Demonstration in southern Yemen

October 14 is Yemen's National Day – the anniversary of the day in 1963 when southerners launched their armed struggle against British occupation. As such, it provides an officially-approved excuse for people to take to the streets. 

The video above, via YouTube, shows the scene earlier today in Radfan, in the southern province of Lahj. The numbers taking part were huge, and they turned it into a protest against President Salih's regime.

They were not waving Yemen's national flag but the flag of the pre-unification southern state (with a pale blue triangle). The flags can be clearly seen in al-Jazeera's photo.

The former southern leader, Ali Salim al-Beidh, addressed the crowd by telephone from Germany.

"We will not retreat from the aim of realising our second independence, whatever the sacrifices are and however long it takes," he was quoted as saying. "The British occupation came from overseas, while the current one was the result of a coup by the Sanaa regime."

Another video shows people apparently arriving for the demonstration and al-Jazeera's report, with more footage, is here.

As I have pointed out before, the old southern state, which merged with northern Yemen in 1990, was a relic of British imperialism and there is no logical, ethnic or religious reason why it should re-emerge now. However, the current wave of separatist sentiment provides a rallying point for more generalised discontent which, apart from some specific local grievances, is shared with Yemenis in many parts of the country.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 14 October 2009.