News Update 12 December 2014

A Poor People’s Revolution
MERIP — Winter 2014
Though the entirety of southern society supports the cause, it is the poor who confront the troops sent by Sanaa. The revolutionaries who brave the bullets are primarily young boys with no shoes. In many squares, meanwhile, it is poor women of all ages who play the most vocal part with their demands for a normal, decent life. It is the poor who organize the demonstrations and attend the lectures in the squares. These places of street-level organizing can be found in almost every district of Aden. The uneducated learn about the city’s history, and the young learn about life before unification, when there were no water and power cuts and every graduate got a job. Occasionally, a preacher is invited, and numerous men of religion have joined the movement, but overall the movement is clear that southerners will not be subordinated with appeals to faith. One of the key demands of the hirak is an apology for the fatwas that reactionary northern clerics have issued against “unbelievers” in the south.

The Breakdown of the GCC Initiative
MERIP — Winter 2014
The Houthi militia’s advance from their base near the Saudi Arabian frontier through Zaydi strongholds in ‘Amran (seat of the Hashid confederation) into Sanaa — and onward into Shafi‘i-majority provinces like Hudayda (on the Red Sea coast) and Ibb (in the mountainous midlands) — must be read as positioning, an intent to renegotiate Yemen’s political regime. As such, a regime is understood by political scientists as a system of rules and norms by which power is distributed across and through state institutions. Yemen’s political regime is in the process of being rewritten. By engaging in armed conflict and political maneuvering around the composition of the new government and revolutionary populist appeals, the Houthis have hoped to influence Yemen’s future regime on several fronts. On another level, Yemen’s convulsions can never be comprehended as separate from the power structures of the Arabian Peninsula, dominated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the other filthy rich petro-kingdoms of the GCC, which in turn are protected by the US military.

Saudi suspends aid to Yemen after Houthi takeover – sources
Reuters — 4 December 2014
Saudi Arabia has suspended most of its financial aid to Yemen, Yemeni and Western sources said, in a clear indication of its dissatisfaction with the growing political power of Shi’ite Houthi fighters friendly with Riyadh’s regional rival, Iran. Yemen, which is battling an al Qaeda insurgency, a southern secessionist movement, endemic corruption and poor governance, has often relied on its richer northern neighbor to help finance everything from government salaries to welfare payments. The Saudis also fear the movement’s strong emphasis on Zaydi Shi’ite rights will aggravate sectarian tensions that al Qaeda could exploit to carve out more space in Sunni areas and launch attacks against the kingdom. “The Saudis have conditioned any aid on the implementation of the (deal). The Houthis have to leave before they pay,” a senior Yemeni government official told Reuters.

Chanting for Southern Independence
MERIP — Winter 2014
Moreover, the denunciations of “colonial power” reflect southerners’ rejection of the shape of the political transition in Yemen that began at the close of 2011. Facing popular uprisings and armed rebellions, former long-term president ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih was compelled to resign from office as a result of an initiative by the Gulf Cooperation Council, made up of Saudi Arabia and the other monarchies in the Arabian Peninsula. One key outcome of the National Dialogue Conference that followed Salih’s resignation was the decision to reorganize Yemen into six federal regions, two of which are to divide the south. The hiraki leadership refused to participate in the conference because the Sanaa elites and their international partners did not recognize the right to self-determination for the south.

South Yemen and the question of secession
Al-Jazeera — 3 December 2014
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing southern secession at this point is the lack of a unifying movement or strong, central leader, as is the case with the Houthis. Al-Hirak is really made up of three camps, each with its own agenda: those calling for total and immediate independence from Sanaa; those favouring a federalist system that gives each region of the country greater autonomy; and those who want to give Hadi’s new technocratic government, which includes representation from al-Hirak, more time to resolve lingering issues. Right now, there’s no telling which has the louder voice. And don’t forget, the government in Sanaa has a say in all of this, too. While far from certain at this point to succeed, Hadi’s new technocratic government is designed to play his rivals against each other in order to accomplish two things: prevent any single power centre from emerging as a dominant military or political force, while at the same time ensuring they maintain a stake in preserving some degree of central authority.

