Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Schoolchildren join in Yemen protests


Sana'a- Mar 8, 2011- Hundreds of schoolchildren joined in demonstrations in Yemen on Tuesday calling for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Protests spread to a tribal area considered to be Saleh's political stronghold, and the military deployed vehicles in the capital.

A police officer was injured by a rock in Ataq, in the southern Shabwa province, after security forces fired warning shots at the crowd that was trying to storm the town’s education ministry offices.

Witnesses said students joined protests in Yemen’s main southern city of Aden. An education ministry official said schools were closed there.

Around 10,000 protesters marched in Dhamar, 60 kilometres south of Sannaa, which is in a tribal area considered to Saleh's political stronghold.

In the capital, Sanaa, military vehicles were deployed around the area where protesters have been camped out for weeks. Police set up water cannons, and placed concrete blocks around the University.

And a prisoner was killed and some 60 people injured when security forces tried to quell a riot at Sanaa's central jail that started Monday

A security official said that the unrest started over alleged mistreatement, but that authorities suspect some political prisoners of inciting inmates to turn the demonstration into an anti-regime protest.

Over the weekend Yemen's opposition called on protests to intensify against the president, who has been in power since 1978 and who has refused their demands to step down by the end of the year.

Yemen: Reveal Opposition Figures’ Whereabouts

Sana'a- Mar 8, 2011- At least eight people including a southern opposition leader have been “disappeared” after Yemeni security forces detained them in Aden in February 2011, Human Rights Watch said today.

Security forces detained five prominent members of the Southern Movement on the night of February 26. Security forces had previously detained a Southern Movement leader, Hassan Baoum, taking him from his hospital bed, along with his son, Fawaz, who brought him to the hospital, on February 20. Baoum chairs the Supreme Council of the Southern Movement, a main organizer of protests in Aden and surrounding areas since 2007 by southerners seeking independence or increased autonomy for the south, which was a separate republic before it was united with the north in 1990. Security forces also detained a Southern Movement activist during a protest on February 11. The whereabouts of all eight detainees remain unknown, relatives told Human Rights Watch.

“Snatching and hiding political opposition leaders, including from a hospital, is hardly compatible with the government’s claim to protect rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “When the security forces ‘disappear’ opponents of the government they are enforcing not the law, but the political will of the ruler.”

Central Security forces, a unit whose overall commander is President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s nephew, Yahya Saleh, raided the apartment of an engineer, Ali bin Ali Shukri, at about 5:30 p.m. on February 26 and arrested him and four of his guests: doctors Abd al-Khaliq Salah Abd al-Qawi and Yahya Shayif al-Sunaibi; college professor ‘Aidarus Muhsin al-Yahari; and Qasim ‘Askar Jubran, a former ambassador to Mauritania of the previously independent southern Yemeni state.

Shukri’s family told Human Rights Watch that they saw officials from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) outside beginning at about 4:20 p.m. As soon as the guests arrived, said Shukri’s son, Amr, about 40 uniformed Central Security members arrived in five four-wheel drives and surrounded the house. About five of them broke into the apartment. He said that the security forces did not identify themselves or give any reason for the arrests, and just took the five men out and put them into the cars. Since then, Amr said, he has not been able to get any information about his father’s whereabouts. He told Human Rights Watch:

“As soon as they took them away, we went to al-Qahira police station and were told that the detainees were taken to the CID. At CID, they confirmed they had them, but said we could not see them until Sunday afternoon. We came the next day, it was Sunday, and I brought breakfast for my father, but they said he was no longer there. CID said they were transferred to the General Security Department, I went there, and they said they were at the CID! When I went back to CID, they said they were in al-Mansura jail. In the jail the officials said nobody had been brought to them.”

The families of Abd al-Qawi, al-Sunaibi, and al-Yahari told Human Rights Watch that they had no information about the fates or whereabouts of their relatives. Abd al-Qawi and al-Yahari called their relatives the night of their arrest to say the five detainees were in the CID. Since then, however, they have not answered their cell phones, and the relatives’ efforts to establish their whereabouts have proven futile.

Abd al-Qawi’s father said that when he visited the CID on February 27, the officials there first said his son had been taken to Aden’s al-Mansura jail, then told the father to inquire with the General Security Department. Officials there denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. Abd al-Qawi’s brother then went back to the CID and was told that Abd al-Qawi was on a list of detainees to be transferred to Sanaa.

