News Update 14 November 2014

Highlights:
Houthi expansion puts Yemen on edge of civil war
Reuters — 13 November 2014
An advance into Yemen’s Sunni Muslim heartland by Shi’ite Houthi fighters has galvanised support for al Qaeda among some Sunnis, deepening the religious hue of the country’s many conflicts, with potential consequences well beyond its borders. Yemen’s tribal, regional and political divisions were widened by the rapid fall of the capital Sanaa to Houthi fighters on Sept. 21 after weeks of protests against the government and its decision to cut fuel subsidies. “The Houthi expansion has created a sectarian problem,” said Bassam al-Barq, a Sunni Muslim resident of the religiously mixed Sanaa, attending a protest by local activists held every week to demand the Houthis quit the capital.

Yemen’s Proposed Rehabilitation Center Isn’t Making Much Progress
VICE — 13 November 2014
Yemenis make up the majority of detainees cleared for transfer at Guantánamo. Despite their clearance, these 58 men remain imprisoned at least partly due to concerns over whether Yemen is able to safely reintegrate them into society. And although President Obama has made assurances that Yemen is the model for counterterrorism success during his administration, an initiative to build a rehabilitation center to house repatriated Guantánamo detainees from that country is showing little, if any, progress. In August 2013, President Obama and Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi issued a joint statement saying that both countries would begin a program to “to address the problem of violent extremism within Yemen, which could also facilitate the transfer of Yemeni detainees held at Guantánamo.” Then, in May, President Hadi issued a presidential decree stating that Yemen had established a committee to look into creating a rehabilitation facility to accept Yemeni Guantánamo detainees who had been sent back.

Economists agree: Yemen’s economy risks collapse
Yemen Times — 6 November 2014
Economic experts agree with the statement made earlier this week by Jamal Benomar, the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, who said that Yemen’s economy could collapse if the new government is not formed immediately. Benomar told the AFP news agency on Nov. 2 that many people who are concerned with the Yemeni economy worry “the government might not be able to pay employees by the end of this year.” According to Mustafa Nasr, an economic expert and the head of the Sana’a-based Studies and Economic Media Center, “the Yemeni economy might collapse during the few coming months, which will cause a complete halt in Yemen’s essential services such as health, education, electricity, and water.”

Politics:
Analyst: Brussels reconciliation deal “useless”
Yemen Times — 6 November 2014
A number of Yemen’s political factions and representatives from civil society organizations met in Brussels between Nov. 1 and Nov. 3 to sign the Brussels Declaration for National Reconciliation. The agreement is claimed to serve as a guide to help dictate Yemen’s transition that began Sept. 21, the day Sana’a fell under Houthi control. The conference was sponsored by the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), in conjunction with the National Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Yemen.

Turmoil in Yemen’s north drives independence calls in the south
National — 3 November 2014
In the scorching afternoon sun, Saleh Al Huribi and other protesters packed into Aden’s Al Arood Square to demand a separation from the North. “No chance, with the Houthis, I want to separate,” said the management student, holding the flag of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, as independent South Yemen was formerly known. “After the unification in 1990 it was good, but 1994 onwards, the education, working rights, and freedom in the south, it all went downhill,” he said, referring to the decline in the south’s power and influence after southern fighters lost the civil war in 1994 against armed forces in the north.

Nov. 30 deadline looms over northerners in the south
Yemen Times — 6 November 2014
Nov. 30 is a day constantly on the mind of many northerners, who have settled in the south of Yemen since the country’s unification in 1990. The Southern Movement, a popular secessionist group formed in 2007, stated in a press release on Oct. 14 that all government, military, and security personnel hailing from the north should leave the south by this date.

JMP supports new government
Yemen Times — 4 November 2014
Yemeni political parties, including the Joint Meeting Parties (JMPs), signed an agreement on Saturday delegating President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahah to form an effective national government. Earlier, on Oct. 25, the JMP expressed its opposition to existing plans of forming a new government. In addition to the JMP, the signatories included the General People’s Congress (GPC), the Southern Movement, and the Houthis, among others.

Southern Movement labor union to hold partial strike
Yemen Times — 6 November 2014
Supporters of the Southern Movement working in state-run companies in Aden governorate will hold a partial two-hour-long strike on Thursday, the General Union of Southern Labor Syndicates announced on Tuesday. The union’s secretary general, Arslan Al-Sakkaf, told the Yemen Times the union considers itself part of the southern people, and that they share the same cause. “We have declared our strike in support of the southern people, demanding independence,” said Al-Sakkaf.

Yemen swears in new government amid crisis
AP via Fox News — 9 November 2014
Yemen’s president swore in a new government Sunday despite objections from the ruling party, led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Shiite rebels allied to him who control the capital. At least three ministers boycotted the government after Saleh and the General People’s Congress called it unrepresentative Saturday. The comments, along with a similar objection from the powerful Shiite rebels, threaten to perpetuate the standoff that has gripped the impoverished country in the past weeks.

Rocky and thorny road ahead for Yemen’s new cabinet
Xinhua — 10 November 2014
Nabil Albukiri, head of the Arab center for political studies and development, said the UN support to salvage the political process mainly through putting further pressure on obstructors of the transition is a key guarantee for Yemen’s success. “Locally, only if the government keeps itself away from influence of parties, ” Albukiri said. Abdul Salam Muhammad, head of ABAAD studies and research center, said the success of the new government also depends on clear, strict actions against militias and groups that never contribute to tend political process properly. “My point is that sanctioning individuals but keeping militant groups seize the authority makes no sense,” Muhammad said. “Yemen will not go ahead if the international community never helps it restore the rule of law and put ambitious militant groups and outlaws in their lawful framework,” Muhammed elaborated.

Yemen’s Houthi group endorse new government-presidential aide
Al-Jazeera — 8 November 2014
The Shi’ite Muslim Houthi group has endorsed the new Yemeni government despite opposition to some ministers, a presidential aide said on Thursday, in a move that could allow Prime Minister Khaled Bahah to focus on restoring state control over the country. Yemen has been in turmoil since Houthi fighters captured the capital Sanaa in September and forced the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa to resign. The Houthi expansion south and west of the capital has led to clashes with Sunni tribesmen allied to al Qaeda, with scores of casualties on both sides.

The dangerous disintegration of Yemen
Daily Star — 8 November 2014
What happened in Yemen hadn’t happened in any of the other Arab countries that witnessed revolutions: a comprehensive national dialogue was held, in which all parties participated, including political parties involved in the southern Yemen insurgency, the Houthis and the party of the former president. The dialogue dragged on and branched out, but it resulted in an almost unanimous decision about the need for decentralization and the establishment of new provinces, as well as the federalist and democratic nature of the system, and the level of participation by all sides. However, after that, the dialogue faltered, and deadlines were not met. And we knew by asking the Yemenis we are in contact with that some of the GCC’s decrees weren’t implemented (the restructuring of the army and security forces, for example), and that some of the sides who participated in the dialogue later objected to some of its outcomes.

Yemen president sacked from party leadership
Al-Jazeera — 8 November 2014
Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has been dismissed from the leadership of his party after being accused of soliciting UN sanctions against his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh. The General People’s Congress on Saturday said it appointed two members to the posts of vice president and secretary general in place of Hadi, who became president after Saleh was forced to resign in February 2012 after a year of bloody protests.

U.S. imposes sanctions on Yemen ex-president, two rebel leaders
Reuters — 10 November 2014
The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and two senior Houthi rebel leaders for threatening the peace and stability of the country, following similar action by the U.N. Security Council last week.

U.S. denies telling Yemen ex-president to leave or face sanctions
Reuters — 8 November 2014
The United States on Thursday denied delivering any threats to Ali Abdullah Saleh over what Washington suspects is his role in destabilizing Yemen. An official source at Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party said on Wednesday that the U.S. ambassador to Yemen had delivered a message through a mediator for Saleh to leave the country by 5 o’clock on Friday or face international sanctions. “The GPC statements about threats to Saleh from the U.S. are untrue,” the State Department said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “There have been no meetings between the ambassador and GPC officials at which any such statements have been made.”

GPC retaliates for UN Sanctions targeting Saleh
Yemen Times — 11 November 2014
The General People’s Congress (GPC) standing committee, led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, removed President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi from his position as deputy chairman and general-secretary of the GPC in a meeting held on Saturday.     President Hadi’s office could not be reached for comment. Some have said that the decision came as a response to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions imposed on Saleh, as well as Houthi leaders Abd Al-Khaliq Al-Houthi and Abdullah Yahya Al-Hakim, last Friday. Lithuanian UN Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, chairwoman of the UNSC’s Yemen Sanctions Committee, stated on Friday that all 15 members of the committee agreed to blacklist Saleh, along with the two Houthi leaders. The three men are now subject to a global travel ban and asset freeze.