Strike in Hadramout meant to expand secessionist pressure
Yemen Times — 4 December 2014
The Liberation and Independence Coordinating Committee (LICC) announced on Wednesday a strike and march for government employees and civilians to take place Thursday in Hadramout governorate. The LICC in Hadramout was created in September as a way to expand the Southern Movement’s cause in governorates that were a part of the formerly independent South Yemen.

Islah agrees to reconciliation deal with Houthis
Yemen Times — 2 December 2014
Representatives of the Islah Party met with Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi in Sa’ada city on Thursday, according to a news update released on Friday by Al-Sahwa Net, a news website affiliated with the Islah Party. The names of the Islah Party delegates who attended the meeting were not mentioned. According to the news release, the two sides agreed to put an end to all forms of fighting and tension between them. The news release read: “The Islah Party delegation met Abdulmalik Al-Houthi on Thursday. The two sides agreed to put their differences aside and turn over a new leaf, rooted in trust and cooperation, and the implementation of the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), and the Peace and National Partnership Agreement.”

GPC refuses to participate in the Southern Committee
Al-Monitor — 2 December 2014
Yemen’s former ruling party, the General People’s Congress (GPC) announced on Sunday they will not participate in a recently-created presidential committee to address grievances outlined by southerners during the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). The announcement, made via a GPC-aligned publication, came the same day that southern secessionists, loosely organized under an umbrella organization known as the Southern Movement, had given as the deadline for government employees to leave the formerly autonomous southern governorates and for state-run oil companies located in the county’s south to stop production.

In Yemen, al Qaeda’s Greatest Enemy Is Not America’s Friend
Al-Monitor — 5 December 2014
The recent campaign against AQAP would seemingly elicit some good cheer in Washington. The US has spent the past decade and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to root out Islamist extremists in Yemen. And the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda is currently threatening to kill an American citizen it kidnapped in 2013. But the Houthis are actually a massive headache for the security establishment in Washington, so much so that in November the US government pushed for the UN to sanction two of the group’s leading military commanders.

Power struggle rages in Yemen
Al-Monitor — 5 December 2014
If the two sides continue to engage in political disputes, whether legitimate or not, the negative consequences will be immediate but limited. These disputes will disrupt the daily work of the government as well as civil, military and security state institutions, and impede the completion of development projects. If the former president or another party from the old regime tries to oust Hadi from power through a broad military operation or assassination, this will result in long-term negative effects, starting with entrusting the office of president of the republic to the speaker of parliament, in accordance with the constitution.

Thousands rally for South Yemen independence
Al-Arabiya — 1 December 2014
Thousands of people demonstrated on Monday in South Yemen’s main city of Aden demanding independence at a time when Shiite Houthi rebels are expanding their control over the country. The demonstrators marched towards the governorate building, prompting police intervention and clashes that wounded at least five, Agence France-Presse reported.

Houthis and Al-Hirak leader seek two-region federal Yemen: sources
Asharq Al-Awsat — 9 December 2014
Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi movement, in alliance with former South Yemen president Ali Salim Al-Beidh, are seeking to create a two-region federal state, sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat. The Yemeni sources, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity on Monday, said that the Houthi-Beidh alliance has become increasingly apparent in recent weeks, as the Shi’ite militia’s advance across central Yemen has coincided with ongoing protests in the southern port of Aden calling for secession. Beidh, a senior member of Southern Yemen’s separatist Al-Hirak movement based in Beirut, is reported to have close ties to Iran, while the Shi’ite Houthi militia has also been accused of receiving arms and assistance from Tehran, something the movement has denied.

Yemen Exposes Difficulties in U.S. Strategy to Combat Extremist Militants
Wall Street Journal — 3 December 2014
The steady weakening of Yemen’s pro-U.S. government over the past two months has exposed some of the same difficulties Washington faces in its efforts to battle extremist group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The Yemeni government, which had been a bulwark in the fight against the country’s potent al Qaeda offshoot, collapsed in September after Shiite-linked rebels known as Houthis attacked the capital San’a. Since then, Houthi rebels have taken control of towns and cities throughout Yemen and gained political power while the rival al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, mounted some of its deadliest attacks in an effort to thwart the Houthi advance.

