Weekly News Update 15 August 2014

The Sana’a Illusion
Foreign Affairs — 30 July 2014
It has become increasingly clear that the transition deal has cost Yemen dearly. Yemenis live in a land of fear and intimidation, petrol queues and hunger, violence and corruption. For them, Obama’s reference to Yemen seemed like a bad joke at best, and an insensitive insult at worst. And it must have been all the more troubling for Iraqis. A few years ago in Yemen, people used to warn of an “Iraq scenario” if its problems weren’t addressed, meaning that Yemen would be the new Iraq. They don’t anymore. People in Yemen have recognized what Obama does not: that it is by now the Yemen scenario that should serve as a warning, not a solution, to Iraq. Just like risky experiments on television, the Yemen model shouldn’t be tried at home.

Politics of Qat by Peer Gatter: Donor demands and qat
Yemen Times — 14 August 2014
Today, Law No. 70 of 1991 is implemented all over Yemen, the actual taxes collected at checkpoints and in markets are however nowhere near 20 percent of the retail price. They amount just to around 1-2 percent of the sales value of qat; another 1-2 percent are likely to go into the bribing of tax officials. In 2005, the tax rate of 20 percent was confirmed by the amendments to the Law concerning General Sales Tax. However, this did not make tax collection any more efficient.

Saudi Arabia losing influence in Yemen
Al-Monitor — 4 August 2014
In any case, Riyadh’s ambiguous position in Yemen and its lack of action there confirmed the Saudis confusion and their uncertainty as to who would control Yemen’s future and who to ally themselves with. In this regard, Saudi alliances in Yemen changed post-2011, when two of its most powerful historical partners, the family of Sheikh al-Ahmar and Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, became its most significant adversaries due to the Saudi hostility toward the Muslim Brotherhood and anyone associated with them, such as the Ahmars.

Militants kills 9 in southern Yemen, 15 die in northern clashes
Reuters — 13 August 2014
A bomb killed nine people in southern Yemen on Wednesday, a local official said, and tribal sources in the north said 15 more died in clashes between Shi’ite Muslim fighters and Sunnis loyal to an Islamist party. Yemen has been buffeted by violence mainly involving Sunni Muslim militants from al Qaeda in the south and Shi’ite tribesmen and rival Sunni Islamists in the north since mass protests in 2011 forced long-serving President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

Yemen Qaeda chief praises Iraq jihadists
AFP — 14 August 2014
An influential Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen has praised Islamic State jihadists for their “victories in Iraq” but without pledging allegiance to their self-proclaimed “caliph” or leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “I congratulate all the mujahedeen on different fronts and all Muslims for the victories won by our brothers in Iraq against the puppets (of Shiite Iran),” ideological leader Ibrahim al-Rubaish says in a video posted online.

Drone strike kills 3 ‘Qaeda’ militants in Yemen
AFP — 9 August 2014
A drone strike on a house killed three Al-Qaeda suspects in the restive Yemeni province of Marib on Saturday, a security official said. The United States is the only country operating drones over Yemen, but US officials rarely acknowledge the covert programme. The strike “targeted a house in Marib… killing three Al-Qaeda militants and wounding two women,” the official in the south-central province told AFP.

Tunnel Plot to Kill Yemen’s Former President Saleh Is Foiled
NBC News — 14 August 2014
An aide to Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh said Thursday his security team had uncovered a plot to kill the former president with explosives planted in a tunnel running to a mosque inside his residential compound. Yemen’s authorities said they were investigating. Saleh, who stepped down in 2012 amid mass protests against his rule after more than three decades in office, remains an influential figure in the country and has many enemies. He has survived at least two assassination attempts.

Yemen’s al Qaeda wing seeks to set up ’emirate’ in east
Reuters — 11 August 2014
Yemen’s al Qaeda wing has ordered men and women in the east to obey its strict interpretation of Islamic law, saying it aimed to set up an emirate in the remote area, local media and a resident said. The announcement by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will stoke concerns about the territorial ambitions of militant groups weeks after al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State declared its own caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen: Still there
Economist — 11 August 2014
Many Yemenis are baffled that, for the third time in as many years, Mr Marqashi is wreaking havoc. Some doubt the government’s strategy since years of fighting, drone strikes and killing or capturing operatives have failed to quash the extremists. Yet they are also furious at the slaughter of unarmed soldiers. The government will have popular support on its side if it launches a fresh campaign in Hadramawt, as it has signalled it may do. But it can ill afford to allow Mr Marqashi another escape.

