Thousands Rally for South Yemen Independence

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Thousands demonstrated in south Yemen's main city Aden on Saturday to demand a return to independence a day after President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi said only autonomy was on the table.

Thousands Rally for South Yemen Independence

The rally in Aden's central Parade Square came as southerners marked the anniversary of the end of British colonial rule in 1967, which created an independent state that lasted until union with the north in 1990.

Demonstrators waved southern flags and banners proclaiming: "Yes to Freedom and Independence," and: "Our Goal is the Reclamation of Statehood."

Security forces set up checkpoints across the city and on its outskirts to control the large number of demonstrators travelling in from adjacent provinces, but kept their distance from the rally itself.

Fuad Rashed of the hardline, pro-independence wing of the Southern Movement, which organised the rally, told AFP: "Through this demonstration, which is open to all groups without exception, we want to advance towards independence."

The movement also has a more moderate wing, which is ready to accept autonomy within a federal Yemen, but on condition that it be one of just two component units, north and south.

The moderates quit a national dialogue earlier this month in protest at proposals for multiple units for the north to reflect the divisions between its mainly Zaidi Shiite northern highlands and mainly Sunni southern highlands and coast.

The southerners fear that such an arrangement would dilute their power in a federal system.

In a speech late Friday to mark the independence anniversary, Hadi, who is himself a southerner, said there could be no question of renewed statehood for the south.

"Yemen's unity will continue to be a sacred value," he said, adding that those who advocated secession lived in a world of "illusion."

Union in 1990 was followed by a secession attempt by southern leaders in 1994 that sparked a brief but bloody civil war.

The conflict ended with an occupation of the south by northern forces that laid the ground for many of the disputes over land and jobs that still fan southern resentment.

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