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President’s TV appearance shocks viewers in Yemen

The president of Yemen may have a new scorched image, but his supporters hope, while the opposition fears, he is far from burned out.
Yemen presidentsaleh speechEnlarge
President Ali Abdullah Saleh after undergoing eight operations (left) and the president before the assassination attempt left him with severe burns. (Screengrab)

When the charred face of President Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared on TV, Thursday, it sent shock waves through the country.

Not only did he not indicate any willingness to relinquish power after six months of protests against his 33-year rule, the president’s appearance had changed dramatically after an assassination attempt on him June 3.

Speaking from his exile in Saudi Arabia, to where he had been airlifted for medical treatment, the singed president told viewers that he had undergone eight operations after at least one bomb planted in his palace mosque exploded leaving him with severe burns to his face and body.

Through his long rule, the president has placed great importance on his image and Yemenis are accustomed to their charismatic president beaming down at them from posters on the streets or looking wistfully off into the middle distance from framed photos in public offices.

While his trademark moustache had been replaced with greying stubble and his heavily bandaged hands were carefully kept out of view, Saleh remained defiant amid growing calls both internally and internationally for his resignation saying he would "confront a challenge with a challenge."

This seemingly defiant stance, despite his singed appearance, worries the opposition, which has campaigned for his overthrow.

Ali Abdul Jabbar, an analyst and director of the Sanaa based Dar Ashraf Research Center said that the "opposition forces are in shock. Fears of the opposition today are greater than ever, as they feel that the president is still insistent on ruling and leading (the country)."

However his supporters took to the streets after the pre-recorded speech in celebration amid fireworks.

"Saleh’s speech brought life back to his millions of followers and left the opposition in awe," said Jabbar.’s-tv-appearance-shock-viewers-yemen