Weekly News Update 7 February 2014

Power Struggle in Yemen’s North
Foreign Policy — 5 February 2014
The Houthis’ ability to take on scores of powerful tribal leaders in their own home turf isn’t simply a sign of their rising strength: It’s also a result of longstanding tensions within Yemen’s tribal system. During his three decades in power, Saleh actively aimed to coopt the power of tribal notables, incorporating them into a vast patronage system. As sheikhs grew wealthy and spent increasing amounts of time in Sanaa, their grasp over their constituency — traditionally cemented by face to face interaction through mediating or arbitrating disputes — waned. Many Yemenis complain that tribal sheikhs have increasingly maintained their positions of leadership through their ties to the government, rather than through keeping the respect of the tribes, focusing on their own interests, rather than the interests of those they theoretically represent. Weakened loyalties granted the Houthis an opening. The group has managed to gain the backing of a number of traditionally less influential, but locally based, tribal leaders in areas across northern Yemen; to an even greater extent, they’ve reaped the benefits as many tribesmen have proven reluctant to fight to defend their theoretical leaders who have come to blows with the group. Notably, the Houthis’ invocations of the Zaidi doctrine of khuruj — the right and duty to revolt against an unjust ruler — have targeted tribal leaders with ties to Sanaa in addition to the government itself.

Will Decentralization in Yemen Marginalize Citizens?
Atlantic Council — 29 January 2014
The NDC succeeded in creating the basis for a decentralized state in Yemen and redistributing powers away from the center. Yet, the closest administrative units to the citizen with any constitutional authority now lies with the states, creating a fourth level of government (the district-level) whose authorities and responsibilities will be determined by regional laws. A four-level system is more complex and costly than a three-level system. Nonetheless, due to the political realities on the ground, Yemen will now have to adapt to a four-level system. The question that the constitution-drafting committee will have to address is whether to include a fourth-level of government in the constitution and grant this fourth-level constitutional authority and power, or whether to leave it up to each region to decide on the structure, authorities, and responsibilities of its fourth-level of government. The end result will have significant impact on defining the relationship between the new federal Yemen and its citizens.

Yemen faces fresh challenges as National Dialogue ends
BBC News — 28 January 2014
Despite ongoing security problems plaguing the country, Yemenis should be proud that they managed a genuinely inclusive dialogue process with 565 delegates representing established political parties, newly emergent political movements, youth activists, women leaders, and civil society organisations. The culmination of the National Dialogue was a final report with approximately 1,400 recommendations; now Yemen’s leaders must start the even more difficult process of translating it into meaningful action and incorporating the principles into a new constitution.

Ali Abdallah Saleh:
Even Out of Office, a Wielder of Great Power in Yemen
New York Times — 31 January 2014
RECENTLY, he has signaled an alliance of sorts with the Houthis, an insurgent group in the far northwest with which he fought a bitter, intermittent war for years. The Houthis have grown into a broad national political movement since 2011, fueled largely by a hatred of Islah, the Yemeni Islamist party that is the equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Saleh hates them both, but he clearly also resents Mr. Hadi, who frequently disparages him. Few accuse Mr. Saleh of scheming to return to power himself. Although his mind seems clear enough, he suffered serious injuries in the bombing in 2011, which killed six guards and maimed many others. (It is still not clear who carried it out.) He moves slowly and haltingly, and the skin on his hands and face is patchy from burns. He underwent the latest of numerous operations in January. Instead, many critics say he aspires to clear a path for his family. In the years before his fall, Mr. Saleh appeared to be grooming his son, Ahmed Ali Saleh, much as a former leader of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, prepared his son Gamal for a succession. Mr. Mubarak was overthrown, and his son was imprisoned on corruption charges. Mr. Saleh installed dozens of other relatives in powerful positions, especially in the military and security services. Most have now been purged, but none have been prosecuted.

U.N. envoy urges action on Yemen, Security Council to draft resolution
Reuters — 28 January 2014
The United Nations’ envoy on Yemen urged the Security Council on Tuesday to “do its part” in helping stop those attempting to obstruct the Yemeni transition, which diplomats said was a call for possible sanctions against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Jordan’s U.N. ambassador and president of the Security Council this month, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, told reporters that the council would start “drafting a resolution in the coming days which will support the wishes and aspirations of the government and people of Yemen.”

