Friday, March 16, 2012

Threats and arson attacks on media in southern Yemen

Friday 16 March 2012.
Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the intimidatory practices of Yemen’s security services, particularly in the south of the country.
 “Threats, harassment and abduction of journalists, and blockades and torching of premises and newspaper consignments have become standard fare for Yemen’s independent media,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The security services responsible for these abuses must cease to enjoy total impunity.”
Police and anti-terrorism personnel led by Sanad Abdallah Bader Al-Maisari, a local official, threatened Agence France-Presse stringer Fawaz Mansour Al-Haidari in Mansoura, in the southern governorate of Aden on 10 March.
Three gunmen burst into his home at around 9:30 p.m., insulted him and aimed their guns at him. He has been hounded by the security forces for nearly three months and has received threatening messages on his mobile phone. Al-Maisari reportedly told him: “No one will be able to protect you. I will kill you. You can no longer live in Aden. And if you tell anyone about this, I will kill you. I give you three days.”
Before leaving his home, the security agents methodically erased all the threatening messages that had been left on his mobile phone. After the intrusion, Al-Haidari filed a complaint about it with the police, who said they would investigate.
The Aden region has few independent journalists. Al-Haidari is one of the brave reporters covering the south of the country although it exposes them to the risk of reprisals by the intelligence services.
A bus carrying 19,000 copies of the newspaper Al-Akhbar Al-Yom and the English-language newspaper Yemen Fox that were to have been distributed in the southern cities of Taiz, Lahij, Ibb and Dhalie was intercepted in Al-Houta on 11 March and its contents were torched. Two men threatened the driver at gunpoint and forced motorcyclists to remove the fuels from their tanks and use it to burn the newspapers. Reprisals would be taken against the distributors if they continued to sell these two newspapers, the gunmen warned.
Yemen Fox reported that the premises of Al-Akhbar Al-Yom in Dhalie governorate were the target of an arson attempt on 8 March. Gunmen also closed the newspaper for two weeks and set fire to newsstands that sold it.
The latest in a long series of media freedom violations, these shocking attacks and threats are being carried out or orchestrated by the security services with the aim of reining in independent media that distinguished themselves by their coverage of last year’s mass uprising.
Reporters Without Borders already reported blockades of the newspapers Al-Thawra and Al-Jomhuryah in early February.
The national security authorities are meanwhile continuing to restrict the movements of Al-Jazeera correspondent Ahmed Al-Shalafi. His passport, confiscated by former interior minister Rashed Al-Masri when he tried to renew it a year ago, is still being held by the authorities. This prevents him from travelling around Yemen and doing his job as a reporter.
An Al-Yemen Al-Yom TV crew consisting of reporter Ahmed Ghilan Al-Mathi’r, cameraman Razmi Al-Harazi and driver Faysal Al-Shami was detained for several hours by members of the first armoured division while doing a report on illegal arrests in Sanaa on 13 March. The soldiers confiscated their equipment and mobile phones.

Using dialogue to boost Yemen's economy

By   Abubakr Al-Shamahi           March 16, 2012
LONDON: On Feb. 21, Yemenis went to the polls to vote for their new transitional president. This election, however, was different. There was only one candidate, former Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Hirak in the south — a large-scale movement that includes separatist groups — and Houthi rebels in the north boycotted the vote, showing that many Yemenis remain unconvinced that the election marks the start of a democratic transition. Despite the boycott the turnout was impressive — with over 6 million out of over 10 million registered voters participating.
Now President Hadi should work to unite a fractious nation and initiate a dialogue among all groups so that the brighter future promised by the Yemeni revolution can become a reality. As part of this process, addressing Yemen’s economy will be critical.
The grievances of groups such as the Houthis and the Hirak are essentially economic. The north and south have had a complex relationship: southern Yemen was a formerly separate country that united with the north in 1990, then split in a brief civil war. Today, the north and south form one country but southerners complain that their region has been neglected by the central, northern-dominated government, and that northern tribal sheikhs have deprived the south of the wealth it could receive from its resources, including crude oil. Hirak separatist groups call for the territory that encompasses the former South Yemen to secede from the current Republic of Yemen.
As a whole, Yemen currently faces mass unemployment, a budget deficit of $3.75 billion and an economy that shrank 5 percent in 2011. President Hadi’s first step should therefore be to bring Yemen out of the dire economic position it finds itself in.
In Yemen, the private sector has struggled under the weight of corruption. The new government needs to convince Yemeni businessmen to invest in their country and create more opportunities for Yemenis by addressing the problem of corruption. It is vital that these opportunities be provided throughout Yemen, and not just in Sana’a and the region around it. Such opportunities would alleviate unemployment in the north and south, a doubly-worthwhile accomplishment when we consider that armed groups typically succeed in recruiting from among the unemployed.
But improving Yemen’s economy is closely linked to establishing a national dialogue. Political dialogue is the way to solve the Houthis' grievances, and may be the only way to persuade the Houthis to put down their arms and re-join the political process. The national government should also coordinate the wholesale reconstruction of the Sa’ada region in north Yemen, which is controlled by the Houthis, which has been decimated by war. In fact, if the Houthis agree to disarm, the stability so important for economic development would ensue.
As for the Hirak, they must be shown that a united Yemen is based on co-operation, not occupation; and they must be persuaded not to move from being a protest movement to becoming an armed rebellion.
President Hadi must work quickly to assure the south that its future lies with a united Yemen. The rule of law needs to be re-established in the south so that the state is perceived as fair and impartial — and not simply an extension of arbitrary northern tribal power.
A quick way to bolster the economy, and for Hadi to show that he is serious about change, would be to re-negotiate the Aden port deal with the corporation Dubai Ports World (DPW). DPW has not been meeting targets for growth in south Yemen’s Aden, a port city that is strategically located between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. Getting a new owner with an ambitious vision could restore Aden’s port to its former glory, and provide much needed revenue.
Yemenis voted in relatively high numbers to oust Saleh, and President Hadi has a certain amount of goodwill. However, he must act fast and prove that democracy is on its way. A new president alone will not change Yemen’s outlook, and the people need to now look past their grievances and work to rebuild their country. Yemenis want a new way forward. Whether or not they achieve it will ultimately depend on their ability to breathe new life into their economy.
Abubakr Al-Shamahi is British Yemeni freelance journalist and editor of This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews),

New American Plan in Yemen

Chiara Onassis | 16 March 2012
SANA’A: According to sources close to the government, US ambassador to Yemen, Gerard Feierstein would have approached President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi with a new proposal which would solve Yemen’s military restructuration stand-off.
When former President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed in November last year to ink in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, the GCC brokered power-transfer initiative, he promised upon his resignation from power to entrust Hadi with the restructuration of the country’s armed forces and the demotions from their posts of his family members.
Members of the Opposition forcibly defended this point of the proposal as they knew that Saleh stepping down from power would mean nothing if his regime was allowed to leave on through his support network and his control over the army.
However ever since the presidential elections, Hadi has been dragging his feet, arguing that since Yemen was currently fighting off al-Qaeda it would more beneficial for Yemen to wait off a bit and reconsider the matter until after the terror threat had passed.
Al-Islah, Yemen’s Islamic political faction and Saleh’s political nemesis is now calling for revolutionaries to resume their fight against Saleh as they say they were lied to and tricked onto believing that the regime had gone when really it had only been replaced by new figures.
Amidst rising tensions, the U.S came up with a new plan, the departure of the “old guard” no exception made.
The idea would be for President Hadi to simultaneously dismissed from their posts all of Yemen’s military power players, from Ahmed Ali Saleh, Saleh’s eldest son and Commander of the mighty Republican Guards, to defected General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the 1st Armored Division Commander in Chief.
Regime’s loyalist pointed out that Hadi would never agree to such an agreement since it would mean angering a great number of his fellow GPC (General People’s Congress) members and would directly put al-Ahmar’s brothers in an undisputed power position.
Al-Ahmars, a powerful tribal family who has been at odds with the regime for years, has been battling Saleh since the beginning of the uprising, being suspected of having fomented the assassination attempt against President Saleh in June last year.
 “If all of Saleh family members are forced to leave, al-Ahmar will be left in control of Yemen, which we will never agree to. This family is seeking to destroy the Republic and return to a tribal system which will benefit them. President Saleh will never allow such a thing! If we have to fight for it…so be it” said a member of the GPC.

