Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Archive for the ‘American’ Category

What Every American Needs to Know About Iraq’s Election

Posted by vmsalama on April 30, 2014

 By Vivian Salama

POLICYMIC

In some ways, it was not unlike many local elections in the United States. For weeks, Iraqis have been inundated by campaign posters, commercials, political talk shows and more.

In some cities, it was hard to look anywhere without seeing the face of a parliamentary hopeful — some whose names will soon disappear, while others will linger. But war-weary Iraqis also face the daily nightmare of suicide and car bombings, where the mere proximity to political offices or police barracks puts them at grave risk.

This is Iraq in 2014.

Two years after the U.S. government withdrew combat troops, citizens went to the polls Wednesday to select a new parliament. Observers in Washington are watching the action with bated breath amid accusations that the United States made a mess of Iraq, then left it to its own demise.

Voters braved extreme violence to cast their ballots and, ultimately, to play some role in determining their future this week amid increasing sectarian strife and growing tensions between political rivals. Will it make a difference? Most observers believe Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will clinch a third term in office but not without months of political wrangling and uncertainty. He has fallen out of favor with many across this vast nation, and a deteriorating security situation has left many fearful that al-Maliki has all but lost control.

Has America forgotten its role in getting Iraq to where it is — for better or for worse?  Iraq may, arguably, need the help of its allies now more than ever. Have we turned our back on it for good?

Regardless of the turnout of this week’s vote, it is an important milestone since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. And yet, much of the mainstream U.S. television media has turned a blind eye. As Iraqi-American journalist Yasmeen Sami Alamiri tweets: “Good God. CNN has covered everything under the sun (w/ non-stop coverage of the Sterling “scandal”), but no decent Iraq election coverage.” (click here to read more)

Posted in American, Arab, Arab League, Arab Spring, Arabic, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Insurgency, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Jihad, Maliki, Middle East, military, United States, Washington | Leave a Comment »

How American Drone Strikes are Devastating Yemen

Posted by vmsalama on April 14, 2014

Anyone who knows me, knows Yemen holds a special place in my heart. Its diverse landscape is breathtaking and its rich history is virtually untouched after centuries. But what I love most about Yemen is, hands down, its people (its food comes in a distant second!) They smile from inside, even though they face a great deal of adversity, militants roam freely by land and foreign drones hover above them. This report, from my latest visit to Yemen, explores that latter phenomenon — U.S. drones — and argues that the their existence alone is causing profound psychological detriment to a nation. (photos in the piece are also by me)

How American Drone Strikes are Devastating Yemen

On the ground in a country where unmanned missile attacks are a terrifyingly regular occurrence

By Vivian Salama
April 14, 2014
ROLLING STONE

EXCERPT:

….As the sun began to set on that fateful winter day, the line of SUVs and pick-ups, decorated with simple ribbons and bows for the [wedding], set off for its 22-mile trip. But as the procession came to a standstill to wait on some lagging vehicles, some of the tribesmen claim the faint humming sound they typically heard from planes overhead fell silent.The emptiness was soon filled with the unthinkable. “Missiles showered on our heads,” Abdullah says, moving his hands frenetically. “I started to scream and shout for my cousins. Anyone who was still alive jumped out of their cars.”

Four hellfires, striking seconds apart, pierced the sky, tearing through the fourth vehicle in the procession. When it was over, 12 men were dead, Saleh among them. At least 15 others were wounded according to survivors and activists, including Warda, whose eye was grazed by shrapnel and whose wedding dress was torn to shreds.

The blast was so intense that it reverberated all the way to al-Abusereema, where the groom’s brother Aziz waited for the guests. “I called some people to ask what was that explosion and somebody told me it was the drone,” Aziz recalls. “It was the most awful feeling.”

“As we were driving to the site,” he continues, “I felt myself going deeper and deeper into darkness. That is the feeling of a person who sees his brothers, cousins, relatives and friends dead by one strike, without reason.”