Defense Ministry bans old identity cards
Yemen Times — 12 August 2014
The Defense Ministry on Sunday gave orders to ban the use of old identity cards from October 2014 onward, according to Jamal Al-Qeiz, head of the Security Department of the Defense Ministry. It thereby reinforces a cabinet decision made in April that requires all Yemeni citizens to obtain new identity cards by October. Contrary to conventional identity cards, for which only paper records are stored, new identity cards can be scanned and the information will be stored electronically.

Yemenis continue paying heavy price for widespread arms possession
Yemen Times — 12 August 2014
The entire population of Yemen suffers from weapons possession. Every day, a significant number of people are reported to be killed and injured by guns whether in direct fighting or by accident, with guns going off unintentionally. The Ministry of Interior reported on August 4 that two persons were killed and another one injured while they were “playing with guns” in separate incidents taking place in Sa’ada, Amran, and Hajja, on August 3 alone.

Removal of fuel subsidies results in price instability
Yemen Times — 7 August 2014
More than a week after the government lifted the fuel subsidies bus drivers in Sana’a and other governorates have still not committed to a fixed price for transportation fees. The Ministry of Transport announced on July 31, the day after the subsidy cuts were implemented, that transportation fees should be raised by a maximum of 20 percent. Some drivers abided by the new fees for transportation while others viewed it as unjust and demanded more.

Fall of Amran sends shock waves across Yemen
Al-Monitor — 21 July 2014
The military victory of the Houthis is attributed to their status as a religious group from Zaydi, fighting with militants from the same regions — unlike Islah, who are getting help from people from outside the region and from one rebel army brigade. On the other hand, Islah’s inadequate ruling from Sanaa led to the loss of the people’s support. This is how the Houthis took advantage of Islah’s enemies and mistakes. The regional situation also favors the Houthis, who are supported by Iran, rather than Islah, who are now unprotected after losing the support of Saudi Arabia. This was the result of the growing fear in Saudi Arabia of the Muslim Brotherhood and the stance the Yemeni Brotherhood took concerning the military coup in Egypt, as well as the fact that Riyadh has started to accept the change of power in Yemen in favor of the Houthis. However, this does not mean that it is completely out of the scene, as Hadi flew to Saudi Arabia when Amran failed, to ask for financial and political support.

Kidnapped Briton freed in Yemen after five months
The Guardian — 27 July 2014
A British man taken hostage by a tribal group in Yemen has been released after five months in captivity. The Foreign Office confirmed Mike Harvey, a teacher, is being looked after by staff at the British embassy in the capital, Sana’a, after his ordeal began on 12 February. He was seized on his way home from an educational institute, reportedly at gunpoint.

Yemen citizens reject al-Qaeda’s lifestyle directives
Al-Shorfa — 6 August 2014
Life has carried on as usual in Yemen’s Hadramaut province since al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) distributed a list of behavioural directives last month, officials told Al-Shorfa. On July 19th, AQAP began distributing leaflets warning women not to go to the markets without a mahram (male relative), demanding that they wear a headscarf, veil and gloves, and cautioning them against late-night shopping. The leaflets also banned women from engaging in sports such as football and from frequenting cafés, claiming these pastimes are prohibited by sharia, and forbade young men from entering women’s markets unless absolutely necessary.

United States:
US citizens in Yemen accuse American embassy of confiscating passports
The Guardian — 22 July 2014
Khaled is one of more than a dozen American citizens alleging they’ve have had their passports revoked for various reasons at the American embassy in Sana’a since 2012. The Guardian is identifying him by his first name only because he fears reprisals from the US government. The reasons behind the revocations are unclear. The State Department alleges that some of the passports were issued fraudulently, sometimes claiming the individual had another name or alias before coming to the US. Campaigners say that in some cases the name in question seems to have been made up at the embassy, and in others was the result of a discrepancy rooted in a Yemeni tribal name, which is often three or four words long and is sometimes altered in the American naturalization process.

US diplomats admit contact in Yemen with missing citizen Sharif Mobley
The Guardian — 25 July 2014
US diplomats in Yemen say they have been in contact with an American citizen whose lawyers consider him to have disappeared from jail in the country. The diplomats, however, will not reveal where he is. Cori Crider, an attorney for Sharif Mobley, who faces a murder case after authorities abandoned terrorism charges, expressed shock to the Guardian that US authorities would not tell her where her client is. Crider suspected that the US, which sent interrogators to interview Mobley shortly after he was detained, is complicit in his apparent disappearance. Early on Friday, the US embassy in Sanaa shifted from its months of silence on Sharif, who has been unavailable to his lawyers since 27 February. An embassy official, William Lesh, emailed Crider and said: “The Yemeni authorities recently did make it possible for us to meet with him. For security reasons we cannot disclose the location.”

