Protests Continue in Yemen
From Mohammed Jamjoom
Sana'a- February 25, 2011- Thousands of demonstrators, mostly students, were lining the streets outside Sanaa University Friday, as anti-government protests continued.
Government loyalists had also said they planned counter-demonstrations in the Yemeni capital after Friday prayers.
The government supporters plan to gather in Tahrir Square, where they have held rallies in the last few weeks.
"We are gathering in support of President Saleh's initiative and to show the international community that we are with Saleh and that the opposition does not control the streets," said Mohammed Maueri, the spokesman for the interior ministry.
Anti-government protesters said they were looking for the country's regime to end.
"This protest and all the following protests are for the fall of the regime," said Noman Saleem, an anti-government demonstrator. "We will not slow down until it falls. Whether it takes place today or tomorrow, we are patient and we will wait."
Hasam Zaid, the general secretary for the opposition Haq party, said the Sanaa University gathering is a "people's protest" that isn't being coordinated by any particular political party.
"We are joining the youth to be among them and not to lead them," he said.
Protesters have called for the ouster of Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978. The country has been wracked by a Shiite Muslim uprising, a U.S.-aided crackdown on al Qaeda operatives and a looming shortage of water. High unemployment has fueled much of the anger among a growing young population steeped in poverty.
The protesters also cite government corruption and a lack of political freedom.
Saleh has promised not to run for president in the next round of elections, and said he supports the creation of a national unity government to oversee upcoming parliamentary elections.
But he has refused to step aside immediately. On Monday, he compared the anti-government protests to an illness sweeping through the region.
"This is a virus and is not part of our heritage or the culture of the Yemeni people," he told reporters. "It's a virus that came from Tunisia to Egypt. And to some regions, the scent of the fever is like influenza. As soon as you sit with someone who is infected, you'll be infected."