In yet another anti-government protest in the Middle East, at least 100,000 people rallied across the impoverished Arab nation of Yemen on Friday, demanding democratic reforms.
In the capitol Sana’a, 30,000 protesters called for the immediate resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Time magazine reported that the crowds of demonstrators included a diverse group of everything from educated students to rural tribesmen,
Saleh, a key U.S. ally, has already made a few concessions, including a promise not to run again for President and that will not have his son succeed him, He has been in power for three decades, but now one of the pillars of his power – the country’s oil reserves – are almost depleted.
The President has told the world that [the desert area of ] Marib is full of terrorists so he can get more military aid from America, a tribesman told Time. We are here to show the world that he is the terrorist.
The anti-Saleh movement was given a huge boost from Sheik Hamid al-Ahmar, one of the most powerful tribal leaders in Yemen, who expressed his support for the protest. Separatists have also joined students in the anti-government movement.
People want the regime to collapse, the crowds chanted, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Smaller groups of pro-government forces have also rallied, some of them shouting Yemen needs Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Journal said.
Reportedly, they killed two anti-Saleh protesters earlier in the week.
Anti-government protesters accuse the Saleh loyalists of being thugs hired by the regime to stamp out the opposition. The government has denied these charges.
Saleh himself has distanced himself from the violence allegedly by pro-government marchers and has ordered his security people to fully protect the anti-government protesters.
The government of the Republic of Yemen will continue to protect the rights of its citizens to assemble peacefully and their right to freedom of expression, Saleh said, according to an official news release.