Socotrans protest al-Islah’s ‘disruptive activities’
HAIDIBU, Yemen - Protesters in Hadibu on Socotra took to the streets to protest what they said are attempts by Yemen’s al-Islah party to ‘”disrupt stability on the island.” Demonstrators also demanded the removal of Socotra Governor Ramzi Mahrous.
Mahrous and Yemeni Minister of Fisheries Fahd Salem Kafain, both from Socotra, are members of al-Islah, the local affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood. The party is a part of the ruling coalition of the government of Yemen’s President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
A statement by the Socotra leadership of Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council (STC) said actions by al-Islah and its supporters hinder activities of organisations from the United Arab Emirates aimed at promoting economic development on the island.
The STC has been promoting the re-establishment of self-government in former South Yemen, which merged in 1990 with North Yemen.
Since the outbreak of the conflict in Yemen, and in particular since Socotra was hit by a devastating cyclone in 2015, the Emirates’ Red Crescent and the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation have initiated a major programme of relief, aid and development assistance.
The effort included building schools, allocating financial support for teachers, the expansion and modernisation of the island’s main hospital, the extension of its main port and expansion of the power supply network.
Socotra had remained largely free of the fallout of the conflict that has raged on mainland Yemen since 2011. However, island residents say they fear that attempts by al-Islah to widen its influence will increase tensions.
They claim al-Islah provoked serious frictions elsewhere in Yemen, including in Taiz, diverting attention from the main fight with Houthi militias.
Regular demonstrations have taken place in Hadibu and other towns, with the support of the STC, other groups and local tribal leaders. Some demonstrators described the protests as “the beginning of a revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood,” in reference to al-Islah.
Although al-Islah is part of Hadi’s coalition government, protesters allege its actions in Socotra are part of a plan developed in collaboration with Qatar to divert the attention of the Saudi-led coalition from its fight against Houthi militias.
Armed al-Islah supporters recently seized a ship carrying vehicles at Socotra’s main port. Al-Islah said the militants had the backing of Kafain.
When the local commander of the STC-affiliated Security Belt militia, Essam Shizabi, tried to negotiate the release of the vehicles, al-Islah reportedly shot him, causing injuries that necessitated his hospitalisation.