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The New Arab

Women on Yemen island protest against 'UAE occupation'

The Emiratis have carved out a zone of influence in southern Yemen [Twitter]

Date of publication: 6 May, 2018

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Women on the Yemeni island of Socotra have a held a protest against the United Arab Emirates' growing influence in the area, as tensions have erupted over a military deployment.

Women on the Yemeni island of Socotra have a held a protest against the United Arab Emirates' growing influence in the area, as tensions have erupted over a military deployment.

The women protesters gathered in the island's principal city Hadibu on Saturday, waving Yemeni flags and chanting slogans against "Emirati occupation" of the island, The New Arab's Arabic-language website reported.

The demonstrators chanted "Socotra is Yemeni" and "Socotra is an island of peace" and voiced support for Yemen's internationally recognised government led by President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The protest comes after the UAE deployed forces to Socotra, without prior consultation with Hadi's exiled government, heightening tensions between the two allies.

Over the past few days, the UAE has deployed some 300 soldiers, along with tanks and artillery, to the island of Socotra, which is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

The Emiratis have taken over all the vital institutions in the island, including the airport, the ports, the government's headquarters, and kicked out the Yemeni forces.

The UAE is a key partner in a Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting Houthi rebels since 2015 to restore Yemen's internationally recognised government to power.

Hadi's government said in a statement on Sunday that the deployment was "unjustified", according to its SABA news agency.

"Nothing new has happened on the island politically or militarily that would require [the UAE] to take control of the airport and port," the statement said.

"The dispute centres around national sovereignty… and the lack of a strong level of joint coordination," it added.

Socotra residents and activists have said that the UAE is building a factory and a prison, recruiting the island's residents, and creating a new militia.

It has been buying land and clearing it for construction.

Some residents and activists fear damage to the island's environment, which has previously seen only limited development.

The Emiratis have carved out a zone of influence in southern Yemen over the past two years, setting up prisons and militias.

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