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.
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On Monday, in a possible bid to placate growing discontent, the government announced that Towakil was to be released from prison.Skip to next paragraph
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However, the fiery activist – most well-known for publicly removing her niqab, the face veil that nearly all women wear in Yemen, on national TV – refused to leave until all of the others arrested were released along with her. She said would go on a hunger fast until that happened, says Hakima Abdel Salam, an assistant at Karman’s organization, Women Journalists without Chains.
And so, a few hours later, all those arrested during the previous day's protest had been released, said detainee Khaled Al Anisi in a phone interview after he was let free.
“I am a human rights activist. Also, I defend freedom in Yemen and this is the problem,” said Anisi, giving the reason for his arrest.
According to Ms. Salam of Women Journalists without Chains, Towakil was arrested because she "organized the youth against the government.”
“Now the Yemeni youth don’t have any future. In Tunis, they made a revolution with only small reasons. In Yemen we have many, many problems: hunger, poverty, unemployment... We needed the revolution before Tunis.”
According to local press reports, the coalition of opposition parties is calling for a popular uprising against the Saleh regime and plans to hold a large protest in Sanaa on Thursday.
After his release, Anisi told the Monitor: “We are not afraid from what they did for Towakil and us. We will continue fighting for our rights.”
Biggest effect in southern city of Aden
This influx of civil disobedience comes at a time of political deadlock and heightened tension between Yemen's ruling party and the opposition, making the Tunisian uprising resonate particularly with those opposed to Saleh’s 32-year reign.
But the Tunisian revolution seems to be having the largest effect in Aden, a southern port city. It is home to widespread dissent, and a portion of the population is calling for southern Yemen to revert to being its own country, as was the case before unification of north and south Yemen in 1990.
“Maybe people will start setting themselves on fire here like what is happening in Egypt,” Mr. Jarallah said in a phone interview last week, one day before local media reported that a man lit himself on fire in the southern Al Beidha province. “But ours is a different issue than Egypt. We don’t want to remove our corrupt regime. We want freedom. We are an occupied people.”