Drone strikes kill nine in Yemen
AP via Guardian — 6 December 2014
A suspected US drone strike in Yemen killed nine alleged al-Qaida militants early on Saturday, a security official said, as authorities continue their search for an American photojournalist held by the extremists. The drone struck at dawn in Yemen’s southern Shabwa province, hitting a suspected militant hideout, the official said. The official did not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to brief journalists. At least six suspected militants were killed in an air strike in the same province in November. Tribal leaders on Saturday said they saw helicopters flying over an area called Wadi Abdan in Shabwa province.

Conflicting Accounts Rise in Failed Hostage Rescue in Yemen
New York Times — 10 December 2014
The rescue operation early Saturday in Yemen’s southern Shabwah Province ended in tragedy. The hostages, Luke Somers, an American photojournalist, and Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher, were shot by their captors, according to United States officials, who said that the commandos also killed six people, all of them militants. But residents of the village, as well as a local security official, said that only two militants — Sheikh and one other — had been killed. The rest of the victims, eight in total, were civilians, including Abdullah al-Daghari, a 70-year-old man. Mr. Harad said he lost five sons, including Sheikh. The conflicting accounts were impossible to reconcile. Yemeni military officials provided their own version of the outcome, claiming that 10 militants had been killed, though they mistakenly said one of them was Mr. Harad.

Luke Somers Raid in Yemen: How It Went Wrong
Wall Street Journal — 8 December 2014
The failed raid is a visceral and tragic reminder of the limits of Special Operations forces as a tool against terror groups. While the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden was a spectacular success, others have been less so, including a failed attempt earlier this year to spring U.S. hostages held by the militant group Islamic State, as well as a previous effort to free Mr. Somers.

U.S. discloses failed attempt to rescue American in Yemen
Reuters — 4 December 2014
The United States on Thursday for the first time publicly disclosed a failed attempt last month to rescue a U.S. citizen held hostage by al Qaeda’s Yemen branch, and the group threatened to kill him in a new video posted on the Internet. U.S. officials said President Barack Obama last month authorized a secret raid to rescue Luke Somers, a 33-year-old journalist who was kidnapped in Yemen’s capital Sanaa in September 2013. Somers was not at the targeted location, although other hostages were freed, the officials said.

South African killed in Yemen hostage rescue plan
AP via Washington Post — 6 December 2014
South African Pierre Korkie was just a day from freedom, after being held captive for 18 months by al-Qaida in Yemen, when he was killed in a U.S. rescue attempt Saturday, according to the non-governmental group Gift of the Givers. Korkie, one of two hostages killed in the military effort, had been working as a teacher in Yemen before he was kidnapped. Negotiators said they had reached agreement for him to be released Sunday.

Suicide attacks on military base kill 7 in Yemen
CNN — 9 December 2014
At least seven Yemeni soldiers were killed and nine others wounded after suicide car bomb attacks on a military base in the city of Seyoun in southern Yemen on Tuesday. Two car bombs detonated at the military headquarters in Hadramout province in the northeast of the country, Yemeni intelligence officials told CNN.

Al Qaeda In Yemen Fire Rockets At US Forces In Retaliation To Luke Somers’ Rescue Mission
International Business Times — 11 December 2014
Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate fired rockets at the U.S. section of the country’s largest military air base on Thursday in retaliation for the recent rescue mission to free American hostage Luke Somers, media reports said. The news comes after the group blamed the U.S. for the deaths of Somers and a South African hostage, who were killed in the failed rescue attempt. Ansar al-Shariah, an al Qaeda affiliate, reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack and said that it had fired six rockets at the Al Anad air base, located in the province of Lahj in southern Yemen that is mostly occupied by forces from the U.S. and Europe.

