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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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