Swiss teacher woman kidnapped in Yemen

By Fatik Al-Rodaini
SANA'A- March 16, 2012- A Swiss woman was kidnapped in Yemen's western province of Al-Hodeida by tribesmen demanding the release of prisoners held by Yemeni authorities in the province.
Local news websites reported that Selafia Ibrahardert, 32, was kidnapped in Seven July district of Al-Hodeida province last Tuesday. The kidnappers called Selafia's friend confirming the kidnapping, saying that she had taken to Bayhan district of Shabwa province.
The Swiss woman is working in Al-Hodeida province in an institute teaching languages there.
In related news, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland confirmed on Friday that a Swiss woman had been kidnapped in Hodeida, a port city in western Yemen.
The department said it was informed about the case on Thursday evening. It said it had already contacted the Yemeni authorities, and that it would try to make sure that the hostage is freed in good health condition.
The department asked its residents to temporarily leave Yemen in June 2011.
Kidnappings of Western tourists or workers by tribes seeking ransom or concessions from the government have been frequent in Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries. Most of the hostages have been freed unharmed.
Here is a timeline tracing kidnappings in Yemen since 1993:
Nov 26, 1993- A U.S. diplomat was kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen. Government officials negotiate for his release in the first known kidnapping of a diplomat in faction-ridden Yemen.
Oct 19, 1996- In Yemen Serge Lefevre, first secretary of the French Embassy, was kidnapped.
Oct 27, 1996- In Yemen Serge Lefevre, first secretary of the French Embassy, was kidnapped a 2nd time after being released by members of the same tribe.
Aug 14, 1997- In Yemen ten Italian tourists were reported kidnapped in 2 separate incidents.
Dec 28, 1998- In Yemen Islamic militants kidnapped 16 Western tourists. The demanded the release of Saleh Haidara al-Atwi and another top militant arrested 2 weeks ago. The militants were led by Abu Hassan.
Dec 29, 1998- In Yemen security forces attacked the kidnappers of 16 and 4 hostages were killed. The freed tourists said that government forces initiated the battle that left 3 Britons and an Australian dead.
Jan 17, 1999- In Yemen 2 British and 4 Dutch citizens were kidnapped.
Feb 2, 1999- In Yemen kidnappers freed 4 Dutch and 2 British nationals.
May 5, 1999- A Yemeni court sentenced 3 Islamic militants to death for their role in the abduction and killing of Western tourists in Dec.
Feb 10, 2000- In Yemen tribesmen released Kenneth White (54), an American oil executive, who was kidnapped a month ago.
Nov 21, 2005- In Yemen a tribesman threatened to kill two Swiss tourists he kidnapped if the government uses force to free them. Hasan Ahmed al-Dhamen said that he would kill his two hostages, a man and a woman, if security forces tried to raid his hide-out.
Dec 24, 2005- Yemeni kidnappers freed two Austrian tourists, three days after seizing them in an apparent dispute over the government's arrest of fellow tribesmen.
Dec 28, 2005- Armed men kidnapped a former German diplomat and his family touring the mountains of eastern Yemen and pressed the Yemeni government for the release of jailed members of their tribe.
Dec 31, 2005- Yemeni kidnappers released a former German diplomat and his four family members.
Jan 1, 2006- In northern Yemen tribesmen kidnapped five Italians, a day after the government negotiated the release of five Germans held hostage. Tribesmen soon freed three Italian women, who were among a group of five Italian tourists, and pressed for the release of kinsmen held by the authorities.
Jan 2, 2006- Yemeni tribal and state officials said 3 Italian women kidnapped in north Yemen have refused to go free until their abductors release two Italian men held with them.
Jan 6, 2006- In Yemen 5 Italian hostages were freed in good health after six days in captivity when their kidnappers surrendered to government troops.
Sep 10, 2006- Armed Yemeni tribesmen kidnapped four French tourists in the east of the country to press for their relatives to be released from jail.
Sep 25, 2006- In Yemen 4 French tourists kidnapped Sep 10 were freed.
Sep 29, 2006- Yemeni government forces raided a tribal settlement following the kidnappings of foreign tourists, arresting five suspects but killing two women and wounding three children.
