Weekly News Update 20 December 2013

The Red Wedding
Foreign Policy — 18 December 2013
Whatever happened on Dec. 12, it was not a “targeted killing” — the language President Barack Obama’s administration often uses to describe drone strikes — nor was it consistent with the White House’s claim that the strikes are only carried out when civilians will not be caught in the crossfire. It’s not just a matter of the morality of the drone program: The confirmed deaths of noncombatants in this strike will set back anti-al Qaeda efforts everywhere in Yemen, and its effects will only be exacerbated by the restive area where it occurred. The strike was followed, as always, by silence from Washington, which has acknowledged carrying out drone strikes in Yemen but never publicly comments on individual attacks. The Yemeni government, however, released a statement the following day that said the strike targeted al Qaeda militants, but neglected to mention either the country that carried out the attack or the apparent civilian casualties. The actions taking place behind the scenes, though, painted a vastly different picture: Al-Baydah’s governor was dispatched to mediate between the government and the families of the dead, while Yemeni officials that were previously supportive of the drone strikes cast the attack as a tragic error.

Yemen’s harrowing transition
Al-Monitor — 14 December 2013
Most importantly, some intelligence cooperation with the Yemeni authorities could have prevented the morning headlines from reading “air strike kills 15 at wedding.” The US drone operation on Dec. 13 came a week after Yemen’s national tragedy in Sanaa had shaken perceptions of safety and security. This attack further weakened an already fragile situation and drew attention to the multiplicity of actors in Yemen’s security arena. Death in Yemen is now more imminent by the hands of al-Qaeda or the United States.

Yemen’s Parliament Approves Non-Binding Ban On Drone Strikes
International Business Tribune — 16 December 2013
Sunday’s proposal, which follows reports of a deadly drone strike earlier in the week on a wedding party, is seen as a recommendation to Yemen’s president who holds veto power. Lawmakers voted to “prevent drones in the skies of Yemen, stressing the importance of protecting innocent citizens as well as the preservation of the rule of Yemeni territory,” Yemen’s official Saba news agency said.

Japanese diplomat stationed in Yemen stabbed in failed kidnapping
AP via Christian Science Monitor — 15 December 2013
Assailants stabbed a Japanese diplomat stationed in Yemen’s capital Sunday when he fought back during a failed kidnapping attempt, officials said, the latest unrest in a country beset by al-Qaida militants. The kidnappers attacked the diplomat not far from the Japanese Embassy in Sanaa, later fleeing with the man’s car, a security official said.

Video of Hospital Massacre Deepens Yemeni Feelings of Vulnerability
Wall Street Journal — 13 December 2013
The first images from security-camera footage of a hospital massacre by militants gripped Yemenis this week, broadcast on the same day that officials here said a U.S. drone strike mistakenly hit a wedding convoy and killed 13 people. The events in the impoverished and increasingly unstable country raised fears that terror groups are abandoning a long-standing reluctance to target civilians and armed conflict is escalating. But Yemen has long been beset by a host of seemingly intractable problems—the worst poverty in the Middle East, a weak central government, widespread lawlessness and one of the most potent al Qaeda offshoots in the world. Now Yemenis are wondering if things could be getting even worse.

Yemen government compensates airstrike victims
AP via Washington Post — 17 December 2013
A Yemeni tribal leader and a military official say the government has compensated families of airstrike victims in a central city to end their protest. Tribal leader Mohammed Nasser, one of the mediators between the families and the government, said Saturday the government paid nearly $140,000 to the families of 15 civilians killed in the Thursday airstrike in central Radda city.

AQAP Threatens Government Interests in Online Video
Yemen Times — 19 December 2013
A man identified as a military commander for Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) appeared in a video on YouTube on Monday making unprecedented threats against the Yemeni government. “We are able to drive two trucks to every military camp in Yemen. We are able to drive two trucks to each ministry loaded with tons of explosives,” said Qasim Al-Raimi in the roughly 10-minute video that was supposedly posted by Al-Malahi, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated publication.

Dangerous Explosive Items Confiscated in Mocha Port
Yemen Times — 19 December 2013
Yemen’s Coast Guard on Saturday seized a boat loaded with large quantities of dangerous explosive items wrapped in electrical wires in Mocha Port of Taiz governorate, officials said. “Two men were piloting the boat, which was loaded with 63 boxes [filled with explosive devices],” said Mohammed Sabir, director of the Mocha Port.

State’s Closure of Military Uniform Supply Stores Angers Shop Owners
Yemen Times — 17 December 2013
A decision by the Interior Ministry last week to close all shops selling military uniforms sent owners in a tizzy on Sunday.  Shop owners threatened mass protests in response to what they call subjective decision making. Privately-owned stores were previously permitted to sell military uniforms as long as they checked customers’ identity cards to confirm their military positions. Now the ministry says all sales of military clothing must be done through the ministry itself.

Motorcyclists Protest Ban Extension
Yemen Times — 17 December 2013
Hundreds of people on motorcycles blocked several streets in the capital on Sunday and burned tires to protest the Interior Ministry’s extension of the motorcycle ban until Dec. 30. Protests continued through Monday in different areas of Sana’a.  Protesters blocked a number of important streets, including Al-Zera’a Street, Marib Roundabout, Mathbah Roundabout and Airport Road.

