A female journalist from south Yemen throws a shoe at members of a rebel representative at a press conference on Yemen peace talks in Geneva on June 18, 2015. The fisticuffs was broke out at the press conference by Yemeni rebels when their leader was attacked by a slipper-wielding woman and others accusing them of mass killings in the country’s south.
The incident underscored the deep divisions between the various sides involved in trying to get Iran-backed rebels and the exiled government to agree to a badly-needed humanitarian truce.
Hamza al-Houthi, the head of the rebel delegation and from the Ansarullah group, was addressing reporters when a woman in a headscarf barged in and threw a slipper at him -a huge insult in the Arab world.
Al-Houthi promptly threw it away. She was quickly joined by six men who shouted slogans against the rebels and started raining blows at them, screaming “Killers, you are spreading death and disease in South Yemen.”
The melee lasted several minutes with bottles hurled before the intruders were hauled out.
The woman’s gesture was immediately hailed on social media in Aden, the main port city in South Yemen, with congratulatory tweets. People from North Yemen who still hate the Houthi movement disrespect the act of the Yemeni journalist consider it as a shameful act.
Once order was restored, al-Houthi said the rebels wanted “a humanitarian truce but it is not wanted by Saudi Arabia and its allies” who have staged aerial bombings on the rebels since March 26. He continued to say the war benefited al-Qeada.
He said the stalled UN talks in Geneva would continue until at least Friday, adding: “We hope these preliminary talks will end up in some kind of accord … a transition that will hopefully lead to free, fair and transparent elections.”
He accused the Saudis of using “nitrogen bombs and other horrible arms” to “massacre women and children” and said Al-Qaeda in Yemen was “exploiting the situation and using the aggression to extend its influence over the region.”
Yaser al-Awadi, another member of the rebel delegation said the “Yemen war has become an economic investment for Britain, France and the United States.”
“Their arms factories are working full-time for two months to furnish and supply arms,” he said.
“Our women and children are being used as guinea pigs to test new arms,” al-Awadi said at the chaotic press conference, the most dramatic event at the peace talks so far.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched the high-stakes negotiations on Monday with an appeal for a badly-needed two-week humanitarian truce.
The negotiations, in their fourth day, have been bogged down by the government’s insistence that the Iran-backed rebels must withdraw from the vast territory they control, including the capital Sanaa.
It has also protested the size of the rebel delegation which is more than double the pre-agreed number of 10.
Huthi rebels and their allies, troops faithful to ousted president Ali Abdallah Saleh, favour a truce but are refusing to withdraw as demanded by the government in exile, which is backed by Saudi Arabia.
by Abhik Chanda