Post edited 10:22 am – December 13, 2011 by seshata
Why are we here?
Mohamed Bouazizi (29 March 1984 – 4 January 2011; Arabic: محمد البوعزيزي) was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he reported was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides. His act became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring, inciting demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues in the country. The public's anger and violence intensified following Bouazizi's death, leading then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down on 14 January 2011, after 23 years in power.
The success of the Tunisian protests sparked protests in several other Arab countries, plus several non Arab countries. The protests included several men who emulated Bouazizi's act of self-immolation, in an attempt to bring an end to their own autocratic governments. Those men and Bouazizi were hailed by some Arab commentators as "heroic martyrs of a new Middle Eastern revolution." In 2011, Bouazizi was jointly awarded the Sakharov Prize along with four others for their contributions to "historic changes in the Arab world".
Mohamed Bouazizi, who was known locally as Basboosa, was born in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on 29 March 1984. His father, a construction worker in Libya, died of a heart attack when Bouazizi was three, and his mother married Bouazizi's uncle some time later. Along with his six siblings, Bouazizi was educated in a one-room country school in Sidi Salah, a small village 12 miles (19 km) from Sidi Bouzid. Although several media outlets reported that Bouazizi had a university degree, his sister, Samia Bouazizi, stated that he had never graduated from high school, but that it was something he had wanted for both himself and his sisters. With his uncle in poor health and unable to work regularly, Bouazizi had worked various jobs since he was ten, and in his late teens he quit school in order to work full-time.
Bouazizi lived in a modest stucco home, a 20-minute walk from the center of Sidi Bouzid, a rural town in Tunisia burdened by corruption and suffering an unemployment rate estimated at 30%. According to his mother, he applied to join the army, but was refused, and several subsequent job applications also resulted in rejection. He supported his mother, uncle, and younger siblings, including paying for one of his sisters to attend university, by earning approximately US$140 per month selling produce on the street in Sidi Bouzid. He was also working toward the goal of buying or renting a pickup truck for his work. A close friend of Bouazizi said he "was a very well-known and popular man [who] would give free fruit and vegetables to very poor families." According to friends and family, local police officers had allegedly targeted and mistreated Bouazizi for years, including during his childhood, regularly confiscating his small wheelbarrow of produce; but Bouazizi had no other way to make a living, so he continued to work as a street vendor. Around 10 p.m. on 16 December 2010, he had contracted approximately US$200 in debt to
buy the produce he was to sell the following day. On the morning of 17 December, he started his workday at 8 a.m.
Just after 10:30 a.m., the police began harassing him again, ostensibly because he did not have a vendor's permit. However, while some sources state that street vending is illegal in Tunisia, and others that Bouazizi lacked a required permit to sell his wares, according to the head of Sidi Bouzid's state office for employment and independent work, no permit is needed to sell from a cart.
Bouazizi did not have the funds to bribe police officials to allow his street vending to continue. Similarly, two of Bouazizi's siblings accused authorities of attempting to extort money from their brother, and during an interview with Reuters, one of his sisters stated, "What kind of repression do you imagine it takes for a young man to do this? A man who has to feed his family by buying goods on credit when they fine him … and take his goods. In Sidi Bouzid, those with no connections and no money for bribes are humiliated and insulted and not allowed to live."
Regardless, Bouazizi's family claims he was publicly humiliated when a 45-year-old female municipal official, Faida Hamdi, slapped him in the face, spat at him, confiscated his electronic weighing scales, and tossed aside his produce cart. It was also stated that she made a slur against his deceased father. Bouazizi's family says her gender made his humiliation worse. His mother also claimed Hamdi's aides beat and swore at her son. Countering these claims, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, a brother of Hamdi claimed neither his sister nor her aides slapped or otherwise mistreated Bouazizi. He said they only confiscated Bouazizi's wares. However, an eyewitness told Asharq
Al-Awsat that he did not see Hamdi slap Bouazizi, but that her aides did beat him.
Bouazizi, angered by the confrontation, ran to the governor's office to complain and to ask for his scales back. Following the governor's refusal to see or listen to him, even after Bouazizi was quoted as saying "'If you don't see me, I'll burn myself'," he acquired a can of gasoline from a nearby gas station and returned to the governor's office. While standing in the middle of traffic, he shouted "how do you expect me to make a living?" He then doused and set himself alight with a match at 11:30 a.m. local time, less than an hour after the altercation.
