Activists see new unity in protests

June 16, 2011 at 7:24 PM
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SANAA, Yemen, June 16 (UPI) -- The thousands of protesters camped outside Sanaa University in Yemen are developing ties that cut across tribal and religious divisions, activists say.

On Monday night, a hydrologist from the university lectured on Yemen's severe water problems in one tent, an imam discussed the need to oppose oppressive rulers in another and a teacher conducted a survey on the educational system, The New York Times reported. Women have spoken in public, and tribesmen chant satirical attacks on President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"There are new values forming here," Dughesh Abdel Dughesh, a sociologist who moved his family into a tent in the protest area soon after it formed four months ago, told the Times. "You can see a big sheik sweeping the street, nuclear physicists taking away garbage."

There are four daily newspapers and many more weeklies published in the area.

Dughesh said there also is friction. Religious conservatives who objected to his coed lectures took away the chairs.

Some activists hope "Change Square" is creating an enduring new Yemen.

"In a sense I'm happy the revolution is taking a long time, because these meetings and arguments are healthy," Atiaf al-Wazir, a blogger, said. "We can't say everything has changed, but the seeds of change are there."

Turmoil has engulfed Yemen for months as activists seeking political reform have called for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is in Saudi Arabia recovering from wounds suffered in an attack on his compound.

In recent weeks, anti-government tribal forces have fought government troops.

A six-nation Gulf Arab alliance has tried to broker a deal for Saleh's departure.

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