Tens of thousands of people have flooded the streets of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, again voicing their demands for the fall of the government. Opposition parties joined for the first time Tuesday, and organizers said they brought hundreds of thousands into the streets in cities across Yemen for the largest turnout yet.
In Sanaa, tens of thousands rallied near the university, chanting “the people want the downfall of the regime.” (CBC) Protesters shouted “Leave!”, signaling their rejection of an offer made by President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Monday to form a new unity government. Mr. Saleh has blamed the US and Israel for the unrest in Yemen and elsewhere. He has faced daily protests inspired by the overthrow of the governments in Tunisia and Egypt.
“The government doesn’t care about us,” said Faisal Athubani, 27, a youth leader. “They are afraid because the people here are educated. If they give us benefits, they fear we can gain power and change Yemen. So they want to keep us down.” (Washington Post)
“We want democracy, and I will not leave until we get it,” said Bander Abdulwahid, 28, a mechanist who has slept in his yellow tent for two weeks. (Washington Post)
About 6,000 government supporters held a counter march in Sanaa, raising pictures of Saleh and shouting “No to anarchy, no to destruction.” (CBC)
“The events from Tunisia to Oman are a storm orchestrated from Tel Aviv and under Washington’s supervision,” President Saleh told reporters in Sanaa, according to AFP news agency. “What is taking place in Yemen’s streets is just a copycat attempt, as Yemen is not Tunisia or Egypt and the Yemeni people are different,” he said. (BBC) “We hear statements from President (Barack) Obama asking the Egyptians to do this, telling the Tunisians to do that,” Saleh said. “Are you the president of the United States or the president of the Arab world?” (CNN)
Upon rebroadcast, Saleh’s statement about Washington controlling the unrest were edited out, but not before they elicited a remark on Twitter from U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley. “The protests in Yemen are not the product of external conspiracies,” Crowley said. “President Saleh knows better. His people deserve a better response.” (CNN)
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Saleh needs to look inward instead of lashing out. “We’ve made clear to the leadership in Yemen, as we have to the leadership in other countries, that they need to focus on the political reforms that they need to implement to respond to the legitimate aspirations of their people,” Carney told reporters. “And we don’t think scapegoating will be the kind of response the people of Yemen or the people in other countries will find adequate.” (CNN)
Analysts say the remarks are the harshest criticism yet of Washington from the man who has been an ally in the US campaign against al-Qaeda. They came a day after Mr. Saleh offered to include members of the opposition in his government in return to an end to the protests. But neither gesture did much to placate protesters, thousands of whom gathered not only in Sanaa but in other Yemeni cities including Taiz, Ibb and al-Bayda governorate, according to the website of the Yemeni weekly Al-Masdar.
They say they called Tuesday’s “day of rage” in response to the deaths of anti-government “martyrs” during protests, particularly in the southern port of Aden.
Troops fired on demonstrators in that city at the end of last week, killing four, according to officials quoted by Associated Press news agency. However human rights group Amnesty International said 11 people were shot dead. Amnesty says the overall death toll in the recent protests has now reached 27, with 24 of the deaths occurring in Aden.
The United Nations’ human rights chief warned Yemeni authorities against the use of brute force on protesters. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the government “to protect the rights of demonstrators and journalists under international law… We have seen over and over again in the past few weeks that violent protesters go away and only serve to exacerbate their frustration and anger,” Pillay said in the statement. (CNN)
In response to the unity government proposition by Mr. Saleh, Mohammed Al-Qubati, the spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties, said, “The opposition will not enter a unity government with the ruling party and will stand with the demands of the people.” (CNN)
“There is no going back to dialogue,” said Mohammed al-Sabri, a lawmaker and spokesman for the opposition coalition, who addressed a rally in Taiz on Friday, just after the nighttime rally, that drew as many as 100,000 demonstrators, one of the largest protests among recent uprisings in Yemen. “We want the government to step down.” (Washington Post)
Anti-government sentiment is the latest in a wave of problems for the Yemeni government. The nation has been battling al-Qaeda as well as a Shiite uprising and secessionist movement. High unemployment, lack of political freedoms and government corruption have also stoked Yemeni anger.