** I wrote this post two days ago, but due to internet cut i could not post it. It now seems that violence is not only likely, but has begun 😦
These 33 years have been a nightmare for the Yemenis. We are still sleeping and sometimes we still have this recurring nightmare, but most of the time we are having good dreams where we see the new Yemen. Sooner or later we will get up from bed and this nightmare will be over FOREVER.
There are some people who are complaining that the Revolution has failed or that it won’t go anywhere. I don’t know what will happen, but I know one thing this revolution has achieved so much even before the end. It changed the life of so many Yemenis. It has touched us in many ways, and there is simply no turning back from here.
Afraid no longer: for years Yemenis were afraid to speak out for fear of being harassed, threatened, or imprisoned. Now, people on both sides are openly speaking their mind. A walk down the alley in my neighborhood confirms this. I hear people discussing politics, constitutional legitimacy, civil rights, and discussing Saleh in person, something that would have been so rare in the past.
New found nationalism: for so long, Yemenis did not feel a sense of nationalism. More important than our “Yemeniness” was our tribe, family, region etc. Many Yemenis often asked their fellow Yemenis abroad “why do you want to come back to the country? There is nothing here for you”. The remarkable courage of the young protesters as they approached water canons and tanks with no weapons has changed people’s image of themselves. The determination at the square, the creativity and the hope has given Yemenis a sense of belonging to a new Yemen. In the past, the Yemeni flag sometimes irritated people as they associated it only with the president. But today, the Yemeni flag is everywhere. It has emerged as the winner in this revolution as both sides are competing for who has more flags. Today at the square when the national anthem comes on, people respectfully drop what they are doing and stand in respect. Men and women, young and old, people from different regions, and tribes who have revenge issues between them, are now standing side by side to honor our beloved Yemen.
A new truly united citizenship has emerged: Citizens from Sa’ada have joined protesters in Aden, protesters in Taiz have joined their brothers in Sana’a. A new found citizenship has emerged. This mixing of people has created a new textile a new web of citizenship.
Awareness-raising many seminars on a daily basis are happening at the square on various topics relating to civic participation, civil state, democracy, human rights, women’s rights etc. More importantly, the fact that people come from different backgrounds has forced them to implement what they are learning. Many arguments erupted in the square between different groups, which I feel is a healthy phenomenon because it forced people to implement what they learned and to practice the terminologies learned.
There are of course many concerns at the moment:
Violent conflict including the likelihood that violence may erupt at any moment. The government continues to distribute weapons to its loyalists hoping to incite the other side for conflict. In addition, the physical proximity between the military and the first brigade is becoming closer and intensifying tension The likelihood that Saleh and Ali Mohsen use the tribes to fight their personal “war” seems very possible.
GCC initiative: As long as the President and his entourage are still in control, change will not occur. The GCC plan could be the beginning of the problems not the end. Yes a political solution could help solve Yemen’s problems without conflict, but only if it was well-intentioned and did not serve the President. Whether he signs or not is irrelevant if we can not guarantee implementation. The GCC initiative has too many holes and its just too ambiguous. With a President that excels in political maneuvering, an ambiguous document just serves to empower him. In addition, there are no guarantees that after the 30 days he will leave. He might make excuses similar to the many he made before signing the GCC plan. Finally, the two months to prepare for elections are simply not enough and violate the election law which requires at least six months of preparation for the elections.
Economic woes: Over two months of unrest in Yemen has more than doubled the price of some basic items including food and cooking gas. Anger about the price increases have been building for weeks. At the same time, the value of the Yemeni Riyal has plummeted, deepening the economic strain. Banks are very low on dollars. New Yemeni currency is floating around, a terrible sign of possible future inflation. Saleh will leave the country with no money, high inflation, and dwindling oil resources. Will average citizens blame the current government for the economic crisis and price increases or will they blame pro-change protesters?
Regardless of whatever happens after this, Yemen will not be the same. This Revolution is the greatest in Yemen’s history. This peaceful revolution is an intellectual, cultural and social revolution. The extent to which these elements will be part of the new Yemen is unclear at this point, but the effects of the revolution will remain imprinted in people’s psyche forever. A new movement has begun, and can never be reversed. Change will not be easy, and it will take at least 20 years to reach what we want, but we have to start with the first step, and this is it.
I believe that what people experienced at the square has changed them forever and it will carry on individually for a long time. This is the beginning of real change. A grass roots change that incorporates an intellectual and cultural aspects in addition to the political one. I foresee that the many youth movements in the square will transform into social movements in the future. Some may pursue a political route, others will remain watchdogs on politicians. Civic engagement will continue thanks to these three months. I just hope that the violence that is likely to occur, will not put people in a dangerous long war. Lets pray for the best.