Gallery: Exclusive Photos of Yemen
Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, protests reached the small impoverished nation of Yemen in late January, where thousands first gathered in the streets of the country’s capital city Sana’a to call for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation. The beginning of the revolution in Yemen was marked by mostly peaceful demonstrations calling for a more democratic regime. But protesters began clashing with government security forces within a week of the first demonstrations. The number of protesters climbed during a planned “ day of rage” in response to the president’s promise to step down in 2013, which demonstrators deemed not soon enough (Saleh has been in power for 32 years). By mid-February, two people had died in clashes as violence spread. Even peaceful protests have been thwarted by government militants using violence to disperse crowds. On March 19, the military declared a state of emergency after rooftop snipers opened fire on a demonstration, killing some 50 anti-government protesters. The following day, Yemen’s U.N. ambassador quit in response to the government-linked crackdown. But the regime’s security forces only tightened their grip on protesters, rolling in military tanks to enforce nightly curfews. Rival demonstrations flared up on the first day of April, proving that the country’s current state of unrest is teetering on the edge of war.
While the U.S. supports democratic reform in the Middle East, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been a strategic ally in America’s fight against al Qaeda. The U.S. relies heavily on the president to repress al Qaeda’s presence in Yemen, which has long been a troubled, impoverished nation. Saleh’s ousting could allow the terrorist organization to gain ground in the Middle East, pitting the Obama administration in the position of choosing to either turn a blind eye on the nation’s political unrest or turn its back on a key ally.