Nick Meyer and Jessica Barrow
DEARBORN, Mich, Mar 15, 2011- The ongoing mass protests in Yemen were the focus of two separate demonstrations at Dearborn City Hall last weekend as both supporters and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh showed up despite freezing temperatures.
On Sunday, March 6, more than 200 people gathered on the steps of Dearborn City Hall to rally in support of anti-government protesters in Yemen.
While many of them had attended the string of recent rallies supporting all of the countries protesting during the ongoing Arab revolution, Sunday's mostly Yemeni American demonstrators felt it was necessary to shine the spotlight directly on their home country's struggle this time around.
Protesters chanted for Saleh to step down along with the familiar chant in Arabic translating to "The people want the regime to collapse."
"We came out in solidarity with the Yemeni people asking for peaceful change, 33 years is enough of the current regime," said Adel Mozip, a member of the Popular Support Committee for Youth Revolution in Yemen local organization.
"The rally was to support the people in the streets of Yemen and we also sent the message to call on the White House and U.S. Government to exert all pressure to ask Saleh to step down and for the regime to change."
Fellow demonstrator Suleiman Awad also came out.
"The turnouts are getting better with each rally as people begin to realize what's going on," he said.
Awad noted that he's from the south part of Yemen where opposition to Saleh is not nearly as strong as the north but he said that it is past time for Saleh to step down because of corruption. He said he was in the minority being from south Yemen at the protest but he said that he's fully behind the protesters.
"We're here to support our people back home in removing the regime, we have our own issue in the south but (I think) the goal now is to remove the regime this time," he said.
Another demonstrator, Ammar Abbas, said he was happy with the turnout and said that he believed the larger anti-Saleh turnout as compared to the previous day's rally against a regime change was an accurate reflection of the local community.
"I can tell you that in my experience most of the immigrants here are against the regime back there because this is the main reason they're here, they didn't like the corruption in their country," he said.
"Nobody wants to leave their country but they had no choice...they're wondering where (Saleh and his regime) got so much money, that's why people chanted that they want to sue the members of the regime, we want them to be held accountable because they're stealing everything.
"In Yemen the problem is the people are poor and not educated so they don't know what they're missing, they think they're living a good life but they're really not. Now, most of the people are saying they're fed up and enough is enough."
Saturday rally calls for Yemeni unity, support for Saleh
Another group from the Yemeni American community also rallied at City Hall on Sat., March 5 to protest the political unrest in Yemen. The group, unlike previous gatherings, was in support of Saleh.
The members waved both Yemeni and American flags, noting that, like the United States once did, Yemen should stay united and not divide north and south.
“We support our president,” said rally organizer Jamal Magalli. “We are calling for peace. Calling for the country to come together.”
The group numbered about a hundred protestors but received very little media coverage. Since the political unrest began, very little has been said about those in support of President Saleh, and this astounded Steven, a spectator, who attended the rally with a friend.
“I am surprised that this rally is in support of Saleh,” said Steven. “I spent time in Yemen and since I have been back, I have kept up with the news. This is the first time I am hearing of this. It's good to hear the other side of the issue.”
"We noticed always they always try to make everything bad and they don’t give us attention. We are wondering why. It is a question mark for us. They don’t give the whole opinion and give both sides,” said rally organizer Nabil Alghathi.
The protest, unlike others before it, was supported primarily by those of Yemeni descent, a fact that Alghathi says contributes to their legitimacy.
“A lot of people in other protests came and talked about Yemen. People from Lebanon and Iraq .They fight every week in those countries. Yemen doesn’t need that. We are different,” Alghathi said. “We have democracy in Yemen.”
“They are trying to turn Yemen into another Libya” said Magalli. “ We want peace.”
“We say no to devastation, destruction and nepotism,” said Alghathi. “We are in support of voting, support of an election, but we say no to a north and a south. Just one Yemen."
“I wish I could say to every Yemeni in the state, we have to get together. We are not together. This will not help our county if we are spilt,” Alghathi said. “If we cannot get together here in the United States, how can they do so there. We should get together at one table and see what is best for our country. If we cant get united here, then they wont be together there.”
Source: The Arab American News