Yemen releases jailed activists in the face of Tunisia-inspired protesters
Yemen today released nearly three dozen activists, including Towakil Karman, who had led Tunisia-inspired protests last week calling for President Saleh to step down.
Protesters in Yemen succeeded in securing the release of nearly three dozen jailed activists today, citing the Tunisia uprising as inspiration for their persistent demands on the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.Skip to next paragraph
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“We the Yemeni people have been patient for years," said Mahfoutha Hassan, an older woman whose red head scarf stood out amongst a sea of black abayas in the female section of a protest in the capital of Sanaa today. "So when the government of Tunis fell, it stirred us up.”
Ms. Hassan says she was impelled to come out after Towakil Karman, one of Yemen’s most prominent and beloved activists, was jailed yesterday morning after leading protests last week in Sanaa calling for President Saleh to step down. Today, after a second consecutive day of demonstrations, she and 35 others were freed, says Mohamed Al Sabry, a former spokesperson for opposition parties.
“The people need to change the government,” says Mr. Sabry, who was one of approximately 800 demonstrators who gathered today in front of the general prosecutor's office, which was responsible for Karman's detention. “Today the people demand a peaceful stability and to change the situation in Yemen…. This is happening across Yemen.”
The protests may be a sign of how Tunisia’s uprising is sending reverberations throughout the Arab world, with Yemenis claiming far broader grounds for revolution than Tunisians had. But analysts are doubtful that protesters can harness that discontent into a similar overthrow of government.
“I don’t think Yemen is ready,” says Nadia Al Sakkaf, editor-in-chief of the local Yemen Times newspaper. “Although we have the readiness in terms of oppression and people boiling, there in not the organization of civil society, the sense of volunteerism, or of people going out to the streets.”
Ms. Sakkaf noted that demonstrations in Yemen only take place in the morning, when the majority of the country is open for business. The time after lunch traditionally is reserved for the consumption of the mild narcotic qat.
“Unless you find a demonstration that is happening in the afternoon, then Yemenis are still not taking their situation seriously,” she said, although she added, “The government has not been wise in dealing with angry masses. It's opening more fronts than it is closing them.”
'We needed the revolution before Tunis'
According to a statement from Yemen’s official Saba news agency, Karman was arrested early Sunday morning on charges of organizing unlicensed rallies, incitement to commit acts of rioting and chaos, and undermining the public social peace.