Supporting Yemen’s struggle

May 2, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO--The Yemeni community returned to the streets here on April 23 in solidarity with that country's ongoing revolution. The protest, the second in a month, drew 150 people, with the majority being from Yemen or of Yemeni descent.

Organizers used the back of a truck for a stage from which they also led chants during the march. The protest was originally scheduled for UN Plaza but was relocated to a parking lot on 8th St., half a block away.

Yemen's uprising is in its second month and Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country's dictator of 33 years, has shown his willingness to suppress demonstrations with violence. The brutality unleashed by his regime includes kidnapping and sniper fire, which killed dozens of protesters in one day.

At the same time, Saleh has stated that opposition should use the constitution as a guide to bring about change--while also questioning the legitimacy of the opposition. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia, mediated an accord that would allow Saleh to cede power on his own terms. This agreement has been rejected by many opposition groups.

Abdel, who spoke at the rally, was explicit: "We need revolution not just over there but right here (in the U.S.)" At the rally he asserted the demands of the Yemen people, stating, "Ali Saleh must leave without conditions."

Khaled, a student from Yemen, expressed concern about rampant Islamaphobia in the U.S. The inhospitable atmosphere causes many, he said, to "earn enough money to buy a home and go back to their country." He himself did not want to stay after finishing his studies. "What is wrong with the Republicans? They call us 'Nazis,'" he said, questioning the motives of America's political right. Kaled pointed out that Yemenis want the same things as other groups who immigrate to America.

During the spirited march, the crowd chanted, "One, two, three, four, Ali Saleh out the door," "People want to bring the system down" in Arabic and "Saleh out." One protester carried a sign that depicted Saleh as a bloodsucking insect. Another sign read "Solidarity with all Arab revolutions."

Though women were not a significant portion of the crowd, there were women speakers who took the opportunity to address the issues facing women both in Yemen and in the U.S. A representative of Amnesty International stated her organization's concern for the gender inequality in Yemen. Zaiyab, a student organizer from University of California-Berkeley, observed the that scarcity of women in the crowd reflected the scarcity of Arab and Muslim women in universities.

"We must have more women in education," she stated, adding, "We need a strong Arab and Muslim community to fight oppression." Finally, she reminded the crowd, "Don't forget the revolution at home."

Sid, an antiwar activist and member of the International Socialist Organization ended the rally with comments about U.S. imperialism and the role Saudi Arabia and Israel play in the Middle East: "The U.S. is concerned about security for Israel, security for U.S. power and stability for corporate profits. The greatest threat to the development and deepening of the revolutions in the Arab world is the U.S. government and the U.S. military, along with their junior partner Saudi Arabia."

He ended by saying we need to build an antiwar movement which demands U.S. out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere, and an end to funding Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Later, it was reported that some opposition groups reluctantly agreed to the GCC accord because of the conditions that favor Saleh. Student protesters and other activists not associated with the organizations who accepted the agreement have vowed to escalate protests, as the GCC-brokered agreement does not meet the Yemeni people's demand of Saleh's immediate removal from the presidency. They also reject the offer to join a coalition government with the president.

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