Mass protests overtook Yemen’s provisional capital of Aden City last week in response to the rapid deterioration in the country’s economic conditions. Protesters took to the streets demanding that the government quickly fix the raging economic crisis and calling for the improvement of public services and the provision of basic commodities.
Many raised signs reading “We want bread, water, and power.” Other banners read “No to corruption” and “Down with the STC,” referring to the Southern Transitional Council, a separatist organization that controls South Yemen.
Ibrahim Al-Salemi, a 27-year-old resident of Aden City who works in a grocery store, joined a protest organized by and attended mostly by young people to condemn declining living conditions and the depreciation of the local currency.
“People in the southern governorates cannot find their daily sustenance, especially those in governorates located under the control of the STC,” Al-Salemi told The Media Line.
He said that due to the political disagreement between the Internationally Recognized Government and the STC, as well as the lack of an effective economic strategy, residents in Aden and the neighboring governorates are lacking basic services such as power and communications.
“People cannot meet their most basic needs such as water and flour, let alone other needs,” Al-Salemi said.
“Many citizens are now thinking that the Houthis' role in the areas under their control is a better choice than STC’s corruption, which is worse than the Houthis’ corruption.”
A city rife with corruption
While the protests started in the cities of Aden governorate, they rapidly started to spread into the neighboring governorates, where the protesters blocked some streets and burned tires. The protesters directed messages to the IRG, the STC, and to the Saudi-Led Coalition, stating the necessity of fixing living conditions around the city. The STC responded by closing public squares and streets and organizing counter-protests.
Adel Al-Hassani, head of the Yemen Peace Forum, said the protests were due to “the coalition’s corruption in Aden City” as well as the increased presence of military forces formed alongside the STC.
“Aden today lives in darkness due to power outages. Corruption has invaded the city. There is no life here to speak of,” Al-Hassani said. “The economic and security systems are collapsing in the city, assassinations and murders are spreading, along with secret prisons and detention centers.”
Al-Hassani said that the local currency had plummeted to its lowest exchange rate since the war began, with all talk of reforms “no more than ink on paper.”
In a tweet, Al-Hassani slammed the Saudi-Led Coalition, accusing it of destroying Aden City with what he called “malignant projects.”
“The SLC contributed to flooding the city with military groups loyal to them, creating the STC and then empowering it and isolating Aden governorate from the IRG’s control, then isolating the IRG from making any decisions, as well as supporting divisive ideas based on territory discrimination and using extreme force to impose their own vision and implement their agenda,” the tweet stated.
‘Aden is insufferable’
In the same context, leading figures in the STC demanded the ousting of the IRG to appease the demonstrators. Meanwhile, the protests were still going strong, demanding that the IRG fix all the issues relating to electricity, the currency value, and overall economic conditions. If they did not, the SLC, IRG, and STC should all leave Aden, the protesters said.
Political affairs journalist Saddam Al-Huraibi said the protests could be blamed on the current disagreement between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“The STC’s alliance with the UAE, and the UAE’s disagreement with the KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] caused the emergence of these protests,” Al-Huraibi said.
“The disagreement between the UAE and the KSA came at the same time of a suffocating economic crisis in the areas under the control of the STC, which resulted in the recent protests.”
Al-Huraibi described the protests in Aden and other governorates as a “positive” step, saying that “these protests must be heard and the demands must be granted.” He said that Aden City is the decision-making center of Yemen, thanks to the presence of most of the IRG’s leadership as well as that of the SLC.
Mazen Arafat, a protester in Aden, disagreed.
“These protests must not be politicized. Everyone is here today to escape the bottleneck,” Arafat said.
“Our salaries are not enough due to the high cost of living and the price hikes of foodstuffs. There is a complete power outage in many of Aden governorate’s cities, in addition to the malfunctioning basic infrastructure. Aden is insufferable today,” he said.
Residents of Aden and other governorates under the control of the IRG are living in dire circumstances. The collapse of the local currency, the Yemeni rial, against the US dollar has caused a steep increase in the prices of foodstuffs. Power outages, lasting six hours for every two hours of power during one of the hottest summers on record, have caused a number of deaths among children and the elderly.