News / Middle East

Yemen’s Separatists Call for Southern Uprising

Flags of the former South Yemen are illegal in Yemeni cities, but the government does not control much of the Southern countryside;  flags like this one are painted on mountainsides, rocks and buildings
Flags of the former South Yemen are illegal in Yemeni cities, but the government does not control much of the Southern countryside; flags like this one are painted on mountainsides, rocks and buildings
Heather Murdock

“If I have a weapon,” says Madian, a smiling 15-year-old boy carrying grenades and an AK-47, “the government cannot arrest me.”

Madian stands on a rocky hillside in southern Yemen, an area known to many local as “al-Janoob al-Harr,” The Free South.  He says 15 men once tried to take his gun, after he attacked a security office with a grenade.  When he grows up, Madian wants to be a soldier.  He hopes the southern rebellion will start soon.     

Technically, the Yaffa region is well within the boundaries of the arid Arabian country, but the Yemeni government does not rule this area.  It is controlled by a network of sheiks, and the Southern Movement.

Mohamed Tamah, a Southern Movement leader listens to Madian and looks proud.      A crowd gathers.  Some say they are soldiers that haven’t been paid by the government in months, years or even decades- a common cause for unrest in Yemen.  Others say family or friends were arrested without charges for peacefully protesting what they call the “northern occupation.”  

Southern demonstrators are often killed when the army opens fire at the crowds, they say.  Most of the people are out of work, and there are not nearly enough teachers to educate their children.  They want an independent country.      


I ask if that means they all want war.  The crowd on the rocky slope roars.  The answer is yes.  I wonder if the presence of Tamah, a prominent leader, is boosting their enthusiasm for what could be a disaster.  In 1994, only four years after northern and southern Yemen united, the south rose up and fought for independence.  The war was short and bloody, and the northern government prevailed.      

Only hours before, separatist leaders discussed the future of the Southern Movement in the home of Sheik Abdu Alrib al-Naqib.  The sheik is the ruler of the area.  He wore a brown NY Yankees hat to demonstrate the pro-West posture of the Southern Movement.     

Leaders said they thought uniting with northern Yemen was a good idea back in 1990.  “We were stupid,” said Tamah.  “We didn’t know what was going on in the North.” The northern government used the unity to bleed the south of resources, jobs, and land, Tamah added.

The Yemeni government says Southern Movement leaders are criminals, who use the suffering of ordinary people for personal gain.  Southerners are poor, Aden’s deputy governor, Sultan M. al-Shaibi told me in his simple wooden office- but so is the rest of the country.  

Later that day, he gave me a tour of the steamy port city in his silver four-wheel-drive.  He pointed out new buildings and development projects.   “All of this,” he said, waving in the direction of a building under construction, “since the unity.”

Al-Shaibi said the Southern Movement is not strong enough, or popular enough to stage a real rebellion.  Peaceful protests are welcomed in Yemen, he said, but violent acts should be treated like any other crimes or threats to the country’s stability.      

“Someone just crossing the road and stopping cars and taking people out of their cars in front of their families and killing them?” he said.  “Just because they are from here or from there? That’s not the proper thing to do.”

Violence and protests are increasingly commonplace in southern Yemen, and separatists’ efforts are complicated by the presence of al-Qaida.  Separatists say they are a secular organization, and have nothing to do with Islamic extremism or al-Qaida.  But one can’t help but notice that they do have a shared goal: destabilizing the Yemeni government.       

I didn’t point out my observation in the sheik’s house, because the separatists were already on the defense.  They said the Yemeni government labels them “al-Qaida” in order to use international anti-terrorism funds to attack separatists.     

The leaders also debated whether or not it would be possible to achieve independence without destabilizing the northern government.  Most said peaceful protests are not working.  Some urged more protests and peaceful secession.  Others said a battle was coming- with or without their support.      

And although the central government regularly calls for negotiations with the separatists, Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh insists southerners recognize the unity as a condition for the talks.  "I am sure that the separatist flags will be burned in the coming days and weeks,” said the president, according to state news in mid-March.  “For we have one flag that we have agreed upon at our own free will.”

But only minutes outside the military checkpoints that surround Aden, flags of the former south Yemen are painted on mountainsides, buildings, water-tanks and doors.  “The Free South” and the slogan “A home we don't protect, we don't deserve!” are spray-painted on empty walls and rocks.

And as Tamah walks through a crowd of fans on the breezy mountaintop, his position becomes clear.  “See, every old man wants to participate in the war,” he says.  He asks if I would like to take at turn at shooting his friend’s AK-47.  I decline.     

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid