Posts Tagged ‘al ahmar’

Further Notes on the 60th Anniversary of July 23,1952

July 24th, 2012 Comments off

A couple of addenda to my earlier comments on the 60th anniversary of Egypt’s 1952:
Ahram Online has a lengthy excerpt from the memoir of the last surviving Free Officer, Khaled Mohieddin. (Though the caption on their photo of the Free Officers actually identifies his recently deceased cousin, Zakaria Mohieddin.) On his and Nasser’s secret dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood:

I continued to read the books brought to me by Usman Fawzi and I constantly demanded that there be a clear programme for the Brotherhood, defining its national objectives and its position and demands of the various social categories. In my arguments, I began to lean to the left and I became the odd man out in a group supposedly affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a final effort, Hasan El-Banna sought to link us with the Brotherhood via a strong bond. He decided that Nasser and I should join the Brotherhood’s Secret Division. Perhaps it was because we were the most active and effective in our group and, consequently, winning us over completely would mean ultimately winning over the whole group.

Or perhaps it was because we talked much about the nation and nationalism and therefore he believed that by having us join the Secret Division, which was concerned with weaponry and armed action, he would be satisfying our patriotic enthusiasm and ensuring closer ties with the Brotherhood.

Anyway, we were contacted by Salah Khalifa, who took the two of us to a house in Darb Al-Ahmar toward Sayyida Zaynab. There we met Abd El-Rahman El-Sanadi, head of the Brotherhood’s Secret Division at the time.

We were taken into a totally darkened room where we heard a voice (I think it was that of Saleh Ashmawi) and, placing our hands on the Quran and a gun and repeating after the voice, we took an oath of obedience and total allegiance, for better or worse, to the Grandmaster, swearing by the Book of God and the Sunna (traditions) of the Prophet. Although these rites were meant to stir the emotions, they had very little impact on Nasser and myself.

In any case, we began to work in the Secret Division and we were taken for training at a place near Helwan. Since we were officers, it was only natural that we were more knowledgeable about weapons than our training instructors. Nasser was not too happy with the situation and we felt alienated from the Brotherhood.

Also, Al-Ahram’s front page the next day; “The Army Carries Out a Peaceful Military Movement”:

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The al-Ahmar Family: Who’s who

June 4th, 2011 Comments off

Sadiq al-Ahmar and Ali Abdullah Salih before the shelling started

by Gregory Johnsen, Waq al-Waq, June 3

The news is coming fast and furious out of Sanaa. Not much is known for certain and it will likely be a while before we have all the details, but here is the broad outline:

Today, following Friday Prayers, forces loyal to President Salih opened shelling directed in the general direction of Hamid al-Ahmar’s house in the wealthy Sanaa suburb of Hadda.

Making things more complicated is the fact that Ali Muhsin, the defected general and head of the 1st Armored Division, is Hamid’s next door neighbor. And given how inaccurate Yemeni troops can be at lobbying shells towards a target it is unclear which one of the two enemies of Salih they were aiming at. Maybe both.

Shortly after that two shells hit the mosque inside the presidential palace, reportedly wounding a number of top officials – although the information at this point is mostly contradictory rumors, so I’ll hold off speculating on the identities of the injured.

What I would like to do, instead, is to give a quick run down of the al-Ahmar family, particularly the four eldest.

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Yemen’s Saleh Narrowly Avoids Death, Civil war Looms

June 4th, 2011 Comments off

Yemeni president for life Ali Abdullah Saleh nearly reached the end of his term on Friday, when rockets slammed into the mosque where he was praying in congregation. His prime minister was wounded and 4 others were killed, and he suffered some flesh wounds, later coming on t.v. to deny rumors that he had been killed. The rockets may have been fired by members of the Hashed tribe loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, whose compound has itself come under government attack. Friday’s events may have been retaliation. There are fears that those tribes loyal to Saleh and those loyal to al-Ahmar are increasingly falling into civil war.

Tim Lister at CNN explains why Yemen’s fate matters to Americans.

Here’s a simpler way to do it. Google around and find out what comes to Europe and the US through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

Then imagine trying to live without it, or with 10% less of it.

Eurovision reports on Saleh’s near death experience.

Aljazeera English also reports:

And here for an interview with a Yemeni opposition leaders:

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Another Bloody Friday

June 3rd, 2011 Comments off

When it comes to Syria, Yemen and Libya, I could use that headline every week. Yemen is especially grim today, with the shelling attack on the Presidential Palace wounding President Salih, his Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker. (Since the story keeps changing, I will accept the “slightly wounded” account until there’s reason to believe otherwise, though they keep backtracking about a public appearance.) In response (?) there’s heavy shelling of Sadiq al-Ahmar’s home  as well as Gen. ‘Ali Muhsin’s, two onetime supporters now leading the opposition. More on this as it evolves: clearly it’s an escalation.

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Top Struggles in the Arab Spring Today

June 2nd, 2011 Comments off

The Arab Spring began with peaceful protests in Tunis, Cairo, Alexandria, and elsewhere in the region, with masses of demonstrators giving their elites a choice of getting rid of the country’s dictator or of attempting to put down the demonstrations. In Tunisia and Egypt, the military refused for the most part to fire on peaceful noncombatants, and so the dictator had to go. But in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, the regimes showed themselves willing to use brutal methods. Libya’s Qaddafi has killed and wounded thousands. Syrian troops have probably killed about 1000 persons. Yemen must be nearing 200. Bahrain’s security forces killed less than 30.

The struggles continued on Wednesday and Thursday. In Yemen, the capital of Sanaa continued its fall into a civil war between security forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and members of the Hashed tribe loyal to opposition leader Sadiq al-Ahmar. Explosions and gunfire rocked the city, as other urban areas, especially Taizz, where government forces had fired on protesters, remained restive.

Aljazeera English reports:

Yemen is important to the West because of its commanding position at the mouth of the Red Sea (10 percent of world trade goes through the Suez Canal) and because its government had been an ally in the fight against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has 300 or so fighters in the southern Ma’rib Province of Yemen. Yemen’s security also affects that of neighboring Saudi Arabia, which produces 11 percent of daily world petroleum output. The protest movement against Saleh has a Muslim tinge in some instances, but for the most part is regional, tribal or age-based (as elsewhere, the youth movement is important).

It is emerging that Syrian security forces killed 41 persons in the city of Rastan by shelling it, in the face of protests, on Tuesday. The news breaks from Syria, which has imposed a press blackout, as a united coalition of secular and religious opposition Syrian leaders met in Antalya in Turkey. They regime is also attempting to deal with widespread outrage over allegations that it tortured, mutilated and murdered a 13-year-old boy. President Bashar al-Asad had offered an amnesty to protest leaders on Tuesday on condition they cease roiling the country, but the offer was rejected by the opposition.

Syria is important to the US as a major country abutting the Eastern Mediterranean, neighboring NATO ally Turkey, as well as non-NATO allies Jordan and Israel. It also shares a border with Lebanon and with Iraq. It is central to the Palestinian-Israeli struggle and had been part of Turkey’s hopes for a big expansion of regional trade in the Middle East. The Damascus regime is allied with Iran and so is on the wrong side of the geopolitical divide in the region from an American, Israeli and Saudi point of view. The one-party, authoritarian Baath Party has ruled with an iron fist for decades.

In Libya, oil minister Shukri Ghanem was confirmed to have defected from the Qaddafi regime in Tripoli days after several senior military officers had done so. Fighting in a western suburb near Misrata calmed down, as Free Libya forces retained control of that major Western city. Fighting continued in nearby Zlitan, which lies between Misrata and the capital, and in the Western Mountain region, where Free Libya forces said they had taken a provincial city where the regional electricity generating plant was located. A UN-authorized NATO and Arab League air contingent extended its bombing campaign, hitting the capital of Tripoli again on Wednesday, as the regime continued to defy a Security Council order to cease attacking its population. Meanwhile, a UN commission found that the Libyan regime has committed war crimes and has attacked civilian non-combatants. It also found evidence of war crimes on the rebel side, though not of attacks on non-combatants.

Qaddafi forces are suspected in a car-bombing of a hotel full of foreigners in Benghazi, which, however, did not kill anyone:

As the state of emergency ended in Bahrain, a small demonstration was held in the Shiite village of Diraz near the capital, which was dispersed by the king’s troops, using tear gas. It is not clear why protesters should not be allowed to demonstrate peacefully in Diraz if there is no state of emergency. The small island kingdom of Bahrain, with a citizen population of roughly 600,000, produces only a small amount of petroleum, but is the HQ of the US Fifth Fleet. Its citizen population is roughly 60 percent Shiite, though it would be more if the Sunni monarchy had not handed out Bahraini citizenship to tens of thousands of foreign Sunnis. The ruling Al Khalifa has a ‘thing’ about Shiites and sees the protest movement, which had included small Sunni parties wanting more civil liberties, as a mere Iranian conspiracy (not so).

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Yemen: When Can We Call it "Civil War"?

June 1st, 2011 Comments off

Ovwr the past few days, Sana‘a’ has dissolved into violent tribal conflict between the government and the forces of the Hashid tribal confederation led by Sadiq al-Ahmar; the Yemeni city of Ta’izz has been wracked by violence and multiple deaths after a ceasefire collapsed; and in the secessionist south radical Islamists have taken the town of Zinjibar.  (Semantically almost identical with Zanzibar, for sound historical reasons; remind me to write about that sometime.) The term “civil war” is being used more and more.

