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 Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid