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Friday, October 23, 2009

Human Rights in Yemen

At a side-event during the 12th Session of the Human Rights Council several panelists gave us a broad picture of the human rights situation in Yemen.

According to Ali Hussein Mohammed Al-Dailami, Executive Director of the Yemen Organization for the Defense of Rights and Democratic Freedoms (YODRDF), the Houthis are a community in Yemen from the Zaidi Islamic School who are severely discriminated against. The Houthis are not allowed to celebrate their religious ceremonies. Moreover, they are prevented from having their own religious leaders from their community; the government imposes religious leaders. The effect is, of course, a conflict because the communities do not recognize the imposed authorities. While the government argues that this movement wants things to transpire through violent means, the Houthis contend that they are just asking for their basic rights. Mr. Al-Dailami expressed the need for a campaign to meet the needs of IDPs (internally displaced persons) because one of the critiques is that, even with international assistance called by the government, there is not enough aid delivered to the victims. He also recommended that a special rapporteur go to Yemen. “We want the release of all the political detainees and to stop the war because of all the humanitarian consequences.”

Hael Sallam Ali Othamn, a lawyer and human rights activist from Yemen, spoke about the competition in Yemen, arguing that those currently in power came to power using the revolutionary legitimacy. “The aims of the revolution are essentially being used as an ideological reservoir in order to give legitimacy. Though none of the objectives of the revolution have been realized, so there is really no reason to keep the power in the hands of those who have it now." Those in power felt threatened by the Houthi movement and, in reaction, sent their armies to the Houthi region. “The situation is very critical and all institutions are in threat of collapsing. And all this because of the widespread corruption used as a policy.

Muneer Mohammed Al-Sakkaf, a lawyer and human rights activist from Yemen, addressed the issue of protests in southern Yemen. He said that although the North and South achieved unity in 1994, each had a different political system, and thus, since the beginning of the union, there has been a problem of how to rule the country. They managed to agree on a document, but this document was not respected. In the end, the representative of Northern Yemen took power at the detriment of the southern representative; for instance, more than 100,000 military personnel were forced to retire. The political power set up some committees to address the problems relating to various injustices, but they could not solve them. As a result, movements in the south arose on the grounds of seeking to regain their rights. “The very cause of the problem is that the political power does not share the power and does not include the South in decision-making. They should engage in a comprehensive dialogue with the movements to draft a document like the one signed in 1994; a document that is inclusive. Though it is doubtful that this will come to pass, as today the government won’t even sit around a table with other parties.”


Anonymous said...

Houthi rebels in Northern Yemen have clashed with Saudi forces along the border between the two countries where Saudi Arabia has been building a barrier. The rebels stated, “Resident of the area reject any fence which would have negative economic impact on them and cut them off from their brethren on the other side.” The group also accused Saudi forces of firing on them in the same area on Monday in support of a Yemeni government offensive. The Houthis accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting the Yemeni government, who, in response, reject this claim and accuse the rebels in the north of the country of wanting to re-establish Shia clerical rule and of receiving support from Iran.

Note that the government launched a new offensive in August 2009, which has effectively precipitated a new wave of intense fighting. Moreover, earlier this week, 10 Houthi rebels, captured in 2008, were sentenced to death.

That said, there is truth so some of these accusations. The Houthis are in fact supported by Iran (comparison can be made here to the case of Hezbollah). Saudi Arabia, because there is a Shia community living near its border with Yemen, fears the spillover of the movement/issue over the border. As a result, the Saudi government is supporting the Yemeni government; it provides heavy arms.

Read more here:

Human Rights Nexus said...

Yemeni government forces fighting Houthi rebels in the country’s north have killed a leader and forced his supporters into retreat, a government official said. A government website said that Ali al-Qatwani was killed when troops took control of the al-Mahaleet area of Saada province.

Riyadh launched an offensive against the Houthis this month after they occupied villages inside Saudi territory and killed a border guard. It has warned that air strikes and shelling inside Yemen will continue until the rebels withdraw tens of kilometers from the border.

Yemeni government forces have also intensified their assault on rebel strongholds, and commanders say they are getting close to regaining full control of several key strategic locations in Saada.

Human Rights Nexus said...