I’m unclear if there’s some neat rubric that decides when, as a congeries of regional conflicts, tribal conflicts, and political violence coalesce, the conflict crosses the threshold into a “civil war,” and I know some resist the term even for Libya (where it seems pretty well defined). Yemen is no stranger to civil war: the conflict of 1962-67 is universally so described, and so is the secessionist war of 1994. So when do we say the revolution in progress becomes a civil war? Yemen may be the poster child of the National Rifle Association: every male is armed with a sophisticated weapon (don’t let the ubiquity and symbolism of the jambiyya [picture, right] fool you: the “full auto” selection on the selector switch on the AK-47 decides more political arguments).

Yemen has had so many regional and tribal conflicts that this new political conflict that is present throughout the country (though with different political aspirations and complaints in different regions)  leaves me unsure when exactly an endemic conflict erupting into a new metastasis is properly just an escalation, or needs to be categorized as a civil war.

I hope my Yemeni friends won’t be offended if, given the country’s history of regional and tribal dissent, the whole question of whether or not it’s a civil war makes me think of the famous wit Dorothy Parker’s alleged quip, when told that [proverbially boring and silent] former President Calvin Coolidge had died: “How could they tell?”

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Yemen in Flames

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

The political situation in Yemen continued to deteriorate on Tuesday. Since Sunday, 50 protesters have been killed by troops and security forces in the country’s second-largest city, Taizz. The government insisted on forcibly removing the protesters from their own version of Tahrir Square, which accounts for some of the casualties of the past two days, which include according to some reports hundreds of wounded.

In the capital of Sanaa, fighting has again broken out between the followers of Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar and government troops. Al-Ahmar is both head of the Hashed tribe and leader of the fundamentalist, tribal al-Islah Party. He had been allied with President Ali Abdullah Salih until this spring. Although Saleh springs from the Hashed tribe as well, his military is now acting as a tribal force against those loyal to al-Ahmar, whose compound is being subjected to heavy fire.

In the provincial capital of Zinjibar, a small group of Muslim fundamentalists has taken over. The regime calls them al-Qaeda, but they are not in fact followers of Usama Bin Laden.

Aljazeera English reports

The USG Open Source Center translated or paraphrased Yemeni reactions to the Government’s attack on protesters in Ta’izz:

‘ Yemen: JMP Decries Salih’s ‘Brutal Attacks’ on Protesters in Ta’izz…
Yemen — OSC Summary
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yemeni newspapers and news websites were observed on 29 and 30 May to carry reports on the reactions to the unrest in Yemen. The following is a roundup of reports as published by several Yemeni papers and websites:

Sanaa SABA in Arabic — Official news agency of Yemen; URL: http://www.sabanews. — on 29 May carries a 250-word report citing Staff Major General Muhammad Ali al-Maqdishi, commander of the Central Military Area, as categorically denying any connection or relation to the statement made by Major General Abdallah Ali Ulaywah, in which he called on the security and army forces to join the revolution. The report also cites Maj Gen Al-Maqdishi as stressing his allegiance, as well as that of all the heroic militants of the Central Area, to constitutional legitimacy, which is represented by President Ali Abdallah Salih.

Ma’rib Ma’rib Press in Arabic — Independent news website focusing on Yemeni affairs; URL: http://www.marebpress. net/ — on 30 May carries a 400-word report on the statement issued by the Joint Meeting Parties, JMP, following the Ta’izz incidents. The report cites the statement as “denouncing the ongoing crimes by President Salih and his security and military forces against humanity, targeting the youth of the peaceful popular revolution in the squares of change.” The report also cites the statement as “calling on brothers, friends, the international community, and the UN Security Council to make decisions and take decisive stands that protect Yemenis from this hysteria” and stop the bloodshed in Yemen.

Sanaa 26 Sibtimbar Online in Arabic — Yemeni Armed Forces’ official news website; URL: — on 29 May carries a 450-word report citing a military media source as expressing his astonishment over the insistence of some opposition websites, including the Ma’rib Press website, on publishing false rumors. The report also cites the source as denying the reports published by Ma’rib Press claiming that the 9th Mechanized Brigade of the Republican Guard in Dhamar Governorate has joined the youth revolution. The report also cites Staff Brigadier General Ibrahim al-Ja’ifi, commander of the brigade, as stressing that the affiliates of the brigade will remain faithful to the homeland and to constitutional legitimacy.

Sanaa 26 Sibtimbar Online in Arabic on 30 May carries a 350-word report citing Staff Brigadier General Murad al-Awbali, commander of the 22nd Republican Guard Brigade in Ta’izz Governorate, as categorically denying the news reported by Suhayl TV and Al-Jazirah Channel claiming that the brigade’s forces have joined the protesters in Ta’izz. The report also cites Brig Gen Al-Awbali as stressing that all of the affiliates of the brigade will remain faithful to constitutional legitimacy.