Regional Politics:
Saudis see Houthi gains in Yemen as advance for Iran
Al-Monitor — 22 July 2014
The progress of the Islamic State and its allies in Iraq and approach to Baghdad, which represents an Iranian red line, has been mirrored in the southern Arabian Peninsula by the advancement of the Houthi forces to the point of their approaching the gates of Sanaa. With the Middle East a chessboard in a match between Tehran and Riyadh, some Saudis are drawing parallels between current events, theorizing that if Baghdad or part of it falls into the hands of Sunni groups, Sanaa might well fall to Shiite groups.

Yemen IDPs mull return to Amran after ceasefire
IRIN — 30 July 2014
Thousands of people displaced by recent heavy fighting between Houthi rebels and government forces in the city of Amran in northern Yemen are looking to return to their homes following a recent Houthi withdrawal, but they face significant challenges. The conflict began over three months ago after clashes between the Shiite Houthis and tribal armed groups. Yet in the past few weeks it intensified, with the Houthis claiming a series of towns including Amran amid fears that Sana’a itself could be targeted. The Yemeni military has fought back, with reports of aerial attacks on Amran increasing the threats to civilians. At least 200 people have been killed, while at least 35,000 have become internally displaced persons (IDPs), according to the UN. Many were facing displacement for a second time as those from other violent regions have sought refuge in Amran in recent years.

Yemen reforms corruption-ridden public payroll
Gulf News — 14 August 2014
Yemen’s government has begun applying a biometric registration system for all military personnel in order to clear the public payroll from double-dippers and so-called ‘ghost workers’. Experts say the step has been taken due to pressure from international donors and the public. The cash-strapped government believes that purging ghost employees from the payroll will save millions of dollars every year.

Fifth Power aims to strengthen role of youth in the transition
Yemen Times — 17 July 2014
Yemeni youth are widely credited with igniting the 2011 uprising in Yemen which eventually led to the ousting of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. However, many youth complain that their role has been diminished since established political parties, which opposed Saleh’s regime during the uprising, quieted down with the signing of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative, which drew parties further into the corridors of power.

Yemen alliance will monitor national dialogue outputs
Al-Shorfa — 11 August 2014
The alliance, launched August 6th, aims to enhance the community’s role in monitoring the implementation of NDC outcomes through the preparation of periodic reports. The reports will focus on four of the nine issues discussed at the conference: the southern issue, good governance, rights and freedoms, and sustainable development, said Studies and Economic Media Centre head Mustafa Nasr, whose organisation is a member of the alliance. Other alliance members include Al-Badeel Centre for Media and Research, of Aden province, and the Observers Organisation for Independent Media, of Hadramaut province.

Yemen’s fuel prices nearly double after government ends subsidies
AP via Christian Science Monitor — 30 July 2014
Fuel prices in Yemen nearly doubled Wednesday as the government ended a fuel subsidy program costing billions of dollars, sparking scattered demonstrations that saw one person killed as authorities quickly dispersed protesters, security officials said. According to new prices posted in the capital, Sanaa, the government raised the price of regular gasoline to 200 Yemeni riyals per liter (93 US cents) from 125 riyals (58 US cents). Diesel used for public transport and trucks rose to 195 riyals per liter (91 US cents) from 100 riyals (46 US cents).

The NGO-isation of Yemen
Middle East Eye — 23 July 2014
The “building democracy” effort in Yemen has revealed that development has become a commodity. Whose perspective do NGOs represent? The Yemeni people deserve better, yet their oppression has historically generated profits for the elite, through labor, and now as a laboratory for NGO led neo-liberal development. Within this context, how long could the proliferation of NGOs in Yemen last? And if NGOs were put under the radar, would they change? In order to work towards democratization, a different approach is needed with a different vision and a more sustainable power base. Yemen’s demands for social-political and economic justice will be addressed only when donors and NGOs do less, stepping back and allowing communities impacted by their struggles to dictate the agenda, priorities and concerns.

Yemen’s security void leaves resources untouched
Al-Monitor — 17 July 2014
The lack of political and security stability in Yemen hampers development work, Amat al-Alim Alsoswa, executive director of the Executive Bureau for the Acceleration of Aid Absorption and Implementation of the Mutual Accountability Framework (SEBAA), said in an interview with Al-Hayat. Alsoswa indicated that an action plan is being prepared for the second half of the year to support the implementation of 21 selected projects, mostly through allocations which have yet to be approved. She also stressed that SEBAA will provide support to speed up the approval, will help adopt a fast track and develop a unified guide of steps and procedures. The total allocation for these [21] projects is of $2.04 billion accounting for about 26% of total donor aid. These allocations are concentrated on the infrastructure sector, in addition to 10 projects in the fields of electricity and education, and the rest in the sectors of public works, water, transportation, health, agriculture and others.

