Hundreds of protesters on Sunday rallied on Yemen's Indian Ocean island of Socotra against local militias allegedly supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The protesters marched across Hadibu, the capital city of Socotra, expressing solidarity with local authorities linked to the government, witnesses told German news service dpa. The demonstrators, waving the Yemeni flag, chanted slogans against the presence of armed militias on the island, in a reference to so-called Security Belt units that are believed trained and supported by the UAE.
The UAE is a major partner in a Saudi-led military campaign that is supporting Yemen's internationally recognized government against Iran-allied Houthi rebels, who are in control of the capital Sanaa. But ties between the Yemeni government and the UAE have soured recently, as the UAE has been accused of also supporting separatists in Yemen.
The protests come in response to an online call, dubbed "Socotra rejects the Emirates," launched by anonymous activists. Last month, Yemeni officials said that fighters from the so-called Security Belt landed on Socotra without coordination with the government. The Yemeni island of Socotra continues to be a source of tension between Saudi Arabia and its biggest partner in the Yemen war, the UAE. In May 2018, the UAE, a pillar of the Saudi-led coalition, faced anger for deploying troops to the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea. In defiance of the UAE's move on the island, Saudi Arabia deployed troops to Yemen's Socotra as a confidence-building measure over complaints by Yemen's government that the UAE deployed troops there without its permission, revealing the growing rivalry between the two allies.