Timing of U.S. Raid in Yemen Debated
Wall Street Journal — 4 December 2014
The U.S. learned about the possible location of an American hostage now being threatened with death by militants in Yemen a week before the Pentagon launched a mission aimed at rescuing him last month, U.S. officials said. But some U.S. officials said they now believe delays in the planning and approval of the operation contributed to its failure to free journalist Luke Somers. Others said there was incomplete intelligence and that the Pentagon and White House moved quickly to approve the operation once it was presented.

Iranian ambassador’s house targeted in Yemen
Al-Jazeera — 3 December 2014
A suicide attacker driving a car laden with explosives attacked the Iranian ambassador’s residence in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, killing three people, Yemeni security officials say. Hossein Niknam, the Iranian diplomat, was not harmed in Wednesday’s attack, which occurred in Sanaa’s diplomatic district of Hada and heavily damaged several buildings in the area, the officials said. Yemen’s Interior Ministry said the victims included one of the embassy guards and two transpassers, a woman and a child, adding that that four others were injured, one of them critically.

The Long Shadow of the CIA at Guantanamo
MERIP — Winter 2014
Al-Nashiri’s experiences offer a case study of how the US government has chosen to wage the “war on terror” and the consequences of those choices. The Saudi Arabian represents a hard case, however, because he is a secret. For the four years he spent in the custody of the CIA, he was a ghost. Today, he remains obscured by the long shadow the CIA casts over military detention and commission operations at Guantánamo Bay. He is housed in a secret facility with other former CIA detainees, and has never been allowed to communicate by phone or Skype with members of his family, let alone anyone else (although the government recently indicated that brief, monitored and time-delayed family calls may be a possibility in the future). The American lawyers who represent him are obligated to guard their words when speaking about the years he was “disappeared” or the cause of his diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.

Al-Qaida Claims Attack on US-Yemen Airbase
Voice of America — 11 December 2014
An al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen says it carried out a rocket attack Thursday on an airbase used by the United States. Yemeni officials confirmed the strike on the Al-Anad facility in the southern province of Lahij. A spokesman for the Yemeni embassy in Washington reported there were no fatalities. The Pentagon said no U.S. military personnel were injured.

Top commander of al Qaeda in Yemen: Beheadings are “barbaric”
CBS/AP — 8 December 2014
A senior military commander of al Qaeda in Yemen denounced on Monday beheadings carried out by the rival Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), calling the act and its filming for propaganda purposes barbarous and asserting that U.S. drone strikes are expanding al Qaeda’s popularity in the country. The comments, by Nasr bin Ali al-Ansi, came in a video response to questions by reporters posted on one of the group’s Twitter accounts. Both groups regularly execute prisoners but beheadings and other brutal acts have become a trademark of ISIS. Al-Ansi said that previous beheadings by al Qaeda in Yemen were “individual acts” and were not endorsed by the leadership. He appeared to be referring to the beheading of 15 Yemeni soldiers by suspected al Qaeda militants in August.

An American Hostage in an Unraveling Yemen
Atlantic — 4 December 2014
Nevertheless, the Houthis are the enemies of al-Qaeda in Yemen, so as with Iran’s opposition to the Islamic State, the United States will accommodate what it perceives to be the lesser of two evils. With hardly any journalists left in the country, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s happening in Yemen. But the country is looking less and less like a success story—that is, assuming it ever did.

Roadside bombs targeting Houthis explode in Yemen’s capital, several wounded
Reuters — 8 December 2014
Five roadside bombs targeting Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters exploded in the Yemeni capital Sanaa early on Monday, wounding several people, the ministry of defense website said. The Houthis’ Ansarullah movement, which has links to Shi’ite Iran, has become the main political force in Yemen since it captured Sanaa in September and then pushed into the country’s Sunni Muslim heartland south and west of the capital.

