News / Middle East

Yemeni Villagers Protest Dictator Sheik

Heather Murdock

In Yemen, the government controls the cities, sheiks control the countryside, and everybody it seems is connected to everybody.  For a month, about 300 people have been camping in the capital city, protesting what they say are human-rights abuses from a powerful sheik who rules their district.  

This is a situation that could be, but is not, from the Middle Ages; about a powerful sheik who rules with an iron fist and his subjects who escaped the countryside to seek help in the city.  

Outside the tent where she, and almost 300 other villagers have set up an ongoing protest in Sana'a, Hena Yahia Noman reads a poem. "Humiliation, humiliation, humiliation," she says, "This is our song, Oh Yemen."

Villagers say Sheik Mohammad Ahmed Mansour, the president's poet laureate, the father of a member of parliament, and a former parliament member, is in charge of the area where they live, not the government.  

Mansour did not respond to a request for an interview.

At the Sana'a protest, villagers say his laws and personal taxes are enforced by a militia of about 1,500 troops, and dissidents are thrown into the sheik's prison.  Children say when their parents refused to hand over the deeds to their lands, they were snatched by soldiers as they returned home from school and were chained in the cold prison for days.

Nagib Hassan pulls up his shirt inside a protester's tent to show a dark blotch of dried blood from a recent stab wound.  He says the sheik's men followed the villagers to Sana'a and attacked them when the families staged a protest outside the parliament building.

A leading member of the ruling party, parliament member Abdulaziz Gubari, says legislators saw the attacks but did nothing.

He says many parliament members and government leaders are also the same sheiks who rule most of the countryside.  Stopping the attacks, according Gubari, would undermine much of the leaders' authority.

Last year, a government committee went to investigate complaints against Mansour.  Gubari says the committee was turned back, and threatened by Mansour's soldiers.

The head of Seyaj, a Yemeni human-rights organization, Ahmed al-Gorashi, says the local government is also responsible for the abuse.  He says the governor knows what is going on, but cannot, or will not, stop the atrocities.

Al-Goreshi says Mansour should be arrested and tried in court, but at the moment, this sheik appears to be stronger than the local government.  And sheiks in general appear to be stronger than the central government.

Villagers agree with al-Goreshi, saying Mansour's connection to the president makes them pawns in a national political chess game.  According to villagers, their area has been nicknamed "The Golden District" because 100 percent of the people, including children and dead people, vote for the ruling party.

But some city dwellers in Sana'a say either the abuse or the protest is an act, staged by the opposition party in an effort to gather their votes in sympathy.

But in the dank tents, villagers say they really do not care who they vote for.  They say their homes have been destroyed, their crops have been stolen, and women and children have been harassed and imprisoned.

Hana says the sheik imposes unbearable taxes and demands that villagers hand over legal claims to their farms.  In the future, she wants the government of Yemen to rule her area.  But for now, she just wants it to stop the violence and end the humiliation.  

You May Like

After Kenyatta Setback, ICC Struggles to Move Ahead

Collapse of the case against Kenya's president, other setbacks are fueling a debate about International Criminal Court's effectiveness and relevancy More

Video Conservationists Use Science to Preserve Rare Species of Rhino

With just five northern white rhinos left in the world, caretakers hope reproductive science may be able to preserve the gene pool More

Video Opening Trade With Cuba Bittersweet for Some

Long-time Cuban exiles in Miami say news is double-edged for those who had to leave everything behind 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.
Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014i
X
December 23, 2014 7:28 PM
The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.
Video

Video Russian Moves Provide New Mission for NATO

Russia’s more aggressive military posture in Europe during the past year has pushed NATO to take new steps to strengthen its defenses, providing it, analysts say, with a much-needed new mission. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid