Yemenis Demand President to Step Down
Inspired by the Tunisia Revolution, thousands of Yemenis are demonstrating in the capital Sanaa, demanding their president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. Mr Ali Abdullah has been ruling the country for last thirty years. Yemen protests come after a mass uprising in Tunisia on January 14 and country wide protests in Egypt for last three days.
Yemeni opposition members and youth activists organized protests in four parts of the city Sanaa including Sanaa University. The protesters are chanting anti-government slogans demanding economic reforms and an end to corruption. Yemenis are worried with soaring poverty and lack of political freedom. There are fears among western countries that Yemen is increasingly becoming haven for al-Qaeda militants.
Protesters gathered in several locations of the city on Thursday morning, chanting that it was "time for change", and referring to the popular uprising in Tunisia that ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month. Counter-protests have also been staged by the party of President Saleh, the General People’s Congress. Government supporters are telling that the dissident protesters are a threat to the country’s stability.
President Saleh, a Western ally, became leader of North Yemen in 1978, and has ruled the Republic of Yemen since the north and south merged in 1990. He was last re-elected in 2006. Yemenis are angry over parliament’s attempts to loosen the rules on presidential term limits, sparking opposition concerns that Mr Saleh might try to appoint himself president for life. Mr Saleh is also accused of wanting to hand power to his eldest son, Ahmed, who heads the elite presidential guard, but he has denied the accusations.
A series of protests have led up to Thursday’s mass demonstrations. Hundreds of Sana University students held protests on campus on January 22, some calling for Mr Saleh to step down and some for him to remain in office. Yemeni authorities took into custody of a rights activist alleging that she was inciting protests against the government. She was later released as protests spread further with her arrest. Tunisia revolution unveiled on January 14 triggered a wave of protests in countries of autocratic regimes for decades.