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05. April 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Yemeni women call on international community to support their urgent demand for inclusion

Women in Yemen claim that international pressure is essential if their voices are to be included in decisions about the country’s future.

Women in Yemen claim that international pressure is essential if their voices are to be included in decisions about the country’s future.

Figures such as Tawakkol Karman have become increasingly prominent in Yemen’s current uprisings. Women are playing a key role in mobilizing protesters and leading demands for change. However, the experience of Egypt shows that women are too often forgotten once revolutionaries have achieved their goal.

“The international community must put pressure on Yemen’s decision-makers to include women in any new administration; otherwise they will not do it,” said Nadia Al-Saqqaf, editor of the Yemen Times. “There has to be a fair recognition of the part women are playing. The international community should use a carrot and stick approach to encourage decision-makers to include women.”

The participation of civil society, youth and intellectuals in an emerging administration will be decisive for Yemen’s future, Nadia adds. She is hoping for a presidential council that will carry out the transfer of power under a clear mandate, and for extensive financial support to flow into Yemen. The country’s economy has been hit hard by the protests, and Nadia predicts that recovery will take years.

However, the protests in Yemen seem to be far from over. Over the last two days, deadly clashes in Taiz, a city in the south of Yemen, have left at least 19 dead and hundreds injured. The clashes occurred when protesters – many of them students at Taiz University - marched on the town hall, apparently in an attempt to occupy the building. Government forces stopped them, using bats, daggers and a brand of tear gas, which some have claimed is illegal under international law. Facebook has lately been inundated with videos and images of the attacks.

Opinions differ as to who was at fault in these clashes. Although many believe the government response was disproportionate, some Yemenis believe that the protesters’ actions were too aggressive, worrying that the violence will jeopardize dialogue and be used by Saleh as an excuse to stay on.

Sana’a has seen further disturbances today, with the New York Times reporting that tribesmen loyal to Saleh have clashed with soldiers who have joined the opposition, leaving three dead.

There are ongoing skirmishes and stone-throwing between government supporters and anti-government protesters in Sana’a. Some streets of the capital are in lock-down mode due to frequent clashes – shops and businesses are shut, while many residents have evacuated.

Maha*, another contact in Yemen, says that many Yemenis are “thrilled” by the increased pressure that the USA is exerting on Saleh to step down. However, many are worried that Yemen may end up in a similar position to Libya. President Saleh’s administration has agreed to attend talks with opposition leaders in Riyadh. Locals view this initiative with skepticism, believing that little progress will be made. Saleh is also expected to demand diplomatic immunity for himself and his family for the rest of his life if he is to stand down. But it is unlikely that Yemenis would accept such a compromise. “Saleh should pay for what he has done to the country,” said one Sana’a resident.

Fears are increasing that the unrest in Yemen is paving the way for radical forces to gain a stronger foothold in the country. Women, as strong advocates for dialogue, democracy and non-violence, must be included in government, in order to create a safe arena for moderate voices. Saleh has said that he wants to leave Yemen in safe hands: a responsible, accountable and stable government requires the participation of the whole of society, both male and female.

*Name has been changed

 
 

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