Letter From Sana’a

Saleh on the Edge

Courtesy Reuters

Last Friday, hundreds of students and activists gathered in Sana'a University’s square in Yemen to call for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. "Ali, leave, leave -- your seat has oxidized!" they shouted. After an hour of protests, a thousand armed tribesmen -- supporters of Saleh -- surrounded the stage and attacked the demonstrators with knives, batons, and stones, injuring dozens. Known as baltagia (“thugs” in Arabic), the men were mercenaries paid by Saleh’s party, the General People’s Congress. Government officials transported the men to the university and provided them with weapons and banners supporting the president.

That violent incident was but one in a number of antigovernment protests that have expanded throughout Yemen, as the main opposition factions have joined the students to call for the end of Saleh’s regime. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have been camping in Yemen’s largest cities --

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