Yemen’s Leader Accepts Yielding Powers

Submitted by ub on Wed, 11/23/2011 - 12:00

Following months of endless protests calling for his resignation, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has now traveled to Saudi Arabia and signed an agreement to transfer his powers to his vice president, which could begin an end to Mr. Saleh’s 33-year rule.

The Republic of Yemen, most often known as Yemen, is a Middle Eastern country in southwestern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Directly north of Yemen is Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea is west of Yemen, and Oman, an Arab state, is to the east. The geography can be divided into four main areas: the plains along the western coast, the eastern highlands, the Rub al Khali in the east, and the western highlands. With a 35 percent employment rate, diminishing natural resources, and an increasingly young population growth, Yemen is among the poorest and least developed nations in the Arab World. Additionally, they have severely less access to oil, which contributes to their dwindling economy.

Currently, Yemen is a presidential republic with two chambers of legislature. There is a President, elected by the people, an Assembly of Representatives, and a president-appointed Shura Council that all share power equally. While the President is the head of the state, the Prime Minister runs the government itself. As of June 2011, the Yemen population is around 24 million. Forty-six percent of that 24 million is under 15 years old and 2.7 percent is above 65. The two predominant religions on Yemen are Sunni and Shi’a. Mainly, Yemenis speak Arabic. In 1918, the northern part of Yemen gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire. As a result, between 1918 and 1962, Yemen was a monarchy, governed by the Hamidaddin family. In 1967, British troops vacated from what is known as the southern portion of Yemen after establishing a territory around a port. Soon after, the southern government adopted Marxism. Marxists have a materialistic understanding of history, a reasonable and argumentative view of social change, and a critique of capitalism. The North Yemen and South Yemen had a very tenuous relationship because so many Yemenis had fled to the north at this point in history.

By 1990, the two countries were formally united under the name the Republic of Yemen. The massive exodus of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis from the south to the north contributed to two decades of hostility between the states. The two countries were officially incorporated under the name the Republic of Yemen in 1990. Nearly 10 years later, Saudi Arabia and Yemen came to an agreement in relation to setting up their borders. Fighting broke out in the northwest regions of Yemen between a band of rebels, who wanted to return to a more traditional form of Islam, and the government in 2004. The seventh round of fighting ended in the early part of 2010 with a provisional armistice. However, South Yemen increasingly wanted to break away and form a separate country again. Protest and rallies were held in Sana'a. They spoke out against the President of Yemen after being motivated by similar exhibitions in both Egypt and Tunisia.

These protests began to build momentum in January of this year, stimulated by objections over the rising unemployment rate, the poor economy, and governmental corruption. Some protests grew violent and spread to other major cities by February. Reports estimate that nearly 100 people were killed in addition to many more being injured during the squabble. In March, the protestors called for the immediate abdication of President SALIH. By the following month, some protests had resulted in violence, and the demonstrations had spread to other major cities. Both domestic and international support flooded in to help arbitrate a resolution to the political unrest and turmoil that was taking place.

The Arab Spring refers to the series of protests, demonstrations and uprisings that occurred throughout the Middle East beginning on December 18th, 2010. The most notable of these revolutions occurred in Egypt and Libya; with Egyptian protestors overthrowing President Mubarak and the corrupt government ran by his National Democratic Party and civil war in Libya resulting in the fall of its regime. Although they did not gain nearly as much America media coverage as the previously mentioned, civil uprisings in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain are major aspects of the crisis in the Middle East. These demonstrations range from organized civil resistance to violent clashes between protestors and police. The primary objective behind these protests is to facilitate major change in the current regimes through public awareness and media attention.

Revolutionaries act in the hopes of revealing the deep corruptions embedded within many Middle Eastern political structures. In countries such as Egypt, there is virtually no middle class and the nation’s entire wealth lies in the hands of a few elitists. The uprisings represent a public plea from liberty, freedom and transparency; imperative pillars of Democracy which we in the Western world have come to take for granted. The slogan ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam ("the people want to bring down the regime"), summarizes the theme that links all of the Arab Spring revolutions. It has been made apparent that the only way to overthrow the corrupt regimes of the Middle East is to bring awareness of these injustices to the international community, and if necessary, obtain international intervention from world superpowers such as the United States.

History can be made any time there are people willing to stand up for what they believe in. Sometimes all it takes is questioning why things are the way they are. It took people in the Middle East until December 2010, to realize they were unhappy with the absolute monarchs that run their lives. The Arab Spring movement began in Tunisia because they were ready to make some change. Factors such as dictatorship, human rights violations, corruption in the government as well as many other issues were negatively affecting people in the Middle East. Tunisia was the first country that the Arab Spring took place. The people there just became so fed up with all the corruption and high unemployment that they decided to begin with violent street demonstrations. Tunisia was not the only Middle Eastern country to take part in Arab Spring, soon after Egypt, Libya, Yemen and others had followed in their footsteps. Progress was being made, and more countries were attempting to protest. Social media also positively impacted the Arab Spring movement. The use of facebook and twitter helped to organize and publicize their movement. I find it ironic that they would use social media because one of their major issues is media censorship. It's lucky for them that social media sources were available to help them because it is such a beneficial resource.

LIU Journalism students who contributed to this special report include: Nicole Nussbaum, Jennifer Franco, Ashley Coleman, Meredith Minisky, Marisa Anziano, Sarah Farsijany, Jason Kanyike.