Al-Wahdawi Online in Arabic; URL: http://alwahdawi. net/ on 30 May carries a 550-word report on the statement issued yesterday by the executive committee of the coordination council of the peaceful revolution forces at Al-Taghyir Square in Sanaa on the “brutal massacre” committed by (President) Ali Salih in Ta’izz. The report cites the statement as stressing the council’s insistence on the peacefulness of the revolution, and hailing the members and officers of the Armed Forces who have rejected to engage in a useless war against the people. The report also cites the statement as hailing the heroic stance of the tribesmen, who confronted some brigades of the Republican Guard forces who had been heading to the cities to attack the protesters, and forced them to retreat. Al-Wahdawi Online in Arabic

on 30 May carries a 400-word report citing the Preparatory Committee for National Dialogue as “condemning the heinous crime perpetrated against the protesters at sit-in square in Ta’izz city.” The report also cites the committee as “holding Ali Salih, his sons, and his supporters, responsible for spreading security chaos in Abyan Governorate previously and in Lahij Governorate currently, and for the serious consequences that could result from these acts, including the spreading of crime.” Sanaa News Yemen Online in Arabic — Independent news website focusing on local affairs; URL: –

on 30 May carries a 500-word report citing the civilian alliance of the youth revolution as condemning the continuation of violent practices by the regime, and as calling on the protesters to peacefully escalate their protests in the various squares of change and freedom.

Sanaa News Yemen Online in Arabic on 29 May carries a 500-word report citing a high-ranking military source as saying that the so-called “Statement No 1″ that was issued by military personnel who lost their leadership capacity “is an attempt to split the army and exploit the demands of the youth so as to restore their control of Yemen’s future.” The report also cites the source as saying that “some of the signatories to the statement were negatively affected by the endorsement of financial reforms on the budgets of the armed and security forces” approved by President Salih in early May.

Sanaa Al-Masdar Online in Arabic — Website of independent weekly newspaper, critical of government policies; URL: com/ –on 29 May carries a 400-word report citing the JMP as holding the Yemeni president responsible for the attacks carried out against the protesters in Ta’izz, and as “pledging to prosecute President Salih and bring him to justice.” The report also cites Shaykh Husayn al-Aji al-Awadi, one of the prominent leaders in the Ma’rib and Al-Jawf Tribes’ Alliance, as calling on the tribes, Huthists, and military units supporting the revolution “to establish a national popular army to confront the crimes by President Salih and his bullies.” The report also cites Shaykh Al-Awadi as “calling on all Yemenis in the various governorates to call on the military units present in their areas to join the ranks of the rebels,” adding that “they must besiege and force any military unit that does not respond to this call to surrender.” ‘

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How to protest peacefully

May 28th, 2011 Comments off

Protests in Sanaa on Friday; if only everyone could follow the dove

The past few days has witnessed a turn to violence in the ongoing protests in Yemen. An altercation between President Salih’s forces and the major Hashid tribal family of al-Ahmar left scores dead and threatened to accelerate into a civil war. It appears that Salih would like nothing better as once again he could find an excuse to hold on to power. But as the young Husayn al-Ahmar said yesterday:

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“Salih said that Yemen isn’t Egypt nor Libya, but I say to him that Sanaa is not Tripoli and the time for making a decision about guarantees has passed.”

Sadiq al-Ahmar, left; Husayn al-Ahmar, right

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Situation in Yemen Deteriorating

May 26th, 2011 Comments off

The violence in Yemen seems to be spiraling to new levels. President Salih is seeking to arrest Hashid tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, on charges of waging armed rebellion; while the US is ordering out nonessential diplomatic staff.

The dangers of a descent into civil war in Yemen are fairly obvious: there are multiple fracture lines (North/South, Sunni/Zaydi, and multiple tribal and regional centers of gravity) along which the society could divide. I keep thinking the situation is at a tipping point, but it seems to just keep tipping.

I’m not sure that Yemen counts as part of “Arab Spring,” anymore. None of the sides are chanting \Salmiyya, Salmiyya as the police advance, but perhaps that’s inevitable in one of the world’s most heavily armed populations.

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The Hashid Seize Government Buildings in Sana‘a’

May 25th, 2011 Comments off

Several key buildings Sana‘a’ have been seized by members of the Al-Ahmar clan and their Hashid tribal confederation. Although President ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Salih himself comes from a small tribe within the Hashid, but in March the Hashid, ledf by leader Sadiq al-Ahmar, joined the opposition to Salih.

There has been heavy fighting in the capital, and refugees are fleeing the city. Salih’s defiant refusal to sign the GCC-brokered deal has produced a new wave of protest. He has weathered it all so far, and he is obviously gambling he can continue to do so.

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