BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
Mar 19, 2011
Some Yemeni-Americans plan to protest this weekend in Hamtramck against the Yemeni government’s crackdown on protesters, but others in the community support Yemen’s leaders. And tonight, a senior official from the office of the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen will be in Dearborn to meet with local Yemeni-Americans, say local leaders.
The rally is set for 2 p.m. Sunday on Joseph Campau in Hamtramck, which is home to a sizeable Yemeni-American community. It comes after a violent crackdown today by the government that resulted in the deaths of 46 protesters in Yemen.
“What happened today is a catastrophe,” said Dr. Khalid Almasmari of Hamtramck. “They were innocent people just voicing their opinions…Yemen is going through a hard, difficult time. We’re very concerned.”
Almasmari said he supports change in Yemen, but added that it must be brought about peacefully.
The office of the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen had contacted local Yemeni-American leaders last week about coming to Dearborn to talk tonight with them. This comes after the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen visited Dearborn in late January to meet with Yemeni-Americans at a townhall meeting, where local Yemenis expressed a variety of views.
Both Hamtramck and Dearborn have established Yemeni communities with mosques, stores, and businesses.
But the community is diverse and has different views regarding the recent protests in Yemen against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule.
Rasheed Alnozili, editor of the Dearborn-based Yemeni-American News, said that the Yemeni-American community is split in its opinion of the current Yemeni government.
Some “people are sick and tired of seeing the same person in power for so many years.”
Alnozili said he supports changes in Yemen’s government, but adds that “we need…a safe transition…it has to be a careful change.”
Ibrahim Aljahim, 29, Detroit, said he’s concerned about the influence of Al-Qaeda among some of the protesters.
“The problem right now is that Al-Qaeda has joined the opposition against the government,” he said. “It’s in their (Al-Qaeda’s) favor for the government to go down. If something happens to this President (of Yemen), the U.S. will not get an ally like him to work with them.”
The difference of opinions among local Yemeni-Americans is rooted partly in geography, with some from the southern part of Yemen opposing the current government. There are also religious and sectarian differences.
The U.S. Census does not say how many Yemeni-Americans live in Michigan, but they have been rooted in metro Detroit for decades. The south end of Dearborn, near the Ford Rouge plant, is more than 90% Yemeni-American. Many moved to Dearborn in the 20th century to work in auto factories and other manufacturing plants.
Source: DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER