Land disputes fuel Taiz clashes

Published on 30 January 2012 in News
Imad Al-Saqqaf (author)

Imad Al-Saqqaf


TAIZ — Repeated clashes erupted in Taiz between the Republican Guards and locals over land disputes.


Tensions have been rising, particularly in east of the city, over the last two weeks, with a number of clashes breaking out since last Monday.


Citizens of the city are in a land dispute with the local authority, which wants to build a large mall in Al-Hawban, east Taiz. It says the land is state property and claims that the four-storey mall would generate 3,000 job opportunities.


However, locals fired into the air to halt work on the mall, claiming that a large part of the 16,800 square meter plot belongs to them. 


“We have been living in war and are not able to come out of our homes and are not sure of our children’s safety to go to schools,” said Ahmed Abd Al-Rub, a local citizen in Al-Hawban. “We thought that the war was over, but now it is continuing for different reasons.”


On Monday and Tuesday, Republican Guard forces attacked the house of Abd Al-Hameed Al-Batra’, an MP who defected from Saleh’s General People’s Congress to side with locals.


He explained that the attack followed a quarrel between him and the leader of the Republican Guard in Taiz over his defection.


“When I went back home, his forces started firing into my house,” said Al-Batra’.


Al-Batra’ claimed that locals only fired into the air to prevent the construction of the mall after being informed that the local authority had sold the land to an investor.


However, a security source argued that the security forces were only “doing their duty” by challenging the armed locals.


“The land where the mall is being constructed is state property and it has been rented to the investor by the General Area Authority,” the security source said. “If citizens have any right to this land, they must go to court.”


A new local opposition coalition known as the National Alliance in Taiz, held a meeting over the attack on Al-Batra’s house.


“This is part of the organized violence against Taiz and its people for their position supporting the revolution,” said the organization.


Mohamed Al-Himyari, a member of the National Alliance, said the organization would escalate its peaceful activities if current military leaders in Taiz were not replaced.


He also demanded that the parliament protect its members.


Al-Himyari suggested a judiciary committee to resolve the land dispute yet still allow the project to continue. If the citizens can prove their right to the land, they should be compensated, he added.


The Taiz mall project is one of the biggest investments in the governorate with a cost of $40 million. The conflict between the local authority and local citizens threatens its completion.