Weekly News Update 22 November 2013

Highlights:
TED talks’ unlikely success in Yemen
Al-Jazeera — 21 November 2013
While TED talks run the risk of being abstract, the 17 speakers in Sanaa almost unanimously provided a humbling dose of reality and a look at the unique hardships facing Yemen. Instead of calling for regulating investments, Mohammed Mahdi called for investment in the nation, period. Rather than demanding better literature, Eithah al-Maghafi promoted basic literacy through the I Love My Book campaign. “People are not aware of the importance of reading, especially for kids,” she said. “We don’t have any libraries in Yemen for kids.”

Targeting officials: Assassination toll casts shadow on Yemen
Yemen Times — 19 November 2013
A data-driven investigation conducted by The Yemen Times found that at least 93 security or army officials have been assassinated by unidentified gunmen across the country in the course of seven months, from April 1 through the end of October.  Many have called 2013 the bloodiest year on record in terms of assassinations and attempted assassinations.  According to our data, mainly provided by Yemen’s Interior Ministry, Hadramout governorate currently has the highest record of reported assassinations, out of the nine governorates that have kept records for the same period.

Yemen prepares strategy plan to deal with deported workers returning from Saudi Arabia
Yemen Times — 19 November 2013
Once the influx of Yemeni migrant workers being deported from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia slows down, the General Union of Yemeni Workers Syndicate and the Yemeni Communities Center said they would begin enacting a plan to train and assist laborers kicked out of Saudi because of a recent change in labor restrictions.  The announcement came on Sunday. As a part of the union’s and center’s plan, deportees will also receive a monthly salary of YR30,000 ($140) for six months to help them get back on their feet.

Economy/Governance:
China to build power plants in Yemen, expand ports
Reuters — 16 November 2013
China will build power plants in Yemen with total output capacity of 5,000 megawatts and expand the Arab country’s main container ports, the Yemeni president said after his return from a visit to China, state news agency Saba reported. Saba news agency cited Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as saying late on Friday that he has agreed with his Chinese counterpart during the visit to “work to set up power plants… using gas and coal and with production capacity that will reach 5,000 MW.”

Locusts Seen as Threat by UN’s FAO for Mauritania, Yemen, Sudan
Bloomberg — 20 November 2013
Desert locusts are grouping in Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen, with the risk of a “potentially dangerous” situation in coming months, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said. Juvenile locusts, known as hoppers, as well as adults are forming groups after breeding, the Rome-based FAO wrote on its Locust Watch website yesterday. Ground teams have sprayed more than 13,000 hectares (32,124 acres) in Mauritania and 2,200 hectares in Sudan this month, as well as about 8,000 hectares in Yemen in the first 10 days of November, according to the FAO.

Yemen oil exports drop in September, inflation slips to 6-month low -central bank
Zawya — 18 November 2013
Yemen’s oil exports fell in September, aggravating the fiscal challenge facing the impoverished country, while annual inflation hit a six-month low of 11.3 percent in August as rises in food and drink prices eased, data showed on Tuesday.  Oil exports, which pay for up to 70 percent of the government’s budget, fell 8.0 percent to $231 million in September, with their annual drop worsening to 24.4 percent from 22.4 percent in August, the central bank’s latest monthly data release showed.

Investigations underway for cluster of pesticides found buried outside the capital city
Yemen Times — 19 November 2013
Yemen’s general prosecution sent a committee on Sunday to the Shaoob district in Sana’a to investigate a large quantity of pesticides that were found buried underground in the district.  “They are likely [all] contraband pesticides,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Ghashm, deputy head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. While experts from the Water and Environment Ministry are still investigating the find, on Monday they had counted 120 cans of illegal pesticides, Al-Ghashm said.

Security:
Yemen Arrests Suspected Female Al-Qaida Militants
AP — 20 November 2013
Clashes between suspected al-Qaida militants, including women, and Yemeni troops left one officer, three soldiers, and at least two militants dead in the country’s south, security officials said Wednesday. The raid ended with the arrest of a number of militants, including several women. The officials said a raid on two houses in the Hadramwat province sparked clashes that lasted for over an hour. They said suspected female militants in one of the houses in the city of al-Shahr fired assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at the military force during the fighting. The officials said several women and children and at least one male militant were arrested at the end of the raid, but did not give an exact number of those arrested. Officials said the women are believed to be Saudi nationals, who make up a large part of the militant group.

Eight Yemeni policemen killed near gas export facility
Reuters — 18 November 2013
Eight policemen were killed in an ambush by suspected al Qaeda members near a gas export facility in southern Yemen on Monday, residents said. The attack occurred near an army checkpoint close to the Belhaf gas export terminal, which loads liquefied natural gas (LNG) to South Korea, Yemen’s biggest customer, and to European companies. Attacks on pipelines feeding the port have been regular and interrupted exports earlier this year. The militants, who were in two cars, surrounded the policemen’s vehicle and opened fire, killing all of them, the residents said.

US seeks to build prison in Yemen for Guantanamo detainees
The National — 16 November 2013
The Obama administration is in talks with Yemen to build a prison near Sanaa to house Yemeni detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, but deteriorating security in Yemen and disagreements over funding threaten the plan. The facility would hold the 88 Yemeni terrorism suspects, many of whom have not been charged with any crime, still detained at the US military prison in Cuba. Yemenis make up more than half of the 164 men held at Guantanamo, and their stalled repatriation is a key obstacle to closing the prison. The White House has refused to confirm direct talks with Yemen over the plan. But Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that the US is part of a UN-led group formed in August to help Yemen establish a rehabilitation programme “which could also facilitate the transfer of Yemeni detainees held at Guantanamo”.

Yemen drone strike kills al-Qaeda fighters
Al-Jazeera — 19 November 2013
An airstrike has killed three alleged al-Qaida fighters in the southeast of Yemen, according to a report. Tribal witnesses told the Associated Press news agency that they suspected the strike on Tuesday was carried out by a US drone aircraft.

Yemen soldiers killed despite rebel-Salafist truce
AFP via France 24 — 21 November 2013
Two Yemeni soldiers were killed on Thursday as they deployed to police a truce between Shiite rebels and hardline Sunnis in the north, a military official said. “A mine exploded as a military vehicle passed by, killing one soldier instantly and grievously wounding another who died later,” the source told AFP.

Yemeni man still looking for answers after White House drones meeting
The Guardian — 20 November 2013
While neither he nor White House officials will talk about what specifically was said in the meeting or who attended, Jabar leaves, he said, without his questions answered. Why did his brother, an anti-al-Qaida preacher in the Yemeni town of Khashamir, and his traffic-policeman nephew, die? “These people are taking me seriously,” Jabar said through a translator in a Starbucks in south-west Washington hours before he flew back to Yemen. “They’ve came all the way to listen to the story, although it’s not clear what will happen next and what will happen after I leave the United States. But I felt … ”

Governor’s relative kidnapped in Taiz
Yemen Times — 21 November 2013
Unknown armed men abducted Mohammed Moneer Ahmed Hayel, the nephew of the governor of Taiz, as he was driving to his office Tuesday morning, said Abdullah Moree, the deputy security chief of Taiz. The 20-year-old  is employed at a family-owned company, Hayel Saeed An’am Group, where the governor of Taiz, Shawqi Ahmed Hayel, used to work.

Weddings:
The social politics of weddings in Yemen
Al-Monitor — 20 November 2013
The phenomenon of mass weddings is spreading in Yemen. In October, a mass wedding involving 4,000 brides and grooms took place in Sanaa, without intermixing; the brides and grooms were kept in separate halls, and no camera phones were allowed. The largest mass wedding in Yemen was organized by the Orphan Foundation for Development and funded by former Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Two years ago, that same foundation organized a mass wedding that was the largest at the time and was funded by the late Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz. The change in funding source is due to the changing regional alliances of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Orphan Foundation is considered to be one of the Brotherhood’s social tools. And the compass of financial flows after the Arab Spring — under the guise of charity work — shifted from Riyadh to Doha.

Yemen to Finally Ban Child Marriage?
Daily Beast — 20 November 2013
The Human Rights Ministry of Yemen has confirmed that one of its officials has helped to prevent the wedding of a 12-year-old girl, which was due to take place earlier this month. Hiba was to be married in Taiz, Southern Yemen, but the official notified local police who ensured an immediate divorce. There have been reports too of similar interventions taking place in other parts of the country. With no minimum age of marriage in Yemen, while Hiba and others are out of danger for the moment, without any legal sanctions to support them, these girls remain at serious risk.

Yemen: Review Saudi Woman’s Refugee Claim
Human Rights Watch — 20 November 2013
Yemeni authorities should not return a Saudi woman to her country without considering her claim that the Saudi government will not protect her against life-threatening family violence. The government should halt any deportation order against her and allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to interview her in detention to review her asylum claim.

National Dialogue:
Yemen president could stay after February 2014, says UN envoy
AFP via France 24 — 19 November 2013
Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi could stay in power after his term ends in February 2014 due to delays in implementing a transition agreement, the UN envoy to Yemen said Tuesday. Hadi was elected for a two-year interim period in February 2012, after his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a power transfer deal bowing to a year-long uprising against his 33-year rule.

GPC representatives resume participation in NDC’s 8+8 Subcommittee meetings
Yemen Times — 21 November 2013
The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) Subcommittee assigned to resolve the Southern Issue resumed meeting on Tuesday after former President Ali Abdulla Saleh’s party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), ended its boycott of more than a week. “We resumed participation following assurances made to us about Yemen’s unity and guarantees that any decrees or recommendations will not violate the GCC Initiative and its implementation mechanism,” said Ahmed Al-Kuhlani, GPC representative in the NDC and member of the 8+8 Subcommittee.

GPC angered by NDC member’s expulsion
Yemen Times — 19 November 2013
The General People’s Congress (GPC), Yemen’s former ruling party, is protesting and refusing to accept the suspension of one of its representatives from the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). On Sunday, the NDC’s Standards and Discipline Committee decided to expel Najeeba Mutahar from the conference, accusing her of insulting victims of Yemen’s 2011 popular uprising.

White House encourages Yemen during political transition
Reuters — 18 November 2013
President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism aide, Lisa Monaco, spoke with Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Monday to discuss the country’s political transition and process towards greater democracy, the White House said. Yemen is in the middle of a so-called National Dialogue aimed at drafting a new constitution, defusing threats from Islamist insurgents, holding a new election in 2014 and seeking compromise between Yemen’s myriad tribal and political factions.

Yemen: Strike Down Immunity Law
Human Rights Watch — 20 November 2013
Representatives to Yemen’s ongoing National Dialogue Conference should endorse a proposal to strike down the country’s immunity law. The proposal, from the conference’s Transitional Justice Working Group, would require parliament to rescind the law, which violates Yemen’s international legal obligation to hold all of those responsible for serious human rights violations to account.

Yemeni FM on National Dialogue, Southern Secession
Asharq Al-Awsat — 20 November 2013
With the Yemeni national dialogue moving closer and closer to a resolution, with a number of work committees having already submitted their final reports, Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi about the expected results of the dialogue, the prospects of Southern secession, and combating Al-Qaeda. In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat against the backdrop of the Third Arab–African Summit in Kuwait City, Qirbi highlighted the importance of inter-regional conferences, particularly the role that this could play in resolving potentially divisive issues, not least the Nile water crisis.

Education:
To tackle male illiteracy, teachers take lessons to qat chews
Yemen Times — 19 November 2013
It makes sense that in a country where women have much higher illiteracy rates than men, that literacy crusaders would be pouring their efforts into closing a gender education gap.  According to UNICEF, 60 percent of adult women in Yemen are illiterate, compared to 30 percent of men. However, as Jameel found out, that also means that men who are educationally disadvantaged have a tougher time finding help.

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