The capital of Yemen, Sanaa, has been the scene of terrible battles over the last few days. 124 people have been killed by government forces, as they protested against the despotic rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh has been in charge since the ending of the civil war in Yemen in 1994, and has ruled with a iron fist.
Before he came to power, South Yemen had been a bastion in the Middle East of progressive secularism for almost 20 years. But a progressive, Marxist government that had enhanced the life chances of women, had tackled poverty and inequality, was not to be tolerated in the 1990's. The West supported the warlords of Northern Yemen in the civil war, and allowed Saleh to come to power. In the years after the 'peace agreement' in 1994, thousands of 'leftists', academics and trade unionists were 'disappeared' or exiled by the Saleh regime, but human rights abuses were ignored by the West.
What a mess it all is now, having given Saleh the weapons to keep the population subdued, Western governments do not know how to respond. And yet, still the people bravely rise up, despite the bullets and the sniper fire. Yemen, alongside all the nations of the Middle East need our prayers. And prayers need action. Protest at the DSEi Arms fare in London this September, lets stop arming the killers.