Peaceful calls for change are not a new phenomenon in Yemen. In 1962, two months before the military coup, high school students led the first modern day peaceful demonstration in the capital Sana’a. In Aden, numerous protests calling for independence from the British were held. In late 1990′s, Jarallah Omar, deputy secretary general of the Yemeni Socialist Party continuously called for “peaceful struggle through sacrifice” which resonated for years after his assassination in 2002. In 2008, numerous strikes by port workers, teachers, laborers and professors took place in many cities throughout Yemen.
Activists, journalists and lawyers held continuous demonstrations for the release of political prisoners and detained journalists. In addition, the Southern Movement led many peaceful demonstrations calling for reforms which later escalated to calls for separation from the north. Today’s peaceful protests nationwide, calling for an end to the regime, absorbed much of these demands for secession and planted the seed for a new environment.
Different protests began in Taiz and then in Sana’a starting from mid January, when youth inspired by the fall of Ben Ali’s regime, took the streets. The protests were not daily until the night of Mubarak’s resignation on February 11th. The next day pro-Saleh loyalists occupied Tahrir square in Sana’a, in the central business district, in an attempt to block any pro-change protests there. In response, a very small group of youth, held sit-in on February 20th outside the gate of Sana’a University and vowed not to leave the area. The next day tents were put up. Day by day, more people joined, until it transformed into a tent-city with thousands of inhabitants.
Written by: Atiaf Alwazir
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