Violent crackdowns in Sana'a, Taiz and Aden leave thousands injured

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Shatha Al-Harazi


SANA'A, Apr. 10 — More violence was directed against pro-democracy demonstrations this week as protesters in Sana'a, Taiz and Aden began marching as a way of escalating the revolution. In the capital, physicians estimate that the most recent bout of bloodshed resulted in one death, 40 injuries by bullets and car crashes, and over 2,000 by exposure to tear gas. Eyewitnesses told the Yemen Times that government security forces shot four protesters to death and then confiscated their bodies.

"The crimes they are committing are beyond imagination," shouted one of the protesters at the field hospital located within Sana'a University mosque. "They hid the dead bodies so that no one can prove their guilt."

"They took the bodies so as to dress them in government security uniforms and show them on Yemeni TV. That's what they do to fool the people and turn them against the protesters," said another demonstrator.

"When they started firing, some of us ducked into a gateway. The doors were closed but it got us off the main street," said Iona Craig, a correspondent for the Irish Times who witnessed the attack. "We were tear gassed and there was a lot of gunfire," explained Craig. "We were all crouching on the ground with our hands over our heads, waiting to get shot, until someone inside opened a door in the steel gate and let us into the yard between two houses."

Craig said that the family, whose name and location will remain anonymous, looked after her and approximately 40 other protesters who were trapped after security forces opened fire. Water cannons and tear gas kept them locked behind the gate for more than an hour.

"If it wasn't for the house's owner, I think we could have been in a lot of trouble," said Craig. "Those people with me would have been arrested, repeatedly tear gassed or – worse still – shot." Craig had to wear a niqab and cover her face so as to find her way out of the area this morning. "It was the only safe way out without getting arrested or getting the people who owned the house into serious trouble, as Central Security Forces were still near the home," she said.

The ones who were exposed to tear gas this time around said that it seemed less painful than the gas that had been used in the past. The victims of the gas were supplied with important injections by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

"We have learned how to deal with the gas with the help of various international organizations," said Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Zarhany, a pharmacist who is currently working at the Sana'a University field hospital. "The main procedure that we were previously unaware of and which made patients suffer more was the immediate removal of all clothing that had been exposed to the gas. We now know how important it is to wash everything with water, soap and Clorox."

The 1st Armored Division – whose leader, Major General Ali Muhsin Al-Ahmar, defected from President Saleh's government last month – recently promised to protect the revolution and its protesters. Yet in spite of the fact that yesterday's protest in the capital was the biggest since Maj. Gen. Ali Muhsin Al-Ahmar's defection, the 1st Armored Division did nothing to defend the protesters from government security forces.

Last week, Sanhan, Belad Al-Ros and Bani Bahlol tribal mediators accused the Division of having shot at them. The state-run 26th of September newspaper reported that four were killed in the shootout and 67 were injured. A statement from the Major General's office accused the regime of having tried to assassinate him.

Other eyewitnesses informed the Yemen Times and the National Organization for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms that government security forces arrested random protesters.

Meanwhile, in Taiz, a video that purportedly shows security forces shooting protesters in the midst of prayer has begun circulating on the Internet.

During his most recent visit to the country, the UN envoy to Yemen, Mr. Gamal bin Omar, told the Yemen Times that the purpose of his trip was to report to the Secretary General. In turn, his report would allow the UN to make more informed decisions regarding Yemen.

He stated that the UN has a long association with Yemen and that the UN is committed to providing Yemen with further support during this difficult time.

During his visit to Yemen, bin Omar met with various groups, including government officials, opposition parties, tribal leaders, civil society figures and representatives of the youth protesting in Change Square.

"Although we realized from our talks with various political entities in Yemen that they all agree in principle on the concept of change," said bin Omar, "they disagree on how it is to happen. There are some who demand an immediate change while others want more time."

He added that the UN appreciates the fact that all entities have been open and willing to share their insights on and analyses of the situation.

"Our meetings were facilitated and we did not have any difficulties reaching any group we wanted to talk to. All have been very welcoming and all see the UN as a friend and a partner," said bin Omar.

As a result of the continued use of violence against protesters, the US stopped all military and development aid to Yemen earlier this week