YEMEN: Sana'a campus at centre of protests

The government has released students and other protestors held after several hundred anti-riot police and soldiers were deployed at Sana'a University - the country's largest campus - to prevent and disperse unauthorised student protests on Sunday 23 January.

The biggest demonstration in months took place on Thursday 27 January when tens of thousands of people took to the streets in a rally against the government, with one of the main rallies held on the Sana'a campus.

Hundreds of protestors, mainly college students, staged street demonstrations against proposed constitutional changes regarding the number of times a president can hold office. Protesters are also demanding political change and are led by opposition groups.

The anti-riot police at the university locked student protestors inside the campus on Saturday 22 January, preventing them from taking their demonstrations to the streets. Days earlier, protestors rallied in the streets chanting slogans of political change.

Security forces dispersed opposing student demonstrations against and in support of President Ali Abdullah Saleh who, The New York Times pointed out in an editorial on Friday, along with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt "should have seen this coming.

"They didn't - or didn't care. Both countries share similar pressures: huge numbers of young people without jobs, growing outrage over abusive security forces, corrupt leaders, repressive political systems," the newspaper said.

On 24 January, more protesters took to the streets demanding the release of students, activists and other detainees arrested during the earlier protest, reported to number 30.

Tawakul Karman, the head of Women Journalists without Chains, was arrested on 22 January, and charged with organising unlicensed student protests inspired by the Tunisian revolt. But two days later prosecutors ordered her release, along with other protesters.

Despite the escalating protests, study continued uninterrupted as students prepared for scheduled exams on 5 February. But strict security measures are being implemented in the two campuses of Sana'a University, because of fears of continuing protests.

Politics is widely discussed and debated on Yemen's campuses. Students openly show their loyalty to the different political parties, despite calls from teachers and large numbers of students not to politicise universities.

Sana'a University and the University of Aden, in the south, cater for nearly half of all students in the country. The number of students has rapidly expanded in the past few decades, from 3,305 in 1978 to 240,500 in 2006, with more than 195,000 attending the country's 10 public universities, according to official figures.