Change Square’s last remaining tents demolished
Yemen Times — 11 November 2014
Nearly four years after they first went up, the last tents of Change Square in the capital were demolished on Monday, with police officers and officials from the mayor’s office present at the site. The structures that were erected during the uprising were not limited to tents, but were often full-blown buildings made out of brick. The squares were set up shortly after people took to the streets to call for the stepping-down of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The majority of the tents disappeared following the signing of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative on Nov. 27, 2011, but a couple dozen remained until they were dismantled early Monday.

Why Yemen, a shaky US ally against Al Qaeda, is cracking apart
Christian Science Monitor — 13 November 2014
Nearly three years after Yemen ousted a decades-old dictatorship and began a political transition aimed at preventing civil war, the fragile nation is once again on the brink of disaster. Fighting between Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital, Sanaa, and Al-Qaeda-linked militants appears to be intensifying. In recent days, bombings and gun battles between the two groups and their allies have reportedly killed dozens in central Yemen. And the country’s political leadership is in tatters.

Seeking a new cabinet, Yemen’s prime minister turns to an unlikely place: Facebook
Washington Post — 6 November 2014
Democracy at its purest in a country roiled by unrest? A foolhardy appeal to populism? Smart jobs plan? Khaled Bahah, the newly appointed prime minister of Yemen, has asked his Facebook followers to assist him in selecting his new cabinet — as in, the one in charge of running the country. “Participate, as a citizen, in nominating names of a government of technocrats and be part of the event,” Bahah wrote in the post that went up Saturday. (The post is written in Arabic; the translation is from Gulf News.) Accompanying the text: a curious photo of an avatar deciding which way to go.

National Coalition Parties call for end to transitional period
Yemen Times — 13 November 2014
The National Coalition Parties, which includes the General People’s Congress (GPC), called on Tuesday for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held and the transitional period to end. “The National Coalition Parties believe that ending the transitional period is the ideal and fastest way to overcome all problems in the country. It allows people to voice their opinions by way of parliamentary and presidential elections,” read a statement released late Tuesday by the GPC mouthpiece, Al-Motamar Net.

Houthis continue storming Islah institutions
Yemen Times — 4 November 2014
Houthis stormed two buildings affiliated with the Islah Party in Sana’a on Sunday, following an attack on the party’s headquarters in Ibb governorate on Friday. On Sunday, Houthis stormed an Islah-owned dormitory near Al-Adel Street in the capital. Houthis allegedly captured three students, and interrogated them at an unknown location. Students were also warned not to participate in any anti-Houthi protests, according to Muhammad Al-Sabri, one of the buildings’ supervisors. After a couple of hours, Al-Sabri said, they were released again.

Houthis playing police in Sana’a
Yemen Times — 4 November 2014
Six years ago, Salab Misar, a Sana’ani tribal leader, tried to build a home near Sana’a’s Sixty Meter Street in the city’s Hadda neighborhood, near Misbahi roundabout. He was opposed by his neighbors, members of the Toaiman family, who claimed the land belonged to them. Both sides possessed government documents claiming the land was theirs, and the issue was taken to court, where it has remained unresolved until now. The issue came to a head last Saturday night, when gunshots erupted near the disputed territory and a thirty-minute firefight ensued between the two families. Fifteen minutes into the fighting, two police vehicles arrived in the area to put an end to the dispute. It wasn’t long, however, before the tribesmen, equipped with AK-47s and heavy machine guns, were able to overpower them and force them to leave the area.

Security:
Investigations underway on assassination of peace-deal mediator
Yemen Times — 4 November 2014
Al-Mutawakel is a prominent politician and played a large role in the country’s 2011 uprising that led former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. But Al-Mutawakel, known for reaching across political parties to encourage bipartisan cooperation, drew the ire of his own party and other opposition groups in 2012 when he visited Saleh at his home following the attempted assassination on the former president. In an interview with Adwa’a newspaper in 2012, Al-Mutawakel said “humanity must be a part of a man’s life, otherwise that man [is only an] animal. Opposing other people’s opinions does not mean opposing the people themselves.”

Gunmen kill Yemeni liberal party leader
Reuters via Gulf News — 3 November 2014
Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a leader of a liberal Yemeni political party that is close to the powerful Al Houthi rebel group on Sunday, the official state news agency Saba said. The killing took place one day after Yemen’s main political factions, including Al Houthis, signed an agreement mandating the president and prime minister to form a new government in an effort to defuse political tensions in the impoverished state.

