Tens of thousands of Yemenis gathered Monday in Sanaa to celebrate the second anniversary of the launch of nationwide protests that pushed president Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power after 33 years in office.
Jubilant Yemenis gathered in Sitin street, a capital artery that was the scene of frequent protests and confrontations between anti-regime demonstrators and police and militiamen backing the former leader.
Although the rally in Sanaa was peaceful, a woman and a child were killed by police gunfire and dozens wounded in the southern city of Aden when rival demonstrators clashed, medics and witnesses said.
The southern autonomist movement and the Islamist party Al-Islah accused each other of initiating the clash, while the southern militants said police had sided openly with Al-Islah and fired at the crowd.
The Sanaa rally was organised by the committee of the Youth Revolution, which regards February 11, 2011 as the day the anti-Saleh uprising erupted, though the first protests took place in January 2011, echoing Tunisia and Egypt.
“Hold your head up, you are a free Yemeni,” chanted the crowds gathered in Sitin, evoking a slogan chanted during the protests against Saleh, an AFP correspondent reported.
“February 11 is a day that Yemenis will always celebrate,” said the organising committee in a statement.
It urged the government, in which the former opposition now holds 50 percent of the seats, to look after the families of the “martyrs” and “complete the treatment for the wounded.”
It also called for a “trial for the killers of the youths, and a return of the people’s funds that were stolen.”
Saleh agreed in November 2011 to step down under a Gulf-brokered and UN-backed initiative which stipulated presidential polls in February 2012 that brought in Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, Saleh’s then deputy, as an interim president for two years.
The initiative granted Saleh and his aides immunity from prosecution but demanded a complete restructuring of the military and security forces and a national dialogue to draft a new constitution and electoral law for 2014 polls.
Hadi last week set March 18 as the date for the much-anticipated dialogue.
The committee organising Monday’s rally in Sanaa welcomed the dialogue.
“We announce from here that we welcome setting March 18 as the date for dialogue between Yemenis,” the head of the committee, Mohammed al-Sabri told demonstrators, implying that they will take part in the talks.
A similar rally was held in Taez, Yemen’s second city, which was also scene to large anti-Saleh protests, as well as bloody confrontations, during the uprising.