Socialist Worker

Mass protests build the resistance in Yemen

by Abubakr Al-Shamahi
Issue No. 2252

As mass anti-government demonstrations in Yemen entered their fourth month the Supreme Coordination Council of the Revolution—a coalition of nearly 300 pro-democracy groups—announced their plans to escalate the protests.

At the heart of the proposals is a march on the presidential palace in the capital Sana’a, with the 50 most prominent faces of the revolution marching at the forefront.

Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, where the military did not back the dictator at the crucial point in the uprising, the army in Yemen is split and the president retains control over several units. This has led to the current uncertain standoff—causing an economic crisis and the spectre of civil war.

The protesters have turned to mass civil disobedience in an attempt to keep the demonstrations peaceful in this well-armed country.

The protests have been particularly effective in Aden, which was the capital of South Yemen, when the current state was two countries before 1990.

In the city, although some tensions do remain, separatists and opposition party members work together to ensure that their revolution is successful.

On Wednesday and Saturday mornings Aden comes to a standstill. Roads are blocked by young people to ensure that people do not attempt to get to their workplaces. A source at the Aden civil service office said that only 20 percent of government employees were coming into work on strike days.

On 14 May there was civil disobedience in most regions of the country. The governates of Aden, Bayda, Hodeida, Lahj, Shabwa, Taiz were all reported to have had 90 percent support for the call. Observers reported about 60 percent compliance in Sana'a—with businesses closed on many of the city's main roads.

Day labourers in the capital, who earn about £6 a day in the construction industry, have been joining the protests. There are around a million such workers in Yemen and they have played an integral part in the protest camps.

Oil and port workers have heeded calls for civil disobedience. Dockers in the Red Sea city of Hodeida are reported to have refused to unload cargo ships. Last week strikes halted all oil production at Nexen Energy and Total, two major oil companies working in Yemen.

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Thu 19 May 2011, 13:25 BST
Issue No. 2252
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