Protests in Sanaa on Friday; if only everyone could follow the dove

The past few days has witnessed a turn to violence in the ongoing protests in Yemen. An altercation between President Salih’s forces and the major Hashid tribal family of al-Ahmar left scores dead and threatened to accelerate into a civil war. It appears that Salih would like nothing better as once again he could find an excuse to hold on to power. But as the young Husayn al-Ahmar said yesterday:

صالح قال اليمن ليست مصر ولا ليبياوأناأقول له إن صنعاء ليست طرابلس ومهلة الضمانات انتهت.
“Salih said that Yemen isn’t Egypt nor Libya, but I say to him that Sanaa is not Tripoli and the time for making a decision about guarantees has passed.”

Sadiq al-Ahmar, left; Husayn al-Ahmar, right

Yesterday’s massive demonstrations in Sanaa prove the words of al-Ahmar. Thousands took to the streets in a line of public protest that occurred without violence. President Salih has his backers as well, and there are Yemeni families where brothers (and sisters) are split on his continued rule. The longer Salih stays in power, despite repeated statements that he would step down, the greater the chance of civil strife. He should not be tempted to follow the path of Qaddafi and ruin the country even further.

But I personally think Salih underestimates his own people. Few people I know in Yemen have the stomach for a civil war and most are waiting for the army and the major political fighters to come to an agreement so life can get back to what passes for normal. This is the age-old system of tribal mediation that has served Yemen well for centuries.

The protests are not just in Sanaa. The major southern town of Taiz also saw a large turnout against Salih yesterday, as did many others. The entire south is against his rule, including the major port town of Aden, a town begging to be developed rather than ripped off.

Protests in Taiz

To view yesterday’s Sanaa demonstrations in video, click here.