Protests

Yemenis call for end to war, extremist violence

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa

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Yemenis call for an end to the war during a May 27th protest in Sanaa's al-Safiya district. [Faisal Darem/Al-Shorfa]

Yemenis across the country have been taking to the streets to demand an end to the war and the violence perpetrated by extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).

Daily demonstrations that protest the human suffering and economic hardship citizens have been forced to endure are being staged by students, public sector employees and civil society activists in most Yemeni provinces.

Weekly demonstrations also take place in front of the UN headquarters in Sanaa, with participants calling on the UN to help end the war.

"We are taking part in the protests to raise the voice of peace so that it reaches the whole world," said Sanaa public sector employee Sharaf al-Hamzi, who took part in a May 30th demonstration in front of the UN headquarters.

The protests aim to "put pressure for an end to the war as part of our humanitarian duty towards the Yemeni people", he told Al-Shorfa.

The war has had a catastrophic effect on the humanitarian situation in Yemen, al-Hamzi said, particularly in terms of its economic toll during the first few months, as many public and private sector employees lost their jobs.

"Many people have had to forgo their basic living needs, while others had to sell off what was left of their jewelry, [electronic] devices and furniture to make ends meet," he added.

Peaceful means of expression

These protests are a peaceful means of expression, said Fatima al-Huraibi, executive director of Yemen's Tourism Promotion Board.

"They support peace and an end to the war," she told Al-Shorfa.

Al-Huraibi said she joined a protest in al-Mahwit province's Kawkaban district in February to object to the violent destruction of historic and archaeological sites.

Popular protests encourage a culture of peace and put pressure on the ongoing talks in Kuwait and on the international community to end the war, said Mohammed Karib of the Ibb province culture bureau.

"Social media and websites have been reporting these events on an almost daily basis," he said, adding that this helps to transmit the voice of the people.

Participants in these protests are presenting "the voice of peace that the world should listen to and work to achieve", he added.

Schools across Yemen also have been staging protests to call for an end to the war. At al-Kuwait High School in Sanaa, male students and staff bared their chests on May 31st as a sign of solidarity with their peers in al-Hodeidah.

"We have taken our clothes off and joined the protest to show our solidarity with students in al-Hodeidah, which is witnessing soaring hot temperatures as we enter the summer season," said al-Kuwait student Ahmed Jameel.

The coastal province has been experiencing large-scale power outages since the outbreak of the war, which has compounded the suffering of its residents.

On the brink of disaster

"We are on the verge of a humanitarian disaster because many people are dying of hunger and as a result of bad health conditions," said Mansour al-Asbahi, director of the Rural Aden Social Media Centre.

There have been outbreaks of diseases in conflict zones, he told Al-Shorfa.

"We are adopting advocacy campaigns in affected areas and those that have witnessed armed conflict," he said, including Taiz, where people have died after contracting dengue fever and other illnesses.

Ending the war and the violence perpetrated by extremist groups such as al-Qaeda is of critical importance, he told Al-Shorfa.

"We have to work towards raising the banner of peace instead of war and focus on co-existence and acceptance of others based on the principle of mutual respect," he said.

The protests taking place around the country "are the voice of Yemenis to the rest of the world, as they convey their suffering and the importance of working towards ending the war and salvaging the humanitarian situation", he said.

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