According to friends and family, local police officers had allegedly targeted and mistreated Bouazizi for years, including during his childhood, regularly confiscating his small wheelbarrow of produce; but Bouazizi had no other way to make a living, so he continued to work as a street vendor. Around 10 p.m. on 16 December 2010, he had contracted approximately US$200 in debt to buy the produce he was to sell the following day. On the morning of 17 December, he started his workday at 8 a.m. Just after 10:30 a.m., the police began harassing him again, ostensibly because he did not have a vendor's permit. However, while some sources state that street vending is illegal in Tunisia, and others that Bouazizi lacked a required permit to sell his wares, according to the head of Sidi Bouzid's state office for employment and independent work, no permit is needed to sell from a cart.
According to Bouazizi's sister, whose information was based on details relayed from her uncle who was present at the scene, people immediately panicked when he caught fire, and one of them tried to douse the flames with water, which only worsened his condition.[ Bouazizi barely survived, and suffered severe burns over 90% of his body before locals managed to douse the flames. He was taken by ambulance to a medical facility in Sidi Bouzid. When they were unable to treat Bouazizi's severe burns, he was taken to a larger hospital in Sfax, more than 70 miles (110 km) away. Later, as the government's interest in his case grew, he was transferred to a Burn and Trauma
Centre in Ben Arous, where he was placed in an intensive care unit. On 31 December 2010, doctors at the Ben
Arous Burn and Trauma Centre reported that Bouazizi was in stable condition, and that he was showing positive prognostic factors. However, he remained in a coma throughout the remainder of his life.
Bouazizi was visited in hospital by then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. According to Bouazizi's mother, Ben Ali promised to send him to France for medical treatment, but no such transfer was ever arranged. Bouazizi died at the
Ben Arous Burn and Trauma Centre 18 days after the immolation, on4 January 2011, at5:30 p.m. local time.
It is estimated that more than 5,000 people participated in the funeral procession that began in Sidi Bouzid and continued through to Bouazizi's native village, though police did not allow the procession to pass near the spot at which Bouazizi had burned himself. From the crowd, many were heard chanting "Farewell, Mohammed, we will avenge you. We weep for you today. We will make those who caused your death weep." He was buried at Garaat Bennour cemetery, 10 miles (16 km) from Sidi Bouzid. His grave was described by Al-Jazeera as "simple" and surrounded by cactuses, olive and almond trees. In addition, a Tunisian flag flies next to it.
Many Arabs in the Middle Eastand North Africa regard Bouazizi as a hero and inspiration. He is credited with galvanising the frustrations of the region's youth against their governments into mass demonstrations, revolts, and revolutions. Bouazizi is considered a martyr by the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) of Tunisia. Tunisian film director, Mohamed Zran, plans on making a feature film about Bouazizi, describing him as "a symbol for eternity." Tarak Ben Ammar, also a Tunisian film director, intends to make a film on Bouazizi as well, stating he is "a hero for us as Tunisians and the Arab world as a whole." Since suicide is forbidden in Islam, Bouazizi's self-immolation created controversy among scholarly Muslim circles. While al-Azhar, the most prestigious religious institution in the Sunni Muslim world, issued a fatwa ("directive") stating "suicide violates Islam even when it is carried out as a social or political protest," influential Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi spoke sympathetically of Bouazizi.
On 4 February 2011, Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, announced that, as a tribute to honour Bouazizi, a square in Paris will be named after him; the Place Mohamed Bouazizi was unveiled four days later. On 17 February, the main square in Tunis that was previously called "November 7", after the date of Ben Ali's take-over in 1987, was renamed after Bouazizi.
Bouazizi was posthumously awarded the 2011 Sakharov Prize as one of "five representatives of the Arab people, in recognition and support of their drive for freedom and human rights".
An investigation was launched following Bouazizi's self-immolation to determine the details leading up to his actions. On 20 December 2010, it was reported that Faida Hamdi, the female officer who allegedly accosted Bouazizi the day of his immolation, was suspended along with the secretary-general (governor) of Sidi Bouzid, but this was subsequently denied by the latter. Some time later, Hamdi was arrested on orders from President Ben Ali and held in an unspecified town. A brother of Hamdi later stated that she had been arrested and detained on two separate occasions, the first time following Ben Ali's visit to Bouazizi in the hospital and subsequent meeting with his mother and sister at his presidential palace. He says his sister and her aides were released following a short detention and the closing of the investigation which "confirmed her innocence." He said her second arrest was "in response to the demands of the Tunisian protesters," and that the Tunisian security authorities informed him that she was being held only for her own protection and would be released once the protesting ended.
According to Bouazizi's mother, Bouazizi undertook his action because he had been humiliated, not because of the family's poverty. "It got to him deep inside, it hurt his pride," she said, referring to the police harassment. One of Bouazizi's sisters stated during an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that their family intends to take legal action against all involved, "whether this is the municipal officers that slapped and insulted him, or the mayor [who] refused to meet him."
On 19 April, the case against Hamdi was dropped after Bouazizi's mother withdrew the family's complaint against her. She stated "It was a difficult but well-thought out decision to avoid hatred and…[to] help reconcile the residents of Sidi Bouzid." Hamdi had maintained her innocence, telling the court she did not slap Bouazizi, while her lawyer said the matter was "purely a political affair." Bouazizi's brother Salem supported the decision, saying "All the money in the world can't replace the loss of Mohamed who sacrificed himself for freedom and for dignity." Large crowds of people outside the courtroom also appeared to have been satisfied by the Bouazizi family's decision with some claiming Hamdi was being used as a scapegoat.
Outraged by the events that led to Bouazizi's self-immolation, protests began in Sidi Bouzid within hours, building for more than two weeks, with attempts by police to quiet the unrest serving only to fuel what was quickly becoming a violent and deadly movement. After Bouazizi's death, the protests became widespread, moving into the more affluent areas and eventually into the capital. The anger and violence became so intense that President Ben Ali fled Tunisia with his family on 14 January 2011, trying first to go to Paris, but was refused refuge by the French government. They were eventually welcomed into Saudi Arabia under "a long list of conditions" (such as being barred from participation in the media and politics), ending his 23-year rule and sparking "angry condemnation" among Saudis. In Tunisia, unrest persisted as a new regime took over, leaving many citizens of Tunisia feeling as though their needs were still being ignored.
Bouazizi's actions triggered the Werther effect, causing a number of self-immolations in protests emulating Bouazizi's in several other countries in the Greater Middle East and Europe. In Algeria in particular, protests against rising food prices and spreading unemployment have resulted in many self-immolations. The first reported case following Bouazizi's death was that of Mohsen Bouterfif, a 37-year-old father of two, who set himself on fire when the mayor of Boukhadra in Algeria refused to meet with him and others regarding employment and housing requests on 13 January 2011. According to a report in El-Watan, the mayor challenged him, saying if he had
courage he would immolate himself by fire as Bouazizi had done. He died on 24 January. Maamir Lotfi, a 36-year-old unemployed father of six, also denied a meeting with the governor, burned himself in front of the El Oued town hall on 17 January, dying on 12 February. Abdelhafid Boudechicha, a 29-year-old day laborer who lived with his parents and five siblings, burned himself in Medjana on 28 January over employment and housing issues. He died the following day.
In Egypt, Abdou Abdel-Moneim Jaafar, a 49-year-old restaurant owner, set himself alight in front of the Egyptian Parliament. His act of protest helped instigate weeks of protest and, later, the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011. In Saudi Arabia, an unidentified 65-year-old man died on 21 January 2011, after setting himself on fire in the town of Samtah, Jizan. This was apparently the kingdom's first known case of self-immolation.
Although these cases, with the exception of Egypt, did not provoke the same kind of popular reaction that Bouazizi's case did in Tunisia, the Algerian, Yemeni, and Jordanian governments have experienced significant protests and made major concessions in response to them. As such, these men and Bouazizi are being hailed by some as "heroic martyrs of a new Middle Eastern revolution."
The wave of copycat incidents reached Europe on 11 February 2011, in a case very similar to Bouazizi's. Noureddine Adnane, a 27-year-old Moroccan street vendor, set himself on fire in Palermo, Sicily, in protest of the confiscation of
his wares and the harassment that was allegedly inflicted on him by municipal officials. He died five days later. In Amsterdam, Kambiz Roustay, a 36-year-old asylum seeker from Iran, set himself on fire on Dam Square in protest of being rejected asylum. Roustay had fled the country for publishing works undermining the regime, and feared being tortured by the Iranian regime upon his return.
Post edited 10:28 am – December 13, 2011 by seshata
There were several young people from Memorial High School at General Assembly last night. Apparently, they were on a class assignment which included interviews and questions of OccupyHouston participants.
