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Why Yemen's youths are not bowing to government pressure, violence

Despite brutal attacks against them throughout the past week, Yemen’s idealistic youths continue to be the main voice pressing for regime change. Monday, they engaged in a peaceful sit-in.

By Laura KasinofCorrespondent / February 21, 2011

Yemeni anti-government demonstrators sleep on a pavement where they are camping in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday. Yemen's youths at Sanaa University have refused to give in to pressure and even gunfire as they demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

Muhammed Muheisen/AP

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Sanaa, Yemen

Yemen protesters have returned to the main entrance of Sanaa University to stage a sit-in, calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down and defying the police and plain-clothed government supporters who opened fire on them Saturday.

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“God willing, we will be here until the system falls,” Adel Al Suraby said Sunday night as other demonstrators, mostly young men in their 20s, danced behind him in the celebratory atmosphere. Others laid large blue tarps out on the ground for the protesters to sit on overnight.

Despite the brutal attacks against them throughout the past week, Yemen’s idealistic and determined younger population continues to be the main voice pressing for regime change, as was initially the case in Egypt. Yet unlike in Egypt, these youths are trying to mobilize a highly uneducated population, many of whom lack access to the Internet and believe that ousting President Saleh will prove too bloody of an affair due to Yemen’s highly armed population.

"The situation here is totally different from Egypt. Here in Yemen there are very few that use technology like Facebook and Twitter,” says student protester Hamid Al Shamy. “Yemen is a developing country, and the people who know how to use these technologies are very small. They are just the students.”

Yemen protesters get organized

Still on Sunday, the young protesters in Sanaa seemed to have defeated one of their main problems: disorganization.

After a week of protests in which the location, time, and purpose were flexible until the last minute, Sunday’s demonstration was much more structured.

There was a tent for medical services, free dinner, and even an impromptu checkpoint on the perimeters of the sit-in. Some of the plain-clothes thugs who have been attacking protesters carry pistols in their jacket pockets.

“We are still in the beginning,” youth leader Faiz Noman said.

Gregory Johnsen, an expert on Yemen based at Princeton University in New Jersey, says the protests' increasing intensity underscores that protesters are starting to believe in their power to change the political order.

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