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Syria: Murderous repression grows…

[1] More than 5,000 thousand Syrian civilians have fled into Turkey following a Syrian military attack on the city of Jisr al-Shughour. Meanwhile, Syrian helicopter gunships reportedly opened fire on peaceful protesters in the city of Maarat al-Numaan. The attack marked the first reported use of air power to quell protests in Syria’s popular uprising.

[2] A former member of the Syrian Republican Guard has told Amnesty International that he and other soldiers were ordered to open fire on unarmed protesters holding a pro-reform demonstration in Harasta, near Damascus, in April.

Walid ‘Abd al-Karim al-Qash’ami has been told that he is now under sentence of death in Syria because he refused to shoot and joined the protesters after witnessing soldiers kill three children, a young man and woman.

Speaking by phone from the country where he is now taking refuge, the 21-year-old said he was among 250 soldiers sent to quell a protest at Harasta on Saturday, 23 April.

Their officers told them they were to confront a “violent gang” but what they found were around 2,000 unarmed protesters, including children and women. Many of the men were bare-chested to show that they carried no weapons. Many of the protesters were carrying roses.

“I was shocked when I saw the security services and the army actually shooting at unarmed protesters who were chanting “Silmieh, Silmieh” (Peaceful, Peaceful) and “Nafdiki Ya Dera’a” (Our lives in return for you, Dera’a). When I heard those slogans, I just could not shoot at them, especially as I am from Dera’a and they were risking their lives for my city.”

The soldiers were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and had been given metal identity cards usually used only in war time and ordered to change into black «Combat Terrorism Unit» uniforms.

The protesters were in a street or alley leading to the town’s main roundabout. Security forces had sealed off one end of it and were already shooting at protesters when Walid al-Qash’ami’s unit arrived.

While standing in line with other soldiers, Walid al-Qash’ami witnessed the killing of three children and a young man and woman.

«One of the children was shot in the head by an officer who was standing right in front of me. I heard the officer say that he shot the kid because he was annoyed with his constant crying.»

Walid al-Qash’ami and five other soldiers refused to shoot at the protesters. They threw down their weapons and ran for their lives towards the protesters.

“As soon as we approached the protesters, the men stepped in between us and the other soldiers while the women closed in on us and took us to nearby houses.»

The defecting soldiers were then helped to escape from Harrasta.

“I could not return to Dera’a as it was under siege. So I moved from town to town dressed as a woman wearing a Niqab.”

While on the run, Walid al-Qash’ami received phone calls from a relative who is a colonel in the security forces who urged him to hand himself in.

The colonel’s wife also called him, he says, and said the authorities would pay him a large sum of money if he gave himself up but he refused to do so or withdraw his allegations. “I did not do this for money or fame, I did it for the truth,» he told Amnesty International.

He decided to get out of Syria when his relative in the security forces told his family that a Military Court in Damascus had sentenced him to death in his absence.

“Before I left I recorded my testimony on You Tube, to be broadcasted in case I was caught or killed.”

He managed to leave Syria and is now taking refuge with other Syrians who fled from Dera’a, the southern Syrian town that has been one of the centres of protest.

Military service is compulsory in Syria. Desertion incurs severe penalties up to life imprisonment or death.

Walid ‘Abd al-Karim al-Qash’ami is the second Syrian soldier to have told Amnesty International that he deserted the ranks and fled when ordered to shoot at unarmed protesters.

[1]Democracy Now: Syria: Thousands Flee to Turkey Following Military Attack, Government Reportedly Deploys Helicopters
[2]Amnesty International: Syrian soldier ‘ordered to fire’ on peaceful protesters


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Yemen protesters burnt alive, buried in mass graves (warning graphic photos)

Via: Jane Novak’s Yemen articles

Over 250 at least were killed in Taiz, Yemen over the past four days. On May 29th, at 3 am, forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh attacked Freedom Square in Taiz.

Water cannons filled with gasoline sprayed tents where protesters were sleeping. Thousands of protesters were camping in the Square since February demanding Saleh’s immediate resignation. The tents were set ablaze and fleeing citizens shot by roof top snipers as they ran. Many were unable to escape the fires including the disabled and children as indicated by the photos below. The massive protest site was cleared after hours of carnage, with bulldozers scraping up the remains of tents and persons by the morning.

The protesters attempted to retake the square over the next days only to be shot point blank causing over hundred additional fatalities.

MASS GRAVES

Reports are emerging that Saleh’s forces again kidnapped severely wounded protesters and took corpses. The practice of body snatching was first reported in Aden February 25th.