Update: Saudi Arabia has officially entered into a direct war with the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen. The Guardian calls it a ˝crucially important conflict, woefully under-reported in the West [which has] now come to head in the Middle East ̏. While Saudi Arabia has previously engaged in proxy wars, this is the first time that its army has intervened militarily without an ally.

The Guardian reports that Saudi Arabia has ˝fought every ‘ism` that has sought to dominate the Middle East ̏, relying on oil money and Wahhabi Islam to bolster its influence. It contends that a large portion of these resources were reserved for its ˝back garden ̏, Yemen, where it create a strong Wahhabi current. The Guardian suggests that this policy has now backfired, ˝with the Houthis openly rebelling against Wahhabi encroachment on their religious ideology, while themselves encroaching on neighboring Saudi territory as they fight the government ̏.

The Guardian argues that: ˝Southern Saudi Arabia and northern Yemen have thus become a microcosm of the broader civil war playing out in the Muslim world. But Saudi Arabia's intervention in the conflict has also turned what had been a cold war – a war of position and influence within the region – into a hot war with international repercussions. The principal conflict is between the Saudis and Iran, which has established powerful political bridgeheads in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Gaza. Saleh played a key role in reinforcing Saudi perceptions of a dangerous Iranian security threat, thereby helping to turn the Houthi rebellion into a geopolitical conflict. ̏

To read more see here:

Human Rights Nexus said...

Update :

Five people, two of which were soldiers, died in a clash between security forces and protesters in southern Yemen. Shooting began as troops attempted to disperse a rally in the town of Ataq, in Shabwa province. Protesters seek the restoration of the former republic of South Yemen, which was independent until 1990. This is one of several clashes that have taken place in the south in recent months. People in the south, where most of Yemen’s oil facilities reside, have long protested against the central government taking advantage of their resources but marginalizing and discriminating against them.

The Rights Times said...

Yemen Rejects Rebels’ Offer to End Conflict in North

According to BBC, Yemeni authorities have dismissed a ceasefire offer by northern rebels, insisting they must also agree to end attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Houthi rebels had said they would accept government truce terms if the Yemeni army first halted its offensive.

Note: Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in Sadaa in early November to protect its border from incursions by Houthi insurgents. Since that time, Saudi military action seems to have strengthened coordination between Sana’a and Riyadh.

Read more here:

The Rights Times said...

On Thursday, 11 February, the Yemeni government announced an end to its military operations against rebels in the north in a truce deal between the two.

"The Yemeni government hopes that the cease-fire will bring an end to the bloodshed, promote sustainable peace and bring reconstruction and development to the region," said Mohammed Albasha, spokesman for Yemen's embassy in the United States.

In his statement, Albasha said Houthi rebel leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi had accepted the six conditions of the cease-fire.

Al-Houthi took to the group's Web site later and issued an order to his followers and fighters asking that they respect the cease-fire announced by the government.

The conditions, according to the statement, include clearing mines, not interfering with elected local officials, releasing civilians and military personnel, abiding by Yemeni law, returning looted items, and ending attacks within the country's northern neighbor, Saudi Arabia.

The Rights Times said...

The Houthis rebels opened fire on government forces just hours after a ceasefire was declared between the warring sides.

Interior Minister Mohammed al-Qawsi, whose car was shot at by rebels, told Reuters the truce was still intact because not all rebel fighters were aware of the deal.

The Rights Times said...

Yemen’s Shiite insurgents yesterday (13 February) affirmed they are committed to a truce to end their bloody six-year rebellion a day after the government accused them of breaching the ceasefire.

Abdul Malik al Houthi, the leader of the Houthi militants, denied in a statement on their al Menpar website that they attempted to assassinate Mohammed al Kawsi, the deputy interior minister, a few hours after the ceasefire came into effect on Thursday night.
“This [assassination attempt] is not true and war mongers are those behind such kind of things … The situation is calm and that is broadly visible in all the areas of Sa’ada and other regions but war mongers do not like peace and stability and seek to [carry out] such kind of breaches,” the statement said.

“Mr Abdul Malik al Houthi seeks to end this issue completely and the state should do that. War does not serve Yemen … we are committed to the truce and six-point condition set by the government,” the statement said.
The breaches were reported on Friday morning when one soldier was killed and seven wounded outside the northern city of Sa’ada. The government immediately blamed the Houthis.

The rebels, however, downplayed the incidents, saying in the statement “those were minimal violations that it is possible to overcome. They take place in every war.”

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