“We are just poor Bedouins,” says Abdullah, now pounding his hands against his chest. “We know nothing about Al Qaeda. But the people are so scared now. Whenever they hear a car or truck, they think of the drones and the strike. They feel awful whenever they see a plane.”…. (Click here to read more)

The wedding of Abdullah Mabkhut al-Amri to Warda last December made headlines around the world after it ended in tragedy./By Vivian Salama

The wedding of Abdullah Mabkhut al-Amri to Warda last December made headlines around the world after it ended in tragedy./By Vivian Salama

Oum Salim sits in her home majlis in Khawlan holding a photo of her late son Salim Hussein Ahmed Jamil, her daughter Asmaa, 7, by her side. /By Vivian Salama

Oum Salim sits in her home majlis in Khawlan holding a photo of her late son Salim Hussein Ahmed Jamil, her daughter Asmaa, 7, by her side. /By Vivian Salama

Posted in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, American, Arab, Arab Spring, Awlaki, C.I.A., dictatorship, Drones, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Environment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Insurgency, Intervention, Islam, Jihad, Middle East, military, niqab, Obama, Pakistan, Politics, Poverty, PTSD, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Signature Strikes, Social Media, Somalia, South Yemen, Terrorism, Warda, Yemen | 1 Comment »

Living in Terror Under a Drone-Filled Sky in Yemen

Posted by vmsalama on April 29, 2013

Children fear “planes that shoot” as communities grieve lost loved ones.
APR 29 2013

A small house, once made of large cement blocks, is reduced to rubble in a sea of untouched homes and shops in Jaar, a town in South Yemen’s Abyaan governorate. There are no signs of life where that house once stood — no photos, furniture, and certainly no people left behind. In May 2011, the house was struck by a drone — American, the locals say. Some believe the sole occupant, a man named Anwar Al-Arshani, may have been linked to Al Qaeda, although he kept to himself, so no one knows for sure. As Al-Arshani’s house smoldered from the powerful blow, townspeople frantically rushed to inspect the damage and look for survivors. And then, just as the crowd swelled, a second missile fired. Locals say 24 people were killed that day, all of them allegedly innocent civilians.

Eighteen-year-old Muneer Al-Asy was among them. His mother Loul says she knows nothing about America — not of its democracy or politics or people or values. All she knows is that it killed her son. She cannot read and does not own a television. Like many in her village, she says Al-Qaeda is “very bad,” but the thought of her youngest son being killed by an American missile haunts her dreams at night. She screams in fury at the people who took her son: “criminals!” She rocks anxiously back and forth on her sole piece of furniture — a long cushion in her single-room home — recalling the day her son was “martyred” by a U.S. drone. “I am like a blind person now,” says Loul. “Muneer was my eyes.”

Anwar Al-Arshani's home/Photo by Vivian Salama

Anwar Al-Arshani’s home/Photo by Vivian Salama

Thousands of miles from Washington, where the debate rages on over the moral and legal implications of using unmanned aerial vehicles for lethal targeting, the names and faces of many of the victims paints a somber picture. Some are fathers who can no longer buy food and medicine for their children. Some are kids whose only crime in life was skipping out on studies to play soccer with friends. Some are expectant mothers who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the U.S. focuses attention on the successful targeting of names on the notorious “kill list,” the number of innocent civilians killed by U.S. drones on the rise — threatening to destroy families, spark resentment, and fuel Al-Qaeda recruitment.

While strikes in Pakistan have been recorded since at least June 2004, drones have become more common in Yemen in recent years, used to weed out and eliminate members of Al Qaeda’s notorious Arabian Peninsula network (AQAP). AQAP has been linked to recent schemes including the foiled 2012 underwear bomb plot, as well as for parcel bombs intercepted before reaching synagogues in Chicago in 2010. The drone program has seen some successes, including strikes on high-profile targets like Saeed al-Shihri, a Saudi citizen who co-founded AQAP, and senior operatives Samir Khan and Anwar al-Awlaki. The latter was a preacher who often delivered his provocative sermons in English and, like Khan, was at one time an American citizen.

However, with the growing use of so-called “signature strikes” — attacks against suspected but unidentified targets — there have been increasingly troubling signs that many victims are deemed guilty by association. Having committed no crime, their names not part of any list and in some cases, not even known. (click here to read more….)

Posted in Abyaan, Al-Qaeda, American, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Awlaki, C.I.A., corruption, Drones, Economy, Elections, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Guantanamo Bay, Human Rights, Insurgency, Islam, Jihad, Ma'rib, Middle East, military, Politics, PTSD, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Signature Strikes, South Yemen, Terrorism, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

Al Jazeera’s (R)Evolution?

Posted by vmsalama on May 20, 2012

Here’s a study I was pleased to contribute to a new-ish e-zine called Jadaliyya which focuses on Arab affairs.

by Vivian Salama

Jadaliyya (click here for original link)

In March of 2011, an unusually forthright editorial by an anonymous writer made its way into The Peninsula Qatar, an English language daily bankrolled by a member of the emirate’s ruling family. At the time of publication, protesters had already toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings were in full swing in Libya and Yemen, and in the Persian Gulf, Bahrainis were gearing up for what would prove to be a bloody battle, only days after the op-ed ran.

“Businesses and institutions are treated as ‘holy cows,’” the author wrote in the editorial, entitled “Why are we so timid?”

“What essentially ails the Qatari media (English and Arabic-language newspapers) is the absence of a comprehensive law that specifies its role in a clear-cut way and seeks to protect it against the people and interests opposed to free expression or those who cannot appreciate criticism,” the op-ed read.

It was at about the same time that this editorial ran that Al-Jazeera Arabic, the renowned television network that essentially put Qatar on the map, started facing a dilemma. The network has found it increasingly difficult to distance itself from the growing political ambitions of its patron, Qatar, particularly as it is kept alive by the one hundred million dollars it receives annually from the Qatari government. Moreover, the wave of information now available to the masses via the Internet and satellite television has exposed the gaps in its reporting of issues that do not fall in line with the government’s agenda, while also highlighting its biases in the various uprisings. (more…)

Posted in Al Jazeera, American, Arab, Arab Media & Society, Arab Spring, Arabic, dictatorship, discrimination, Dubai, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Film, Hosni Mubarak, Internet, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Journalism, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinians, Politics, Qatar, Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Television, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Woos Washington

Posted by vmsalama on April 6, 2012

Look who’s visiting Washington!!

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Woos Washington

By Vivian Salama

The Daily Beast

Click here for original story

There was once a time when U.S. officials shunned Arab Islamist parties, frowned on their election victories, and denied them U.S. visas. But times are changing.

Delegates from Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, a group affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, are in   Washington for their first official visit since Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year. Only days after announcing their party’s candidate in the first presidential election since the revolution, the visiting delegates have met with members of Congress and White House officials and held public discussions at Georgetown University and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Outlawed under the Mubarak regime, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line Salafist parties have emerged, not surprisingly, as a powerful force in the Egyptian elections, thwarting the secular groups that are believed to have been the drivers of last year’s revolution. As a group that founded itself on the principles of grassroots activism, the Muslim Brotherhood has long resonated with the people of Egypt, where at many as 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations.

The delegates sent to Washington were all articulate English speakers, two of whom hold doctorates from U.S. institutions. They were non-evasive, answering impassioned questions from the Georgetown audience about religious persecution and Sharia law. The message was not specifically linked to Islam. They did not criticize—or even mention—Israel. They stressed that Egypt is open for business and encouraged free trade and foreign direct investment. (more…)

Posted in Allies, American, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Christian, Christianity, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Flip-Flops, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Libya, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, Obama, Politics, Tunisia, United States | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

STOP KONY…. and all the other bad guys doing bad things!

Posted by vmsalama on March 9, 2012

I don’t often write about Africa although it is a region near to my heart. I visited Uganda in 2004 — it is a beautiful country and anyone who visits will not soon forget the ear-to-ear smiles they receive from the people they meet. Invisible Children is a global campaign to arrest Joseph Kony and stop him from kidnapping, arming and killing children to fight his war via a militia he calls the Lord’s Resistance Army. This video is thought provoking (and stirring up a lot of controversy and debate as a result). There are bad people doing bad things around the world. Palestinian children in Gaza are dying every day. Families in Syria cannot leave their homes in Homs and Hama without fear of being killed by government contracted snipers, and hundreds continue to fall victim to attacks by the Sudanese government in the Nuba Mountains every month. Across Africa children are being used as foot soldiers in senseless wars. I wish more people would take initiative like film maker Jason Russell to bring crimes of humanity like those of Joseph Kony to light (Also, check out Ryan Boyette’s brave efforts in Sudan). I hope with all of my heart that they are successful.

Please take 30 minutes to watch this video to learn about this cause.