‘Death to America’: Would you like some chicken with that?
Yemen Times — 4 December 2014
“On Sept. 21, we asked the administration of the restaurant to give us financial reports about the work in the restaurant, but they refused to give us this report,” Houthi member Abdullah Mohammad told the Yemen Times. “Then we decided to take over of the restaurant.” Mohammad is one of the Houthi members who now make up the administrative staff at the KFC located near Kentucky Roundabout. He studied accounting at Sana’a University but hasn’t worked in the field since his graduation in 2011. On Nov. 12, Houthis took control of the restaurant and closed it. The next day, it reopened with business as usual—or so it seemed. Although waiters, cooks, cleaners, and cashiers came to work like any other work day, the administration was run by the Houthis and a few armed Houthis were positioned inside. Fahmi Tawfeeq, a waiter at KFC, said the workers in the restaurant have not noticed any difference between the former and current administration, and that the Houthis are treating the employees with respect.

Yemen High Economic Committee to instigate reform
Al-Shorfa — 11 December 2014
Yemen in late November formed a high committee of economists to look into the country’s economic and financial situation and offer solutions for implementing fiscal and administrative reforms to protect the rights of Yemenis and their livelihoods, and ease the burden on impoverished citizens. The High Economic Committee, formed by Prime Minister Khaled Bahah on November 29th, has the authority to make decisions that are binding on the government. It comprises specialised experts and economists from the different ministries and political factions with expertise in legislation and financial and economic management.

Exclusive: Yemen central bank sees no early repayment of Saudi $1 billion loan
Reuters — 5 December 2014
Saudi Arabia has not asked Yemen for an early repayment of a $1 billion loan and Houthi fighters occupying Yemen’s central bank are not interfering in its operations, Yemeni central bank governor Mohammed Bin Humam told Reuters. Riyadh has suspended most of its financial aid to the impoverished nation, sources told Reuters this week, indicating its unease with the growing political power of Shi’ite Houthi fighters friendly with Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite regional rival, Iran.

Yemen Oct foreign reserves lowest since June, oil exports fall
Reuters — 7 December 2014
Yemen’s gross foreign currency reserves slipped to $4.9 billion in October, the lowest level since June, as oil exports fell, exposing the country’s fragile public finances, central bank data showed on Sunday. A plunge in oil prices and frequent attacks on oil pipelines by tribesmen have hurt the state budget. The impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation has also come under pressure after Saudi Arabia suspended most of its donor aid.

How fuel prices led to the government’s fall Budget deficit spells grim economic forecast
Yemen Times — 2 December 2014
The decision by the Yemeni government to lift fuel subsidies on July 30 granted the Houthis the populist mandate they needed to ride into town and seize power this summer. After a month of setting up camp in and around the capital, the Shia rebel group based out of Sa’ada took over Sana’a on Sept. 21, prompting the government to sign a Peace and National Partnership Agreement with the movement. The effects of the revolt have since led to significant changes in Yemen’s political landscape. Giving in to Houthi demands, the government partially reversed its fuel subsidy cuts on Sept. 21, with prices thereafter decreasing from YR4,000 ($18.6) to YR3,000 ($13.9) per 20 liters of gas. Increases in transportation fares (YR10, about $.04) also put in place on July 30, were similarly removed. However this will be readjusted if fuel prices are again changed.

Gas shortage: Residents in Socotra are logging trees for wood
Yemen Times — 4 December 2014
Ranked as the world’s fourth most exotic island and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008, the island of Socotra has for many years been known as the jewel of Yemen’s tourism industry. Located south east of the Yemeni mainland in the Indian Ocean, Socotra is known for its beautiful beaches and clear climate. Recently, the island’s pristine nature and rare plant life has come under threat from a domestic fuel crisis that has left locals without gas or electricity, forcing many to begin cutting down the rare trees to collect firewood to warm their homes as winter on the island intensifies.

Construction workers (Part two of a two-part series): Facing contractors, greed, and a lack of rights
Yemen Times — 2 December 2014
In Yemen’s construction sector, many contractors are employing unregistered workers. The reason is simple: while a registered worker typically receives a daily salary of up to YR5,000 ($23), those without contracts are paid significantly less at around YR3,000 ($13) per day. If an employee is not registered they have no way to prove their legal rights, leaving them vulnerable to work-related injuries without compensation and the self-regulation of their employers. In Bait Baws, a neighborhood in southern Sana’a, unregistered construction workers are not hard to find. They sit scattered on the street, awaiting potential employers to approach them with a temporary job opportunity.

No license, no problem
Yemen Times — 9 December 2014
Although it is both unsafe and against the law, illegal and unlicensed gas stations have been cropping up in residential neighborhoods throughout the capital city of Sana’a since 2011. Such gas stations pose a threat to the health, well being and safety of residents. Despite that, few actions have been taken by the government to combat their spread. According to Mustafa Hussein Otaif, director of the Capital Secretariat’s Gas Management Office, there are roughly 350 stations throughout the city, and their number is increasing.

Stealing water in times of crisis
Yemen Times — 11 December 2014
Hamed Najib’s apartment, located in the Adhban neighborhood in Sana’a, has not received water from the government’s public utilities network for more than five months. Although Yemen is known to suffer from water scarcity, according to Najib this is an unusually long period of time. The cause of the shortage, he says, is not just government inadequacy, but also citizens themselves, and in particular one of his neighbors. “When I told my neighbor, Ala Abdu, about my problem, he couldn’t believe it,” says Najib. “He said he’d been receiving water for the last four months!” Abdu’s admission revealed more than there just being an inequitable distribution of water throughout the neighborhood. It turned out that the reason for Najib being shortchanged had just as much to do with his neighbor as it did with government incompetency.

Shipwreck Kills Over a Dozen Ethiopian Migrants Trying to Reach Yemen
New York Times — 8 December 2014
At least 21 migrants from Ethiopia drowned while trying to reach the coast of Yemen, according to the United Nations refugee agency, which has recorded a sharp increase this year in the number of people who have died while attempting the crossing, mainly from the Horn of Africa. The Interior Ministry of Yemen said that the ship carrying the migrants sank on Saturday in rough seas off the southern coastal city of Al Mukha. In a statement, the ministry put the death toll at 70. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear. The United Nations said that it had based its toll on local reports from the Yemeni Red Crescent as well as a military brigade operating in the area.

Increased number of immigrants leaving Yemen since August
Yemen Times — 11 December 2014
According to statistics published by the Ministry of Expatriate Affairs in December 2013, nearly seven million Yemenis, or one third of the entire Yemeni population, are living abroad and spread out amongst 60 different countries. Mostafa Nassr, chairman of the Studies and Economic Media Center, claims that immigration is now more common than before due to increased levels of unemployment, poverty, corruption and lack of security, all of which have been compounded since the latest round of protests and subsequent violence took place in August.

Explosions and Ill Omens
MERIP — Winter 2014
Thus, even in its most bracing and memorable moments, the festival presented a grave, sobering assessment of the state of Yemeni society, and precious little hope for its future. Some of this pessimism no doubt stemmed from the shambolic administration of the festival. Disenchantment with the transitional government and the National Dialogue may have also contributed to the atmosphere of sardonic depression. Yet in hindsight, and in the wake of the Houthi takeover of Sanaa in September and the suicide bombing in the capital in October, the performances also seem strangely prescient, as though, rather than portrayals of the current state of Yemeni society, they were in fact portents of its impending disintegration.

The Yemeni UFW Martyr
MERIP — Winter 2014
In total, according to 2011 data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are some 35,000 persons of Yemeni birth or ancestry in the United States. The migration began in the 1920s. Yemenis worked in the automotive, steel and related industries, placing them in significant numbers in Detroit and environs, especially Dearborn, as well as in Buffalo. In the 1950s their presence in farm work in the San Joaquin Valley increased. Many live in Delano, and also Oakland and San Francisco. There are also many Yemeni small business owners in New York. A smaller community lives in Chicago. Some work in steel-related industries; some own liquor stores. Initially, it was primarily men who migrated and today, a majority are men, with families living in Yemen. Men tend to come and go for 3-6 months at a time.


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