News Update 16 January 2015

Thousands protest in Yemen against president, Shiite rebels
AP via Yahoo! News — 14 January 2015
Thousands of people have demonstrated in Yemen’s capital to demand both the ouster of Shiite Houthi rebels who control the city as well as the country’s beleaguered president. The demonstrations Saturday were the first of their kind demanding President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi step down since he took over the presidency after a popular revolt toppled his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in 2011. Many in the streets chanted slogans accusing Hadi of mismanaging the country to the point where state institutions collapsed and militants could take over. They have named their protest the “rejection” movement.

Iran’s shallow influence in Yemen
Al-Monitor — 12 January 2015
Iranians are very wrong to believe that the delicate situation in Yemen ended with the Houthis’ control of the capital. In Beirut, Iran has extensive influence held by Hezbollah, which is playing its political role as part of a specific and clear process divided among different parties. In Syria, the sectarian dimension of the regime has only just appeared. In the past, this dimension was marginal in a regime leaning more to nationalistic dictatorships, such as the Baath Party in Iraq. In Iraq itself, the situation is also different. A sectarian regime was established there and favored Shiites after the US invasion in 2003. However, in Yemen, things are completely different, since there is no state and the real power of the president and government is almost totally absent.

Defying the expected: Yemeni women in the formal economy
Yemen Times —1 January 2015
Recent decades have seen a large increase in the number of women entering the formal economy on a global scale, but countries in the Middle East and North Africa are lagging far behind. According to a 2013 World Bank report on gender inequality and development, over 50 percent of the female population aged 15 and above are participating in labor markets in every other region of the world, but the corresponding figure in the Middle East and North Africa is 25.2 percent. In Yemen, it is estimated that just five percent of women are involved in the country’s formal economy. It is easy to assume that tradition or social customs explain this lag, but there is often more involved. “Not surprisingly,” the World Bank report reads, “the lowest participation rates are in fragile or conflict-affected states such as Iraq, Palestinian Territories, and the Republic of Yemen.”

Southerners wary of Baha’s decentralization plan
Yemen Times — 8 January 2015
Protestors and Southern Movement members in Aden are skeptical of claims by Prime Minister Khalid Bahah that Aden city will become a financial and administrative center for the region. Bahah outlined the government’s vision while speaking with the state-run Saba News Agency on Monday. As part of the six-region federal system planned for Yemen, which was a key outcome of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), Aden is to provide a financial and administrative center for the future Aden federal region, comprising the current governorates of Lahj, Abyan and Al-Dhale.

Yemen’s de-facto rulers
Al-Jazeera — 13 January 2015
Ask a Yemeni who is running the country and you’ll likely get this answer: “President Hadi is confined to his palace since the Houthis took control. Abdelmalik al-Houthi [leader of the Ansarallah Houthi group] is the de facto ruler and he’s ruling from his northern stronghold of Sadaa.” These views are widely held and have eroded the credibility of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to say nothing about Yemen’s image. Now Hadi has appointed pro-Houthi Yemenis in key security positions. Many here think Hadi “has given Yemen to the Houthis on a silver platter”.

No Action in Southern Activist’s Killing
Human Rights Watch — 11 January 2015
Yemeni authorities should credibly and impartially investigate the apparent extrajudicial execution of a leading political activist in Aden on December 15, 2014, and bring those responsible to justice. Khaled al-Junaidi, 42, died from a gunshot to the back after witnesses saw members of Yemen’s Special Security Forces take him into custody in an armored vehicle. The authorities stated that a committee was appointed to investigate the killing, but no arrests have been made. Previous investigations into alleged criminal violence by Yemen’s security forces have often failed to disclose their findings or result in prosecutions.

Islah MP condemns meeting between Houthi and government representatives
Yemen Times — 8 January 2015
Islah Party MP Ali Al-Ansi, speaking with the Yemen Times on Tuesday, denounced a meeting held the previous day in Sa’ada city between Houthi leader Abd Al-Malik Al-Houthi and a delegation of presidential advisors. He said the delegates failed to reach a substantive agreement with Al-Houthi on the issues that were discussed, and that the delegation traveling to Sa’ada was a testament to the weakness of the presidency.

Tens of thousands join celebrations in Aden
Yemen Times — 14 January 2015
Tens of thousands of people took part in an organized march in Aden on Tuesday to mark the ninth anniversary of Reconciliation and Tolerance Day. Beginning at 5 p.m., participants marched from Al-Arood Square in Aden’s Khor Maksr neighborhood and headed towards Al-Muala neighborhood, where Aden city’s council headquarters are located.

