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Terrorism & Security

Yemeni protesters fill streets, calling for president's ouster

The thousands of Yemenis who turned out to protest President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule were met with counterprotests by government supporters.

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“We the Yemeni people have been patient for years," Mahfoutha Hassan, an older woman, told Monitor correspondent Laura Kasinof at a Monday protest. "So when the government of Tunis fell, it stirred us up.”

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Yemen is the latest in the region to be taken by popular protests since Tunisia toppled its president after a month of rallies. On Tuesday, Egyptians began protesting President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, facing a heavy-handed government response which sent out security forces to violently break up protests and shut down Twitter, the Monitor reported. Activists in Jordan and Algeria similarly launched antigovernment rallies over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times noted.

On whether the movements predict broad regime change in the region, Nadim Shehadi, from the London-based think tank Chatham House, told the LA Times that Tunisia’s revolt is an effect of regional shifts rather than being the main catalyst for later protests.

"If you look at the history of the last 100 years or so, you find that when the mood changes in the region it changes throughout," he said.

"After the fall of the Ottoman Empire when you had sort of liberal, pro-Western elites trying to create democratic institutions, you saw the same phenomenon in Cairo, Baghdad, Algiers, even Kabul," he explained. "When you started having the military take over after 1948, it started with a couple of coup d'etats in Syria and then 10 years later the whole region is [run by] colonels, from Algeria all the way to Indonesia."

Shehadi believes a similar period of change could be happening, but recent history is also full of false starts. The opposition "green movement" that engulfed Iran in the wake of the contested 2009 presidential elections did not spark revolutions around the region, as some had hoped.

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