Three months after pushing Al Houthi militants and forces loyal to Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh out of southern Yemen, thousands gathered in Aden to celebrate victory.
The rally was the largest open gathering in the war-torn city since resistance fighters backed by an Arab coalition drove the militants out in mid-July.
“We are here to thank coalition forces for helping us kick Al Houthis out,” Ahmad Al Roubaizi, a leading figure in the separatist Southern Movement and an aide to the former South Yemen president Ali Salem Al Baidh told Gulf News.
For the first time since the separatist sentiment emerged a decade ago, southerners organised a military parade in the city’s public square or Al Ouroudh Square in which armed men who took part in battles against Al Houthis marched in front of spectators.
The protesters flocked into the city from all provinces of the former Democratic Republic of Yemen, a Marxist state that unified with the tribal dominated Yemen Arab Republic in 1990.
Flags and posters of the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other members of the Arab coalition were widely seen at the parade.
“We appreciate the coalition for assisting us in confronting a second invasion of the south,” Al Roubaizi added.
More than eight years ago, a pro-secessionist movement rose up against the regime of Saleh. Thousands of public servants and military officers went to the streets to demand equal wages with their counterparts in the north.
The movement picked up momentum after huge failures of the Saleh regime to address their grievances quickly.
The southerners say that after the bloody civil war between the two former states in 1994, the northerners punished them by cutting them off from wealth and power.
Months after taking power by force in late 2014, Al Houthi militants invaded the southern city of Aden, where the president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi was ruling after being kicked out of the capital, Sana’a.
The militant advance brought the southerners into an alliance with Yemeni forces supporting Hadi.