Sana’a University says: Enough!
Yemen Times — 1 January 2015
Sana’a University students hoping that the withdrawal of armed Houthis from campus spelled the end of arms on campus have been sorely disappointed and have resumed protests—this time against state security forces. Students have been protesting the presence of armed men on campus since March 2009, when a dispute between a student and a guard left Saleh Hatim, the student, dead. The quarrel started when the guard would not let the student drive his vehicle into campus, and escalated. Students renewed their protests in 2011, when soldiers of the now-dissolved First Armored Division took control of the university during Yemen’s Arab Spring uprising and turned it into military barracks.

Civil disobedience campaign launched in Mukalla city
Yemen Times — 6 January 2015
The capital of Hadramout governorate saw a widespread civil disobedience campaign begin on Monday morning with much of the city’s public facilities and businesses closing down. According to Nasser Baqzaqzur, a Southern Movement leader based in the city, the campaign lasted from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Presidential committee in Ma’rib to resolve Houthi–tribal tensions
Asharq Al-Awsat — 14 January 2015
A Yemeni presidential committee began a visit to Ma’rib province on Tuesday to resolve the escalating tensions following Houthi threats to attack the country’s oil and gas hub, according to the province’s top official. Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, the province’s governor Sheikh Sultan Al-Arada said: “[The committee] is visiting within the framework of the Peace and Partnership Agreement, and under directions from the president of the Republic, for the implementation of the agreement and the outcomes of the comprehensive National Dialogue.” In a recent letter addressed to President Hadi, Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and the Yemeni parliament, Ansar Allah threatened to storm Ma’rib to purge it of AQAP militants. Ma’rib tribes responded by mobilizing large numbers of fighters on the outskirts of the province and near key power and oil installations, as well as other vital facilities.

Riyadh renews efforts to calm Yemen crisis: presidential adviser
Asharq Al-Awsat — 10 January 2015
Saudi Arabia has renewed regional efforts to implement the UN-sponsored Peace and Partnership Agreement aimed at restoring stability and security in Yemen, a Yemeni presidential adviser told Asharq Al-Awsat, as the powerful Houthi rebel group, already in control of the capital Sana’a, continued to advance towards the country’s oil-rich region of Ma’rib. Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, presidential adviser Faris Al-Saqqaf said: “Efforts are being made to rectify the situation and President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has dispatched his advisers to Saudi Arabia in order to bring all sides [in Yemen] back to the Peace and Partnership Agreement.”

Yemen’s former president holds down his fort
Al-Arabiya — 7 January 2015
A likelier possibility is that, under the current climate of instability and violence, only by retaining influence will Saleh be able to ensure protection for himself and those close to him and their privileges. He is a proud Yemeni and he lacks a real incentive to leave. Journalists who have visited him in his highly secured residence invariably report the constant presence of GPC officials and tribal leaders. While in power, Saleh installed many family members in relevant positions within the military and security apparatus. Many of them were removed during the latest military reforms aiming to make the army more professional and efficient and rid it of the many tribal, family and political influences.

Green or white? Mosques’ colors signal religious-political affiliation
Yemen Times — 8 January 2015
Traditionally, mosques in Sana’a and many other parts of Yemen and the Muslim world are painted white. Long considered a traditional part of Islamic heritage, in Yemen the color bore little to no political significance until recently. However now, many residents have come to associate white mosques with the Salafi movement and the Islah political party. Already before the Prophet’s birthday on Jan. 3, many mosques in Sana’a have been painted green. Among them is the Badr Mosque in the city’s Al-Safia neighborhood—a known center of Houthi activity in the city. It is there that Zayid Al-Muhatwari, a prominent and well-known Houthi preacher, has regularly held sermons and established a personal office after Sept. 21. Other mosques, not directly affiliated with the Houthi movement, such as the Qubat Al-Mutawakel mosque in Tahrir square, have been painted green more recently in the lead up to the celebration.

359 violations in 2014 against journalists and media outlets
Yemen Times — 12 January 2015
The number of violations against journalists and media outlets have increased in 2014, according to the Freedom Foundation for Media Freedom, Rights and Development in Yemen. The foundation released a report on Sunday, saying that 359 violations have been recorded against journalists and media outlets operating in the country, compared with 282 the previous year. Violations included killings, attempted killings, kidnappings, false imprisonment and threats, according to the report.

