Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has ruled Yemen for 32 years. But anti-government protests in the Middle East and North Africa, which already have toppled leadership in Tunisia and Egypt, threaten his grip on power. As The Post reported in late March, “Saleh told a large gathering of his supporters ... that he was willing to hand over power as long as he can leave the nation in ‘safe hands.’”
But how and when any transfer of power will take place remains to be seen. As of today, Yemeni security forces and pro-government loyalists opened fire on protesters marching in two cities killing at least 12 and wounding scores, according to witnesses. Saleh once hinted that he was working to find a way for his sons to remain political players in Yemen, even if he steps down. But latest events in the country show that he remains defiant.
We’ve compiled this timeline of Saleh’s life and career and major developments in Yemen below. We’ve also been tracking the Middle East protests day by day and country by country.
(NOTE: This post is an updated version of an earlier blog entry, from March 25th)
March 21, 1946
According to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Web site, he was born on this date. His birthplace is widely believed to be Bait el-Ahmar, in north Yemen.
Saleh joins the Military Academy, assuming the rank of 2nd lieutenant in 1963.
July 17, 1978
He is elected by the Parliament and named president of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen), as well as chief of staff and “General Commander” of the armed forces. The country had endured civil war and violence for roughly two decades.
Saleh repels an attempt to overthrow him.
North and South Yemen unite. The two states had been separated for more than 300 years. In the same year, Saleh allows several thousand Arab fighters back into Yemen. The fighters had been battling the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and had been barred from their home countries.
May 20, 1990
Saleh is granted title of general. According to his Web site, the title was given “in appreciation of his great efforts for the reunification of the nation.”
A several-months long civil war in Yemen comes to an end, after Northern Yemen gains control of Aden, the southern port city and business capital of Yemen.
The USS Cole, a Navy destroyer, is bombed in Aden harbor. Seventeen American sailors die. Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for the attack.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., Saleh visits President George W. Bush in Washington, D.C., pledging to help in the fight against terrorism.
Saleh announces he will be the presidential candidate for the General People’s Congress, after previously indicating he would not. He wins reelection.
A truce is signed with North Yemen’s Houthis, an insurgent group clashing with the Yemeni government, but violence resumes in Saada, north Yemen. Though Saleh declares the war over in July 2008, fighting resumes in 2009, according to Reuters.
Saudi Arabia attacks northern Yemen, attempting to help fight a Shiite rebellion.
Yemen and northern Shiite rebels sign a truce to end their war.
U.S. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that the Yemeni government covered up drone strikes against al-Qaeda carried out by the U.S. The cables said the Yemeni government claimed the attacks were its own.
Feb. 11, 2011
Anti-government protests begin in Yemen, inspired by revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.
Feb. 23, 2011
Seven legislators resign from Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress party because of the situation in the country and say they will form an independent bloc, according to a member of parliament, Abdul-Aziz Jabbari. The resignations raise to nine the number of legislators who have left the party since protests began.
March 2, 2011
Saleh comes under new pressure as influential clerics, tribal leaders and some members of Yemen’s opposition present a plan for a peaceful transition of power.He earlier pledged he would not seek reelection in 2013. But some protesters demand he step down immediately, and the opposition’s proposal marks an attempt to find a middle ground.
March 10, 2011
Saleh announces that a new constitution will be drafted, to transfer power from the president to a parliamentary system by the end of this year.
March 18, 2011
Yemeni authorities declare a nationwide state of emergency.
March 23, 2011
Yemen’s parliament enacts sweeping emergency laws after Saleh asks for new powers to quash a popular uprising demanding his ouster.
March 25, 2011
Saleh tells a large gathering of his supporters that he is willing to hand over power as long as he can leave the nation in “safe hands.” He makes the offer — the latest in a series of concessions — as tens of thousands of pro-government and opposition demonstrators stage dueling rallies on the streets of the capital and in other cities, each side backed by a faction of the divided armed forces.