni tribesmen on Monday kidnapped a Swiss citizen working for the Red Cross in the southern province of Abyan, a Yemeni security source said. The aid worker was taken from a vehicle in the city of Jaar where he was travelling with Yemeni co-workers and there had been no demands from the tribesmen, the security source said. Kidnappings of Westerners in Yemen are mostly carried out by al Qaeda militants or tribesmen.

Economy/Governance:
UNESCO warns Yemen for the second time to repair historic sites
Reuters via Al-Arabiya — 9 May 2013
The city of Sanaa, capital of Yemen has been warned twice by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to restore the original appearances of its historic sites or face an immediate removal from the world heritage list next month. More than 8,000 houses in Sanaa, with a unique architectural style, have a history of over 2,500 years. They became part of the UNESCO’s list of World Cultural Heritages in 1998. However, 16 percent of such houses have been rebuilt or enlarged in recent years by their owners still living inside. Some damaged parts of the houses have been repaired, and as a result, the original appearances of the houses are gone forever.

Yemen grows sweet-smelling flowers, but exports most of them
Yemen Times — 16 May 2013
Rasheed Al-Haddad, an economics analyst, says that European countries famous for their perfume—like France—will often import seeds of fragrant flowers from Yemen (and other parts of the Arab world) plant them, extract the scent and resell the perfume to Yemen. Al-Haddad regrets the fact Yemen imports almost all of its perfume. “Jasmine flowers are grown in Hodeida governorate and screwpine flowers grow in Lahj. These two kinds of flowers can be used to make local perfumes,” Al-Haddad said. “And it’s inexpensive to grow them.” “We could be building factories in these two governorates, but [we haven’t]. We continue to depend on imported perfumes,” he said.

Frequent power cuts drive Yemeni girls to establish solar-powered appliances company
Yemen Times — 16 May 2013
Injaz Association is a nonprofit organization with a branch in Yemen. They receive significant funding from USAID and work with a group of local partners. Majed Al-Shmiri, the CEO of Injaz Association’s branch in Yemen, called the girls’ iniative “superb.” “[Injaz] suggested using large umbrellas that can be used in restaurants and parks and by street vendors too,” Al-Rimi said. The idea is this: an umbrella is fitted with a solar panel and connected to a light bulb which is fastened inside. The panel takes in the sunlight and turns it into electric power that lights the bulb.

Seen all over the world, auto rickshaws are now popular in Sana’a Tok-toks, gaining speed but angering officials
Yemen Times — 16 May 2013
Tok-toks originally came to Yemen in 2000 in small numbers.  They were used by restaurants to make deliveries but this past March their presence on the road increased as they were introduced as a means of public transportation by a local company.  The Gazelle Transportation Company, which formed this year, imports the tiny vehicles from China. They say there are currently 120 tok-toks roaming the streets of Sana’a.

A Visit to Yemen’s Zoo
New York Times — 14 May 2013
Most of the old generation of Arab leaders never gave much thought to natural capital: the forests, shrubs and ecosystems that naturally store water, prevent runoff, flooding and silting. The new generation will have to be environmentalists, otherwise their new politics will be overwhelmed by environmental stresses. Yemen is the leading edge of this trend. In 2009, Eryani encouraged then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh to name the endangered Arabian leopard as Yemen’s “national animal,” in hopes of preventing its extinction and promoting more environmental awareness. (Where the wildlife thrives, the people usually thrive.)

National Dialogue:
Political parties in the NDC must decide what it means to be Yemeni
Yemen Times — 13 May 2013
In terms of state identity, NDC participants will be deciding on a number of things including the name of the state, the religion of the state, the national language, Yemen’s source of legislation—whether it be secular or Sharia law—and commitment to international agreements.

Hadi reneges presidential decree
Yemen Times — 13 May 2013
Under pressure from media and watchdog organizations, President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi has broken precedent and pulled back on one of his presidential appointments.  Last week the president came under public scrutiny when his office appointed Muad Bajash as the deputy of the Central Organization for Control and Auditing, a governmental organization that works as a watchdog for public resources and government spending. Critics were upset at Bjash’s appointment because of allegations of nepotism. Bajash had served under Nasser Taha Mustafah, the head of Haid’s office, at the state-run Saba News Agency when Mustafah was head of the agency from 2001 to 2011.

JMP and GPC butt heads over bill
Yemen Times — 15 May 2013
A disagreement between the General People’s Congress (GPC) and the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) over a bill proposed to change guidelines relating to university officials’ appointments culminated in the JMP walking out of Parliament sessions on Sunday. Parliament has continued to hold sessions without JMP officials present.

NDC group visits prison, finds political captives
Yemen Times — 15 May 2013
The director of the Central Prison in Sana’a, Colonel Mutahar Al-Shu’ibi, has denied reports by the Rights and Freedoms Working Group of National Dialogue Conference (NDC)—Yemen’s ongoing reconciliatory talks—that there are currently six political prisoners at the facility being held unlawfully.

Saudi Arabia/International Support:
Saudi-Yemen talks focus on security: agency
AFP via Google News — 13 May 2013
Saudi Arabia’s interior minister on Sunday discussed security cooperation with Yemen, home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Yemen’s official Saba news agency reported from the neighbouring kingdom. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef discussed with Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi in Saudi Arabia “strengthening bilateral security cooperation for preserving security in both countries,” Saba said. They also discussed the impact of new Saudi constraints on foreign workers that have led to the expulsion of thousands of citizens of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country living in the oil-rich Gulf kingdom.

USA, Saudi Arabia talks to hasten setting up fund to support Yemen
SABA Net — 13 May 2013
The US ambassador to Yemen on Monday revealed talks between the USA and Saudi Arabia to accelerate measures to establish a fund to support Yemen during the next stage. “Almost 75% of the donors’ pledges have been allocated completely,” al-Sa’adi said, of which 92 % of the Saudi Arabia’s pledges and 75% of the World Bank’s and 100% of the Islamic Development Bank and the Arab Monetary Fund.

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