Dec 15, 2008- In southern Yemen tribesmen kidnapped a German aid worker and her parents, demanding the government release imprisoned clan members.
Dec 19, 2008- Mediators said Yemeni kidnappers have released their three German hostages after the Yemeni government agreed to meet some of their conditions, including paying a ransom and releasing some tribesmen from prison.
Mar 31, 2009- In Yemen Jan and Heleen Janszen, a Dutch couple, were kidnapped in a suburb of Sanaa and taken to a mountainous area near the capital. They were released on April 14 after Yemen's government paid more than a quarter million dollars in ransom.
Jun 12, 2009- In Yemen nine foreigners, including 3 children, were kidnapped while on a picnic in northern Saada province. 3 of the kidnapped were found dead on June 15. In May 2010 Saudi intelligence forces freed 2 German girls, aged 4 & 6. The fate of the others remained unknown.
Jun 14, 2009- Yemen accused a Shiite rebel group of kidnapping 9 foreigners in northern Saada province. The Interior Ministry official said Hassan Hussein Bin Alwan, a Saudi man suspected of financing Al-Qaida cells in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, has been arrested.
Jun 15, 2009- In Yemen 3 foreign women, including two German nurses and a South Korean teacher kidnapped on June 12, were found dead. Two children were found alive. Nine foreigners, including seven German nationals, a Briton and a South Korean, disappeared June 12 while on a picnic in Yemen’s northern Saada region.
Nov 16, 2009- A Yemeni security official and the Japanese Embassy said armed tribesmen have kidnapped a Japanese engineer working on the construction of a school and demanded the government release one of their imprisoned tribe members. Takeo Mashimo was released on Nov 23.
May 16, 2010- Yemeni tribesmen kidnapped two Chinese engineers and their government escorts in the country's volatile south. Kidnappers released the engineers after several days of mediation.
May 24, 2010- In Yemen tribal gunmen kidnapped two American tourists and demanded the release of a jailed tribesman for the pair. The tourists were released the next day after Pres. Saleh agreed to free a prisoner held by the state.
October 29, 2010- An armed group kidnapped a Swedish engineer working for the Batis Cement Factory in Yemen's southern Abyan Province. He was released hours later in a tribal agreement with the kidnappers.
April 13, 2011- Tribesmen in Yemen's southern province of Abyan released a Russian doctor after being kidnapped for more than one month.
May 28, 2011- Three French aid workers were kidnapped by an armed group in Yemen's southern province of Hadramout. The 3 hostages were kidnapped in the southern province of Hadramaut where they were all working for the French based humanitarian organization, Triangle Génération Humanitaire as they were conducting a field trip near Sayoun.
October 25, 2011- Security officials announced that a Uzbekistan doctor had been kidnapped by Mared tribesmen from the northeastern Oil rich country's province, as he was traveling back to the capital, Sana'a.
November 14, 2011- The French government announced that 3 French nationals who had been kidnapped over 5 months ago by alleged al-Qaeda militants had finally been freed.
November 22, 2011- Security officials in the southern province of Lahj just announced that 2 foreign nationals had been kidnapped by several gunmen, the trio was working for the Red Cross in the region. This is the second time this year that French nationals are being used as bargain chip for the release of government prisoners.
January 15, 2012- Tribesmen from the eastern province of Marib kidnapped a Norwegian citizen, called Jert, from a main street in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a.
February 2, 2012- The UN Relief Organization workers, who have been abducted by tribes men in the northwest Yemeni province of al-Mahouit were released unharmed late. The workers-two Yemenis, German, Iraqi, Palestinian, and Colombian-were release through a tribal mediation efforts headed by Minister of Electricity Saleh Someh and moved to the UN office in th capital, Sana'a. The Relief Organization workers were kidnapped on their way back from a refugee camp in the Haradh district of Hajjah province.