Yemen protesters demand president's immediate ouster, mourn slain demonstrator

By Portia Walker
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, March 11, 2011; 12:40 PM

SANAA, YEMEN - A day after Yemen's opposition rejected a presidential proposal for a new constitution, tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators gathered at Sanaa University in the capital Friday to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh's immediate ouster and mourn the death of a protester who had been shot in the face by security forces earlier in the week.

Surrounded by pictures of the dead man, who was buried Friday afternoon at a cemetery near the opposition camp at the university, the demonstrators chanted, "The people want the fall of the president" and "Leave!"

Anti-government protests have been held daily across Yemen for the past four weeks. Saleh, a key U.S. ally against al-Qaeda in the region, has made several concessions, including a pledge to step down when his current term expires in September 2013.

Thursday's offer would have transferred some powers to a parliamentary system and granted greater powers to local governing bodies, but it was rejected outright by the opposition, which is calling for the embattled leader to resign immediately.

Hundreds of women joined Friday's demonstration. Among them was Fatima Abdulrahman, 36, a mother of four.

"The system here is at its end," she said through her black face veil. "The people just can't endure it anymore. They don't have faith. The law courts, the police - they don't solve our problems. We say, 'Enough. It's enough now.' "

At the burial of the man killed Tuesday, his father, Hamid Ali Mutlaq al-Jafai, vowed to continue protesting, saying, "My message to the soldiers who killed my son is that they should join in the youth revolution."

"I am very proud of my son," he added. "I am ready to give my entire family for the revolution. If our country needs more of my sons, it can have them."

Also Friday, witnesses reported that security forces in the town of Shaykh Uthman, next to the southern port city of Aden, hurled tear gas at demonstrators, then opened fire on them, wounding at least six, according to the Associated Press.

It appeared the forces were mostly firing over the heads of demonstrators, the AP reported.

Walker is a special correspondent. Special correspondent Joshua Maricich also contributed to this report.

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