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Cablegate: Democracy in Action: Teachers Demonstrate Against

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 001635

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR NEA/PI AND ALINA ROMANOWSKI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM YM DEMOCRATIC REFORM
SUBJECT: DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: TEACHERS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST
OPPOSITION HARDLINERS

REF: SANAA 1611

1. (U) Summary: The Al-Quds Girls Public School in Sanaa
received a computer lab with brand-new equipment through a
Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) grant. After an
American Embassy delegation visited the school, reports
appeared in local newspapers stating that the female
principal forced the students to uncover their heads for the
delegation. During Friday sermons at local mosques two
opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) denounced the
principal demanding her ousting and encouraging other mosques
to do so as well, and advocated mandating the "hijab" (veil)
and a more conservative uniform for female students. In
response, the school principal rallied a large number of
teachers to resist publicly the hard-line MPs' efforts. End
Summary.

MEPI HELPS SPARK DEBATE
-----------------------

2. (U) On April 6, the Ambassador opened a MEPI-funded
e-learning Internet Classroom at the Al-Quds Girls School, a
local public school. After the inauguration, visiting MEPI
officers and American Embassy staff accompanied the school
principal to visit a few of the classrooms to talk to the
students about their science education, textbooks, requests
for improving their educational experience, etc. A local
newspaper later reported that some of the schoolgirls claimed
that the principal demanded they uncover their heads for the
delegation.

3. (SBU) On the following Friday, imams Shaykh Hazza'a
Al-Maswari and Shaykh Mohammed Al-Hazmi, both Members of
Parliament affiliated with the opposition Islah Party,
denounced the principal and demanded she be removed from her
post. (Note: Al-Hazmi has also made anti-American
statements and Emboffs have been informed that a government
committee is being formed to investigate the al-Hazmi issue,
see reftel.) On May 18, newspapers came out on both sides of
the issue. Al-Balagh (independent Arabic weekly) wrote an
op-ed piece calling for the dismissal of the principal.
Al-Meethaq (GPC-affiliated Arabic weekly) criticized
inaccurate information circulated by some press regarding the
Al-Quds school and the Islah-affiliated imams for allegedly
slandering the principal. It also noted that the principal
has filed an anti-slander lawsuit in court against the press.

4. (U) Al-Motamar Net (GPC-affiliated Arabic news website)
reported on June 13 that the Al-Quds school e-learning issue
had turned into a political argument between the ruling
party, the General People's Congress Party (GPC), and the
opposition Islah Party. According to the site, claims that
the principal forced girl students to unveil were manipulated
by Islah to institute more conservative public school
uniforms.

TEACHERS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST MPs
--------------------------------

5. (U) On June 9, female teachers staged a demonstration,
marching to Parliament to protest offensive statements
allegedly made by the two MPs. (Note: Press estimates of the
crowd range from "hundreds" to two thousand to 20 thousand.)
As reported in the Yemen Observer (independent English
weekly) June 12 issue, the demonstrators asked Parliament to
strip the two men of their parliamentary immunity and bring
them to justice for the insults they allegedly directed at
the principal and certain schoolteachers. A press statement
issued by the protesters stated that the two MPs launched a
campaign of slander against female teachers and the girls,
school principal as a ploy to impose more conservative
uniforms in public schools, including the hijab.

6. (U) According to a few press reports, some of the teachers
did not know why they were marching. When informed by press
of the subject of the demonstration, some teachers allegedly
disagreed with the demonstration's organizers and withdrew
from the protest. Others confessed that they had taken part
in the rally under threat of salary reductions. The families
of the female students marched in counter-protest. Reports
indicated they were organized by the Islah Party to protest
the GPC's campaign to institute a more liberal school
uniform, which would leave the girls, faces uncovered.

7. (SBU) DCM and PD Chief met with the Minister of Education
Abdul Salam al-Jowfi, who said that the Internet classrooms
were not the issue in the dispute. In fact, information
gathered by PD showed that the problem arose prior to the
e-learning classroom inauguration.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: While the MEPI program did not directly
encourage this democratic action, American presence in the
schools was exploited to garner public support against the
GPC-supported school principal. The teachers' demonstration
against parliamentarian pressure is an example of Yemen's
nascent democracy. End Comment.
HULL

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