In protest over the Yemeni government’s brutal crackdown on protesters — 25 are reported to have died on Tuesday in the capital of Sana and in the city of Taiz, after a ceasefire was announced — hundreds of women have set their veils on fire. After spreading a black cloth on the main street of Sana, the women placed their makrama or full-body veils down, sprayed them with oil and set them on fire. They also chanted “Who protects Yemeni women from the crimes of the thugs” and passed out leaflets proclaiming
“This is a plea from the free women of Yemen; here we burn our makrama in front of the world to witness the bloody massacres carried by the tyrant [President Ali Abdullah] Saleh.”
The burning of the makrama is a “symbolic Bedouin gesture signifying an appeal to tribesmen for help.” The women participating were wearing traditional veils, with many fully clothed in black, and their protest was not about women’s rights. But their presence in Yemen’s anti-government protests that began in March has been constant. Earlier this month, Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with two Liberian women, for their championing of women’s rights.
Karman’s receiving of that award has not stopped Saleh’s regime from its bloody suppression of protesters and opposition members. The women’s protest occurred as clashes have again arisen between Saleh’s forces and army deserters who are backing the protesters and the opposition. Among those killed were tribal fights and soldiers, as well as civilians.
The massive protests have occurred almost daily in Yemen for eight months. Saleh, who was severely burned in an assassination attempt in June and spent weeks recovering in Saudi Arabia, has repeatedly said that he would agree to deals to transfer power and step down, but every time has pulled out of the agreement at the last minute. On Tuesday, he met with Gerald Feierstein, the US ambassador, for the first time since his return from Saudi Arabia. Once again, Saleh said that he would sign a US and Gulf Arab-backed power transfer deal which will grant him immunity from prosecution if he steps down. Said State Department Victoria Nuland over the lack of progress, for all of Saleh’s pledges:
“We said that the proof would be in the pudding. We haven’t yet tasted a good pudding.”
The opposition, more than wise to Saleh’s tactics, has dismissed this latest attempt to end the crisis in Yemen, which has not only deepened the woes of the country’s already struggling economy, but allowed for terrorist groups including Al Qaeda to infiltrate parts of the country.
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Photo taken in March in Sanaa by Sallam