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Yemen Referendum Call Termed Dubious Act

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TEHRAN, March 11 (ICANA) – Yemeni opposition groups are taking to the streets, demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh who has been in power for 30 years.
Friday, March 11, 2011 12:45:29 PM
Yemen Referendum Call Termed Dubious Act

Press TV interviewed journalist Sarah Marusek regarding the popular uprising in Yemen.

Q: Do you think it's too late for Saleh announce a referendum on constitution? If he thinks that a new constitution and new parliamentary system is the right decision, why hasn't he made it before and he's making it now while facing these protests. Do you think it's not going to work?

Marusek: That is a very good question. I think whether or not Western interests have a role in this most recent decision. Certainly it has been very unfortunate that a lot of attention has not been focused on Yemen over the last several weeks because these protests have continued regularly. The weapons that the Yemenis are using against their own people are often supplied by the UK and the United States. I think this is incredibly worrying and I've been very upset that I haven't seen more attention being paid. All eyes are focused on Libya and perhaps that is strategic from Washington and London's perspective. I think there are a lot of questions that need to be asked from both governments. Why they are continuing to support such an autocratic government that uses violence regularly. This is not just over the protests. It has been over the past several years. They have been using British weapons to attack their own citizens, particularly in some of the areas that are trying to obtain some autonomy. So I think that this raises a lot of questions. Now all of a sudden the president is willing to create a new constitution. There have been efforts for many years in Yemen to try and alter the system. So I would really look upon this with a lot of skepticism and whether or not it's going to achieve anything and at this point whether the critical mass have proven in Yemen that it's time for Saleh to step down.

Q: The stance was raised in some comments that may be taken by Yemen's neighboring countries or its allies including Saudi Arabia which is facing its own protests. Do you think the likes of Saudi Arabia or the governments in Bahrain are closely watching the events in Yemen, and how do you think they will be taking a stance? What stance would you think they would be taking considering the way President Saleh is facing these demonstrations?

Marusek: I certainly think they are watching very carefully. I believe Bahrain obviously has its own situation that is really reaching critical mass as well. We are starting to see some protests in Saudi Arabia, and I think that not only are they watching what is happening in Yemen with their eyes, but they are also calling Washington probably hourly trying to press the United States to put pressure on Saleh to handle things correctly, and to look for ways of framing the situation so this empowers the dictatorships in the region because they certainly do not want to step down; any of them. In my opinion, one of the really heinous ways they are doing this and this is not something new; it's something that has been happening for a while now. But we see it happening more and more now in Libya and Yemen. It's the so-called threat of al-Qaeda that is being thrown out there. It's being used to justify mass violations of human rights and violence. It's often used to generate support from Western publics to continue this repression of populations. I think that Saudi Arabia is guilty of these things and I think that Yemen is guilty and certainly Gaddafi is going crazy with accusing al-Qaeda for everything, which is quite interesting. He usually blames al-Qaeda for atrocities that his own militias are performing on the Libyan people.

Q: Is the Yemeni government prepared to end the discrimination against the people in Yemen? If he is going to stay in power until 2013 while the people have been calling for the entire regime to go along with him; to let go of the three decades of power he has been clinging to; do you think that these moves are going to appease the protesters or do you think we are going to see these protests carry on and this new constitution and national unity government proposal not be accepted with President Saleh in the middle of it?

Marusek: That is a very good question and I think we all have to just wait and watch. I would think that looking at the history of oppression against the organized opposition -- the political opposition that's been attempting to gain some sort of say in the government in Yemen for the last several years, and the continued oppression against them is one thing. We know that the system right now excludes them. It has excluded them from elections. It has excluded them from decision making. Then the other part of this equation is that many of the protesters actually started off and their youth are not organized. They are not part of the formal opposition and political opposition movement. So you have two different blocks who only have recently joined together to demand (in some sort of union) the same thing. So whether or not this decision by Saleh is going to divide the people on the streets right now, that is a really good question. My hunch is that it won't and people will demand more than what he is offering, and just be incredibly skeptical that he will be able to carry through and offer anything to people he's been marginalizing and oppressing for so many years now.

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