Yes Yemenis own guns in a land where rule of law is not enforced. Yes there are tribal feuds. Yes the men wear decorative daggers. However, in the last six weeks of protests, these same men have joined the peaceful protesters without their guns and without their daggers.
For those who write about Yemen, I wish you would also reflect on how amazing this civic experience really is. Since Yemenis are heavily armed, isn’t it remarkable that they abandoned their guns and joined a peaceful movement, even when they were incited numerous times?
Today, hundreds of thousands of people were at the square of change in Sana’a attending the funeral procession of the 52 martyrs who died on Friday. It was a very emotional time as relatives and friends saw their loved ones for the last time. None of these tear-filled relatives took revenge and none were armed. Chants changed from «the people want the end of the regime» to «the people want to prosecute the killer (meaning Saleh)». This is a great example of a peaceful non-violent struggle by a heavily armed society.
When violence occurs against peaceful protesters, it only serves to empower the movement. People who were previously not part of the protests joined today. An old man who could barely walk insisted on joining. His daughter begged him to sit down, he turned to her and shouted: “they were killed for us, the least I can do is walk in their funeral procession.”
For Western journalists I hope you put this in perspective when writing on Yemen and citing statistics about gun ownership. Lets remember that on average, every year, 100,000 people are shot or killed by guns in the United States (Source: National Center for Injury Prevention & Control).