Sana’a: Thousands of people organised massive rallies on Tuesday in the northern provinces of Yemen to mark the third anniversary of the beginning of youth-led protests that put an end to the rule of the county’s long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.
However, the occasion was not greatly celebrated in the separatist-dominated south.
In the capital, the epicentre of the uprising, a big protest was arranged along Assteen street, where thousands of men and women chanted slogans demanded that sanctions be slapped on the former president for his alleged role in derailing the transitional process.
The protesters also called for the release of activists arrested during Saleh’s days in office.
“Saleh is a war criminal and a spoiler [of transitional period] and I call upon the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on him.” said the 2011-Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakul Karaman.
Karaman was among senior activists who led the protests against Saleh’s regime and was jailed in the early days of the uprising.
The capital also witnessed another big rally organised by some people who revolted against Saleh’s regime in 2011, but with different demands now. The protesters marched through the capital’s streets demanding the resignation of the unity government and the dismissal of “corrupt” officials.
The protest was led by Ahmad Hashid, an outspoken MP, and some other activists linked to the Houthis.
For the first time since the departure of Saleh, state TV and official newspapers extensively covered the occasion. President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi wrote a piece on Monday in the state-run Al Thawra daily, glorifying the “sacrifice” of the protesters.
“I would like to assure you that your sacrifices [will] not go to waste,” he said in his long essay.
Hadi’s essay sparked counter-criticism from media organisations sympathetic to Saleh, which accused Hadi of being biased towards his predecessor’s opponents.
Also, the city of Taiz, another stronghold of anti-Saleh protesters, activists organised a big protest to commemorate occasion. Big rallies were similarly organised on Tuesday in the cities of Ibb, Mareb and other.
However, the euphoric mood did not catch on in the restive south. The occasion went uncelebrated in cities like Aden, Dhale, Mukalla, Attaq and Zinjebar — areas controlled by separatists demanding the revival of the former South Yemen state that united with the north in 1990.
Yemen was one of the Arab countries that was hit by a wave of anti-regime protests in the early days of the Arab Spring. The country’s uprising was sparked on the day Egyptians unseated long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak in February 11, 2011.
The Yemeni uprising began a small jubilant protest in front of the Egyptian embassy. Protesters then camped in front of Sana’a university and named the area the ‘Change Square’, with the uprising quickly gathering steam as thousands in other cities took to the streets calling for Saleh’s departure.
Powerful army generals and tribal leaders then defected from Saleh’s regime in March, 2011, after 50 protesters were killed in the capital by snipers said to be loyal to the former president.
Saleh officially agreed to leave office in November, 2011, and signed a deal brokered by the six Gulf states. The deal gave Saleh immunity from prosecution against crimes he committed during his rule.
Saleh’s long-time deputy Hadi was inaugurated as a new president in February 21,2012, after winning an uncontested election.