SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s southern separatists on Wednesday resorted to emergency measures in a bid to put down growing protests over dire living conditions in areas under their control.
Aydarous al-Zubaidi, the head of the separatists’ Southern Transitional Council, declared a state of emergency across Yemen's southern provinces, including the port city of Aden. The city serves an interim capital for the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Al-Zubaidi, in a speech to the STC's supporters late Wednesday, said the emergency measures go into effect immediately.
Protests erupted earlier this week in Aden and other southern areas amid unprecedented drop in the value of the local currency, the Rial, making it difficult for most of Yemenis to afford basic needs including food.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Aden and other cities, in some cases clashing with forces loyal to the STC.
Protesters briefly blocked major roads and streets in Aden. Forces used tear gas and batons to disperse the protesters, security officials said. At least two protesters were wounded in Aden and five others in Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth-largest city, they said.
The officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
The secessionist council is at odds with Hadi’s government. The two sides clashed in 2019 and 2020, adding fresh chaos in a country already embroiled in the yearslong conflict.
The STC is backed by the United Arab Emirates. It still believes in the restoration of an independent southern Yemen, which existed from 1967-1990.
Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing Hadi’s government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try restore Hadi to power, and threw its support behind his internationally backed government. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
In recent months, conditions have deteriorated further, with the Yemeni Rial losing 36% of its value in July, compared to the same time last year, according to the U.N. humanitarian agency, OCHA.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis live in famine-like conditions. More than 20.1 million of the country’s some 30 million people need some form of humanitarian aid, according to the U.N.