Protesters killed by security forces were buried in a mass grave in Aden on February 27 a ranking Yemeni official confirmed today.

The grave site is on the eastern edge of the Salahu Deen military camp, near little Aden, and was first reported last week.

The official said 15 protesters were buried together in an unmarked single grave about eight meters long, speaking anonymously due to the high risk of government reprisal.

In May, Saleh’s henchmen again captured critically wounded and the dead bodies dumping them in a mass grave chopped up in garbage bags:

Sahwa Net, Sana’a- Medical sources at the Military Hospital in Sana’a have revealed that dozens of corpses of protesters who were killed by security forces were hidden by the Yemeni authorities in unknown places in an attempt to conceal evidence of crimes committed against peaceful demonstrators.

The sources affirmed that the Central Security and the Republican Guard kidnapped dozens of the killed and wounded persons and escaped them.

Security sources affirmed that the corpses of protesters were transferred from the Military Hospital’s mortuary in framework of a security campaign to conceal evidence of murder crimes committed by security forces against peaceful protests…

A Yemeni human rights organization, Hood, revealed that dozens of protesters’ bodies were taken into a cemetery at Artel area of the capital, Sana’a.

Hood further said that it received statements from medical sources saying that dozens of protesters corpses were taken to graves after the mid night on a Hilux, affirming that some residents of Artel area informed it, just after 12 hours of receiving those statements, that they found out a mass grave in which 15 bodies were buried.

HOOD, a leading and well respected human rights organization reported that body parts were found in trash barrels in May likely of protesters disappeared in April:

Hood confirmed that it received information and testimonies written and documented about the central security forces and gunmen in civilian clothes attacking the demonstrators with live bullets, sharp weapons and poison gas on Saturday night 04/09/2011 in Zubairy Street and Ring Road, which led to the downfall of a number of dead and wounded.

Hood quoted witnesses saying that “Nearly 20 people were pulled to some personnel carriers and government vehicles transferred to an unknown destination and their injuries were at the head, neck, chest, abdomen and some of them had died.” Also, confirmed that it had received “certificates for a mass graves in the area of “ Bait Boss”, body parts were found in trash barrels in that area, it is believed it belong to protesters who were arrested during the massacre of Kentucky Round in Sana’a. Attorney General has received a notification of this.”

The Saleh regime simultaneously engages in mass arrests as it steals corpses and kidnaps the wounded. Family members hope their missing relatives are “disappeared” in the dungeons of Yemeni prisons, as thousands are. Current reports indicate at least 500 were taken the night of May 30th, and it is unknown how many are dead in a mass grave.

PHOTOS (warning graphic)

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The Bahraini government continues its crackdown on protesters

Bahrain’s military court has sentenced four anti-government protesters to death, in a move to further crush the ongoing revolutionary movement in the small Persian Gulf country. This comes while the Manama regime rejects reports by a number of human rights groups on massive rights violations in the country. According to local sources, Bahraini authorities have raided hospitals, torturing doctors and injuring anti-government protesters in an effort to quell mass protests.

Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and Physicians for Human Rights have charged Bahraini security officials with systematic attacks on doctors and patients. Physicians for Human Rights say doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured or disappeared because they have «evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces and riot police» in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Press TV interviews Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights in Manama who describes the fearful living conditions in Bahrain.

Press TV: With this six-year-old boy that has been killed – We hear every day different excuses by the Saudi-backed regime forces saying why they have killed or detained demonstrators, etc. What excuse, if any, has been given for the killing of this six-year-old child?

20/4: A female Bahraini activist who has composed anti-government poems has been killed, after being arrested and raped by Manama forces. Ayat al-Ghermezi, 20, had recited her poems, in which she slammed the ruling regime and Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifah Ibn Salman al-Khalifah, during protests in Pearl Square in the capital city, Manama, Fardanews reported. Shortly afterwards, Ghermezi received an influx of insulting and intimidating letters and emails, but when she referred to the police to report the threats, she was insulted and mocked by officers, her family says. In late March, security forces raided Ghermezi's home twice, threatening her family to reveal Ayat's whereabouts, otherwise they would “destroy the house over your heads, by the order of high-ranking officials.” After the security forces coerced Gehrmezi's family into disclosing her hideout, the family heard no word from her, Ayat's mother said. When the family started searching for Ayat, the police told them they have no information about Ayat and tried to force them to confirm through a letter that their daughter had gone missing. In mid-April, an anonymous call was made to Gehrmezi's family, informing them that Ayat was in coma at an army Hospital. At the hospital, doctors confirmed that Ayat had gone into coma after being raped for several times. Eventually, the physicians' efforts failed to save Ayat's life and she died at the army hospital. So far, several other women, including doctors, university professors and students, have been kidnapped or arrested by Bahraini security forces. Since mid-February, thousands of anti-government protesters in Bahrain have poured into the streets, calling for an end to Al-Khalifa dynasty, which has ruled the country for almost forty years. On March 13, Saudi-led forces were dispatched to the Persian Gulf island at Manama's request to quell the countrywide protests. According to local sources, dozens of people have been killed and hundreds arrested so far during the government clampdown on the peaceful demonstrations.

