This post is part of our special coverage Yemen Protests 2011.
Citizen journalists, bloggers and Tweeps are reacting to a military crackdown in Aden, Yemen, on Friday, February 25, that killed an estimated five people and wounded approximately 25 anti-government protesters.
Friday's protests throughout much of the country were relatively peaceful — even between both pro- and anti-government groups. But in Aden the military used tear gas and fired weapons at demonstrators around the city, according to press reports. What some are now referring to as the February 25 massacres came just days after President Ali Abdullah Saleh tried a more conciliatory stance toward anti-government protests by demanding the military protect the safety of protesters — even going to the point of physically separating groups with opposing viewpoints.
A spokesperson denied security forces killed and wounded protesters, putting the blame on “an armed group of separatists.” President Saleh said the Aden protests had attempted to disrupt Yemeni unity.
For the past two weeks, tens of thousands of mostly young protesters and human rights activists have been calling for the removal of Saleh, who has been in power since 1978. Anti-government activists argue Saleh's government is corrupt, violent and lacks feasible plans for economic development. In Sanna, thousands of demonstrators have also rallied in support of the president, who has promised not to run for re-election in the 2013 Presidential vote. Pro-government voices argue his early overthrow will send an already unstable country into chaos.
Press reports vary in the number of deaths since the demonstrations began, with estimates ranging between 21 and 35, along with scores injured. Anti-government protesters have been targeted by both pro-Saleh groups and government security forces.
Humans have inhabited the area of Yemen for millennia, but the Republic of Yemen is just over two decades old when the northern areas and southern areas were finally united in 1990. In the southern part of the country, the seaport of Aden dates back to biblical times, and the city was first colonized by the Portuguese in 1513 and later the British. At that time, northern areas of the country were under Ottoman Turk rule.
As Britain's colonies gained independence, the area around Aden joined a federation of small neighboring states. After the fall of the Ottoman empire, the northern part of Yemen was an independent state, ruled by a Shia Imamate, which was deposed in 1962 by troops backed by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. This lead to the creation of the Yemen Arab Republic. (The Houthi, supporters of the government deposed in 1962, continue a sometimes violent independence movement in the far northern part of the country.)
After decades of discussion, the two regions unified. Two decades later, many of the south remain unimpressed, and parts of the region is home to a simmering succession movement. Only has 30 per cent of the country's population hails from the south, but the region is rich in resources (read: oil), making it responsible for much of Yemen's economy. Southerners complain that eight out of every 10 barrels of oil pumped in Yemen comes from the south, but they see very few profits.
Violence in Aden
It's very difficult for journalists and human rights organizations to verify information in Aden, blogger Jane Novak writes. While most foreign journalists are in Sanaa, it is nearly impossible for foreign journalists to enter Aden. Local journalists, she says, face “a broad and brutal clamp down”.
Here is a video, uploaded by muadshibnai, that shows peaceful protesters walking down the street and then being fired on.
After speaking to witnesses in different neighborhoods of Aden, Human Rights Watch reported:
At least one security officer stepped out and opened fire with a military assault weapon without giving a warning, the witness told Human Rights Watch. He said the gunman wore the gray uniform of the National Security Bureau. Police then immediately opened fire, shooting both into the air and straight at the crowd, and also fired teargas at the protesters, the witness said.
“Suddenly I heard screams, turned around, and saw two men on the ground,” the witness said. “One of them was shot in the head – he was lying on the ground face down, blood streaming from his head. He didn’t move. The other guy was screaming, ‘My arm! My arm!’ – he got two bullets in his shoulder.”
Security forces also opened fire without warning on another peaceful demonstration in the al-’Arish area of Aden, a human rights activist at the scene told Human Rights Watch. The activist said he saw at least five people fall to the ground after being hit by bullets, mostly in the legs.
From Jane Novak:
Aden residents report that the dead and wounded lay in the streets, sometimes for hours, as live fire from security forces pinned down medics, ambulances and other concerned citizens trying to give aid. Several areas reported that homes were randomly strafed. Electricity was cut in many parts of Aden.
Gunshots were heard throughout the night with the last report coming in at 4 am local time, a full ten hours after the assault began.
Here are some tweets from Yemen during Friday night's violence:
@al3ini: Situation in Aden is very difficult and tense #Yemen #Aden #YF
@AhlamS: Security forces in #Aden announcing “Emergency Situation” & curfew- firing live ammunition #yemen #YF
@AlaaIsam: Still my brother Munder stuck in KhorMakser, he said the army shooting on them and did not allow them to go to Crater.. Help please #Yemen
@AlaaIsam: URGENT: army forces prevents ambulance cars from entering alma'lla to rescue injured peaceful protesters #Aden #South #Yemen
@aboshaima2010: Many injuries in Almaala str. Peopel in need of help in Aden who can help to stop these crimes
@AhlamS: Urgent : News about gun firing directed at houses, and huge panic among citizens of #Aden, news of dead bodies Scattered in the streets…
@JNovak_Yemen: Msg from #Aden: security forces fire anti-aircraft machine guns on homes, army truck ran over kid in Crater #Yemen #YF
@AlaaIsam: To All Demonstrations in Taiz and Sana'a, i beg you to help us NOW there, Press on Security, let them stop the crime in Aden
@AlaaIsam: To All Media Please Promote Aden, Saleh Killing Us this moment in Aden
@AlaaIsam: to all Northerns, Aden need you to help, Army killing people here… please i beg you to help Aden
@snuraddin: #squares of #almansurah r armed #checkpoint with heavy weapons that I do not know their names #aden #yemen
@AlaaIsam: Witness, 9 killed while their bodies are still there in front of Kenya plaza hotel in Maalla district #Yemen #Aden
@AhlamS: Slaughter in #Aden #Yemen Now: There is an urgent need for blood and medicine!
The day after
On Saturday, February 26, citizen journalists continue to report on a number of issues, including investigating rumors the army is making it difficult to enter Aden, or even move around the city. This video uploaded by alaaisam shows a Saturday, February 26 morning protest in Aden's Crater district watched over by security forces, including those sitting in a tank.
Here is a photo of tanks on the way to the area of Little Aden.
@al3ini: Today Internet is very slow in #Yemen and it is difficult to access Twitter #Aden #YF
@snuraddin: #security #checkpoints between #taiz & #aden denied entry of #citizens #yemen
@snuraddin: there is undeclared #curfew in #aden & #military #forces prevent moving within #aden #yemen
@snuraddin: is #aden a #war #zone #now ? why #people are not allowed to come in ? #yemen
@JNovak_Yemen: @alguneid #Saleh is trigger happy in #Aden because the oil, gas & port are there & some southerns want independence from north . #Yemen