Doubts Emerge Regarding Potential UN Sanctions Against Transition Spoilers
Yemen Times — 30 January 2014
“We have been hearing these warnings since the beginning of the political transition, and no concrete measures have been taken,” said Waleed Al-Amari, a young man who participated in Yemen’s 2011 anti-government uprising. “This is all just empty talk, because the UNSC members who speak about sanctions are concerned first of all with their own [country’s] interests. Taking care of the Yemeni people is secondary.” An international law expert, Abdularzaq Al-Baghdadi, told the Yemen Times that legally, the UNSC has the authority to sanction those who attempt to delay, disrupt, obstruct or derail the political transition process, since the country is currently governed by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-brokered power transfer deal and supported by the U.N.

National Dialogue:
No proper end
Economist — 25 January 2014
The conference, which was meant, among other things, to make recommendations for a new constitution, concluded four months later than intended. Elections planned for next month have been indefinitely postponed. Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who in 2012 replaced a longtime dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, looks set to remain president for the foreseeable future. Members of the parliament formed a decade ago seem likely to keep their seats. In theory, a new constitution is the new priority. But stopping the present wave of violence is what people want most urgently. Yemen is riven with anxiety.

Yemen’s dream of a civil society suffocated by religion and tribalism
Guardian — 6 February 2014
Chaperoned by the UN envoy Jamal Benomar, the national dialogue conference was supposed to address all the problems of Yemen and prepare for a new constitution and free elections. But instead the dialogue, dominated from the start by the old traditional powers, finally concluded four months late on Saturday, its final act the publication of a report with about 1,400 recommendations which have extended the transitional period and allowed an extra year to draft a charter and vote on it.

Yemen transition aims for consensus over confrontation
Financial Times — 4 February 2014
The comment summed up the mood in Sana’a: elation that the talks had finally come to an end after a four-month over-run, mixed with fears that the agreement would not translate into substantive change – or stability – in the near future. “I am very happy about what we have achieved,” said Shatha al-Harazi, an activist who took part in Yemen’s 2011 youth uprising and later became a delegate at the conference. “But I am not optimistic [about the future]. It is not about what we agreed to on paper; it is about trying to make people implement what they agreed on.”

Yemen expands Reconciliation Commission following National Dialogue Conference
Asharq Al-Awsat — 2 February 2014
As Yemen’s political forces continue meetings to discuss implementing the agreements reached at the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference, a senior official revealed that the Reconciliation Commission is set to be expanded. In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, national dialogue Deputy Secretary-General Yasser Al-Raini said: “An agreement has been reached to expand the commission so that all components [of Yemen] are represented. The South will have 50 percent of representation at the committee, with 20 percent for the youth and 30 percent for women.”

Revolutionary Detainees Go on Hunger Strike
Yemen Times — 4 February 2014
Youth from the 2011 uprising who are being held in Sana’a and Hajja Central Prisons went on a hunger strike Saturday to protest their continued detention. The detainees called for the immediate implementation of the NDC document that stipulates their release.

NDC Extends Hadi’s Term for One Year on a Day Marked by an Assassination
Yemen Times — 23 January 2014
On the same day one NDC representative was assassinated and the son of a well-known political figure survived an alleged assassination attempt in Sana’a, the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) on Tuesday approved its final comprehensive document, which was 10 months in the making. According to the paperwork, called the Solutions and Guarantees Document, the NDC extended President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi’s term in office for one year. The conference also approved federalism as Yemen’s new state structure.

Federal Region Defining Committee: Yemen Will Have Six Regions
Yemen Times — 4 February 2014
The Regions Defining Committee approved on Sunday a six-region federalist structure, two regions in the south and four in the north, according to Nadia Al-Sakkaf, one of the 22 members of the committee.  Hadramout, Al-Mahra and Socotra Island will form one region and the rest of the southern governorates will together comprise the other southern region, according to Al-Sakkaf.

Push for federalism faces hurdles in restive Yemen
AFP — 29 January 2014
Interim President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi formed a committee on Monday, led by himself, that will decide on the number of regions and insert it into the text of the new constitution, which should be drafted and voted on within a year. Postponing the decision on the number of regions allowed the talks to conclude, but did little to resolve the underlying conflict. A government official speaking on condition of anonymity said that Hadi has “ruled out” a north-south division of the country, which “would maintain tension in the country and leave the door ajar for future conflicts.”

