Tonight, Yemen’s security services finally opened fire on demonstrators in Sana’a. Although the past weeks have seen isolated examples of policemen losing their cool, this is the first time that uniformed soldiers have shot live ammunition into the crowd. At the time of writing, reports suggest that 7 have been shot and 52 injured outside Sana’a University.
This particular site of protest – dubbed ‘Change Square’ – has been growing steadily for the past month, attracting much of the Western media coverage. Although this is due to a lack of reporters in other locations, rather than something inherently important about Sana’a’s demonstrations, they have come to represent the symbolic heart of the uprising in the eyes of the outside world. One would hope that such a public act of regime brutality will provoke international condemnation. Sadly, this remains unlikely. The past week has seen the initiative slip away from the protesters and back into the hands of the regime; where American and European responses were previously emphasising a need for restraint and reform, the narrative of the previous decade has reemerged, suggesting that Yemen must be viewed through the suspicious lens of counterterrorism.
On Sunday, Hillary Clinton alleged Iranian involvement in the protests, a claim that continues to plague opposition movements in Yemen despite little evidence. Less than 24hrs later, Saleh had returned to his strategy of stoking western fears by playing the Al Qaeda card. He claimed terrorists were taking advantage of the unrest, organising amidst the unrest in order to carry out attacks against the Yemeni government and foreign interests in the country. Both events have served as reminders that Yemen remains a place where US foreign policy is defined in terms of geopolitical fear. Despite all this, one hopes that tonight’s events will attract condemnation from the donor community who continue to prop up Saleh’s ageing regime, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
– – –
Edit: Apologies, the video that was originally posted was from March 5th, not this evening.