Yemen’s perseverance: two million people march for revolution
Yemen’s Life March of the 24th of December shows that Yemeni protesters have not given up on the fight. In the morning of the 24th of December Sana’s woke up to the sound of hundreds of thousands of youngsters knocking on the city’s doors, after a march of almost 300 kilometers that went from the city of Taiz to Sana’a. The youth of Taiz came out more revolutionary than ever before. They decided that they would hold a march called the ‘Life March’ towards the city of Sana’a, passing by three main cities, Yareem, Ibb and Dhamar. As they climbed mountains and walked down valleys, their determination and persistence fueled the youth in those cities, and as they passed by each city the number of participants increased rapidly.
As they got closer to Sana’a, what’s left of Saleh’s supporters called for Yemenis to stand up against the ‘Life March’ and the GPC – Salehs Party – on its official website said that the participants in the march were planning to attack the city, and that they were equipped with weapons in order to create chaos in Sana’a. Not only that, but the GPC threatened to end the GCC initiative if the ‘Life March’ continued on its path to Sana’a. The march kept on moving, and at the final checkpoint before Sana’a, the youth of Taiz joined with their colleagues from Sana’a, who went out to welcome them. The crowd grew larger and the march kept moving steadily before being interrupted for some time at the final checkpoint. Saleh loyalists called people through Facebook and the Internet to quickly stop the march from proceeding.
Interestingly, the US ambassador, Gerald Feierstein, accused the march of being non-peaceful, and called it “provocative” with the aim of creating chaos in the city. He also stated that the security forces have the right to keep law and order. The security forces heard Feierstein’s call and went to block the path in front of the youth. When the youth reached the entrance of Sana’a, before they met the security forces, tens of families stood on the sides of the roads welcoming the ‘Life March’ with cheers and joy that encouraged the youth to go forward, despite their tiredness due to the long journey. Not so far after that, the march faced the security forces, who were clearly following strict orders to prevent the youth from continuing on their path, towards 70-Street. The youth insisted on continuing until they reached Dar-Salm Roundabout where Central Security Forces were waiting for them – the forces lead by Yahia Saleh (Ali Saleh’s nephew).
Central Security Forces faced the youth brutally, used excessive violence, and tried to push the march towards Khawlan Street. There, a news correspondent witnessed the presence of thugs trying to harass protesters. Around 4:00 pm reports were coming out of the first martyr, a young lady named Abeer Al-Faten, killed with a bullet to her head. Quickly after that two more youth fell due to the use of live ammunition by the Central Security forces.Tear Gas was used intensively and ambulances were prevented from reaching the area as well as the marches that came to join up with the ‘Life March’. The number of martyrs started to rise up and by 6:00 pm Al-Jazeera announced that the death toll had reached 10.
Journalists and activists were kidnapped by the Security soldiers, and cameras were able to capture a few incidents. The youth were finally able to open a path through Taiz Street and kept walking despite the continued attacks and the death toll rose to 13 and then to 16. When the Youth reached Zubairy Street it became clear why Saleh troops and loyalists had done all that they could to prevent the youth from reaching 70-Street – the widest street in Sana’a. They didn’t want to show the ordinary people how popular the revolution had become, and the amount of people who had come out to overthrow Ali Saleh and his regime. Yemen had its biggest march in modern history. The whole of Zubairy Street – a street that is 5 Kilometers long- was covered with the youth revolutionaries, even though many were still at “Taiz Street” and many weren’t able to join the march.
Abdullah Ghorab, BBC Arabic correspondent, estimated that the ‘Life March’ contained at least 2 million people. Bushra Al-Maktari, a youth activist and member of the National Council, confirmed that at the moment she reached 60-Street, there were many youth still at Taiz Street and if the Security Forces hadn’t have the march violently, the march would’ve been even bigger. The ‘Life March’ maybe wasn’t able to reach its destination at 70-Street, near the Presidential Palace, but indeed it achieved its goal. It brought “Life” back to the revolution and brought the momentum of the revolution back to the Yemeni cities. The ‘Life March’ was able to peel back the mask and show everybody that Saleh and his family are still in possession of power and the security forces, the fight isn’t over yet.