Cautious Celebration for Yemen’s National Dialogue
Atlantic Council — 29 January 2014
Ultimately, the inability of the government to deliver tangible change and the struggle over political and economic power is at the heart of each of these issues.  Unfortunately, the completion of the Dialogue on its own won’t resolve these conflicts, nor will it improve economic conditions or mitigate malnutrition.  These are the daily realities that plague most Yemenis, who worry about the lack of security and meeting their families’ basic needs.  They have yet to see the benefits of the political transition or an improvement in the quality of their lives, and this should weigh on Hadi’s shoulders as he proceeds with the extension of his presidency.

Two Years On, No Accountability
Human Rights Watch — 27 January 2014
Yemen’s government should create a commission of inquiry into serious human rights violations by the previous government and prosecute those responsible, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2014. The government should also pass legislation to end child marriage and reform laws that discriminate against women.

Committee Created to Determine Number of Regions for Future Republic
Yemen Times — 30 January 2014
A presidential decree was issued on Monday, creating a committee to determine the number of regions that will make up Yemen’s new federal republic.  During the committee’s first meeting on Wednesday, President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi told the 22 committee members that “defining the number of regions and determining which governorates would be included in each region should be completed before the establishment of the Constitutional Drafting Committee.

Yemen moves closer to establishing federal state
Asharq Al-Awsat — 30 January 2014
As a special 22-member committee in Yemen meets to determine the number of regions that will make up the country’s new federal republic, one of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s advisers has sought to reassure Yemenis regarding the establishment of the new federation. In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Faiqah Ahmed Ba Alawy, an adviser to President Hadi on Women’s Affairs, defended the government’s move towards dividing the country into different regions, citing both India and the UAE as examples of successful federal countries.

Ready for change?
Al-Jazeera — 3 February 2014
Sheikh Mohamed Abulahoum straddles several of the different identities at play in Yemen. A leading member of the Bakil, Yemen’s second biggest tribal confederation, he is a former member of the GPC, and in 2011 became a founding member of Justice & Building, a new political party that promotes the idea of a civil state and a competent government. He says Yemenis are returning to their traditional roots, and that the weak performance of the government is one of the reasons behind the drift.  “We are at a very critical time,” he says. “When you go back to your tribe or community, it is because there is not justice, because you feel threatened. In the UK, or the US, people do not go back to their communities because the same rules apply to everyone – but in Yemen, where there is a weak government, people go back to their tribes.”

US Treasury labels prominent Yemeni politician a terrorist
Christian Science Monitor — 3 February 2014
As the leader of an Islamist political party and a key participant in the recently concluded Conference of National Dialogue, Abdulwahab al-Homayqani is considered a mainstream politician in Yemen. He’s respected even by Yemenis with secular leanings, who hail him as a reasonable Sunni hard-liner. So a recent statement from the US Department of Treasury naming the cleric as a “specially designated global terrorist” has stunned many here. The statement alleges that Mr. Homayqani’s public image covers up deep ties with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a Yemen-based franchise of the global terrorist group. In addition to funneling money to AQAP, the statement says, he’s played a key role in recruitment efforts and even directed attacks against Yemeni troops.

Yemen to Build Trust Between Citizens and Security Forces
Yemen Times — 28 January 2014
In an attempt to build support for human rights among Yemen’s security personnel, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Maqdashy, the chief of staff of the Special Security Forces met with security delegations from the U.K. and the EU in Sana’a on Monday. Many outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) regarding army and security regulations stipulate that procedures be created that foster a relationship between security forces while simultaneously respecting human rights. Yemen’s security personnel are consulting with security delegations from the U.K. on respecting human rights, despite the English High Court having received more than 700 allegations of torture and abuse by British security forces in Iraq, the court said last year.

Al-Qaeda benefits from unsettled Yemen politics
Al-Monitor — 28 January 2014
Al-Qaeda is not the only extremist armed group that took advantage of the Gulf Initiative to spread its rhetoric and expand its base. Other armed groups that benefited include the Houthis, an armed sectarian group that fought six wars against the state during the Saleh era before it succeeded in taking control of Saada province and later parts of Hajjah, al-Jawf and Amran provinces. The Houthis also fought tribal and sectarian wars against Salafists and the latter’s tribal supporters in Dammaj, Harad and Kataf, along the Saudi border; these conflicts spread to the outskirts of Sanaa a few weeks ago. The NDC provided political cover for the Houthis, who used the conference to present themselves as a group committed to peaceful and civil means, while engaging in fierce battles with Salafists in Saada. For the Houthis, the conference offered political legitimacy that the group leveraged to defend the bloodletting outside the conference halls.

Two killed in attack on Yemen bus carrying soldiers: medical source
Reuters — 4 February 2014
At least two people were killed when a bomb hit a bus carrying Yemeni soldiers in the capital Sanaa on Tuesday, a medical source said, highlighting the government’s weak grip on security in the impoverished country.

Three explosions rock Yemeni capital Sanaa
Reuters — 2 February 2014
Three large explosions were heard in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Sunday, close to the defense ministry, the central bank and the former president’s home, locals told Reuters. “The explosions were followed by heavy gunfire,” a resident in the area said. Residents added that the third explosion occurred near former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s house which is also within close proximity to the French embassy.

Yemen Gunmen Kill 4 Soldiers, Commander
AP via ABC News — 5 February 2014
Security officials say gunmen have attacked an army patrol near a gas export terminal in southern Yemen, killing four soldiers. The officials say another seven soldiers were wounded in the Wednesday attack near the vital Balhaf terminal in Shabwa province. The area has witnessed previous attacks by al-Qaida-linked militants. Separately, a special forces commander named Fadi Gebil was killed in a drive-by shooting in the southern city of Aden.

Army-separatist clash kills four in south Yemen
AFP via Daily Star — 30 January 2014
Two soldiers were among four people killed on Thursday when the army clashed with separatists in Daleh in south Yemen, sources on both sides said. “Southern Movement activists ambushed an army vehicle at dawn with automatic fire, killing two soldiers,” a military source told AFP.

No End in Sight to Fighting in Al-Dhale
Yemen Times — 30 January 2014
Several protests took place Tuesday in Yemen’s southern governorate of Al-Dhale. The protests were marked by calls for Southern secession and anger about ongoing clashes between the state’s army and armed men in the governorate that have left several dozen dead.  The protests, which were concentrated in the city of Al-Dhale and the Sanah area, called for the removal of Brigade 33. The brigade has been very unpopular in the area ever since it shelled a funeral tent in December, killing 15 people. The brigade admitted to accidently firing one shell on the funeral tent, but according to eyewitnesses and local security figures, the brigade fired three times.

Security Forces Accuse Interior Minister of Bowing to Tribal Pressures
Yemen Times — 21 January 2014
A number of security-related personnel in police vehicles fired shots into the air on Monday morning near the Ministry of Interior’s headquarters in the Al-Hasaba neighborhood in northern Sana’a. The men said they were firing their weapons in protest, demanding that Gen. Mohamed Qahtan, Yemen’s interior minister, step down from his post. The protestors have accused Qahtan of directing security forces not to arrest armed tribesmen believed to have been involved in the shooting of two policemen, according to Mohamed Ali, a Special Security Forces soldier who participated in the protest.

Yemen gunmen shoot dead senior security officer
Reuters — 26 January 2014
Gunmen shot dead a senior Yemeni security officer on Sunday, a security official said, the latest in a series of attacks on the police and army in a country battling Islamist insurgents. Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Amir al-Mahthouthi, a senior officer in the investigative branch of state security, was shot outside his home in Hadramout, eastern Yemen, by gunmen who then fled on a motorbike.

Second Westerner kidnapped, blasts hit Yemeni capital
Reuters — 3 February 2014
Gunmen abducted a Westerner identified by a police source as a British oil worker in Sanaa on Monday, hours after three explosions shook the Yemeni capital, underscoring the transitional government’s feeble grip on security. The kidnapping followed that of a German by Yemeni tribesmen who said on Sunday they had seized him two days earlier to press the authorities to free jailed relatives.

Deadline looms for South African teacher kidnapped in Yemen
Al-Arabiya — 4 February 2014
It has been six days since contact was lost with al-Qaeda militants holding a South African teacher hostage in Yemen. Pierre Korkie, 53, has been held captive for nearly ten months. He and his wife, Yolande, were kidnapped in the Yemeni city of Taiz. She was released last month and is back home– but only after weeks of sensitive negotiations ended and the militants finally were convinced to set her free, with no ransom money being paid. Now with every passing moment, the negotiator’s anxiety heightens. There is an deadline approaching, this Saturday – one that the kidnappers set as Pierre Korkie’s execution date, if the ransom money isn’t paid over.