 

Posted in Africa, American, Arab Spring, Child Soldiers, Clinton, Darfur, Gaza, Invisible Children, Israel, Jason Russell, Kony, Nuba Mountains, Palestinians, Ryan Boyette, Stop Kony, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, United Nations, United States, Viral Video, YouTube | 1 Comment »

A Weekend With Saint Francis

Posted by vmsalama on February 12, 2012

I have a new love. His name is Francisco. I just returned from San Francisco a few days ago and was quite taken by the place – namely the weather. The sun was shining, the birds were a singin’. It was a lovely getaway overall. This, from a New Yorker who has, essentially, been trained from birth to assume her coast is superior. Did you know that the “Chinese” fortune cooking was invented in San Francisco – by a Japanese family?! I kid you not. The country’s first Chinese immigrants came to San Francisco in 1848. The Japanese Hagiwara family invented “Chinese” fortune cookies at Golden Gate Park’s Tea Garden, and at Chinatown’s Ross Alley fortune cookie factory, a funny looking contraption churned them out by the dozens. Who knew?! PS — San Francisco cable cars are the only moving National Historic Landmark.

Golden Gate

San Francisco's Golden Gate (Photo by Vivian Salama)

Posted in American, California, San Francisco, United States | Leave a Comment »

“The Protester”: A Photo Journal of the Egyptian Revolution

Posted by vmsalama on December 15, 2011

Thanks to TIME Magazine for recognizing the revolutionaries all over the world… I’ve been meaning to write this for quite some time but only finding the chance to do it now.

A year ago when Mohammed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor in Tunisia, burned himself out of frustration from a political system that neglected him, I was en route to Beirut ahead of the Christmas holiday and writing, mainly, about the credit crunch in the Arab Gulf states and mounting concerns that the banking system would not soon recover from the blow. Days after I returned from Beirut, my host, Rania Abouzeid, came to stay with me in Dubai in a desperate attempt to fly to Tunisia, where flights were almost entirely grounded amid an uprising across the country. It was hard to imagine then that the desperate act of this young man not only set in motion a revolution in his country, but around across the region.

Jan. 27, 2011: me and Rania Abouzeid heading to Cairo (at 3am -- ughhh!!!)

On January 14, 2011, following a month of violent protests against his rule, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – Tunisia’s president since 1987 — was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia along with his wife and their three children.  A week later, Rania and I were on a flight to Cairo where calls for a revolution had begun to circulate on social media websites. They were days I will never forget, and with TIME Magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year issue being dedicated this year to The Protester, I want to share with you all a few memories and photos of the protesters I met in Cairo this year. (Click here to read some of my stories on the Arab Spring)

On January 27, two days after the protests officially begun, Internet and mobile phone service was completely cut off in Egypt and we were left guessing where crowds were gathering. After trying a few spots around town, Rania and I decided to go toward the Mohendiseen neighborhood near the Moustafa Mahmoud mosque. It was a good guess! About 500 protesters had gathered after Friday prayers where they came face to face with riot police chanting slogans like “The people want the end of the regime” and “Hosni Mubarak: illegitimate.”

We began to march, with the intention of going toward Tahrir Square. (Rania and I were quickly separated in the crowd and were each forced to continue reporting on our own). Weaving through side streets and alleys in the Cairo neighborhood, people watched us from balconies, throwing bottles of water, garlic and onions, and bottles of vinegar – all simply remedies for tear gas inhalation, because everyone knew what lie ahead.  The longer we marched, the more the crowd swelled, with protesters called on those people in their homes not to be afraid.
Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama
Jan 27: Protesters Near Moustafa Mahmoud Mosque/Photo by Vivian SalamaS

Sure enough, we were quickly confronted by tanks and soldiers firing tear gas at the crowd. I’ve never seen so much camaraderie in my life. Soldiers at a nearby military hospital threw medical masks at the protesters and pharmacists handed them out to the crowds. At one point I felt quite ill from the tear gas. A man approached from behind me and pressed a vinegar-covered mask against my mouth and nose. A nearby vendor (who probably struggles to feed his own family with the pennies he earns) emptied his refrigerator, handing out water bottles and cans of soda to the fatigued protesters.

Every where I looked, people were helping each other, helping strangers tie their masks, sharing water bottles, aiding those who were most affected by the gas.