Assassinations targeting security and military personnel in 2014
Yemen Times — 8 January 2015
A recent study released by the Sana’a-based Abaad Studies and Research Centre noted that over 7,700 Yemenis were killed in armed clashes in 2014. According to the study these figures represent a threefold increase from the toll of 2011. While numerous military and security personnel were killed in fighting throughout the country, many were also victims of targeted assassinations. Most of these assassinations were carried out by anonymous gunmen, commonly described by security sources and government officials as terrorists or affiliates of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Thousands of armed tribesmen mobilize in Marib
Yemen Times — 12 January 2015
Marib governorate has witnessed a large influx of armed tribesmen entering the governorate since Saturday. Reinforcements from Al-Jawf, Al-Baida and Sa’ada governorates have begun joining local tribes to help defend the governorate against any possible assaults by the Houthis, otherwise known as Ansar Allah. “We’ve received reinforcements from Al-Baida, and Al-Jawf, and even tribesmen from the Al-Ketaf and Al-Baqa districts in Sa’ada governorate,” said Saleh Lanjaf, a sheikh from the Sahil tribe located in Marib governorate’s Sahil area. Lanjaf, who is stationed on the front lines along the governorate’s entrances, told the Yemen Times on Monday that upwards of 30,000 armed tribesmen were stationed in the area. “They help us defend Marib from the Houthis,” he said. Lanjaf claimed tribesmen in the area were in possession of six tanks, 450 various military vehicles, and a large stockpile of heavy weaponry.

Disputed Claims Over Qaeda Role in Paris Attacks
New York Times — 14 January 2015
The new information about the Kouachi brothers could help explain what Chérif Kouachi told a French television station before his death last week: that he had gone to Yemen in 2011, probably through Oman, and was financed by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who oversaw attacks against the West by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP. The American authorities now believe Chérif most likely had contact with Mr. Awlaki in Yemen, possibly in person. But it is still unclear what specific guidance the Qaeda branch gave to the Kouachis about carrying out an attack, though it is believed that the satirical magazine was one of the targets discussed, an American counterterrorism official said. The United States still has little concrete evidence about any travels by the brothers after 2011 or possible further contact with terrorist groups, officials said.

How did Yemen become the perfect home to al Qaeda training camps?
Reuters — 14 January 2015
According to Yemeni intelligence, both Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, the two brothers who carried out a devastating attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday, were trained in camps run by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This has once more drawn attention to the militant organization’s territorial base: Yemen. Both brothers are believed to have visited Yemen in 2011 and stayed for a few weeks. Yemeni officials say the brothers met Anwar al-Awlaki there, the radical U.S. preacher and suspected al Qaeda spokesperson, who was killed that year in a U.S. drone strike. Officials also confirmed that both Kouachi brothers received weapons training in an AQAP training camp in the desert of Marib, located in the south of Yemen.

Kalfout brothers arrested
Yemen Times — 6 January 2015
Fugitive brothers Hammad and Mohammad Kalfout were arrested in the capital Sana’a on Saturday. Security forces in Hadda neighborhood arrested Hammad and Mohammad Kalfout on Saturday night after the pair were stopped at a checkpoint. The brothers have been wanted since 2012 for sabotaging a number of oil pipelines and transmission towers in Marib government, in addition to stealing equipment used to build such facilities and holding them for ransom.

Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 37 at Yemen Police Academy
AP via New York Times — 7 January 2015
A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden minibus into a gathering of recruits outside a police academy in the heart of Yemen’s capital on Wednesday, killing at least 37 people in the latest high-profile attack to hit Sanaa. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Yemen’s local al-Qaida branch has carried out similar assaults in the past against the army and police in this impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, viewing them as U.S. proxies.

Yemen’s Al-Qaida Thrives on Sunni Backlash to Shiite Rebels
AP via ABC News — 5 January 2015
Al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen is surging in strength, finding new support and recruits among the country’s Sunni tribesmen, in a backlash to drone strikes and the rise to power of Shiite rebels who have taken over the capital and other parts of the country, tribal leaders and Yemeni officials warn. The militants’ rise comes after months of being squeezed by multiple challenges. Early last year, U.S. drone strikes followed by Yemeni ground troops helped Yemen destroy a key al-Qaida base in the remote mountains of the impoverished, unstable nation. The past year, al-Qaida has also faced fierce competition from the Middle East’s new militant powerhouse, the Islamic State group, which has sought to make inroads into Yemen.

Al-Qaeda gains ground in Yemen as country descends into civil war
Independent — 7 January 2015
The development is a serious blow to the long campaign by the US using drones against Aqap camps and militants which has been publicised as a success story by President Obama. Yemen has traditionally been more divided by tribal and regional allegiances than by sectarian differences between Shia and Sunni. But this is now changing with Iran giving support to the Houthis and the Sunni states of the Gulf helping their opponents. Different though Yemen is from Syria and Iraq, it is benefiting from many Sunni looking to it as a source of experienced and fanatical fighters to defend their community. The Yemeni government, always weak, has virtually collapsed, with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi exercising little authority since the Houthi captured Sanaa on 21 September.

