Hundreds of youth activists and other protesters marched Tuesday through a central Yemeni city demanding justice for an American teacher who was gunned down by unknown assailants this week.
Joel Shrum, 29, had been living in the central city of Taiz with his wife and two sons, where he was learning Arabic and teaching English at a language institute.
Shrum, a native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, moved to Yemen in 2009. He was killed Sunday in his car when the assailants, dressed in military uniforms, sped up next to him on a motorcycle and opened fire.
The slain teacher had worked at the International Training and Development Centre. The center, established in Yemen in the 1970s, is one of the oldest foreign language institutes in the Arab world’s most impoverished country.
A text message that circulated by mobile phone in Yemen after his killing said that “holy warriors” had killed “a senior missionary” in Taiz, the country’s second most populated city after its capital Sana’a. It was impossible to confirm the claim of responsibility.
His parents say he went there in 2009 to learn Arabic, not to proselytize, and became passionate about teaching business skills to Yemenis.
One of Shrum’s colleagues at the language center, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said Shrum used to encourage Yemenis to stay true to their Islamic faith and did not try to convert people to Christianity.
He said Shrum not only taught Yemenis English, but would often buy students books and assist them in learning computer skills.
Protesters on Tuesday carried photos of Shrum as they marched through the city’s streets, chanting, “Yemen is not a place for terrorism. We love you Joel!”
Activist Radwan al-Qadri says several lawyers and protesters met with the Taiz police chief to demand an investigation. No one has yet been apprehended for the deadly attack.
A number of residents said they were holding a sit-in outside the police chief’s headquarters until arrests are made in connection with the murder.
“Joel served the city of Taiz and was a good friend who came from the United States,” al-Qadri said, adding that the American teacher spoke good Arabic and “was a lovable person who respected humanity and was himself respected.”
Al-Qaeda and other militant groups are active in Yemen, located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen has suffered a breakdown of security during a yearlong uprising that eventually led to the ouster of the country's president last month after 33 years of authoritarian rule.
Since he stepped down last month, the former leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been accused by the opposition of meddling in the country’s affairs. They also accuse his loyalists in top security positions of allowing and at times possibly encouraging militant attacks as a means of eroding the capabilities of the new national unity government.