Tens of thousands of protesters marched in the Yemeni capital on Monday, calling on the United Nations to resolve the country’s political crisis and force President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.
The demonstration came a day after the parliamentary opposition Common Forum said it would support a stronger UN role to bring an end to months of violence and political deadlock that have plagued the country.
“Oh world, why are you silent while the people of Yemen are getting killed?” the protesters chanted as they marched out of Change Square in central Sanaa, the base camp for the democracy movement.
“We are sending a message to the UN Security Council asking them to put pressure on Saleh and the remnants of his regime to leave power,” a protest leader, Mohammad al-Assal, told AFP.
Those at the rally steered far from Saleh loyalists to avoid clashes, marching only in areas controlled by dissident troops who defected in support of the protest movement that has gripped Yemen since January.
On Sunday, Common Forum spokesman Mohammed Qahtan said his group supported stronger UN action in Yemen after regional efforts, specifically a Gulf initiative, have failed to force Saleh’s resignation.
The UN, and in particular the Security Council, would be “more effective” in ending the crisis and serve as a “continuation of the regional efforts” already underway, he told AFP in a telephone interview.
The focus on UN action precedes Tuesday’s planned report to the Security Council by Yemen envoy Jamal Benomar, who failed to secure an agreement on the Gulf Cooperation Council deal which aimed to end the crisis that has put the country on the brink of a wider conflict and crippled its economy.
Meanwhile, dozens of Yemeni journalists held a sit-in in Sanaa to demand the release of a colleague held by troops loyal to dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, an AFP correspondent said.
Mohammed Sudam, a Reuters reporter who also works as an interpreter for President Saleh, was detained Friday night at a checkpoint manned by Ahmar’s troops on the way home from the airport after a trip to Cairo.
The journalists, who held the sit-in at Sanaa’s Change Square, called on Yemen’s new Nobel peace laureate, activist Tawakkul Karman, to intervene on Sudam’s behalf.
Mohsen, who defected in March to support the protest movement, said he was unaware that Sudam was a reporter and promised to release him later Monday.
“I didn’t even know he was a journalist… he was detained based on the fact that he was the personal interpreter for President Saleh,” Mohsen told a small group of reporters Monday.
He added Sudam was taken in response to the detention by Saleh security forces of relatives of an officer in Ahmar’s First Armoured Division.
Kidnappings of army officers and government officials have become increasingly common since Ahmar’s defection and the outbreak of clashes between his troops and Saleh loyalists in Sanaa.
Meanwhile, in Yemen’s second city Taez, 40 women were hurt on Sunday night when regime supporters attacked an all-female street celebration of Karman’s Nobel prize win last week, medical officials said.
Participants said they were attacked with glass bottles and stones.
Three others were injured in Taez in dawn clashes on Monday between the elite Republican Guard and tribal forces opposed to the embattled leader, medics said.
Residents said Guard troops, commanded by Saleh’s eldest son Ahmed, tried to storm the Rawdah district in central Taez, which is heavily defended by anti-Saleh tribal fighters.
Taez, some 270 kilometres (170 miles) southwest of the capital Sanaa, has been a focal point of tension since protests against Saleh erupted in January.
Saleh, in power for 33 years, has so far rejected local, regional and international calls to step down and hand power over to his vice president.