Yemeni official says kidnapped Iranian diplomat still alive
Reuters — 2 February 2014
An Iranian embassy official kidnapped in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in July is still alive, a Yemeni security official said on Sunday, disputing an earlier report that he had been found beheaded. Last month a provincial official said local people had found the body of the diplomat in an area north of oil fields in Maarib province.

18 Soldiers Killed, Five Injured in Hadramout
Yemen Times — 4 February 2014
Eighteen soldiers were killed and five others injured in Hadramout on Friday while on duty at a Shibam security checkpoint, according to security and military officials. The soldiers, who belong to Armored Brigade 37, were returning from Friday prayer, said the officials, who indicated that an unknown number of militants also died in the clash.

Three suspected militants killed in U.S. drone strike in Yemen
Reuters — 24 January 2014
Three suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in Maarib province, east of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, in what local officials and tribal sources said was a strike by a U.S. drone late on Thursday. They said the suspects were hit as they were travelling in a car in the Wadi Obaida area, in the oil-producing Maarib province. Several explosions were heard, witnesses said, after which they saw a car on fire with three burnt bodies inside it.

Shiite rebels battle loyalist tribes near Yemen capital
AFP — 6 February 2014
Shiite rebels battled pro-government tribes and Sunni Islamists close to the Yemeni capital through the night before a fragile truce was restored on Thursday, tribal sources said. The rebels have been pushing out from their stronghold in the mountains of the far north to other Zaidi Shiite majority areas nearer the capital in a bid to expand their hoped-for autonomous unit in a promised federal Yemen. But they have met resistance from Zaidi tribes loyal to the historic leading family of the huge Hashid confederation and their Sunni Islamist allies in the Islah party. The fighting erupted late Wednesday in the Arhab district — just 35 kilometres (20 miles) north of the capital and close to Sanaa international airport — shattering a fledgling truce, a tribal chief said.

Houthis Throw a Wrench in NDC Final Document
Yemen Times — 23 January 2014
Following a speech from President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi on Tuesday expressing his optimism in Yemen’s future after the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) officially ends this Saturday, a Houthis’ spokesperson at the conference said on Wednesday that his political party does not stand behind the NDC’s final document, possibly signaling a bumpy road ahead as Yemen’s transition continues. The NDC’s outcomes, outlined in the Solutions and Guarantees Document, extend Hadi’s term for a year and officially set Yemen on the path to become a federal state. The document also stipulates that Yemen’s Cabinet, comprised of ministers, be restructured.  However, Parliament will remain as is until a new constitution is drafted. Elections will be held at future, unannounced dates. The Shura Council, an advisory board for Parliament will be reorganized to include 50 percent representation from Northerners and 50 percent from Southerners.

Rebels, tribesmen battle for control of key Yemeni region
CNN — 1 February 2014
Rebels battling for control of northern Yemen clashed against tribesmen on Friday, leaving dozens dead in fighting just miles from the country’s capital, officials told CNN. At least 42 people were killed and more than a dozen injured in clashes between Houthi Shiite militants and fighters from the Sunni Hashid tribe in the Amran province, which is seen as a linchpin to controlling the region, according to two security officials and a local tribal leader.

Shiite rebels, tribes agree cease-fire in north Yemen: sources
Reuters via Daily Star — 4 February 2014
Shiite Muslim rebels and Sunni tribesmen agreed a local cease-fire in northern Yemen on Tuesday after clashes between the rivals killed about 60 people there last week, tribal sources said. Tribal sources told Reuters on Tuesday the truce, mediated by the mayor of the capital Sanaa, stipulated that fighters from both sides withdraw from the area and let the army deploy.

10,000 Salafis Homeless in Sana’a
Yemen Times — 21 January 2014
About 10,000 Salafis are homeless in Sana’a, sleeping in mosques and tents in the Sawan district of the capital. The influx of Salafis, conservative Sunnis, is a result of an agreement that was reached between the Salafis and the Houthis last week, which stipulated that 15,000 non-local Salafis residing in Dammaj had to leave the town in Sa’ada governorate. In the agreement—brokered by a government-established committee—the government agreed to provide housing for the displaced Salafis and to cover their transportation costs from Dammaj.

Yemen Shiite rebels take villages from rivals
AP via Washington Post — 2 February 2014
In recent days, at least 150 militants have died in battles over two villages, Houth and Khamra. A government-backed cease-fire failed to stop the fighting. Officials said tribesman from the Hawthis’ rivals, the Hashid, had asked for reinforcements from Sunni ultraconservatives.

