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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid