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June 23, 2011

Yemen's revolution and the US intervention

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Yemen's revolution is not covered by the Western media. The US direct intervention in Yemen is set against the people's struggle for freedom and democracy. During the last five months 1000s of civilians were killed or wounded by President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime. The US still has the option to avoid more bloodshed by encouraging Saleh to step down.

The contrast between Western intervention in Yemen, siding with a dictator and its enthusiasm for overthrowing another dictator Muammar Gaddafi of Libya is stark.

Yemen is a conservative country where some 80% of its women wear Niqab and the rest wear Hijab. But this did not prevent Yemeni women from leading a historical revolution to get rid of Saleh, a dictator who ruled for 32 years. His sons, his family and members of his tribe have ruled the country of 24 million as a private enterprise with the blessing of the US.

Muslim women leading revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen is a great story for the Western media to cover. But because of the fear that such coverage will improve the image of Islam and Muslims it has not been widely covered.

I visited Yemen six years ago. I witnessed a country with a hospital people, a natural beauty, history and culture that could make it one of the world’s top tourist attractions. But Saleh’s investment in human development was none. More than 50% of the Yeminis live today on less than $2 per day.

Saleh used scare tactics allowing the US to carry covert air war against “al-Qa'ida targets” in Yemen. The opposition parties said Saleh and his loyalists train and finance armed agents to play the role of al-Qa'ida to gain political and financial support from the Americans and the Saudis.

The Yemeni youth followed the footsteps of the Egyptian Revolution, calling peacefully for change. Millions of them marched to the streets in every city of the country since February, especially in the capital Sanaa and the country’s second-biggest city Taiz. People have joined the youth calling for Saleh to step down. Soon they were joined with ambassadors, professors, police and army officers, ministers, religious and opposing party leaders and even members of Saleh’s ruling party.

To keep the uprising peaceful was a huge achievement, and still is, as most Yemeni households is traditionally armed. Another achievement is that the country’s separatist movements in the North and the South joined the revolution.

But the US for the last 100 days has given Saleh political, military and financial support to stay on. The US never put political pressure for the dictator to step down. Its military and financial support was either direct or via the Saudis.

People across Yemen are beginning to go hungry. The prices of flour, sugar and vegetables have doubled. There is also a shortage of medicine, fuel, water, gas and electricity.

Saleh is now in a Saudi hospital being treated for wounds sustained in an explosion in his presidential compound last week. Over 40 per cent of his body was burnt and it would be months before he would fully recover.

The revolutionary youth have called for a “Transitional Council” to rule the country. They also, as in the case of Tunisia and Egypt, call to bring Saleh, his family and his men to a court of law, for murdering protesters, and for political and financial corruption for the last 32 years of his rule.

The Yemeni youth in the streets celebrated after Saleh was injured and left to Saudi Arabia but rejected transfer of power to his VP Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi as he is part of Saleh’s corrupt regime. They rightly insisted any “constitutional transfer of power” is meaningless in the light of the "revolutionary legitimacy" - - a lesson they have learned very well from the Egyptian revolution.

Meanwhile the US pilotless drones have been used in attacks in south Yemen last week as they were doing for years. The Americans are doing nothing to stop the country from descending into civil war as Saleh’s government disintegrates. If Saleh does return, fighting will surly erupt immediately in a wider scale.

Would the US let Saleh return to Yemen? Would the US encourage Saleh to step down? Would the US facilitate the formation of a Transitional Council? Or push for Saleh’s regime to form a coalition government with the opposition, a solution which will be rejected by the revolutionary youth?

The US administration must side with the Yemeni people up holding American values of freedom and democracy.

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M. Elmasry

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