Humanitarian Crisis:
Improving Humanitarian Situation Critical to Yemen’s Stability
Voice of America — 4 February 2014
Senior U.N. officials say improving humanitarian conditions in Yemen is critical for the country’s future stability.  The officials say the international community can help the fractured country by supporting the short-term and long-term needs of millions of destitute people. Yemen is one of the poorest, most deprived countries in the world.  The United Nations reports 14.7 million people, more than half the population, needs assistance this year.

Yemen’s coffee revival
Al-Hayat via Al-Monitor — 2 February 2014
Estimates for 2012 showed that the planted area of coffee in Yemen reached around 34,900 hectares, as opposed to 162,500 hectares for planting qat. Coffee production amounted to 19,800 tons, as compared to 190,800 tons of qat. Ahmad Ali Hamdani, general manager of the Al-Hamdani Yemen Mokha Coffee Company, told Al-Hayat that his company exported coffee to Arab Gulf states and to European countries, in addition to the domestic market. Hamdani explained that his company provided high-quality Yemeni coffee seeds to keep up with Yemeni coffee’s reputation, known to be the best and the finest in the world, given its unique flavor and refined taste. He revealed that he provided annual financial loans for coffee farmers to use for coffee processing. The Yemeni Coffee Association was founded in early 2007. Its main goal is to promote and support coffee farmers in Yemen and preserve the quality and reputation of Yemeni coffee, since foreign companies are exploiting the name Mokha to market their non-Yemeni coffee products.

Counterfeiting Gang Busted in Ibb
Yemen Times — 30 January 2014
Security authorities on Monday caught a three-member gang, accused of counterfeiting currency, at a security checkpoint in Ibb governorate, according to local government sources. The gang has been referred to the state’s criminal investigation department.  Police found the gang in possession of an unidentified number of counterfeit Saudi 500-riyal notes (each worth over $100), as well as a grenade, two rifles and ammunition, said Ali Al-Azlam, Ibb’s deputy governor.

Hodeida’s Governor Cracks Down on the “Gifting” of Public Land, Area Soldiers Protest
Yemen Times — 30 January 2014
Riot police on Tuesday removed soldiers serving in Brigade 10 from the Hodeida governorate’s headquarters compound, which they had taken over earlier in the day.  The soldiers had stormed the government facility to protest a decision made by Hodeida’s governor, Akram Atiyah,that halted the distribution of local plots of land to the soldiers. “We sent military vehicles, police officers and riot police to remove the Brigade 10 soldiers from the headquarters,” said Ali Obad, the spokesperson for the Hodeida security administration.

KOGAS Agrees to Pay Market Price for LNG
Yemen Times — 4 February 2014
The Yemeni government said Wednesday that the Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS) has agreed to purchase Yemeni liquid natural gas at $14 per million BTUs, according to Yemen’s state-run Saba news agency. The new price was made effective retroactively to Jan. 1, 2014 and negotiations are still underway with other global buyers, Abdulqawi Al-Odain, head of the Media Department of the Ministry of Oil and Minerals, told the Yemen Times.

Once Used as Defense Structures, Watchtowers Now House Needy Families
Yemen Times — 30 January 2014
A cylindrical building 10 meters in diameter and constructed of clay mixed with hay and small wooden sticks stands alone in the Beersaree area on Marib Street in eastern Sana’a. Its shape and its height sets it apart amid a sea of square and rectangular houses. Although this building is one of the few like it in the area, there are similar buildings in several other neighborhoods of the capital. Such structures are also found nationwide near old castles, towns, farms and wells. These ancient watchtowers are called nawbat. The buildings’ 360-degree view historically allowed for quick spotting of invading forces and their narrow vertical openings allowed soldiers to shoot at invading enemies. The construction of nawbat traces back to the pre-Islamic period of the Himyarite kingdom, according to Ali Al-Moqri, a Yemeni author.

Yemen’s main oil pipeline bombed, crude flow stops: sources
Reuters — 1 February 2014
Armed tribesmen bombed Yemen’s main oil pipeline on Saturday, halting crude flow to the country’s main export terminal less than a month after it was repaired, oil and local officials said. The attack occurred in the Serwah district in the central oil-producing province of Maarib, they said, and caused a huge fire that prompted the closure of the pipeline and stopped oil flow from the Maarib fields to the Ras Isa oil terminal on the Red Sea.

