Thousands of Yemenis poured into the streets of Sanaa Thursday to demand the immediate downfall of the Ali Abdullah Saleh regime. This is the latest in a series of “days of rage” orchestrated by the population across the Arab world. Inspired by the unrest that has ousted Tunisia’s leader and spread to Egypt this week, Lebanon, Palestine, Mauritania have come into the play. This morning, Reuters news agency confirmed an estimated 16,000 Yemenis demonstrated in four parts of Sanaa, the capital and largest city.
Unrests began last week but escalated this morning in Yemen. This is part of a wave of massive demonstrations storming the Arab world. “The people want a change in president,” protesters shouted, holding signs that also demanded improvements to living conditions in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key ally of the United States in a war against a resurgent al Qaeda wing based in Yemen, has ruled this Arabian Peninsula state for over 30 years. “If the the government doesn’t respond to our demands, we will escalate this until the president falls, just like what happened in Tunisia,” said protester Ayub Hassan. A few dozen policemen with batons silently watched the protests, which ended calmly as demonstrators left to chew qat, a mild stimulant leaf widely consumed in Yemen in the afternoon.
In Egypt, Associated Press reported that legendary figure Mohamed AlBaradei has returned to lead the protests against the Mubarak regime. Albaradei is a Nobel laureate and former UN nuclear watchdog. He commands a lot respect in Egypt. After living overseas for many years, he returned last year for the first time and he was asked to run for the upcoming presidential election. He refused, saying that he would not do so “unless restrictions on who is eligible to contest the vote are lifted and far reaching political reforms are introduced.”
Albaradei, who was greeted by family members and friends as he touched the ground in Cairo, made it clear that he’s ready to lead the opposition until victory. “I’m seeking nothing but regime change,” he said as he waved to supporters and journalists at the Cairo Airport.
The out-lawed Muslim Brotherhood has also thrown its support behind the protesters. It has been reported that the Egyptian military, which was never supportive of the idea of choosing Mubarak’s son Gamal to succeed him, has remained on the sideline, leaving the police to deal with the demonstrators.
Today was another “day of rage” across Egypt. Both banks of the Nile River are on political fire. The political firestorm has reached the city of Suez, where protesters stoned lines of helmeted riot police with shields, who fired back with rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas. Debris and rocks littered the streets. According to Jasmine Simonet, France 24 correspondent, demonstrators ran through white clouds of tear gas and kicked the canisters back at police. Some shielded themselves with overturned metal dumpsters and hurled rocks from behind the makeshift barricades. Police said 30 people were injured in the melee.
Violence in Egypt has already caused the lives of more than 10 people, hundreds wounded and over one thousand (1000) detained.
It remains to be seen if we are witnessing of yet another repeat of what took place in Tunisia earlier this month.
The White House said Thursday the protests are an opportunity for Mubarak to demonstrate his willingness to listen to his citizens and make “necessary” political reform. Political reform is precisely what the Arab masses are demanding, but not despots like Mubarak, Ali Saleh etc…
Note: Further analyses on the Arab world volatile situation on www.csyfmagazine.org