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Willisms

« John Roberts, Dancing Machine. | WILLisms.com | London Again? »

Yemeni Riots.

The political situation is heating up in Yemen. Freedom House notes that the Yemeni people cannot change their government democratically:

Yemen's government suffers from the absence of any real system of checks and balances of power and any significant limits on the executive's authority.

Indeed, Yemen's elected president has, essentially, the powers of a dictator. And he has no problem using those powers, enriching himself personally to the detriment of the Yemeni people. Corruption is rampant, unemployment is high, and people are fed up.

saleh.gif

Yemeni frustration boiled over this week when the government raised prices on gasoline in order to tackle its budget deficit:

A litre of diesel rose to 45 rials (24 US cents) from 17 rials; a litre of petrol was priced at 65 rials, up from 35 rials, and a litre of kerosene rose to 45 rials from 16 rials. Gas cylinders rose to 400 rials from 250 rials.

The situation underlines the fact that Yemen's economy is mostly unfree and is thus one of the ten or so poorest countries in the world.

The rioting apparently took the lives of many Yemeni citizens:

yemenriot.gif


yemenprotest.gif

clash.gif


yemenfires.gif

carsmash.gif

These demonstrations are not about poverty itself, nor about gas prices. These demonstrations, targeted against Saleh's rule, were nothing less than the early stages of revolution. Yemen, one of the world's most likely failed states, now stands on the brink of major political upheaval. That the Saleh government would crack down on the seething resentment bubbling up in Yemen today, violently or otherwise, is no surprise. Whether the regime uses the riots as an excuse to eliminate political rights further remains to be seen. The writing is on the wall, and because there is no truly free media to speak of in Yemen, the regime likely thinks it can get out of this situation without international backlash.

On the contrary, Yemen is a prime example of a nation in need of change, whether or not it is an ostensible ally in the war on terror. To paraphrase Condoleezza Rice, for so long, the U.S. opted for stability over democracy in the Middle East. For so long, we achieved neither. If ever there was a country in need of short-term instability-- out of which long-term freedom can arise-- it's Yemen.

UPDATE:

More at the Armies of Liberation blog.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 July 2005 06:44 PM

Comments

Hey Saleh - democracy is comin' to GIT ya!

Jane at Armies of Liberation has been doing a great job on this story.

Posted by: Am I A Pundit Now? at July 20, 2005 07:23 PM

great, great post.

Posted by: Jane at July 20, 2005 07:50 PM

Time for the administration to walk the walk.

Posted by: MrSpkr at July 20, 2005 07:56 PM

It is, MrSpkr, but it's also a tough position in which to be for this or any other administration, as most international observers concede that Yemen is taking steps and making strides toward economic and political reform. Also, there is such a dearth of "civil society" institutions to aid a relatively smooth transition such as in Ukraine. Instead, there's factionalism, tribalism, and oldschool Arabian feuding.

There's no real unified and organized opposition to speak of, and some of the opposition are not the most savory characters around. There's just not a lot to work with in terms of supporting rapid change in Yemen.

But your point still stands, I think.

Posted by: Will Franklin at July 20, 2005 08:04 PM

Will- Those are some incredible shots! I didn't expect to see a scene like this in Yemen.

Posted by: Jim Hoft at July 21, 2005 12:02 AM

My wife and I had just been discussing a possible trip to Yemen, specifically Socotra Island. I had never heard of the island until I moused over it in EarthBrowser and then googled it (see URL). It's sad when places that should be able to capitalize on their natural beauty can't because their society/government is so screwed up. Hopefully Iraq will eventually provide an example that the Yemenis could emulate. Does anyone have any information about whether it's safe to travel to Yemen (other than from the State Dept)? It appears that it's not, but I have a bug to go to Socotra.

Posted by: David Lawler at July 21, 2005 07:49 AM

Wow! Socotra Island is so beautiful... However, David! That tour company's name kind of bothered me! Did you notice? I believe it's name was Al Quiada? I wouldn't mind going there either!...BUT... I would be a bit concerned by the tour companies name!...If you and your wife go to Socotra Island, let us all know how it was and bring back pictures!...I wish you luck!...Be careful!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at July 21, 2005 01:56 PM

The tour company's name in English is Future Tour Industries (FTI). Did you get Al Qaeda from the Arabic?

There are a couple of other companies that do tours to Socotra, but all seem to do tours of Sana'a as part of the package. Frankly I have little interest in Sana'a at the moment, but I suspect Socotra would have little in the way of unrest or terrorist activity...though perhaps kidnappings. Don't know and hard to get any info. Thought I might try contacting the US Embassy, but they don't have an email address.

Posted by: David Lawler at July 22, 2005 07:31 AM

David lawler... It looks so beautiful and I wouldn't blame you if you went!... Be careful if you decide to go!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at July 23, 2005 04:47 PM

most international observers concede that Yemen is taking steps and making strides toward economic and political reform.

Conventional wisdom is that's just the time when unrest is most likely, when people start to gain hope. I hope they can handle it...

Posted by: Noumenon at July 26, 2005 03:09 AM