Yemen Next?

This week’s coverage of the news has been dominated by events in Egypt, where protesters continue to demand the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic government. Events in the country (and in Tunisia as well) continue to unravel in a way nobody can fully predict; the end result is still far away and a mystery to all the actors involved.

Yet right now an interesting report has surfaced in the Times from Reuter, titled “20,000 March in Yemen ‘Day of Rage’.” Apparently opposition forces have planned their major protest for today.

This situation strongly resembles what has happened in Egypt. In Egypt, antigovernment organizers were inspired by the example of Tunisia. The original nationwide protest started on January 25th, and turned out to be far more massive than anybody expected.

During that time, the protests were one of several stories that made headlines. On January 27th, the New York Times wrote a remarkably prophetic story: Opposition in Egypt Gears Up for Major Friday Protest. The next day Egypt truly exploded, and ever since it has been the number one story in much of the world.

Yemen has already had several significant protests; in response President Ali Abdullah Saleh promised not to seek re-election in 2013 (a promise he has made, and broken, before). The opposition has promised today to be the event of a major protest. It sounds quite a bit like Egypt did on the eve of the 28th.

As in Egypt, the situation in Yemen is extremely fluid. The opposition may yet fail to muster enough strength to shake the president’s hold on power. President Ali Abdullah Saleh is also a more ruthless man – having fought several civil wars – than either of the leaders in Tunisia or Egypt. He very well might end the protests by getting the troops to start firing. On the other hand, it is also quite conceivable that the protesters succeed in destroying his grip on power.

And if today is not the turning point, there is always another day.

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