Troops loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh opened fire on civilian protesters in the city of Taiz today, pounding their positions with artillery fire and killing at least 17 people. Dozens of other civilians were also seriously wounded. The shelling has continued for hours.
Troops also attacked protesters in the capital of Sanaa, wounding at least 30 people around the university. The escalating violence against civilians has the United Nations envoy, who arrived in Sanaa yesterday, urging Saleh to meet with the opposition on a transfer of power.
The envoy’s spokesman called for “an inclusive transition process that meets the needs” of Yemen’s population. Talks, of course, have been happening off and on for months, and President Saleh has repeatedly expressed a preference for stepping down, only to reject every transition deal at the last minute over some minor detail, like who was going to sign the document on the opposition’s side.
The question of when a transition is coming is perhaps less important, however, than the form it will take. The US has expressed a preference for Major General Hadi taking over the regime, and the ruling party has suggested, without any notion that election reforms will take place, that Hadi will be their candidate for president in the next vote. For protesters, the spring and summer of demonstrations were about converting the nation to a free democracy, not simply replacing the leader of the regime with another military strongman.