Yemeni people are heavily armed, but they leave their guns at houses to call for a peaceful revolution

By Redhwan Al-Sharif

Yemeni people are armed and everyone knows it, from the small to the old one. There was always the fear of the revolution due to weapons that were carried by the majority of the Yemeni people. What surprised the world, is that people get out to revolution streets without carrying their personal weapons. All different society segments gathered in the peaceful revolution to force the Yemeni regime to step down, it is about ten months seeking the same demand so far. Recently after all those months it becomes a power struggle among the armed forces, the tribal militants and opposition demonstrators. Citizens now are paying the price in the middle of those conflicts that occurred between the tribes leaded by Al-Ahmar armed people and the Yemeni regime that rules Yemen for 34 years in undemocratic and corrupt ways. There is a high demand to purchase light and individual weapons especially after the escalation of violence and clashes between protesters that oppose to President Saleh and the members of the ruling party. The process of purchasing and selling of weapons are clearly as is the case in the arms markets which are close to Sana’a, Sa’ada, Dhamar provinces, and also are sometimes in secret over some people and brokers in the capital and cities where there is strict control and inspection campaigns carried out by the security forces. A weapons seller said that “the price of arms reached to 300 thousand Yemeni Riyals, 1400 U.S. dollars, for the Russian gun after a previous time when the exchange rate did not exceed 220 thousand riyals, 1100 U.S. dollars. Also, it was cheaper before when the Russian gun was 120 thousand riyals, 600 dollars, to get increase in the cost to 170 thousand riyals, 850 dollars.” Additionally, the Yemeni society that faces increasing rate of illiteracy and decreasing of awareness, in a country that its citizens have about 50 million firearms. Yemenis slogan is, people want to overthrow the regime, as what happened by Tunisians, Libyans and Egyptians revolutionists, but on the ground of Yemen, there is a sense that will cost high price of Yemeni people lives. Tribal areas in the north and the east of the country are the most increasing in the percentage of ownership of arms by its citizens as what was referred by unofficial statistics. If not all citizens in these areas are armed, and estimated of statistics the number of guns owned by these three pieces of type light the average individual, with a proportion of the total number of armed men was 57%, while the remaining percentage went to the elders and leaders of the tribe, where he owns one of those between 10 and 20 weapons, light and medium. Despite the presence of news and headlines in the international media of armed violence in Yemen, but the true knowledge of the extent of the challenge posed by the violence are still rare because they are misleading. Instead of rumors and speculation continue about the problem, and the specific role attributed to the spread of small arms estimating to suggest that among the population of Yemen’s 25 million people, about 11 million people civilian (between 6.17) carries a firearm, although the evidence to verify this assumption is still few. Also, It is known that groups of tribes have certain levels of military capabilities, as the possession of heavy weapons, but surveys have documented this phenomenon are still not enough. The process of collecting evidence and the overwhelming evidence for the analysis of contemporary patterns of armed violence is a critical step to help bridge the gap between perceptions and prejudices due to the reality on the ground. The history of Yemen is known for its internal conflicts multiple levels, but the conflicts in the present time, expanded and varied forms to become a long time; some of which are described as disobedience in the north, including the forms of civil unrest in the south, which takes the form of tribal conflicts and finally what is described as terrorism as some media describes. It was previously known of the customs of tribal traditions of strong social regulate weapons possession and use, and misuse have been weakened facing the Yemeni community now has a number of challenges of paramount importance, including rapid population growth (3.0%), and displacement to the city, and depletion of natural resources (oil and water), and the high cost of basic needs, and services, including fuel and food. Despite the efforts of the Yemeni government to control small arms and other weapons, such as preventing the carrying of firearms in the major cities, and finally getting a law to prevent the purchase of heavy weapons (carried out in 2005), and the closure of State for arms markets in addition to the efforts of civil society organizations, and non-governmental organizations calls for arms control, and elimination of armed violence, and implement programs to give up arms in this direction, including a campaign for arms control, and raise the level of awareness, sensitization and educational programs, initiatives and conflict mediation. However, the full effect of all these government interventions and of preventing and reducing armed violence is virtually unknown because they is not enough strict law and justice. Expressed a number of international organizations in Yemen for its desire to develop a deeper understanding of the nature and impact of light weapons and armed violence among those organizations of the United Nations Development Fund for Population (UNDP), the United Kingdom – Department for International Development (DFID), the British Foreign Office (FCO), and the Dutch and Germany governments. The attention of concerted action of these bodies reflect the conviction that armed violence prevents social and economic development of the Yemeni society in spite of growing concern about gun violence in Yemen, there is still a dearth of information on the distribution of weapons, and their effects, and ammunition, and armed violence. Despite media reports, which serve as a warning about the situation, but very little information and analysis of weapons in circulation in the space and time as well as the demographic distribution of victims of armed violence. In addition to the injured, and motives of possession of weapons and means of access, and traditional customs related to the control the weapon without understanding the effectiveness of the armed violence reduction would be difficult to determine appropriate priorities, design programs to target or monitor and evaluate effective interventions. In light of the deepening political crisis among the government and the opposition and the escalation of protests in various cities in Yemen and in favor of change, under the slogan “the people want to overthrow the regime”, and increasing concerns of Yemenis from recurring scenario repeatedly from what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and even goes beyond, in a country such as Yemen torn by feuds and tribal loyalties and less manifestations of awareness and civic life. Yemeni concern reflected in a realistic picture of a remarkable turnout on the purchase of weapons that was its home market has stagnated in the last period after the Interior Ministry launched a campaign for the withdrawal of weapons from citizens to reorganize the carrying and possession.


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