The blockade of South Yemen follows tactics of Saada War
As Yemen’s blockade on southern Yemen enters its third week, stocks of food, medicine and oil have dwindled to dangerous levels. Prices have skyrocketed and already malnourished children bear the brunt of the military action.
The blockade began 17 days ago when the Western Armored Division established new checkpoints on roads and at city entrances preventing the flow of persons and commerce including food, medicine, oil and water. The blockade has cut off Radfan, Yafea, al Dhala, al Melah, al Habeelan, al Shaib, Gahaf, Lazarik, and parts of Shabwah.
The main road between Aden and al Dahlie is closed. Al Habaleen, Lahj was indiscriminately shelled three days ago after two soldiers were killed in an ambush. Another ambush in al Melah killed one soldier, and authorities have accused renegade elements of the southern independence movement with the attacks.
Nearly one thousand have fled Radfan, al Habaleen and al Bilah seeking safety. Like the 250,000 internally displaced by the Sa’ada War, these are mostly women and children. On May 24, a pregnant woman en route to a hospital in Aden was stopped at a military checkpoint and later died in childbirth. Due to the blockade, people in need of medical treatment have not had access to doctors in nearly a month.
Reports indicate a heavy military mobilization including tanks and armored personnel carriers. As during the Saada war, a total media blackout is in place, often accomplished by the arrest of southern journalists. An American journalist was expelled from Yemen last week after visiting Yafee, a center of southern resistance.
On May 22, the 20th anniversary of Yemeni unity, President Saleh announced the pardon of southern journalists and other political prisoners. Several high profile journalists were released, but others remain imprisoned and hundreds of others arrested during protests remain jailed.
Baggash Al Aghbari has been in prison since his arrest in 1994, despite several amnesties for southerners announced over the following decade. Al Aghbari was never charged or tried but was thought to be among the activists that triggered the civil war.
The southern independence movement began as a call for equal rights in 2007. As the state imprisoned thousands and police killed hundreds during peaceful demonstrations, the movement gained supporters and its goals evolved to calls for independence.
he northern Yemeni Arab Republic and the southern Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen unified in 1990 and fought a brief civil war in 1994. Southerners claim unity was imposed by force in violation of the UN resolutions. Northern hegemony brought institutionalized discrimination more akin to occupation than unity that reached into areas of employment, education and development. However, the massive corruption of the Saleh regime means that all citizens outside the circle of elite power are subject to retribution by the state including the judiciary, police and civil service. All Yemenis suffer from the near absence of basic services arising from chronic mismanagement and insider infighting and embezzlement.
With a peace deal concluded in February ending the northern Sa’ada War, President Ali Abdullah Saleh heightened the military presence in the south. Yemen’s conduct of the Saada war generated 250,000 internal refugees with arbitrary aerial bombing of civilian areas and a strict blockade of food, medicine and international aid.
Human Rights Watch has called for an investigation into war crimes committed during the Saada war.
Yemen’s previous violations of international law related the southern protests include mass arbitrary arrests and the murder of hundreds of peaceful protesters, rights organizations charged. As tensions mounted over the last year, some northern merchants and travelers were targets of violence in southern areas
UPDATE: Cell phone video shot today: Yemeni military armored vehicle in al Hableen ran over and killed a motorcyclist suspected of sympathies with the separatists.
The Chinese and the Dutch at least report the non-al Qaeda news. And apparently the official statement is… the motorcyclists started shooting after the armored vehicle ran him over, so they killed him. On a brighter note, regime decided late today to start pretending they opened the Aden – al Dhalie road. People’s Daily:
Two pro-separatist southern activists opened fire at an army’s vehicle after they were mistakenly hit by the vehicle. The two were then killed in the clashes in al-Melah district in the southern province of Lahj, said Kasim al-Afefi, deputy governor of Lahj.
Another three southerners were injured as well as a privately- owned shop and a car were burnt in the clashes, he added.
Meanwhile, al-Afefi said “the security committee and local council in the province reached an agreement today to re-open a main highway linking al-Dhalee-Radfan-Lahj and the southern city port of Aden after being closed for about two weeks due to riots and instability.”