Tens of thousands of people took to the streets yesterday in Aden, Yemen’s capital, to demand an end to a conflict which for over two years has bloodied the country. The event was promoted by the Houthis, who occupy the cities and large areas of the north of the country, as well as a number of strategically important ports on the coast. Yesterday’s march also coincides with the second anniversary of the intervention of the Saudi led Arab coalition in the war against the Shiite rebel movement.
Meanwhile, one of the Houthi Criminal Courts in the capital convicted President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in absentia for high treason having “usurped the title of president at the end of his mandate”, in February 2014 “instigating Saudi Arabia attacks ” and of having “undermined the independence and integrity of the Republic of Yemen”.
Since January 2015, Yemen has been the scene of a bloody civil war opposing the country’s Sunni elites led by former President Hadi, backed by Riyadh, and Shia Houthi rebels, who are close to Iran.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led Arab coalition began attacking the rebels, sparking criticism from the United Nations over heavy casualties, including many children.
So far, some 10,000 people, including more than 3,700 civilians, have been killed, and at least 2.5 million have been displaced.
For Saudi Arabia, the Houthis, allied to forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, are supported militarily by Iran, a charge that Tehran rejects.
Extremist groups linked to al Qaeda and jihadist militias linked to Islamic State are active in the country, a fact that has helped escalate violence and terror.
During yesterday’s street demonstration in Sana’a the Houthi backed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, also spoke, in one of his rare public appearances. He addressed the crowd, gathered at Sabeen Square, urging them to “endure to the end.” In response, protesters chanted slogans and songs. “As long as the Arab coalition continues to choose war – added the former leader – free Yemenis will choose resistance.”
Ahmed Mohsen, one of the protesters, said he wanted to take to the streets to “protest against the aggression [of a Saudi-led coalition]. Maybe our voices can be heard around the world, to put an end to the war. ”
In these two years the United Nations has intervened on several occasions to mediate in the conflict and seek a solution to end the violence. However, in spite of the many meetings so far there has been no significant progress on the path of peace.