There was one point, marching with the crowd from Mohendiseen, when we approached a major intersection and I heard roaring cheers. I jumped up on a car to see what had happened and was personally overcome by emotion. From three different directions, massive groups of protesters were approaching the intersection – the other groups coming from as far as Giza and the Nasr City. They did this without Internet or mobile phones.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Groups of young men pushed to the front of the crowd and began to battle riot police, taking over their vehicles and chasing them away. Our group, now numbered in the hundreds of thousands, pushed slowly across the historic Qasr El Nil bridge in an attempt to move into Tahrir. There were moments when I worried that an attack by the military would trigger a stampede – we were stuffed tightly onto the bridge. But every time protesters began to push back, the young men in the crowd would grab the women in the crowd and push them against the bridge railing so to protect them from being knocked down.

photo by Vivian Salama

Some were more prepared than others!! Cairo Jan. 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

It was a long night with protesters burning the ruling National Democratic Party headquarters and battling with soldiers in Tahrir. Riot police trucks were set on fire (and the Semiramis Hotel, where many journalists took refuge) was partially on fire for part of the evening. I was trapped in Tahrir for the night and forced to take a last minute room at the Semiramis. I woke up early the next morning to a different Cairo, where charred military tanks stood in the middle of Tahrir Square and smoke billowed from the NDP headquarters and, sadly, from the adjacent National Museum. It would take another two weeks (only!) to overthrow Hosni Mubarak but that first Friday was by far the most memorable. There is an Arabic expression that often refers to the Egyptian people as being “light blooded” (light hearted/good senses of humor). They definitely showed their spirit throughout the frustrating 19 days (and 30 years) it took to shake up their political system.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Tahrir Square, January 28, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Tahrir Square, January 28, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

me in Tahrir (late January 2011)

I visited Bahrain in the weeks that followed and I spent a lot of time covering the uprisings in Yemen and, less so, the ongoing crisis in Syria. After years of battling misguided stereotypes of terrorism and violence, these protesters have showed the world that they desire freedom and a decent standard of living and they have the right to demand it just as those in Europe and the US demand of their governments.

The Tunisians, Egyptians and all the other citizens around the world fighting for democracy have a very long and bumpy road ahead.  The TIME Magazine Person of the Year issue questions whether there is a global tipping point for frustration. I believe what happened this year is, in large part, because of overpopulation and because of the global economic slowdown touched societies rich and poor – but toppled those that were already on the brink before markets crash. The world is smaller than ever thanks to the Internet and various technologies that allow us to share experiences with people on opposite corners of the world. As we continue to get closer, and the world, smaller, it will become impossible to distance ourselves from even the most seemingly remote events.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Posted in American, Arab, Arab League, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bloggers, Cairo University, Censorship, Coptic, Culture, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Environment, Foreign Policy, Hosni Mubarak, Internet, Journalism, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Negotiation, Obama, Politics, Qaddafi, Qatar, Recession, Refugees, Religion, State of Emergency, Succession, Syria, Terrorism, Tunisia, United Nations, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

Yemen Shortages Worsen as Street Violence Leaves Locals Searching for Food

Posted by vmsalama on May 26, 2011

By Vivian Salama and Mohammed Hatem

Bloomberg

Click here to see original

Safiah Hussein al-Raimi stood for hours outside a store in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, for five straight days to buy a tank of cooking gas to prepare food for her husband and four children. She left empty handed each time.

“Life is becoming hell here and we can’t afford it,” al- Raimi, 43, said as she lined up during her fifth attempt. “We have no gas, no power, not enough food.”

As President Ali Abdullah Saleh clings to power and Yemen edges closer to civil war, the country has become paralyzed by shortages of fuel, bread, sugar and milk. Power cuts, which were the source of riots in the south last year, are now commonplace across the country, already the Arab world’s poorest and a base for al-Qaeda terrorist activity.

With the wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East in its fifth month, the issue of how long Saleh’s regime will last in Yemen is being compounded by the question of what would be left of the country should he be ousted.

“Yemen’s economy is already at a crisis point,” said Will Picard, director of the Yemen Peace Project, a U.S.-based group. “No one is earning money, save the gasoline sellers, arms dealers, and foreign journalists.”

More Violence

Gunmen from Yemen’s most influential tribe clashed on May 24 with security forces loyal to Saleh, 68, in Sana’a, a day after he refused to sign an accord to give up power.