Their initial question was the usual one of “what is the clear objective of the OccupyMovement” in general and it was hard for them to accept that each individual within the movement may have their own personal items/issues regarding our national and international worldviews.
The two students in the Opinion Stack were very curious about the politics of Occupy but I felt that they may have left with a wrong sense of ‘why are we here’. So before they left, I pulled them aside and asked if they knew why the Arab Spring began and they all answered “no”. They did not know of Mohamed Bouazizi or of the significance of his martyrdom of almost a year ago. They did not understand why there are millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa who are outraged that one of their own committed such an act of taboo (self-immolation) and are seeking to oust the tyrannical governments there. That being said, nor could they comprehend why the OccupyWallStreet movement is seeking to end to the tyrannical corruption of American democracy by corporate greed.
One of the OccupyHouston members summarized that we cannot change the world without first changing ourselves. Like GypsyKing in the link below, he advocated education, and spiritual transformation, as being at the
heart of this cause. That we must do some real soul-searching, and create within ourselves a higher set of values
than Americans have shown in recent generations – or there will be no success because success is unobtainable without spiritual transformation, a re-awakening of conscience and compassion, and of the sacredness of life. He explained that without this all our efforts will ultimately come to nothing because in the larger context of existence,
this is the only thing that really matters. This is the meaning of one love oneheart one destiny. http://occupywallst.org/forum/…..-he-is-us/
I asked the students if the artificial and historical divisions maintained by the Power Elite in our country would ever be challenged. As 16 year olds they had read a lot and seen many documentaries, therefore they had concluded that Race divisions have always been here in America and the world so they will continue to be here. I ask them if anything was accomplished by the Truth and Reconciliation Committees in South Africa and other countries that had suffered from oppressive regimes and they could not respond. A truth commission or truth and reconciliation commission is a commission tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government (or, depending on the circumstances, non-state actors also), in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past.
As young people, they had begun throwing out the baby with the bath water. As youths they had begun aborting the birth of Justice in order to rationalize personal pursuits. As they hurried along, I encouraged them to Burn The Race Card through a process of Truth and Reconciliation which includes, confessing and forgiving in order to move forward but in their young eyes were the shimmering hopes of joining the 1%. They all left with the impression that they are going to get theirs so you all attempt to get yours.
Maybe they will get an A+ for their OccupyHouston assignment depending on their school instructor's assessment.
During his speech about the uprisings across the arab world, President Obama took a moment to acknowledge the heroic act of self-immolation by Mohamed Bouazizi that sparked the peaceful revolution in Tunisia and the uprisings across the rest of the region.
Some of Bouazizi's siblings on their way to Sidi Bouzid
In their first visit to Sidi Bouzid since Eid el-Adha a few weeks ago, Mohamed Bouazizi’s family left their new abode in La Marsa, a suburb northwest of Tunis, today to pay their hometown a visit. In Sidi Bouzid, festivities are being held all weekend in honor of the young Bouazizi’s sacrifice to the Tunisian uprisings which sparked upheavals against systems of tyranny around the world.
Since their move to La Marsa however, the family has had little time to reconnect with each other or process how their kin has altered the course of history. The media glare certainly has not left much time for reflection – due to interviews conducted across the globe to recording different shows, their move has barely even sunk in.
Sidi Bouzid has remained on their minds, however. The youngest of the Bouazizis, Zied, a 9-year old with a twinkle in his eyes every time he smirks, expressed longing for his hometown and the people in it. “I miss my friends in [Sidi] Bouzid, so I am very excited to visit,” he said.
But the homecoming has not been as sentimental for the Bouazizis as it may initially appear to be. Upon opening the door to the family’s modest house today for the first time since Eid el-Adha, the family was greeted with trash and broken glass bottles strewn across their front yard. “Maybe it’s the wind that blew all the rubbish into the yard,” one of Mohamed’s sisters said in an effort to detract from the mess.
Bouazizi's sisters cleaning up the mess found in their front yard this evening
One of their neighbors, whom Bouazizi’s mother Manoubia alleges is spreading rumors about the family, also started building a house with an outer wall edging into the Bouazizi household. “See what they have done? They have no shame – we have to deal with this nonsense as we still figure out how to get our life together,” said Manoubia.