Al Qaeda member killed in Yemen strike, official says
CNN — 11 November 2014
An al Qaeda leader in Yemen was among those killed in what a Yemeni official called a “counterterrorism strike,” the latest such strike at a time of intensified fighting in the Arab nation. The Yemeni official said Wednesday that those killed include Shawki al-Badani, whom the U.S. State Department named a “specially designated global terrorist” in June. So, too, was Nabil al-Dahab, a top member of the conservative Salafist group Ansar al Sharia. Initial reports out of Yemen sometimes prove untrue. That said, the United States similarly believes al-Badani was killed in a strike, according to two U.S. officials who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity.

New details emerge in killing of AQAP commander
Yemen Times — 13 November 2014
According to a security source in Aden governorate and a statement by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Turki Al-Asiri, the AQAP commander in Lahj governorate, was killed last week Friday in Aden and not on Thursday in Lahj as previously reported. The confusion is a result of a previous attempt on Al-Asiri’s life in Lahj on Thursday. Security forces in Lahj thought they had killed the commander. It was later revealed that he had escaped and traveled to Aden. Once in Aden, he was killed on Friday by Adeni security forces, according to AQAP and a security officer at the Security Operations Department in Lahj.

Popular committees step up presence in Aden
Yemen Times — 6 November 2014
Popular committees started to step up their security in Aden governorate on Wednesday, reportedly on orders received the day prior from the 4th Military Command. Mohammed Herbaj, commander of the popular committees in Salah Al-Deen area, located at the western entrance of Aden governorate, told the Yemen Times that members of popular committees throughout the governorate have started to increase their presence to maintain security. “We support the security forces,” he said, referring to their efforts to prevent an outbreak of chaos in the governorate.

At least 33 dead in Yemeni clashes, U.S. drone kills seven
Reuters — 12 November 2014
At least 33 people have been killed in central Yemen in fighting in the past two days between Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters trying to expand their control and Sunni tribes allied with al Qaeda, residents said on Wednesday. Residents said tribesmen and allied Ansar al-Sharia militants in the Qifa area, home to powerful Sunni tribes in al-Baydah province, had captured several hilltops, including al-Thaaleb (foxes) mountain overlooking an al Qaeda stronghold that had been seized by the Houthis.

AQAP continues escalation of attacks in Yemen, targets US ambassador
Long War Journal — 10 November 2014
Despite a Nov. 7 announcement that a new inclusive Yemeni cabinet was formed in an effort to defuse the ongoing political stalemate in the country, there has been no indication of a deescalation of terrorist activity by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Houthi rebels, Shiite Zaydi Muslims who hail from Yemen’s far north, swung down from their stronghold in Sa’ada province to take Amran in July and overrun the Yemeni capital in late September. Since then, AQAP has capitalized on the crisis by declaring an open war on the Shiite rebels and has escalated its terrorist attacks in conjunction with the rebels’ southward military advance.

Two killed at Sanaa airport as Houthis, Yemen security men clash – medics
Reuters — 11 November 2014
At least two people have been killed in a clash between Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters and security guards at Sanaa airport, medics and local officials said on Tuesday, three days after formation of a new government. Yemen, a U.S. ally situated between oil producer Saudi Arabia and a key shipping route on the Red Sea, is trying to end political unrest that began with protests against Ali Abdullah Saleh, president for 33 years until he stepped down in 2012.

Abducted UNICEF aid worker released in Yemen
Al-Jazeera — 8 November 2014
The children’s charity UNICEF has announced that its employee James Massaquoi, who was abducted in Yemen last year, has been released. A statement by the UN agency said that the engineer, who is from Sierra Leone, was safe and healthy.

U.S.:
US paid family of Yemen drone-strike victim $100K, rights group says
Al-Jazeera — 11 November 2014
A family member of two people killed by an American drone strike in Yemen received a bag of cash in July to compensate for his losses, a human rights organization told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. It remains unclear whether the compensation came from the U.S. government. However, the funds were given to the victims’ family member by Yemen’s National Security Bureau (NSB) — the Yemeni equivalent of the CIA — months after the relative traveled to Washington to press officials over his losses.

US military plans for possible evacuation of embassy in Yemen
CNN — 11 November 2014
The U.S. military is updating plans to potentially evacuate U.S. Embassy personnel from Yemen in the wake of rising violence and uncertainty about the security situation in that country, CNN has learned. Any military involvement in an evacuation would come only after the U.S. ambassador requests help, something which has not yet happened. However, this week, defense and State Department officials confirmed there have been a series of conversations between the Pentagon and State Department about how long U.S. diplomats can safely stay in Yemen.

