SANAA, Yemen – Security forces fired on anti-government protesters in Yemen’s capital Sunday as hundreds of thousands of marchers – including many women – packed cities around the country to denounce the president and remarks he made against women taking part in rallies demanding his ouster.
The massive turnout suggests opposition forces have been able to tap into fresh outrage against Ali Abdullah Saleh after his comments Friday that mingling of men and women at protests violated Islamic law.
Meanwhile, representatives from Yemen’s opposition held talks with regional mediators in the Saudi capital Sunday to discuss a proposal by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council for ending the unrest in which Saleh would transfer power to his deputy.
The Yemeni opposition says nothing short of Saleh’s immediate departure would end the unrest in the impoverished Gulf nation at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The GCC proposal also offers the president immunity from prosecution, which the opposition rejected.
Security forces opened fire on protesters in the capital Sunday as marchers neared the office of the special forces, headed by Saleh’s son. Witnesses said the forces fired live ammunition and used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd. Security agents chased protesters.
Mohammed el-Abahi, the head doctor at the protesters’ field hospital, said at least 220 people were wounded.
Witnesses said ambulances were prevented by security forces from reaching some of the wounded, many of whom were taken to a mosque.
Abdul-Malek al-Youssefi, an activist and a protest organizer, said the latest protest wave could well be “the last nail in Saleh’s coffin.”
A youth movement leading the anti-Saleh protests called for mass demonstrations Sunday, dubbed a day of “honor and dignity” that brought a strong outpouring of women upset at the president’s comments.
“He aimed to provoke families and the society,” said Arwa Shaher, a female activist. “But it has only increased our resolve to pursue the people’s demands to ensure that this man, who is losing his mind day by day, goes.”