Rajab: The government never responds, normally, in such cases. I have not documented this case and only know what I have read on the Internet, which reports that he suffocated from teargas, the strange teargas the government has been using lately, which many people are suffering from and it seems that he was admitted to hospital and a day or two later he died.

The government has not responded over the event just as they haven’t responded on the continuation of the many arrests taking place where detainees were beaten and tortured. Many have suffered from torture including those (four) convicted (sentenced to death for allegedly killing two policemen) in the military court the other day; one almost lost his eye due to beatings. We have reports that doctors were beaten at the hospital as they were arrested; humiliated and tortured in the past days according to people that have been released recently.

International condemnation and reports of international human rights groups has not changed the Bahraini government position. Still there are hospitals and doctors and nurses targeted. In a statement by the government, they claim to have released 350 people, but according to us we have been able to document that some 30-40 people have been released. We haven’t become aware of any more than that.

The situation is very frightening inside Bahrain, there is an atmosphere of fear for everyone, particularly those who have talked to the radio and TV networks; who have had some of their family members targeted because they are exposing to the international community what is going on inside Bahrain.

Press TV: Concerning the detentions where people are being held without charge and basically not receiving a trial and a lot of times the families don’t know where they are – Can you give us a break down on the situation inside the prisons in Bahrain about what people are faced with?

Rajab: There are approximately two political prisoners for every 1,000 Bahraini citizens in prison and all of them were detained because of the uprising, which was calling for democracy and human rights so they are punished for their participation.

As you know, hundreds of thousands participated, no less than 50 percent of the entire population, were out protesting, which represents a massive revolutionary presence. Now the government is targeting them in the living environment and schools and at work arresting them, firing them, beating them in the streets and raiding villages; even demolishing their mosques. In excess of 1,000 have been detained just in the past days, of which more than 80 are women. We don’t know the exact numbers because the government arrests people without informing the families.

These prisoners have no access to lawyers or family members. We know from the people that have been released that most people that go in are tortured very badly and now it is not only torture in the prisons, but these forces are torturing people in their homes. They carry their electrocution devices into people’s homes as they go in to arrest them. They ransack and destroy the homes, stealing money and valuables; we have had many houses robbed by security forces. The damage from the raids is extensive with all furniture and even fridges destroyed.

There is collective punishment against residents from all the villages also. If someone protests in a village, the whole village population is pressured by attacks using teargas and bullets both rubber and live ammunition each night until the protests stop. So we have collective punishment in all our villages.

People are still getting wounded and the hospital is still occupied by the military so we cannot take people there because they will be arrested, tortured and beaten inside the hospital no matter if they are wounded, so most wounded are being treated at home. The situation is critical. We are witnessing a human rights crisis and a humanitarian crisis and we need the international community to pressure the Bahrain government to stop the crimes.


Democracy Now 28/4: Syria has intensified its massive crackdown on demonstrators, despite the lifting of emergency rule last week that banned demonstrations. Al Jazeera reports thousands of troops backed with tanks have swept into the southern city of Daraa, where a curfew is in place, setting up snipers on rooftops and killing at least 20 people. Government security forces have also stormed the large Damascus suburb of Douma. These latest developments follow protests on Friday that ended with more than 100 people killed in the deadliest day since the uprising began. We go to Syria to speak to Rula Amin of Al Jazeera and Razan Zaitouneh, human rights lawyer and activist.


 

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Arab world: Further News

EGYPT: [1] Cairo, March 24 2011: Egypt’s newest trade union was established on Thursday; the Independent Union of Public Transport Authority Workers. Hundreds of PTA workers attended the inauguration and preparatory conference of their independent trade union – at the Journalists’ Syndicate.

Joining this union are 60,000 bus-drivers, conductors, mechanics, and engineers employed in the PTA – from across greater Cairo. Tens of thousands have rallied for the establishment of representative, accountable and democratically-elected trade union committees.