One source of controversy in the town is whether or not Mohamed died as a shaheed [martyr]. In Islam, suicide is considered a major sin. Hence, some hold the opinion that Mohamed should not be celebrated as a heroic or exemplar figure. When Salem, Mohamed’s older brother, was asked how he would respond to the statement that his brother is not a martyr, he responded saying, “Listen, only God knows whether he is a martyr. But how do you think he developed the courage to perform such an action? It is from the desperation that he felt.”
For the family, the best way to commemorate Mohamed’s courage is by attempting to go back to life as per usual. “We want to steer clear of any talk and to build our family anew,” Manoubia said. One of her daughters, Laila, 25, aspires to go to Montreal to complete her higher education studies, and one of her sons, Karim, 15, aspires to be a rapper one day.
“Where ever fate may take my children, I only wish for them to work hard and with an honest attitude,” Manoubia said.
Manoubia Bouazizi, Mohamed's mother
Manoubia however ended the night on a hopeful note:
“Sooner or later people will organize themselves and work collectively to serve the interests of the country in such an orderly way that even a president won’t be needed.”
Mohamed Bouazizi: A fruit seller's legacy to the Arab people by Salman Shaikh
Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation one year ago was an act which symbolized the frustration and desperation of
millions in the Arab world, setting into motion a series of revolutions across theMiddle East andNorth Africa.
His was a cry for dignity, justice, and opportunity, which continues to be heard around a region undergoing tumultuous change. In today's Middle East, people matter. Many are now engaged in what could be a life-long struggle to fight long-standing grievances and take greater control of their lives. This process must involve the creation of new democratic political systems, which ensure greater accountability of leaders, and level the playing field of opportunity for all, not just a select few.
It has been a remarkable year. Three dictators have been toppled and one has transferred power to a deputy. Nonetheless, analysts and policy-makers continue to speak about the slow pace of change in the region and warn of the onset of an "Arab Winter." Such distinctions — spring and winter — are misleading. Many seasons will come and go in the transformative years that lie ahead for the Arab world. Revolutions take time to settle. The transformation of societies takes even longer. The colored revolutions of Eastern Europe, two decades on, are still developing. It took centuries for democratic systems to be refined inEurope. We cannot expect democracy in the Middle East to be solidified in only one year.
Still, across the region, there is cause for concern. Egypt's transition to civilian rule carries major worries, even as Egyptians continue to go to the polls. The concern remains that the ruling military council will relinquish power only under heavy pressure; and Egypt's economy and confidence are in nosedive as the populace awaits civil rule. Syrians meanwhile face a regime intent on killing and torturing its citizens to end their uprising. All this as a largely
impotent international community argues over how to stop the increasing violence.
In Yemen, many are not convinced by a regionally brokered transition deal, which allows Saleh and his family immunity from prosecution as well as continued political influence. Bahrain continues to reel from the absence of a
genuine national dialogue between its rulers and the underrepresented and relatively impoverished majority Shia community. Libya's revolutionaries now face the immediate challenge of building a state from scratch, based on the rule of law and democratic principles. To do so, they are learning, they will first have to put down their guns.
While events elsewhere in the region have been less dramatic, the desire for change is still palpable. Under popular pressure, Morocco now has an elected prime minister under a revised constitution; Jordan's king has been forced to change the government twice this year; Oman's Sultan has devolved some powers to his consultative council. Only time will tell if people accept these changes as going far enough to meet their rising expectations.
As the respected Arab commentator Rami Khouri somewhat prophetically predicted last year, we are witnessing the "birth of Arab politics." For the first time, people have a voice and the opportunity to launch new parties and institutions, independent of the autocratic rulers and external interference that long stifled political development. Civil society organizations, the "software" of any democratic system, have mushroomed in transitional states such as Egypt and Tunisia. A truly democratic and accountable political culture is finally developing in the region.
Undoubtedly, the biggest political winners over the past year have been Islamist parties, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood movement. As real Arab politics emerges, this is not surprising. One should accept that today, the center of gravity of the region's societies' is religiously pious, socially conservative, and economically liberal. The rise of the Brotherhood and the more fundamentalist Salafi parties is a natural legacy of years of political exclusion,
and economic corruption and stagnation. As the West looks on, it should be remembered that a faith-inspired vision led to the establishment of the American state itself.
The challenge for the Brotherhood will be to maintain their popularity and their discipline while meeting the demands of not just their supporters but of an entire nation. The wiser leaders among them may be realizing that winning at the ballot box, even exercising majority rule, does not entitle them to ignore their responsibilities to the minorities that may fear them. Mohammad Bouzazi's cry for the rights and responsibilities of all citizens provides a lesson that these new political actors and leaders would do well to heed.
