Protesters reach Sanaa after long march for justice

Screen grab of thousands of Yemenis as they trek to Sanaa carrying a "march of life" banner.
 
Thousands of Yemenis arrived in the capital, Sanaa, on Friday after embarking on a two-week long trek from the country’s southern city of Ta’izz. The march, which began on December 20, comes nearly one month after President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a power-transfer deal negotiating his resignation. Some anti-government protesters have criticised the move for failing to meet their demands, saying they want to see the current regime immediately dismantled and its top officials put on trial.
 
After 33 years at the head of Yemen’s government, Saleh signed a Gulf-sponsored deal on November 24 sealing the terms of his removal from power. Under the agreement, which was inked in the presence of opposition leaders at a ceremony in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Saleh transferred his powers to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, though temporarily retaining the honourary title of president.
 
The deal was rejected by many opposition protesters, who say it allowed Saleh and his family, who control several branches of government, to step down without having to face justice.
 
Dubbed the “march of life”, the rally covered 250 kilometres (150 miles) of terrain by foot in four days, stopping in towns to rest and gather more supporters along the way.
 
On the morning of December 20, anti-government protesters pledge their allegiance to the revolution before embarking on the "march of life".  Video posted on YouTube by TaizPress.
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“It is out of the question for us to return to Ta’izz without having our demands met”

Bassel al-Saqf participated in the “march of life” from Ta’izz to Sanaa.
 
The call to march came from young revolutionaries in Ta’izz who rejected the terms of the Riyadh agreement from the start. We’d been talking about it amongst ourselves for the past month, and people began organising via word of mouth. By going door to door, we were able to mobilise thousands of people.
 
The marchers that left from Ta’izz to go to Sanaa are mostly young revolutionary men and women, but also members of human rights groups and medical organisations. There are also former opposition politicians who have distanced themselves from the main parties, which signed the agreement with Saleh. But because the country has been plagued by power cuts, we weren’t able to get the word out to other cities. Some groups of revolutionary youths were aware we were coming, but most people found out shortly before our arrival in their cities. It is really a day-to-day, step-by-step process.
 
It’s no coincidence that the movement left from Ta’izz – our city was one of the first to join the anti-government protests, which began in January. A lot of our people were killed during the demonstrations.
 
Scores participate in the "march of life". Video posted on YouTube by FreeDomTaiz.
 
The march left on Tuesday morning from Liberty Square. We decided to do the trek by foot, as a symbolic gesture meant to influence public opinion. The cars that accompany us are only for women. Our first stop was the town of Al Qaida then Ibb, where we spent the night. On Wednesday, we stopped at Yerim, and now we are in Zamar. This is our last stop before the capital, Sanaa.
 
When we stop in a town we sleep mainly in the mosques or celebration rooms, and some set up tents. We took only enough food to last the first few days – we are counting on the solidarity of other Yemenis. At every stop, we have got a warm welcome from residents. They run to us and offer us food and shelter [when we spoke to our Observer over the phone, we could hear celebratory honks and gunshots in the background]. Every time, new people join our march. I also heard that separate convoys have left from the towns of Al Hodeiah and Al Bayda.
 
We firmly intend to demand Saleh’s immediate departure, as well as that of his whole regime. We want him to go on trial and we’re demanding that a civilian government be established [Saleh is a military official, and his son currently leads the Republican Guard]. Allowing Saleh to leave office without being tried for the murder of anti-government protesters is a humiliation to all Yemenis. We plan to join forces with protesters from the capital and the rest of the country to stage sit-ins in front of symbolic places such as the Parliament building or the presidential palace. We are also ready to block the city’s streets to bring the capital to a standstill. It is out of the question for us to return to Ta’izz without having our demands met”.
 
The "march of life" as it makes its way down a winding road. Video posted on YouTube by almobdieen.
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