Workers voted to break away from the General Union of Land Transport Workers, a yellow union within the (state-controlled) Egyptian Trade Union Federation. This new union is the fifth independent association to be established since 1957.

Over the course of the past two years five independent unions came into being:
The Real Estate Tax Authority Employees’ Union, the Independent Teachers’ Syndicate, Egyptian Health Technologists’ Syndicate, Pensioners’ Federation;

And today the Independent Union of the Public Transport Authority Workers.

The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) – a confederation of the first four associations – was established on January 30th, 2011.

[2] ALGERIA: Residents of a slum in Oued Koreiche, a suburb of Algiers clashed with the police in a protest against discontinuance of water and electricity in their homes

LIBYA: [3] 24th of March: A French warplane has reportedly crashed in the Libyan city of Sirte, while the US-led coalition forces’ military operation intensifies the abject state in the African nation. The Libyan newspaper al-Watan reported Wednesday that Libyan forces shot down a French jet fighter which was bombing the city and detained its pilot. Sirte, some 600 kilometers east of the Libyan capital Tripoli is the despotic ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown. A spokesman of the French military, however, has denied Thursday reports that the fighter jet was shot down over the Libyan city. “No French plane was shot down in Sirte last night,” said Colonel Thierry Burkhard, French armed forces spokesperson.

YEMEN: [4]Following the regime’s brutal massacre of protestors on Friday, March 18, the revolution has moved forward in Yemen. The state apparatus has split, and most of the army has turned against President Saleh. After the repression failed to achieve its objectives, the ruling elite and the imperialist powers are desperately trying to find a “safe” alternative. But that will not stop the revolution.

While the imperialist intervention in Libya is dominating the headlines, the revolt in Yemen, and its implications for the Persian Gulf area, is of perhaps greater strategic consequence for the imperialists. In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the reactionary monarchy is already feeling the hot breath of the revolution on its neck, and the regime has deployed forces in Bahrain in an effort to crush the revolution and stop it from spreading to the heartland of the Arabian Peninsula.

The turning point in Yemen’s revolution occurred on March 18 after Friday prayers, when the revolutionary people in the streets called for President Ali Abdallah Saleh to leave. A brutal crackdown followed. Snipers hidden on rooftops opened fire on the crowds gathered for prayers outside Sana’a University, leaving 52 people dead and hundreds wounded. Scenes of chaos were reported at the makeshift hospital that the demonstrators set up within their camp.

Since protests began in late January, Saleh has tried to quell the dissent with concessions. He raised salaries and said he would step down when his term of office ends in September 2013. In recent weeks he has been trying to negotiate with the opposition, going so far as to offer a deal that would give more power to parliament and local authorities. But this did not work, and out of desperation, the regime – imitating the Gulf States’ repression in Bahrain – decided to take the road of brutal repression. Now, after the brutal massacre on March 18, negotiations are out of the question. The Rubicon has been crossed. This marks the end for the Saleh regime.

President Saleh has threatened the Yemeni people that any “coup” against him would lead to “bloody civil war” in this poverty-ridden country. This is the same argument used by Mubarak before his exit from power. According to Gregory Johnsen from Princeton University, “most Yemenis are no longer buying this argument.” To Al Jazeera English, he added: “What comes next in Yemen will be determined by the style and timing of Saleh’s exit. The question is whether he steps down peacefully, hands over to a transitional government, or digs his heels in and refuses to go, which will lead to violence.”

Although Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1979, has offered to step down by the end of this year (a case of too little and too late), there are certainly indications that Saleh will not step down without a ferocious fight. On Wednesday, at the behest of President Saleh, the parliament passed sweeping new emergency laws. The emergency law, last evoked during Yemen’s 1994 civil war, suspends the constitution, allows for greater media censorship, bans street protests and gives security agencies arbitrary powers to arrest and detain suspects without judicial process.

Saleh isolated

President Saleh’s position is starting to look increasingly fragile and it appears that the remaining amount of support left for him might be reaching critical levels.

A wave of military defections on Monday and Tuesday has left Saleh with only the loyalty of elite forces commanded by his son and nephews, many of them trained and equipped by the US. One of the prominent defectors is General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. This individual has been engaged in back-channel talks with Saudi Arabia, who happens to be one of Saleh’s leading benefactors. These negotiations, however, failed to yield a clear transition of power. The Saudi rulers have traditionally viewed Yemen as their country’s strategic backyard.

Mohsen is one of the country’s richest men, an influential member of Yemen’s old guard, and his defection from the president has led to a massive wave of defections. Armoured vehicles under Mohsen’s command surrounded the presidential palace, where the Republican Guard units under control of Saleh’s son, Ahmed, had taken up defensive positions. Forces loyal to the president have clashed with regular army troops in the eastern town of Mukalla.

Mohsen is positioning himself for Saleh’s inevitable exit. He is a veteran of the old guard and in the 1980s he worked with Saleh to defeat the “socialist” People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the South. In the 1994 civil war, he enlisted veteran Jihadis who had fought in Afghanistan to fight the “socialist” south, re-introduce landlordism and roll back all the progressive reforms that the nationalised economy had been able to offer. A western diplomat told the Wall Street Journal that the general has been “always sort of in the shadows as the back-up dictator,” and that even in the case of Saleh’s exit “you could have a Yemen that looks a lot like Yemen.”

For Saudi Arabia, the general is a “safe” alternative to the revolution. There is just one small problem: the revolutionary people, once brought to their feet, will not easily be satisfied with cosmetic changes and a “Yemen that looks a lot like Yemen”. On the contrary – they are fighting and dying for a Yemen that looks completely different form the Yemen of today – the Yemen of misery, of poverty, of tribalism, of dictatorship, of national subordination to imperialism. The revolutionary people want radical change, and they will not be satisfied with General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in the place of Saleh.

[5] AFGHANISTAN: 2 Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Attack

The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan has issued another apology for the killing of Afghan civilians. NATO says two civilians were accidentally killed in an air strike on Wednesday in the province of Khost. Two children were killed in another NATO attack last week, and nine boys died in another attack earlier this month.

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[1] Libcom.org, Egypt: Public Transport Workers Establish Independent Union
[2] Athens Indymedia
[3] Press TV:  ‘French warplane shot down in Libya’
[4] Frederik Ohsten, Yemen revolution: Saleh regime on the verge of collapse
[5] Democracy Now, latest updates.

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100 missing after Bahrain crackdown, Yemen: President Ali Abdullah Saleh seeks Saudi asylum

[1] Bahraini Shia women hold up pictures of King Hamad and a slain activist during his funeral in the town of Sitra outside the capital, Manama on March 20, 2011. A former Bahraini lawmaker says that around 100 people have gone missing during the Manama-ordered crackdown on the countrywide popular revolution.“We don’t know anything about them, we’ve asked hospital and ministry authorities and none of them are telling us anything about them,” said Hady al-Mussawy, formerly a parliamentarian with Al Wefaq, the country’s largest political party. He made the comments during a short protest in front of the United Nations building in the capital, calling on the world body to make sure rescue medical services operate in the Persian Gulf kingdom.

Demonstrators in the Shia-majority country have been demanding the ouster of the Sunni-led Al Khalifa monarchy as well as constitutional reforms since February 14. The government recently razed the capital’s Pearl Square, where hundreds of protesters had been camping.

At least 12 people have been killed and about 1,000 injured since the start of the anti-government protests during the government-backed armed attacks. On Thursday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay denounced a new move by the government to take control of the country’s hospitals amid the killing and injuring of protesters by the security forces.

«There are reports of arbitrary arrests, killings, beatings of protesters and of medical personnel, and of the takeover of hospitals and medical centers by various security forces,» she said. Manama recently sought the help of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to further suppress the protests. Violence has intensified against the demonstrators ever since the deployment of Saudi and Emirati forces in Bahrain.

[3]The Strategic Importance of Bahrain

On 14th February 2011, in the wave of protests that swept the Arab world, Bahraini citizens gathered on the streets of the capital Manama demanding greater political freedom for the majority Shia muslim majority. Their aims included putting an end to the King appointing key government ministers, including the Prime Minister, and to prevent further granting of citizenship to Sunnis from South Asia, which is a policy designed to reverse the Shia-Sunni ratio. Additionally, there were calls to release twenty-three Sunni protestors who had been incarcerated in 2010 for ‘plotting against the government.’ The response from the Sunni ruling family was unequivocal in its refusal, with the self-proclaimed King Hamad Al Khalifa ordering violent state putdowns, resulting in 6 protestors being killed by the police on the 17th February. Since then, protests have increased dramatically, the total absolution of the monarchy now the rallying call for the protestors. In turn, the austerity of the state response has also worsened, with frequent gun battles between police and protestors occurring across the capital.