Health:
H.I.V. Patients in Yemen Face Hospital Evictions
New York Times — 3 November 2014
Patients infected with H.I.V. are being ordered out of hospitals in Yemen, even when they are in dire need of care, a human rights group says. Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit advocacy group, described a woman in labor and in need of a cesarean section being turned away from a private hospital. And it said a woman suffering from seizures was ordered out of a large public hospital by a doctor shouting in front of everyone in the emergency room that she had H.I.V. In the second case, the group said, the patient’s husband was detained by hospital staff and threatened with prosecution on charges of concealing his wife’s infection. H.I.V. rates in Middle Eastern countries are relatively low; only about 6,000 Yemenis are thought to be infected, so few doctors are familiar with treating infected patients and many are afraid.

Economy:
Tribesmen blow up main Yemen oil export pipeline
Reuters — 6 November 2014
Yemeni tribesmen blew up the country’s main oil export pipeline on Thursday, forcing crude flows to stop, energy industry and tribal sources said, in the latest attack on a key source of foreign currency. Yemen’s oil and gas pipelines have repeatedly been sabotaged, often by tribesmen who have feuds with the central government, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the impoverished country.

Electricity outages continue
Yemen Times — 4 November 2014
Constant blackouts are continuing in Sana’a and several other governorates following multiple attacks on power lines in Marib governorate. The state-run Marib Gas Power Station supplies power to Sana’a, Taiz, Ibb, Al-Jawf, and Dhamar governorates. Since Thursday, these governorates have suffered from power outages that have been lasting about 21 hours per day. Most recently, the power lines in Al-Shabwan area of Marib were attacked on Sunday at about 5:30 PM, “only one hour after a team of engineers fixed it,” Marib-based journalist Mohammed Bohaibeh told the Yemen Times.

Unrest in Sana’a hurts local economy
Yemen Times — 6 November 2014
The typical Yemeni corner shop is small, packed with a broad and colorful variety of goods, and loved by all those in need of quick and easy access to snacks and basic necessities. It also constitutes the sole source of income for many Yemeni families. While shop owners in Sana’a were never rich, they have begun to suffer more over the past two months. Particularly in neighborhoods that have witnessed fighting between Houthis and local opponents, shop owners expressed concern over declining revenues.

Education:
Schools in shanties, education system in shambles
Yemen Times — 4 November 2014
The Public Education Act No. 45 of 1992 expands the role of the state, and states that the schools must be fully equipped to meet the educational requirements of all stages of a child’s education, and that schools should be equipped with libraries and other types of educational inputs. The deteriorating situation in Yemen in recent years has left the Ministry of Education unable to meet these requirements, Al-Gindary said. “There was a plan for the ministry four years ago stipulating that by the beginning of 2015, all public schools would be provided with buildings, but the subsequent crisis in Yemen has prevented it from being implemented,” he said.

Miscellaneous:
TEDx Sana’a 2014: Tales of success raise hope in troubled times
Yemen Times — 13 November 2014
Nearly 600 people attended the third annual TEDx Sana’a conference held last Monday, Nov. 3, at the Movenpick hotel located in the city’s Dar Hymyar district. TED, a non-profit organization founded in Monterey, California, in 1984, has been hosting annual conferences mainly in the United States since 1990, inviting prominent guests to speak on a variety of unique and thought provoking subjects. TEDx takes the TED brand global, hosting spin-off events in cities as far ranging as Beirut to Santiago, Chile.

Ali Mohsen’s house: A museum with Houthi tour guides
Yemen Times — 4 November 2014
Located in a posh, and heavily guarded area in Hadda neighborhood, and surrounded by Ali Mohsen’s six other homes, the building has been opened to the public. Once used by Mohsen to welcome guests, visitors are now greeted by a massive poster displaying the Houthi slogan, draped over the front wall of the house. General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, known best as Ali Mohsen, is the former commander of the 1st Armored Division, the military unit that fought against the Houthis during several rounds of war that lasted from 2004 to 2010. Ali Mohsen defected from the government of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh during the 2011 uprising, and served as an advisor to incumbent President Hadi until the Houthis’ captured Sana’a on Sept. 21. He is currently said to live in Saudi Arabia, where he sought refuge following the Houthis’ ascent to power. Yemenis, young and old, single, or with friends and family, walk throughout Mohsen’s house today as they would a museum, examining the portraits that hang on the walls and the items out on display.

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