Prison in paradise?
Economist — 29 January 2014
In November, Yemeni newspaper El Ule ran a story claiming that a “New Guantánamo” would be set up on Socotra. Its front-page illustration mixed the island’s native dragon’s-blood tree (pictured above) and the orange uniform of Guantánamo inmates. Is there any truth to the rumours? Last year, Yemeni president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi decreed that Socotra archipelago (all six islands and eight rocks) was to become a separate province, the country’s 22nd. Despite the reports being picked up by other websites, the Yemeni government did not issue a denial. That has got Yemenis, including prominent figures, talking. “President Hadi and the government will not accept to turn Socotra into a military base… It would be rejected by the people of Socotra,” Faham Saleem Kafayan, a politician from the island, told the Yemeni site AlMasdarOnline.

Military Is Asked to Return Guantánamo Inmate to Yemen
New York Times — 28 January 2014
A lawyer for a Yemeni man who has been held for 12 years without trial at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, asked a parole-style military board on Tuesday to recommend that he be sent home, where he planned to teach and possibly start a “milk and honey farm” or work for his father’s tailoring business, according to a prepared statement. But a military profile of the detainee, Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab al-Rahabi, 34, suggested that there are risks in repatriating him. It maintained that he was “almost certainly” a member of Al Qaeda who had been among a group of bodyguards for Osama bin Laden before their capture by Pakistani forces in December 2001 and that he “may have been selected” for participation in a hijacking plot. It also said his brother-in-law was a prominent extremist in his home area, Ibb.

Yemeni-Americans cry foul over passport revocations
Al-Jazeera America — 21 January 2014
Rayman Hussein was 10 years old in 1993 when his family moved to the United States from Yemen. His father hoped to provide him with a future free of the political violence and poverty that plagued their homeland. The family began a new life in Oakland, Calif., a city long recognized as an immigrant sanctuary. Within two years, Hussein was a naturalized U.S. citizen. But today he languishes in Yemen, his U.S. passport confiscated on the grounds that it was obtained under a false identity. He signed a statement to that effect, after what he described as a lengthy interrogation by a State Department investigator at the embassy in Sana’a, who, Hussein alleges, threatened to confiscate his passport if he refused to sign. The moment he signed, his passport was immediately seized — illegally, according to his lawyer and civil rights groups — and he has been granted neither a hearing nor the travel documents that allow an American whose passport has been revoked to return to the U.S. Hussein is believed to be one of at least 100 Yemeni-Americans in similar circumstances — a situation that has prompted advocates for those stripped of their passports to suggest that U.S. officials may have intimidated U.S. citizens into confessing identity fraud, then kept them in Yemen without due process. “The number is probably higher. We don’t have an accurate number because people are afraid to speak out,” said Ibraham Qatabi, an expert on Yemen at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Stories that the U.S. embassy in Yemen was revoking passports began emerging two years ago, he said.

Child Marriage:
Yemen Takes a Step Toward Law Ending Child Marriage
New York Times — 23 January 2014
Yemen has taken a step toward outlawing child marriages. After about a year of work on finding a new system of government and to pave the way for general elections in 2014, a national conference of Yemeni political, social and religious groups this week issued its proposals for a new constitution. They include proposals for freedom of thought, expression, gender equality and women’s rights. And one of the recommendations suggests making it illegal for anyone under 18 to marry.

‘65% of females in Yemen marry underage’
Gulf News — 26 January 2014
Child marriages are rampant in Yemen. A study revealed that the bridal age in more than half of the finalised marriages in Yemen was under the age of 15. According to the study conducted by Sana’a University, only 7 per cent of “husbands” were under the age of 18.   It also added that nearly 65 per cent of females are married “underage,” while that number rises to 70 per cent in rural areas.

Yemeni film on ‘Day of Dignity’ nominated for Oscar
Al-Monitor — 30 January 2014
If one only has 26 minutes to understand the tragedy of Yemen that has lasted for the past three years, one should watch “Karama Has No Walls.” Directed and produced by Yemeni-Scottish filmmaker Sara Ishaq, the film was recently nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary short film. Ishaq’s film tells the story of March 18, 2011, when military forces, under former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, shot at civilian protesters, killing more than 40 peaceful protesters and injuring more than a hundred others. The day has become known as the Karama massacre, or “Day of Dignity” (karama means “dignity” in Arabic).


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