Whilst such protests have occurred in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia with little in the way of direct action from neighbouring states, Bahrain is a notable exception. It is now hosting 1000 Saudi Arabian troops and 150 United Arab Emirates police officers, brought in to subdue the protests by the Gulf Cooperation Council, a 6-state economic and political union comprising of the Gulf states of Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. Their soldiers guard government and financial institutions, their tanks patrol the streets of Manama and they have forced protestors away from their strongholds in the city, including the Pearl Roundabout where much of the fighting has taken place. So why did the GCC states take such an action?

Firstly, the strategic importance of Bahrain cannot be overstated. As small as it may be, the archipelago at the tip of Qatar has vast oil and pearl reserves, as well as a significant amount of concentrated capital. Furthermore, it is also the base for the United States Fifth Fleet, from where they control and monitor the Gulf region and curb Iranian influence therein. It should be noted that whilst being a Gulf State, Iran is excluded from the GCC as it is Shia-ruled whereas the other Gulf states are Sunni-ruled.

Secondly, this deep sectarian divide has raised itself several times in recent Bahraini history, with Shia citizens claiming decades of mistreatment under Sunni rule, with difficulties accessing housing, jobs and other infrastructure. The Shia opposition has therefore long been attracted to the Iran and its Shia rule, perhaps most evident from the 1981 failed Islamic revolution which was intended to put in power a fundamentalist Shia cleric exiled in Iran. Even today, some Iranian officials consider Bahrain to be the “14th province of Iran”. Should the Gulf States tolerate this political uprising, there is the definite possibility that Iran’s influence in Bahrain – which currently remains very weak due to the austere rule of the al Khalifa family – would soar, increasing its power in the Gulf and allowing further destabilisation of Bahrain by encouraging sectarian divide, akin to their recent strategy in Iraq. Additionally, there are worries amongst the Saudi ruling class that a seemingly successful protest in Bahrain may trigger similar unrest in Saudi Arabia’s eastern provinces, which is predominantly Shia, and where the majority of their oil wells are positioned. Naturally, the ruling classes of the Gulf States and also the United States cannot tolerate such regional instability, and at all costs they will aim to quell dissent, meaning a potentially long and bloody uprising is in the making.

ΥΕΜΕΝ:

22 of March

[4] On Monday night, Saleh told Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz during a telephone conversation that he will be forced to give up power and requested him and his family’s asylum to Saudi Arabia, nahrainnet reported.

Earlier Tuesday, Saleh had expressed his willingness to step down by the year’s end to prepare a peaceful transfer of power in the impoverished Arab nation. The announcement came as a reversal of Saleh’s recent comments in which he had said he would remain in power until the end of his term in 2013.

During talks with the Saudi officials, Saleh discussed the deflection of senior military officials to the opposition and the resignation of many other officials from their posts. A senior Saudi official is expected to visit Sana’a in the next 24 hours to plan Saleh and his family’s departure to Riyadh.

Saleh has been in office for more than three decades, with several opposition members arguing that his long-promised reforms have not materialized. Protests began to sweep Yemen in January. Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds more have been injured in a brutal crackdown by security forces. Some 40 percent of Yemen’s population lives on under $2 a day or less, and a third is wrestling with chronic hunger, reports say.

21 of March:

Below: The people of Yemen come under sniper fire as they gather to demonstrate

20 of March

[2]Yemen’s embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh has fired the cabinet, according to a statement from his office. Sunday’s announcement comes after a month-long popular uprising calling for political reform and Saleh’s resignation.

The president has asked the cabinet to be a caretaker government until he forms a new one. Several ministers have resigned from the government after security forces killed at least 52 protesters on Friday. Abdullah Alsaidi, Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations, has also quit in protest over the violence.

Adding even more pressure on Saleh, the country’s most powerful tribal confederation on Sunday called on him to step down. Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, the leader of Hashed, which includes Saleh’s tribe, issued a statement asking the president to respond to the people’s demands and leave peacefully. It was co-signed by several religious leaders.

Meanwhile, thousands joined the burial procession of some of those killed in the uprising. Around 30 bodies were laid out in neat rows and the square near Sanaa University was filled with mourners. Saleh had declared Sunday a national day of mourning for the «martyrs for democracy,» while blaming the opposition for «incitement and chaos» that had led to the killings.

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[1] NEA από όλο τον Κόσμο, 100 missing after Bahrain crackdown
[2] Al Jazeera, Yemen president fires cabinet
[3] Infoshop News, The Strategic Importance of Bahrain
[4] Press TV: ‘Yemeni pres. seeks Saudi asylum’

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