In this changed environment, international actors need to tread wisely. As regional and international participants in a recent Brookings seminar in Doha concluded, Western governments must embrace a wholesale reassessment of their foreign policies towards the region. This reassessment should reflect a "paradigm shift" towards genuinely inclusive and equal partnerships with the Middle East that do not seek to dictate democratic outcomes. Above all,
people speaking for the first time must not be met with deaf ears. Western countries' engagement with newly emerging Islamist actors, then, should be based on the principles of mutual respect and establishing two-way
Such a dialogue should also acknowledge the sorry legacy of past regimes that were considered key allies. Under the reign of such rulers, there was a mass campaign of victimization, torture, and marginalization against liberals and Islamists alike who posed a threat. While affected societies have established their own judicial processes to take their former leaders to task, it is also time for Western countries to acknowledge the pain and dislocation
of those who suffered at the hands of these regimes. As certain dictators in the region continue to hound their people, the international community must not make the same mistakes again. When acts of brutality — tantamount even to crimes against humanity — are being perpetrated, as in Syria, the international community must act based on its responsibility to protect innocent civilians, and face down this evil.
Ultimately, the region needs to find its own state-builders and create new states that reflect the will of their people. What has become clear over the past year is that the people of the Middle East and North Africa are in no mood to give up their search for justice and dignity. It is fitting that one-year after Bouzaizi's desperate act, Tunisia will see the election and appointment of a president and prime minister — one liberal, the other Islamist – both human rights activists imprisoned by the previous regime. Mohammed Bouazizi's true legacy may be the birth of a new democratic Tunisia where a wholly unique model of governance is emerging — one in which Islamists and secularists govern and where political activists who have been imprisoned for their views now sit in government. The new Tunisia, not Turkey, Eastern Europe, or even Indonesia, will be the real model for the newly emerging Arab world.
Post edited 12:27 pm – December 19, 2011 by seshata
"As is so often the case with political martyrs, Bouazizi means strikingly different things to different people. To some he's a generic symbol of the resistance to injustice; to others an archetype of the fight against autocracy. Occupy Wall Street activists have even enlisted him as a spiritual ally of their struggle against the unholy alliance between Washington and corporate America"
Yemen’s Saleh headed to U.S. for medical treatment
The Obama administration has approved Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s request to enter the United States for medical treatment, clearing the way for a transfer of power in the strife-filled country.
Saleh flew out of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, late Sunday and headed for a first stop in Oman, a Yemen spokesman said. It was not clear when he would arrive in the United States or how long he would stay here.
Before leaving, Saleh asked his countrymen for forgiveness in a television address and said he planned to return home after surgery, in time for the swearing in of a presidential successor next month.
He has formally relinquished power to his vice president in anticipation of a presidential election Feb. 21.
The White House has been considering Saleh’s request since December, and a decision to allow him into the United States could be politically risky for President Obama, given Saleh’s repressive 33-year reign and the sustained unrest
Many Yemenis want Saleh to face trial for the deaths of hundreds of political dissidents over the years, but Yemen’s parliament reportedly approved immunity for him on Saturday.
On Sunday, the State Department said in a statement that “the sole purpose of this travel is for medical treatment and we expect that he will stay for a limited time that corresponds to the duration of this treatment.”
But Saleh suggested last month that the reason for him to come to the United States was to remove him from Yemen to help ensure a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. Demonstrators began demanding his removal from authority a year ago.
Saleh suffered serious wounds in a June attack on the palace, but he said last month that he would go to the United States “not for medical treatment, because I’m fine, but to get away from attention, cameras, and allow the unity government to prepare properly for elections.”
In Sanaa on Sunday, Abdul Hafeeth al-Nihari, the deputy chief of the media department of Yemen’s ruling party, described Saleh’s trip to Oman as “a brotherly visit” to improve the relationship between the two countries.
He stressed that Saleh would return to Yemen after his treatment in the United States.
“He will be back prior to the elections to hand over the presidency, and the presidential palace to his successor,” said Nihari. “He will back to practice his political life as the leader of the General People’s Congress,” Saleh’s ruling party.
Staff writer Sudarsan Raghavan in Nairobi and special correspondent Ali Almujahed in Sanaa
contributed to this report.