Written By: Nasser Arrabyee
Article Date: Apr 19, 2011 - 11:18:31 AM
President Ali Abdullah Saleh has said that Yemeni women have the same rights and freedoms as men do to contribute to the development of their country.
The president’s statements followed two-day women’s demonstrations against his speech last Friday. Women protesters, mostly from opposition parties, accused President Saleh of insulting their honor when he said in his speech that women and men should be separated at sit-in demonstrations.
Women protesters considered President Saleh’s ‘religious advice’ as doubting their morals. In response, President Saleh hosted women supporters at his presidential complex and told them that he supported them. “We do not doubt our women but we are afraid that there could be bad men among them,” said President Saleh.
“I was just wondering how they (the Islamists such as Islah) allow their women to be with the protesters in the streets while they say it’s forbidden for women to be with men in the same place.” “They always exploit women only for votes without real participation. We want women to participate with men as ministers and ambassadors and everything else.”
Meanwhile, over the last two days, Islamist extremists have started to prevent liberal women from joining men in street protests. Extremists allegedly beat at least four women activists and arrested eight men for walking with women at a public anti-government protest, said a human rights activist on Sunday.
“Extremists from the Islamist party Islah and soldiers from the defected troops of General Ali Muhsen al-Ahmar mercilessly beat the women and men who were marching together late Saturday near the university… No activist in the history of modern Yemen had been beaten up like these women,” said human right activist Abdul Rashid al-Faqih.
The chairman of Dialogue Forum, a local non-governmental organization, said that women and men wanted to participate equally in public life. Among the beaten women were Arwa Othman, Huda al-Tas, Jamila Ali Raja, Wadad al-Badwi and Sara Jamal.
Islah extremists do not allow women and men to participate in public activities but prefer to keep them separated. General al-Ahmar’s defected First Armored Brigade troops detained the eight arrested men but were released “after we made a sit-in demonstration at the gate of the defected division”, said al-Faqih. “We refuse the barbaric style of the extremists and we’ll continue our marches and protests our way.
Everyone has the right to struggle in his or her way,” he added. The anti-Saleh Islamist protesters have tried to impose their way of doing things on other protesters from the start of the three-month anti-government protests that demand the ouster of President Saleh. The Islamists have also hardened against seemingly liberal protesters after the Islamist-oriented General al-Ahmar declared his support for the anti-Saleh protests. Defected troops help the extremists by holding unwanted protesters in prisons.
Yemen’s general prosecutor has meanwhile on Sunday ordered investigations into a complaint by hundreds of women who claimed that President Saleh had defamed them in his speech last Friday. Some women protesters were angered by his words. “We call for separating women from men at the sit-in demonstration squares because this is not Islamic,” the president had said. The anti-Saleh protesters refused President Saleh’s statements about women even though the majority of the Islamists among them agree that women and men should remain separated.
The war of words has extended to life threatening messages sent to three journalists. Abdullah Bishr, head of al-Jemhur Establishment for media; Adel Abdu Bishr, editor-in-chief of al-Jimhur weekly; and Yahya al-Abed, editor-in chief of Sawt al-Omal, sent a letter on Sunday to the general prosecutor and security agencies to protect them from alleged serious death threats.
They said that they had received letters threatening that they would be killed and hanged if they did not stop writing and criticizing prominent cleric Abdul Majid al-Zandani.
The latter had told the protesters earlier that protesting was jihad and that they would be martyrs if they were killed. “If you do not stop writing about Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zandani we will cut off your head and hang it at the gate of al-Eyman University,” read the first threat dated April 6 to Abdullah Bishr.
A second threat was sent to Abdu Bishr and al-Abed – minutes after the first threat was sent – on the same day. “You have three days to apologize to Sheihk Abdul Majid al-Zandani or you will be beheaded. This is not joke. We know all your movements,” read the second threat. The three independent journalists called on human rights group to condemn these threats which are against press freedom.
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