Yemen’s government and opposition parties have formally agreed to a compromise plan to ensure a peaceful political transition, but several protesters were killed today during demonstrations against the deal.
One opposition figure called the pact “the least-bad option for us at this point,” but the youth-led protest movement rejected the agreement, brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council.
“We started the revolution and we will be the ones to end it,” a young female protester told Reuters.
The pro-democracy activists object to the sequencing of the transition and the granting of immunity to President Saleh, his family and ruling elite. The youth movement is demanding an Interim Presidential Council of five civilians untainted by the former regime and a six month transitional period during which the constitution will be repealed, and the parliament, Shura council, and local councils dissolved, prior to free and fair elections (full list of demands below).
“We are not concerned with any side that accepts the GCC initiative,” said a statement from the protesters. “We will continue to escalate our peaceful street protests until the regime falls and the aims of the revolt are achieved”
“How can we speak about the corruption of the government and at the same time share a national unity government with it?” said Tawakul Karman (above), a leading pro-democracy activist and member of Islah, the main opposition party.
“We will not accept them and will continue our protests harder,” she said.
Karman reportedly initiated the demonstrations against Saleh and has “emerged as one of the leaders of a revolution still yet to run its course.”
She is part of a new generation of women activists who have been mobilized and empowered by the protest movement, not only in Yemen but across the region. Her activities have not been without cost: she has been detained by the military and is one of several leading activists and journalists to be subjected to an official smear campaign, according to Reports Without Borders.
Karman heads Yemen’s Women Journalists Without Chains, a media rights NGO supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.
The pro-democracy youth movement is demanding that government and military leaders be held accountable for the killing of peaceful protesters.
Around 130 protesters have been killed during the three months of unrest.
A YouTube video posted online yesterday showed a protester being shot in the head from a military vehicle.
Protests continued today in at least 18 cities and towns in response to calls for a national campaign of civil disobedience. At least one protester and two soldiers were killed during violent clashes across southern Yemen, Reuters reports, as anti-government protesters blockaded roads.
The protester was shot dead by security forces in the port city of Aden, AP reports, on the anniversary of the 1994 civil war which ended in defeat for southern secessionists.
Activists are concerned that the pro-democracy movement is being hijacked by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies who will simply replace Saleh with another autocrat.
“Yemen’s pro-democracy activists are alert to the risk that their popular revolution will be treated like a game of musical chairs where the key players within the existing regime simply swap positions,” analysts have noted.
The youth-led protest movement recently released an updated version of its demands. The revised draft – courtesy of the National Democratic Institute – follows:
Draft Document: Demands of the Youth Revolution
We affirm that we will continue our peaceful struggle in the squares until we achieve these demands. We also pledge to protect the Revolution and its Goals.
- A peaceful end to the current regime and all its symbols. The dismissal of all close affiliates to the president and his relatives from leadership and senior position in the military and civil institutions.
- The formation of an Interim Presidential Council composed of five civilian members, well-known for their expertise, honesty and experience. They must be unanimously chosen, and cannot be senior leaders in the former regime. The duties of the council include the day-to-day management of the country during the transitional period, on the condition that the members cannot become future candidates for the post of President of the Republic or the Prime Minister before a full election cycle.
- The establishment of a transitional period – after the removal of the regime – with a duration of six months. The transitional period will begin by a Constitutional Declaration of the Revolution, which will repeal the constitution, will dissolve parliament, the Shura council, and local council administrations.
- The Interim National Council will assign a national figure to form an Interim Government of technocrats during a period of no more than a month.
- The formation of an Interim National Council representing youth and all national and political forces, to be in charge of the following:
- Resolving the Southern Issue for its urgency in a fair and satisfying way.
- Resolving the Saada Issue and its consequences.
- Formation of a committee of jurists and experts in law to work on a new draft constitution for a modern democratic civil state with the following components: a republican parliament with an electoral system based on proportional representation and a system based on social justice and equal citizenship. Should be completed during three months and is subject to a public referendum.
- Monitoring the Interim Presidential Council and the government.
- Establishing the Supreme Commission for Elections, to update and verify the electoral register/roll and prepare for free and fair elections conducted by the end of the transitional period.
- Reforming the Supreme Judicial Council to ensure independence of the judiciary.
- Dissolving the Ministry of Information and establishing an independent Supreme Authority to assure the freedom of speech and expression and the multiplicity of the mass media and communication.
- Dissolving the Ministry of Human Rights, and establishing an independent Supreme Council for Human Rights.
- Prosecuting individuals in the past government who were the symbols of corruption and recovering the stolen money from public and private sectors.
- Immediate release of all political prisoners and forced-disappeared individuals, and abolition of special courts and the private prisons.
- The immediate prosecution of anyone who caused, assisted or incited the killing or wounding of peaceful protesters. Compensating the families of the martyrs and the wounded, and honoring them in the best ways.
- Dissolving the Political and National Security institutions, and forming a national security apparatus under the Ministry of Interior with restricted role in charge of preventing risks that threaten the country from abroad.
- Integrating the Republican Guard in the Armed Forces and dissolving the Council of National Defense in a way that will ensure the neutrality of the Army and Security Forces.