U.S. Releases Five Yemeni Men From Guantanamo Bay
Wall Street Journal — 15 January 2015
The U.S. released five Yemeni prisoners from the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said late Wednesday. One man was transferred to Estonia and the other four were sent to Oman, which borders Yemen and Saudi Arabia. There are now 122 prisoners remaining at the prison facility, including 54 who have been approved for transfer. Of those, 47 are Yemenis.

Yemen not ‘exporter of terror’: president
AFP — 13 January 2015
Yemen’s president said Tuesday his country was a victim not an exporter of “terrorism” after it emerged one of the Paris gunmen received training from Al-Qaeda in the violence-torn country. Said Kouachi, one of the two brothers behind the attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, travelled to Yemen in 2011 and received weapons and training from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), security sources said.

Bomber in Yemen Kills at Least 23 at a Ceremony
New York Times — 31 December 2014
At least 23 people were killed in Yemen on Wednesday when a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a cultural center in the southern city of Ibb, where hundreds of people were commemorating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, according to a witness and officials. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack at the ceremony, which was organized by supporters of the Houthis, a former rebel group that took control of Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September.

Yemen general escapes deadly ‘Qaeda’ blast
AFP via Al-Arabiya — 28 December 2014
A Yemeni general escaped unscathed on Sunday in a bombing that killed his driver in the southern city of Aden, one of his bodyguards told AFP. “General Farej al-Atiqi, commander of the 31st armoured battalion, was unhurt when a device that had been hidden in his car exploded,” the man said. But the blast in the Khor Maksar district of the port city killed Atiqi’s driver and wounded two other bodyguards, he added, and blamed Al-Qaeda for the attack.

Gunmen rob two banks in east Yemen in coordinated raids
Reuters — 30 December 2014
Gunmen raided two banks in the port town of al-Shahr in Yemen’s eastern Hadramout province and stole about 52 million riyals ($240,000) on Tuesday, the defence ministry’s news website said. Security is poor in Hadramout, a province awash with arms where tribal structures prevail. Its inaccessible terrain of arid valleys and desert have long attracted al Qaeda militants and criminals alike.

Car bomb kills son of tribal sheikh in Marib
Yemen Times — 30 December 2014
Zaid Ali Bin Abood Al-Shareef, son of a prominent sheikh within the Al-Ashraf tribe, was killed on Monday in the Matab Adban area of Marib governorate after a car bomb was detonated. Two others were injured in the attack. A locally based journalist, Mohammed Al-Jadasi, said that Al-Shareef was his way to the City Campus marketplace in Marib along with two escorts at the time of the attack. Al-Jadasi says the intended target of the attack was Zaid’s father, also named Ali Bin Abood Al-Shareef, a tribal sheikh with connections to the Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah. It was his son Zaid, however, that was in the car at the time of the explosion and was killed in the attack.

Investigations into brutal acid attack coming to a conclusion
Yemen Times — 15 January 2015
Adnan Al-Madani was on his way to work on the morning of Sept. 7 when he was approached by two men riding a motorcycle. The men were there to kill him, although Al-Madani was not the likely target for a hit. For fear that the sound of firearms may alert security forces in the area, one of the men instead hoisted up a vat of acid, which he threw and poured over Al-Madani’s body.Al-Madani works as a mid-level manager in the Monitoring Department at the electricity generator sector of the state-run Public Electricity Corporation (PEC) in Sana’a city. His hospital expenses were paid for by the PEC, perhaps as a means of distancing themselves from controversy following the uproar that was sparked over Al-Madani’s case. In addition to his position within the PEC and its worker’s union, Al-Madani was also one of the founders of a national activist campaign known as, “#the people live in darkness, #government remains lit.” Established in June 2013, the initiative is dedicated to spreading awareness of government corruption and complicity in power outages throughout Yemen. According to the campaign’s own estimates, it collected a total of 10,000 signatures protesting government corruption, waste, and squander. More than just a campaigner, Al-Madani claims he had uncovered corruption within the PEC. “The brazenness of the crime speaks to the scope of the issues he was trying to address,” says Fuad Al-Khazan, Al-Madani’s lawyer.

SRDC study exposes unemployment issue in Yemen
Yemen Times — 30 December 2014
Unemployment rates in 2014 reached unprecedented levels. According to a report released this month by the Economic and Social Development Research Center (SRDC), a local non-governmental organization based in Sana’a, 38.4 percent of the workforce aged 15 to 64 are currently unemployed, a figure that increases to 46.2 percent for those between 30 to 64. Unlike many studies of its kind, the SRDC report looks at unemployment trends over a longer term. Its findings are based on figures from the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) in Yemen, including the 1994 census, the 2004 census and a 1999 workforce survey, which are compared with national estimates for population growth throughout the period covered.

Sana’a suffers crippling gas shortages
Yemen Times — 12 January 2015
Sana’a city continues to experience severe gas shortages since Jan. 5, with residents desperate to purchase fuel forced to wait in long queues at gas stations. Abd Al-Qadr Al-Adini, Media Spokesman for the Ministry of Petroleum and Minerals, confirmed to the Yemen Times on Sunday that Sana’a has been witnessing a fuel shortage, claiming that gas shipments from reserves in neighboring Marib governorate were not being delivered to the capital. Al-Adini would not comment on the reason for the shortage or why gas shipments had not been transported.

Government shuts down five bakeries in Aden
Yemen Times — 1 January 2015
The Industry and Trade Office in Aden shut down five bakeries in the governorate’s Sheikh Othman and Al-Muala districts on Tuesday for violating pricing regulations. “These bakeries were caught in violation of the weight standards. They make thin loaves and sell them to customers without adhering to regulations,” explained Abdulraoof Mohammed, a member of Sheikh Othman’s local council. “We’ve issued directives to all the bakeries, specifying the price and weight of all bread they sell,” he added. The Ministry of Industry and Trade placed a nation-wide price limit of YR240 ($1.10) per kilo of bread, in response to rising domestic fuel prices that began in August 2014. This was reduced to YR210 ($0.97) on Dec. 8, 2014 after a drop in international fuel prices. However due to the transport costs of flower, price limits vary regionally. Yet, none exceed YR210 per kilo.

Modern and traditional slavery still exist in Yemen
Yemen Times —6 January 2015
A 2012 report by the Wethaq Foundation, a non-governmental human rights group operating in Yemen, estimated there were at least 190 slaves in Hajja, and found evidence of 13 slaves being traded there in recent history. A new report being prepared by the foundation indicates that there are a total of 356 slaves in the Al-Zuhra district of Hodeida and in the Abs and Kuaidinah districts of Hajja. Najib Al-Saadi, the foudnation’s director, estimates there are between 2100 and 2500 slaves in similar circumstances throughout the country. There exist a wide range of forms that forced servitude can take, however, and definitions of slavery have evolved to include human rights violations not always associated with traditional slavery. According to the 1956 UN supplementary convention on slavery, the practice can include, “debt bondage, serfdom, forced marriage and the delivery of a child for the exploitation of that child…all [of which are] slavery-like practices and require criminalisation and abolishment.”

The future of Yemeni Rial
Yemen Times —15 January 2015
Mustafa Nasr is the chairman of the Studies and Economic Media Center (SEMC), a non-profit NGO that works with government and the private sector to monitor and study economic developments in Yemen. Despite the challenges facing Yemen, he remains optimistic regarding the future of the country’s currency. “Yemen spent $1.7 billion on oil imports in 2014, however we also exported $1.5 billion in crude oil and liquefied natural gas,” he claimed. “In the end, we nearly broke even, and lost only $200 million in reserves. This isn’t enough to have a significant effect on the price of our currency.”

New social welfare approved by SWF
Yemen Times —14 January 2015
The Social Welfare Fund (SWF) released a statement at the end of its annual meeting on Tuesday, announcing that 250,000 new welfare beneficiaries will be added the fund’s list. Mansour Al-Fayadhi, the SWF’s general manager, told the Yemen Times on Wednesday that the decision followed announcements made by President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi on July 31 last year.

When Yemen is the destination
Yemen Times — 1 January 2015
Two hundred and forty-six people have died making the journey to Yemen by boat this year—more than the previous four years combined, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The vast majority of new arrivals are from Somalia and Ethiopia, said Nick Stanton, a public information officer with UNHCR. Amongst the 91,592 who landed on Yemen’s coast this year are refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. This figure is higher than 2013’s but lower than 2012 and 2011, “when we recorded over 100,000 people in each of these years,” Stanton said. The majority of 2014’s new arrivals came towards the end of the year. Curiously, September saw the highest number of new arrivals since UNHCR began keeping records in 2002. UNHCR recorded 12,768 new arrivals during the month. It was also a month fraught with uncertainty.


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