Southern Yemenis fed up with ‘occupation’

Twenty-five years after reunification with a ‘backward’ north, many ready to take up arms for secessionist cause.

On my latest visit to southern Yemen’s coastal city of Aden, I have noticed that the air is fresher, it’s warmer and there’s a beautiful sea breeze.

I’ve also noticed a growing sentiment against the north.

I have heard the word “occupation” more than at any other time.

Twenty-four years after unification was forced on the south, it seems the stance towards the north has not changed.

Aden served as the capital of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) from 1967 to 1990, when the south was independent.

Unification in 1990 ended the socialist state, but now only a few want to remain part of present-day Yemen.

I asked one person as a joke: “There are no foreigners here. What occupation are you talking about?”

He didn’t laugh. As for is answer, it could neither be clearer nor more direct.

“It’s the occupation by the north. The retarded, the backward and the barbaric occupation,” he said.

Slowly building up

When I met a 60-year-old man holding the flag of the PDRY and an old rifle, I asked what the weapon was for.

“We fought the British with it and now I will use it to liberate our land from the occupation,” he said.

Things are slowly building up.

At a rally in the main square, I saw a few people armed with Kalashnikovs and a machine gun.

One of the organisers from the southern secessionist movement told me: “The world only understands the language of force.”

Several other people I spoke to complained about the “lack of support” from international bodies and the Arab League.

As youths clash with security forces, throwing stones and burning tyres, I don’t think the people here will continue to accept the status quo.

They want their own state.

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