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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More