Dozens were killed or wounded in an assault on the home of tribal chief Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, said Sheikh Saleh al- Mihjani, a member of the tribe. The Interior Ministry said that 14 policemen were killed, 29 others wounded and two are missing.

Shortages of cooking gas and petrol are being reported across the country, and cars are often turned away as they try to refuel. The shelves at local supermarkets are increasingly barren, with basic food items marketed up amid low stock.

The price of a 50 kilogram (110 pound) sack of sugar jumped 22 percent to 11,000 rials ($51.50) at al-Raimi’s local grocery store since the protests escalated in February.

Yemen already faces a severe water shortage, with the World Bank forecasting that Sana’a will be the first capital city to run out of water by 2025. More than half the country’s population of 23 million is under 20 years old and about 40 percent of the people live on the equivalent of less than $2 a day, according to the United Nations.

Bad Shape

Oil accounts for 60 percent of government revenue and 90 percent of exports, the International Monetary Fund said in a report on April 8. Oil reserves are expected to be depleted within a decade, the Washington-based organization said.

Saleh said yesterday that the economy is “not in good shape.” Industry and Trade Minister Hisham Sharaf said the protests cost Yemen $4 billion and a growing budget deficit, now expected to reach $3 billion, threatens to destroy the country.

“The government is running out of money,” Abdul Ghani Aryani, an independent political analyst, said in a telephone interview from Sana’a. “The deficit is now close to half the national budget and as a consequence there isn’t enough foreign exchange to import food stuffs.”

The country postponed the sale of a 25 billion-rial Islamic bond indefinitely as a result of the political unrest, Kamal Al- Rabie, general manager of the central bank’s Islamic unit, said in an interview on May 17.

Black Markets

Black markets are burgeoning across Yemen as people look to profit from the shortages. Khalid Saleh, a supermarket owner in Sana’a, said he’s losing business by the day and revenue has fallen 30 percent since the uprisings began. Al-Raimi said she can’t afford the marked up prices.

“I bought a cooking machine that works on electricity but it’s impossible since power goes off four times a day, each time for three or four hours,” she said.

Yemenis struggled to make ends meet before anti-government protests seeking to topple Saleh deepened the economic crisis. Demonstrators, like their counterparts in Libya and Syria, are demanding an end to corruption, and more jobs and freedom.

The difference in Yemen is that Saleh’s opposition is fragmented along tribal lines, posing the biggest challenge to the country since north and south were unified in 1990. Saleh said yesterday that recent violent threatened civil war and accused al-Qaeda of inciting protests.

“Every day Saleh stays on the throne is another day that Yemen’s already non-existent wealth is divvied up among his allies-for-hire,” Picard said by e-mail on May 23. “Economic recovery of any kind would be impossible given that fact.”

Bin Laden

A U.S. ally and the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, Saleh also struggled to quell the threat of terrorists. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based branch of the group, said in a May 10 statement that it would avenge bin Laden’s death in a Pakistan raid on his hideout by U.S. forces.

This week, prospects for peace grew dimmer after the six- nation Gulf Cooperation Council abandoned efforts to broker an agreement between the country’s political parties that would pave the way for a transition of power in Yemen.

Saleh, who reiterated yesterday that he would be willing to sign the agreement, earlier called the deal a “coup on constitutional legitimacy.” Anti-government protesters maintain the only acceptable solution is for Saleh to leave immediately.

“Outside investors and foreign donors will not put a penny into this country if things continue to looks so unstable,” Mustafa Alani, director of security and terrorism research at the Gulf Research Center, said by telephone from Dubai. “These problems will not go away with a magic stick.”

Arab Grievances

The grievances of Yemenis are similar to those of young people across the Arab world, though regional and sectarian.

Separatists claim the government discriminates against southerners, claiming the north seizes the proceeds of Yemen’s southern oil reserves for its own purposes. Shiite Houthi rebels have also been battling the government, claiming discrimination.

Saudi Arabia sends about $1 billion a year to Yemen in an attempt to keep the country “contained” and buy tribal support, according to Alani. The U.S. gives Yemen $300 million a year mainly in military aid.

“The Yemeni government has been mismanaged for more than three decades so there is no shortage of things that have to be done and quite quickly,” Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University, said by telephone from Cairo. “One of the main things is job creation but that can’t be done over night.”

The IMF said on April 27 that aid talks with the government of Yemen are on hold until there is greater stability. While unemployment in Yemen stood at 15 percent in 2008, the rate for youths between 15 and 24 years old climbed to 52.9 percent that year, UN figures show.

In the line for cooking fuel in Sana’a, al-Raimi is itching to get back to her kids at home, though she is unsure what kind of meal she’ll be able to prepare.

“I’m not able to cook for them,” al-Raimi said. “We just need the basics to live and we are not able to get them.”

Posted in Al-Qaeda, American, Arab, Arab League, dictatorship, Economy, Elections, Foreign Policy, Oil, Saudi Arabia, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

Cairo Protesters Converge in Message Aimed at Defiant Mubarak

Posted by vmsalama on February 9, 2011

By Mariam Fam, Vivian Salama and Ahmed A Namatalla

Bloomberg (Click here for original story)

CAIRO — Egyptians converged on the presidential palace and Tahrir Square in Cairo vowing to topple President Hosni Mubarak after he yesterday defied calls for his resignation for the second time this month.

Military helicopters flew over the palace before dusk, in the suburb of Heliopolis, after state television said the presidency would issue an urgent message “soon.” Earlier, the army beefed up its deployment downtown as tens of thousands of demonstrators poured out of Friday prayers and into the square downtown, swelling the ranks of those who camped there overnight. State television said Mubarak had left the capital.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

With the army today reiterating its support for Mubarak, attention is shifting to how far it will go as the protests gather momentum. The violence has already claimed more than 300 lives, Human Rights Watch says, and has sparked concern that further unrest will grip a region that holds more than 50 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. The protests were inspired by the revolt that ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14.

“The nightmare of a coup is very bad for everybody, for the young people, for the economy, and that’s the scenario we would like to avoid,” Finance Minister Samir Radwan said on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program. “The military is highly disciplined, they have taken a decision not to fire at the young people, but of course this stalemate cannot continue forever.”

Emergency Law

A group of demonstrators gathered near the presidential palace and protests were also under way in the cities of Suez and Alexandria. Mubarak and his family left Cairo and arrived in the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, Al Arabiya television reported today.

The Supreme Military Council said today it will guarantee the implementation of the measures announced late yesterday in Mubarak’s televised speech, including constitutional changes and an eventual end to an emergency law that has marked his 30-year rule. In a sign the government may offer further concessions, the head of the ruling National Democratic Party, Hossam Badrawi, said today in an interview that an early presidential election may be possible.

Mubarak, 82, reiterated his intention to stay in office until the vote in September, while handing day-to-day powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman in a bid to placate opponents. Protesters erupted in a roar of disapproval as they listened to Mubarak’s evening address in Tahrir Square.

“In Cairo alone today it will be millions,” demonstrator Abdel Rahman Sabry, a 24-year-old engineering student, said in an interview. “Yesterday’s speech has really angered people. We tell him to go, he tells us: ‘I won’t go, you love me.’ Either he is crazy or we are crazy.”

Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

‘Not Worthy’

As Muslims gathered in a mosque near Tahrir Square, the imam leading today’s prayers told them over a loudspeaker, “You are bringing down a corrupt regime that is not worthy of ruling you.”

The Supreme Military Council gathered yesterday before Mubarak’s speech to “safeguard the interests” of the nation, sparking speculation that a military takeover was in progress. The panel is now in permanent session, the first since the October 1973 war with Israel.

Global stocks fell for a third day, U.S. index futures declined, and the dollar and oil rose, after Mubarak spoke. The cost of insuring Egyptian government debt soared 42 basis points to 379, the biggest increase in two weeks, according to CMA prices. Egypt’s 10-year bond yield jumped 29 basis points. The global depositary receipts of Commercial International Bank Egypt SAE, Egypt’s largest publicly traded lender, fell the most this month, dropping 7.2 percent to $5.65.

“We were all hoping that the statement by the president yesterday should calm things down, but obviously it hasn’t,” Radwan told the BBC. “That makes for a very difficult situation where things continue to deteriorate.”

Posted in American, Arab, Arab Spring, Constitution, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Hosni Mubarak, Inflation, Labor, Middle East, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Religion, Social Media, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »

 
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