Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Officials in Saudi Arabia, Yemen say President Ali Abdullah Saleh will remain in Riyadh.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Yemen On The Brink Of Total Chaos
The question being asked is how many more innocent lives will be lost before Saleh leaves
By Khaled Ziad
It has been more than seven months since a peaceful revolution began in Yemen. But for the past bloody week, it seems that President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime is taking the turmoil in the country to a dangerous new level. War drums have begun to sound. It is the youth who are up in revolt, their supporter General Ali Mohsin's First Armoured Division troops and the major tribal chief, Shaikh Sadeq Al Ahmar, on one side and the remaining supporters of Saleh's regime on the other side.
Yemeni people surprised the world and proved to the international community that they are patient and peace-loving. But their patience has limits, and the limits have been crossed by Saleh and his son Ahmad. They disregarded the voices of reason and wisdom calling for a reprieve for the region's poorest country, which has suffered as a result of a corrupt government and is today a failing state.
Saleh surprised everyone by returning to Yemen from Saudi Arabia on Friday. But the demand for his departure from the presidency is no longer the demand of the Yemeni people alone. All regional and western countries are urging him to leave, especially the Gulf states, which came up with three initiatives for Saleh's departure. But Saleh persists with his delaying tactics, and is planning new political and military games. He refuses to leave with honour and has no mercy on his people and his country despite the serious injuries he suffered during the assassination attempt in June, which almost killed him.
In fact, he has now become more arrogant and ignorant. This week his son Ahmad and his family escalated the situation and brought back violence to the streets of the capital Sana'a, killing dozens of civilians with rocket-propelled grenades, leaving hundreds of others wounded. There were children shot dead, among them a 10-month-old baby who was hit in the head by a stray bullet. It was a new massacre against unarmed demonstrators, and terrorised peaceful citizens in their homes with sounds of bombs and fighter jets in Sana'a, and the southern city of Taiz.
Where is the government heading to? How many more innocent lives will be lost before Saleh leaves? What will stop Saleh and his family from punishing the Yemeni people? All these questions warrant Saleh's immediate attention. Tremendous efforts had been exerted by the elite in Yemen to avoid reaching this stage. But the blood of young Yemenis has been shed and their lives have been the price for their nation's freedom.
Safe exit in doubt
Surely a revolution exacts a price and nothing comes for free. But Yemen's youth are fighting Saleh's oppression and aggression against them and they will maintain the unity of the country. On Sunday they were killed in Change Square while singing Yemen's national anthem. It is obvious that Saleh's government will not take any serious steps towards a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Yemen, and nothing justifies the recent violence by Saleh's government.
The international community's main concern in Yemen is fighting Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The youth in Yemen proved to the world their determination in favour of fighting terrorism while Saleh's regime used the terrorism bogey to get financial aid from the West, which was the main reason for non-acceptance of Yemen in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
I believe it is time for the international community to get involved and help Yemen before it is too late. The world should strongly condemn these crimes against humanity. It is really shameful and bizarre that the Yemeni government uses violence and excessive power, then expresses its sorrow and condemnation over its crimes in its response to the UN Human Rights Council. It does not work this way.
I think Saleh lost his chance for safe exit and the International Criminal Court should issue an arrest warrant for Saleh and his son over the crimes against humanity committed against unarmed civilians in Sana'a, Taiz and Arhab. Also Switzerland should freeze any assets belonging to Saleh and his family, just like it froze the assets of the former presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali and Hosni Mubarak, respectively.
The recent violence in Yemen should be an incentive for the international community to break its silence, and the world should not continue to ignore what is happening in Yemen. Without doubt, international silence pours more oil on the fire and increases the chances of military means being used to resolve the longest revolution in the Arab Spring so far. It seems to be that Yemen is heading towards unending chaos and instability.
This commentary was published in The GULF NEWS on 25/09/2011