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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Yemen Times: Activists targeted by National Security

Tawakol Karman and Khalid Al-Ansi at a demonstration in early February. YT photo by Sadeq Al-Wesabi

Shatha Al-HaraziPublished:05-05-2011
SANA’A, May 5th — The opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) has accused the National Security – which is headed by one of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s nephews – of kidnapping activist Badria Ghilan.

Ghilan was reported missing four days ago, shortly after she had left Al-Tagheer (Change) Square.

Likewise, activist Tawheb Al-Duba’ei was arrested by National Security after giving a speech at Taiz’s Freedom Square on Friday.  He was subsequently released.

The Yemen Times previously reported that the National Security has a list of 60 individuals – mostly activists and journalists – who are to be targeted for arrest.  Although the checklist specified names, number 60 on that register was listed as “others”.  According to a source at the National Security who asked to remain anonymous, this gives security personnel the right to arrest anyone they deem anti-government.  The list was issued alongside the 18 March 2011 state of emergency.

At the time, activists Khaled Al-Ansi and Tawakol Karman were at the top of the register.  Al-Ansi told the Yemen Times that it has since become an assassination list and although he is not aware of every name on the register, he confirmed that his name and Karman’s still appear at the top.

“I’m protected in the square,” said Karman.  Although she has her own tent, she doesn’t spend the night in it, lest it be targeted by pro-government thugs.

Both Karman and Al-Ansi stay within Change Square at all times, as it would be easier for them to be targeted if they left.

“The threats we receive are now beyond menacing phone calls and text messages,” said Al-Ansi.  “That was the case at the beginning of the revolution, but now we know we are assassination targets.”

Al-Ansi said that the National Security is attempting different strategies to lure them out of the square.

“Once someone called me from an MTN number, telling me that Sheikh Hemiar Al-Ahmar wanted to meet with me outside of the square,” he said.  Al-Ahmar, however, has no relationship with Al-Ansi, so an invitation to meet would be highly dubious.  Moreover, Al-Ahmar’s family and supporters all use Saba telephone numbers, as this is a company that they own.  This is what made Al-Ansi suspect the call.

He also said that this wasn’t the first time they had used such a tactic to lure him out of the square.  On another occasion, someone called him to say that a number of military officers wished to join the demonstration and declare their solidarity with the pro-democracy movement.  The one condition, however, was that Al-Ansi first meet with them outside of the square.

On 20 April 2011, four medical students were kidnapped by the National Security from a march in Al-Siteen Street, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located.  According to Al-Ansi, there were seven women amongst the students who were captured, in addition to Karman, who was veiled as a means of hiding herself and preventing an attack.

“The security wanted to target Karman by kidnapping the students,” said Al-Ansi.  “Fortunately, they had sprayed gas at the time.  This made their vision unclear, and because Karman was wearing a veil, they couldn’t recognize her.  The seven women were then separated into two groups – the first group contained Karman and the second contained the four students who were kidnapped.”

Al-Ansi told the Yemen Times that he’d only just seen his mother for the first time in two months, after she made a visit to Change Square.  The only time that he and Karman have managed to get out of the square together was to meet with the US ambassador at the American embassy.

“The embassy had to provide us with an armored vehicle when we returned to the square,” said Al-Ansi, as National Security agents were waiting for him and Karman outside the embassy.

Al-Ansi also noted that state media has been mobilizing the public against him and Karman.

“They use very angry language, accusing us of inciting the youth to get killed, to march on the Yemen TV tower and other places,” he said.

Karman was the first activist to be arrested on 23 January 2011, before Change Square had even been founded.  She was arrested for leading unlicensed protests and was released three days later, after hundreds marched in front of the General Prosecutor’s office.

Al-Ansi and other activists were also arrested while marching towards the General Prosecutor’s office, so as to submit a legal complaint regarding the way Karman was arrested.  He and the others were all released within 24 hours.

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