Yemen Calls for Reforms on Liquid Gas Prices
Yemen Times — 19 December 2013
The Yemeni government called on the Total Oil company this week to adhere to changes in Yemeni liquid natural gas (LNG) prices that will peg them to global prices as of the first of the year. Total Oil purchases approximately two-thirds of Yemeni LNG supply. The company agreed to negotiate reforms at a meeting held by President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi with the head of the Total Middle East department in early December, according to the minister of finance.

The Struggle to Preserve San’a’s Architectural Heritage
Yemen Times — 17 December 2013
The National Campaign to Preserve Old Sana’a was put in charge of making restorations in the Old City at the expense of the government and donors in June of this year following warnings from the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) that the Old City was going to be axed from its prestigious World Heritage list for repeated construction violations. Taking the international body’s threats seriously, the Culture Ministry and the General Authority for Preserving Historical Cities formed a committee under their auspices to take on reparations and provide oversight. But the campaign is yet to deliver on any sort of renovations.

Frustrated Consumers
Yemen Times — 19 December 2013
Internet service first came to Yemen in 1996 and has always been run and censored by the dominant government-run provider, Yemen Net, which operates under the Public Telecommunication Corporation.  Despite shortcomings, the number of Internet subscribers in Yemen continues to grow—albeit at a slow pace—with only an estimated 15 percent of the population having access to services.  In 2013, according to Yahiya Al-Matri, the public relations manager at Yemen Net, there were 2 million subscribers,  and the number of Internet cafes in the country grew to a little over 1,100. Yemen Net says there are factors outside of their control that are affecting the speed and efficiency of connections.  “Yemen Net is providing services,” said Al-Matri, but he blames repeated attacks on optical fiber cables and electricity lines in some Yemeni governorates for overall low-quality connections.

National Dialogue:
NDC to Conclude This Month
Yemen Times — 19 December 2013
Officials from the National Dialogue Conference (NDC)’s governing body, the presidium, said on Tuesday that the conference will wrap up before the end of the year. In a statement to the press, Yaseen Saeed Noman and Sultan Al-Atwani, the joint deputy heads of the conference said within the next two weeks a roadmap of the processes to follow the conference will be set into place.

President Hadi Appeases Angry Tribes in Hadramout
Yemen Times — 19 December 2013
President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi agreed Tuesday to the demands of tribes in Hadramout, who have asked that military camps be removed from the area and that the those responsible for the killing of a prominent tribal sheikh be handed over. The president also promised that jobs with petroleum companies working in the region will be allocated for residents in Hadramout governorate, according to Khalid Al-Daini, the  area’s governor.

NDC Subcommittee: Still No Consensus on Yemen’s Potential Regions
Yemen Times — 17 December 2013
A member of the National Dialogue Conference’s (NDC) 8+8 Subcommittee told the Yemen Times that no agreement has been reached on the number of regions Yemen will be composed of in the future. The 8+8 Subcommittee was created in September to manage North-South negotiations in the NDC’s Southern Issue Working Group.

Committee to Restore Southern Lands Warns Against Property Sales
Yemen Times — 17 December 2013
The presidential committee assigned to return stolen lands in the South following Yemen’s civil war in 1994 on Wednesday warned against the selling of land slated to be redistributed.  In mid-November President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi issued a decree that authorized the government to repossess land from anyone who had more than 1,000 square meters of property that has not been built upon and was seized from the approximately 45,000 Southern Yemenis whose land was taken by Northern forces post-1994. If the seized land has been built upon, per presidential decree, the owner is required to pay the committee a fee.

Civil Society Organizations Graduate from Training Program
Yemen Times — 17 December 2013
There are over 10,000 civil society organizations (CSO) in Yemen, but the majority lack the institutional support to carry out their missions, said the deputy minister from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor this week at an event to celebrate the end of a yearlong training course dedicated to strengthen the capacity of 100 select CSOs across the nation. “Providing training for these organizations is vital…several organizations fall short of accomplishing their work due to [shortcomings in structural practices],” said Deputy Minister Ali Saleh Abdulla.  The training course, jointly sponsored by the ministry, the Responsive Governance Project (RGP)  and USAID, focused on training CSOs to structure their organizations with strong leadership and measurable objectives.

Yemen’s women struggle to reap benefits of Arab Spring
BBC News — 17 December 2013
In 2009, Yemen’s parliament passed legislation raising the minimum age of marriage to 17. But conservative MPs argued the bill violated Islamic law, and it was never signed. “There is a very conservative and even extremist group of MPs who make such legislation difficult. It’s a small group but they are influential,” the minister explains. These deeply conservative groups are reluctant to see any change in the role of women whether in private or public life in Yemen. “One time, a member of parliament, who belongs to an Islamist conservative party here, told me: ‘Your place is in the house, cooking lunch. That is your role’,” Ms Suleimani says. “But I refused. I won’t stop.”


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