TAIZ, Mar 16, 2011 – An unprecedented number of protesters broke out into the streets of Taiz last week in response to reports of violence being used against peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Sana'a.
Teachers in the city also went on strike when it was reported that the Yemeni Teachers Union will postpone the payment of bonuses until July. These bonuses were originally scheduled to be distributed in 2005. President Saleh promised that the bonuses would be paid in March, following concessions made this past January.
The teachers' strike resulted in the closure of city schools. Consequently, more students have joined the pro-democracy protests calling for the ouster of President Saleh.
According to medical sources, 14 people – mostly children – were injured last week in the confrontation between protesters, the police and persons described as the "regime's thugs". In one bizarre incident, the headmaster of Ba Kathir School attempted to calm students by firing his gun in the air, as well as by throwing stones at boisterous pupils.
The police prevented one rally from reaching Taiz City Hall and fired live rounds at protesters, injuring some. Students then set fire to a police patrol car, in response to the excessive force being used against them. Following the violence, the students made their way to "Freedom Square", so as to join the other tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters who have occupied the city's central square for more than a month.
On the same day, angry demonstrators in Al-Mua'afer district, 32km west of Taiz city, seized a local administrative building after it had been evacuated of its employees and security. The demonstrators claimed that they took the building in reaction to the excessive and unjustifiable use of force by the ruling party and its thugs against protestors all across Yemen.
One well-placed security source commented on the events: "As for occupying the local authority building, this is against the law and it is a threat to the public interest." With respect to the demonstrations, he added that, "There is a square that has been set aside for use by protesters. Seizing government buildings are acts of sabotage that incite chaos. Security forces will fulfill their responsibility in protecting these buildings."
Thousands of people arrived in Freedom Square during the early hours on Friday, in response to a call for "a day of steadfastness" made by youth demonstrating in governorate capitals all across the country.
Due to the already enormous number of people in the square, thousands were forced to sit on nearby streets and some even called for the entire city of Taiz to become an open "freedom square", so as to generate enough space for all those who wish to exercise their right to free assembly.
President Saleh's latest initiative was launched during the National Dialogue Conference. Its main points included the establishment of a national parliament with checks and balances against the president, the drafting a new constitution, the setting up of a transitional government that would form a supreme election committee early next year, and the establishment of local governments with full powers based on a territorial system. These points were rejected by the JMP, who dubbed the initiative as being "lame", "too late" and "not serious" enough to meet escalating demands for the departure of the regime. The JMP suggested that applying superficial changes to a system that has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the public will simply not work.
Revolutionary youth demonstrating on Freedom Square in Taiz said that Saleh's latest initiative does not concern them, as their only demand is the departure of the current regime. They also said that they are intent on carrying out their protests, in spite of the brutal way that they have been treated by security forces.
Aziz Ahmed Al-Raimi, a protester on the square, claimed that the president's initiative does not affect him. He said that he and his fellow demonstrators have only one goal: the toppling of Saleh's regime. "We'll never betray the martyrs of our revolution, who have sacrificed their lives for our cause," he explained. "It's either victory for the revolution or our deaths here in Freedom Square," he added.
Majid Qassem al-Sami'ee, another young protester in Taiz, said that, "We've left our homes, schools and colleges, and we will return only when the president is gone and the revolution is victorious."
Freedom Square was on high alert at 3:00am last Friday when an unknown person fired several shots into the air nearby.
Source: Yemen Times