Abd al-Qawi’s brother said that during the afternoon of February 27 he received information from an acquaintance at Aden airport that all five detainees and another three men had been escorted to a military airplane that was destined for Sanaa. However the families have received no official confirmation of the detainees’ location, the reasons for their arrest, or any charges against them. Shukri’s son told Human Rights Watch he was extremely concerned about the health of his father, who suffers from diabetes and liver disease and needs to take medication regularly.

In the February 20 episode, police took Hassan Baoum and his son Fawaz from the al-Naqib hospital in Aden, where Hassan Baoum was receiving treatment. Another of Baoum’s sons told Human Rights Watch that his 75-year-old father, who suffers from diabetes and a heart condition, had been admitted to the hospital the night before. He said that other patients in the ward told him that in the morning a group of masked, uniformed security forces entered the ward and took the two men away without explanation, and did not identify themselves or present any papers. The hospital staff and patients confirmed this account to Human Rights Watch.

Baoum’s son said that for the first two days, the family had no information about the men’s whereabouts. Then, a southern Yemeni whom the family knew and who worked with the local security forces unofficially told him that the detainees had been transferred to the Political Security prison in Sanaa. The son said he was concerned for his father’s health and well-being, because he served almost a year in that prison and was kept underground, with no contact with the outside world, and no medical assistance. Baoum’s son said that he could not travel to Sanaa himself, fearing persecution, but tried to get confirmation from the Political Security prison through the International Committee of the Red Cross. The family has received no official confirmation of Hassan and Fawaz Baoum’s fate or whereabouts.

Baoum has been detained three previous times since 2007, most recently from November 2010 to January 2011. The Southern Movement has been protesting what its supporters view as discrimination by President Saleh’s government against southern Yemenis. Since February, it has joined with protesters in Sanaa, the capital, and other cities north of Aden in calling for Saleh to resign.

The eighth missing detainee is 40-year-old Nasir Ali Muhammad al-Qadhi, a Southern Movement activist. His brother told Human Rights Watch that on February 11 al-Qadhi was participating in an extremely peaceful protest in Aden when a group of security officers in civilian clothes provoked a fight. The brother said witnesses to the fight told him that the security forces broke al-Qadhi’s wrist, and that other protesters took him to a hospital. Witnesses from the hospital told the brother that as soon as doctors started putting a bandage on al-Qadhi’s hand, uniformed policemen arrived in a four-wheel-drive and arrested him. His brother said:

“I went to al-Mansura police station, and the officers there told me that my brother had a big problem, and they would discipline him first but would let me see him tomorrow. When I came the next day they told me they had transferred him to the Political Security offices in al-Mansura. I went there and brought some clothes and food for Nasir. They told me to come back tomorrow. When I came they said they had transferred him to Political Security office in Fath, in [Aden's] Tuwahi district. I kept going there, and they kept telling me to come tomorrow, but they took the food that I brought for him. I stopped going there, and when I called them last midnight [February 25], they told me they did not have him. At this point, I don’t know where he is and whether he is alive or dead.”

“Those who ordered and carried out the disappearances of these ill and injured people are putting their lives at risk and should be held accountable for any harm their prisoners suffer,” Whitson said.

The actual number of people detained during or in relation to the protests in Aden is likely to be much higher than has been confirmed so far. Representatives of the National Solidarity Council, a national institution providing a meeting space for tribes and intellectuals under the paramount Shaikh Husain Abdullah al-Ahmar, told Human Rights Watch that they believe 35 protesters are being held by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Aden and about two dozen more in Aden’s Shaikh ‘Uthman police station, its Central Security jail, and Political Security jail. Human Rights Watch could not independently verify this information.

Under international law, a government’s refusal to acknowledge the detention of an individual or the person’s whereabouts following detention or arrest by state forces is an enforced disappearance. Yemen has not yet ratified the 2006 UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

In a previous report on Yemen published in 2008, Disappearances and Arbitrary Arrests in the Context of Yemen’s War with Huthi Rebels, Human Rights Watch found that Political Security emerged as the most likely government body responsible for enforced disappearances. Many of those “disappeared” in Yemen have eventually been released or their whereabouts reported. But the families of some people forcibly disappeared did not know whether their relatives were alive, who their captors were, or their whereabouts, for months after their detention.

Source: TTKN News

Yemeni Communities Unite Against Child Marriage

"I want to be an English teacher!"
"A journalist!"
"I will be a doctor!"
A dozen Yemeni girls sit on the floor of a diwan in Al Sawd village, giggling and smiling bashfully as they describe what they hope to be doing in 10 years. They are between 8 and 15 years old, and are fortunate to attend one of the few local schools for girls.
In this remote corner of northwest Yemen, most of their female peers have already ended their schooling. While this group can still afford to dream, the grim reality is that most girls their age will soon be married, without a chance to complete their education or have a career.
Yemen is one of 20 "hot spot" countries for child marriage, a conservative Muslim nation where a seventh of all girls are married by age 14 and nearly half by age 17. In rural districts, girls as young as 9 are often betrothed. Most "hot spot" countries are clustered in central Africa, with other pockets in Southeast Asia and Central America.
Various factors have institutionalized child marriage. For some, it is a tribal custom. For others, exchanging daughters without dowries in "trade marriages" makes economic sense.
Regardless of its causes, child marriage represents a human rights infringement and a public health problem. It deprives young girls of a childhood, enhances their risk of domestic abuse, and entraps them in a cycle of poverty.
The health consequences are also dire. According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality rate is five times higher for adolescent girls under age 15 than those over 20, and the health outcomes for their infants are similarly poor.
USAID has confronted this issue with its Safe Age of Marriage (SAM) program, designed to change social norms around early marriage, girls' education, and children's rights. In partnership with the Yemeni Women's Union, the pilot program was implemented in two districts in the Amran governorate starting in 2009.
Leaders of the Community
A land of treacherous roads and dust-colored houses built into the mountain steppes, the Al Sawd and Al Soodah districts in Amran represent some of the most isolated regions in Yemen. Most of the population is illiterate and 71 percent of mothers are married before age 18. In these rural communities, USAID support trained 40 community leaders on the social and health benefits of delaying marriage. It also taught them how to share this knowledge with others.
"The community educators themselves decided the best way to talk about early marriage," explains Leah Freij, a senior gender adviser with the USAID-funded Extending Service Delivery Project. "They went to schools. They distributed newsletters. They talked to women in their homes."
They also garnered support from the Ministries of Education and Public Health and Population, which spoke at monthly fairs on the safe age of marriage. As the program gained traction, even the governor of Amran got involved—he personally awarded 12 "model families" in a ceremony for not only delaying their daughters' marriages, but also for educating them through 12th grade.
Piloting Results
The initial results of this pilot are promising. In one year, community educators reached 29,000 people, leading to an 18 percent jump in awareness in the benefits of delaying marriage. The program was instrumental in preventing 53 girl-child marriages.
It shifted the peak age of girls' marriage from 14 to 18 years old in the project area. Several villagers asked community educators to help them annul their daughters' marriages, and in one instance a community educator ended an engagement by paying back the family's dowry himself. In addition, the Ministry of Endowment and Guidance in Amran directed all religious leaders in the governorate to speak about the consequences of child marriage in their Friday sermons. Not long afterwards, the entire Al Soodah community took an oath to forbid child marriage for girls under 18.
"This is a big accomplishment," says Freij. "This is changing social norms."
According to Dalia Al Eryani, the lead program coordinator, the program's greatest benefit is getting information to an area usually deprived of it. "One woman thought her daughter was cursed because she kept having miscarriages," she recounts. "She went from healer to healer. When the daughter turned 18, she finally gave birth to a healthy boy. When we came and talked about early marriage, the woman said, 'Oh, this explains what happened to my daughter.' It's a real eye-opener."
USAID's support is part of a broader effort to ensure that community leaders—including religious leaders and midwives—are informed and help community members make sound decisions for themselves and their children, notes Sean Jones, USAID/ Yemen's technical program director.
Community educators and traditional leaders continue to be both sources of information and role models. Freij points to the community educator who led the schoolgirl discussion. She was married and still completed college with her husband's support.
"The girls used to think you had to choose between an education and marriage," says Freij. "Now they see they can have both."
Source: USAID

China to increase 2011 aid to Yemen, Chinese diplomat says

SANA'A- Mar 8, 2011- China intends to raise its aid to Yemen in 2011, the Economic and Commercial Counselor at the Chinese Embassy said on Tuesday.

During his meeting with Minister of Trade and Industry Hesham Sharaf, the Chinese diplomat voiced his satisfaction of the considerable growth in the trade exchange volume between Yemen and China.

For his part, Sharaf valued the Chinese development aid to the development in Yemen, affirming such rise reflects the deep-rooted relationship ties the two friendly courtiers and peoples.

The two officials expressed the common aspirations to enlarge Chinese investments in Yemen to avail from the attractive opportunities and the facilities granted in Yemen to the investors.

They also affirmed the importance to trigger the cooperation relations between Yemeni and Chinese businessmen.

Source: (Saba)

3 dead as jail joins Yemen protests

Three reported dead and dozens more injured after police clash with prisoners protesting against Yemeni president

Sana'a- Mar 8, 2011- Up to three people are reported dead in a jail riot in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, as police clashed with prisoners backing anti-government protesters demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

At least three prisoners in the Sana'a facility were reported killed and four others injured, Sharif Mobley, an inmate, told Al-Jazeera via phone from within the prison.

Officials said at least one inmate was dead and dozens more injured as a consequence of the unrest which began on Monday when around 2,000 prisoners staged a riot in Sana'a, taking a dozen guards hostage.

The inmates set their blankets and mattresses on fire before occupying the prison's main courtyard, an official who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media said.

The guards fired tear gas and gunshots into the air but failed to subdue the prisoners, the official added.

"At the moment there is no violence, there is no fighting," Mobley said on Tuesday morning, "but the situation is really looking very bad".

"The offices of the prison official have been burned down and the guards have all left and are now outside," he said.

"Authorities are outside the prison gates and we are inside the prison. We don't want to make any problems and are afraid for our lives."

Al-Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Sana'a, said the "situation has not yet been contained".

"We have been told by different sources and inmates that the situation is really delicate ... inside the jail. It is has [also] become very tense in the capital," said our correspondent.

As inmates rioted, protesters carried on at Sanaa University, the epicentre of demonstrations that have been going on for weeks.

Yemen has been rocked by protests inspired by recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that ousted those nations' leaders.

Many protesters are angry at widespread corruption in a country where 40 per cent live on $2 a day or less and where university graduates without connections struggle to get jobs. Youth unemployment is rampant.

Yemen is also riven with regional strife, with Shia rebels in the north and separatists in the south demanding fairer political participation.

A crowd of women joined a demonstration on Tuesday in the southern port city of Aden after a young protester was critically wounded by a bullet to the head during a rally there the previous day.

Local officials said 25 protesters were arrested during Monday's demonstration.

Also, tens of thousands took to the streets in the cities of the southern Ibb province on Tuesday, calling on the government to bring to justice those responsible for a deadly attack there on Sunday by what opposition activists said were "government thugs".

The opposition said the thugs descended on protesters camped out on a main square, killing one person and injuring scores.

For the first time since protests started in mid-February, graffiti against Saleh surfaced in his birthplace, the farming village of Sanhan just outside Sanaa.

Police said they were investigating who was behind the slogans painted on the village walls reading: "The people want the regime to step down."

Source: Al-Jazeera

Parliament Refers Government Request for Election Law Amendment to Committee

Sana'a- Mar 8, 2011- The House of Representatives turned over to the special constitutional committee a government request for amending the election law calling for opening the door to the eligible people to start registering in the voter rolls.

In an explanatory note read by Minister of State for Parliament and Shura Affairs, Ahmed Al-Kuhlani, the government justified the proposed amendment aims to expand the popular participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections and to implement the President Saleh's initiative for reviewing and correcting the voters' lists before the elections scheduled for next month.

In late 2010, the ruling party bloc in Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of an additional article to the election law stipulating the voter rolls were in their final version.

In protest at the unilateral move by the party, the opposition blocs and independent lawmakers boycotted the parliamentary sessions and staged a sit-in inside the House.

They said the vote was unconstitutional and violated all agreements signed by the political parties in the country topped by February 2009 Agreement that extended the parliamentary term by two years.

Source: Yemen Post