Prices of basic commodities still stable, government says
Yemen Times — 14 August 2014
The Ministry of Industry and Trade said on Wednesday that prices of basic commodities, including wheat, bread, and sugar, are still stable and no increase was reported after the government removed fuel subsidies on July 30. “Prices of the basic commodities are stable and were not changed in any governorates,” said Bushra Al-Absi, manager of the Awareness and Communication Department at the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

IMF agrees $560 mln loan to Yemen, minister says
Reuters — 8 August 2014
Yemen reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a $560 million loan, the finance minister said on Friday, after the government cut fuel subsidies and ordered curbs on public spending. The second poorest Arab country has struggled to pay public sector salaries and finance food and energy imports, leading to power cuts and fuel shortages since 2011 as a fight against al Qaeda militants and other rebel groups consumes state funds.

Yemen resumes pumping oil through main export pipeline -govt source
Reuters — 8 August 2014
Yemen has resumed pumping crude through its main export pipeline after repair works were completed, government and oil sources said on Friday, more than a week after armed men blew it up, halting flows and disrupting an important source of revenue. Yemen’s oil and gas pipelines have repeatedly been sabotaged by insurgents or tribesmen since anti-government protests led to a power vacuum in 2011, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings.

Austerity, subsidies and Yemen’s economic woes
Yemen Times — 24 July 2014
President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi ordered the Cabinet on July 9 to start an austerity package to control the growing cash shortage Yemen has been experiencing since late last year. The Defense Ministry’s website says the package is part of broader financial and administrative reforms. Hiring will be frozen for all state institutions; procurement of cars for government officials will be halted; and international travel by government officials will be restricted.

Microfinance in Yemen thrives despite economic troubles
Yemen Times — 5 August 2014
Like other economic sectors, microfinance in Yemen has faced numerous challenges over the past years. The political and economic unrest that Yemen has experienced since the 2011 uprising has caused the microfinance sector to deteriorate. In addition, the worsening security situation puts microfinance projects in Yemen at risk. As the Yemen Times reported in 2012, many businesses in Abyan governorate financed through microcredits were lost in the course of spreading violence. In spite of those setbacks and risks, microfinance in Yemen has continuously progressed and thrived.

Yemen struggles towards fuel price reform as finances crumble
Reuters — 21 July 2014
A clampdown on state spending was an effort by Yemen’s government this month to win public support before its biggest economic reform in years: higher fuel prices. But an angry public may not be won over. In the capital Sanaa, where roads to petrol stations have been choked for months by queues of cars waiting for scarce fuel supplies, the frustration is palpable.

Yemeni authors discouraged by counterfeiting
Yemen Times — 12 August 2014
When a printing house in Yemen counterfeited Ahmed Al-Shuaibi’s first book in 2012, the professor of Islamic studies at Sana’a University decided not to publish any of the other books he had been writing. “I was shocked when I saw my book counterfeit. I had another book, which was about ready, but I refrained from publishing it. I feared it would be stolen,” said Al-Shuaibi. Though it came as a real shock, Al-Shuaibi said he was lucky that he knew the printing house that copied his book and began selling it illegally. He refused to disclose the name of the printing institution, however, stating he does not want the house to be libeled.

I Got Kicked Out of Yemen Like a Criminal
Foreign Policy — 31 July 2014
Critical reporting on the state of the country has apparently become unwelcome in post-Arab Spring Yemen. Such reporting is needed now more than ever: At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be a single accredited American journalist based in a country where the United States is waging a covert drone war against what President Barack Obama’s administration has dubbed the world’s most dangerous al Qaeda franchise. Of course, Yemen’s importance goes beyond al Qaeda: It is a strategically located country undergoing a fraught political transition and is struggling with a perilous humanitarian and economic crisis. In shutting its doors, Yemeni officials are making it far more difficult for outsiders to understand — and for that matter, help — their country.

Journalists under attack amid Houthi rebellion in Amran province
Reporters Without Borders — 14 August 2014
Reporters Without Borders is gravely concerned about the security situation in Yemen, in which journalists are easy prey for both sides in the armed rebellion under way in the country’s northwest. A national dialogue, concluded in January 2014, saw the drafting of the basic structure of a future federal state in Yemen. But since then, battles have broken out in greater number between Houthi rebels and the army in the north. The conflict has cost hundreds of lives and seen thousands of people displaced. In July 2014, following fighting to control Amran province, a number of information freedom violations, including attacks, kidnappings, surveillance, and threats, have been committed by Houthi rebels, according to the Yemeni journalists’ union and the Freedom Foundation.


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