Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Our partner in Yemen has today updated us further on the situation in Sana’a, emphasizing the role women are playing in the protests and informing us about the massive protests planned for Friday.

Yemen has in the last few days witnessed a deluge of resignations. Saleh's tribespeople, who are in a very powerful position in government and military institutions, have resigned and announced that they are joining the Youth Revolution.

Yet, the resignation of Ali Mohsen AL-Ahmar, Saleh's half brother, was surprising for all Yemenis and it has stirred much debate. Many think his resignation comes late, and they condemn the 'dirty' history of Al-Ahmar and his role in the Sada'a war. They picture him as a criminal, holding him to be a member of Saleh's family that should be held accountable for a number of crimes and corruption.

Youth in "Change Square" have doubts about many of the late resignations of high-military officials who have been known for corruption and "black history". Young people are afraid that such people aim to hijack the revolution to seize power. However, some youth have welcomed such new alliances that will support the revolution, asking their peers to forget the past and start a new era.

Women and the Watan Coalition

Women are instrumental in the protests. Along with their children, they take to the streets to join protests in Change Square, and they organize sit-ins. Significantly, women stay up late (until 10 or 11pm) in the protestors' camps; something that is not common in the conservative Yemeni society. For moral support, women cook and supply food to the protesters; they write slogans and verses on the bread such as "Go out" or "People want the regime to be ousted". Significantly, women and men are mixing in the camps. "It is amazing. Here in Change Square, despite the huge number of protesters, I do not get harassed or criticized for being who I am. I am with my hair, not wearing the Yemeni Abya'a, but I feel welcomed and I feel that everybody here accepts the others. I cannot find such a thing anywhere but here in Change Square,” an-open-minded Yemeni lady excitedly said.

Yemeni women activists have established the 'Watan' Coalition'; Watan means "Nation", through which they support the protesters by all means. Apart from providing food, they are also ensuring that protestors have access to medical supplies and clinics. They have an active page on Facebook too.

Women made up a fantastic picture on Sunday when a massive (with around a million attendees) funeral for last Friday's 52 martyrs took place. Women even prayed along with men for the souls of the martyrs. One woman happily commented "It was the first time I see Yemeni women pray in public. Thank God I lived to see such a day". Although usually in the protests, women make up about 5% of the protestors, on Sunday the crowds were at least 20% women.

Despite many fears, Yemeni women are so happy to be part of the coming change and the coming "New Yemen". They believe that they, along with Yemeni men, could shape how the 'New Yemen' will look – a Yemen in which women will be an active factor.


Like in Egypt and Tunisia, Facebook has become the most important medium of communication, and revolutionaries use it to give updates from Change Square. "Now, we do not depend so much on TV or newspapers. Instead, the Media Committee on the ground in Change Square either in Sana’a or Taiz update their compatriots with breaking news, and by uploading videos of the activities of the protesters." Maha commented.

Some think that Facebook users are few in Yemen when compared to Egypt or Tunisia. The Arab Social Media Report indicated that the percentage of Yemeni Facebookers is only 0.74% (the lowest in the Arab Region). However, the message is also being spread through traditional means, and is reaching the countryside as well as the main cities. Maha emphasizes that this revolution is supported by all social classes, not just the educated elite.

At the moment, Yemeni Youth are trying to come up with a clear vision that pictures what post-revolution Yemen would look like. It is clear that the youth groups are demanding a “civic and democratic" state. They have strongly insisted that the New Yemen will not accept a take-over by anybody from the "Al-Ahmar" family, Saleh’s tribe, or any military personalities.

As a next step, the young people are calling for a massive demonstration on this coming Friday. Protestors will march towards the Presidential Palace. All roads leading towards the Palace are currently blocked by soldiers and tanks. Maha is hopeful that this protest will not be countered with violence. She thinks it would be a huge mistake for Saleh’s regime to once again crack down on protestors, having witnessed the powerful emotional reaction to last Friday’s massacre. Leading figures of the revolution, including Tawakkol Karman, chairwoman of Women Journalists Without Chains and one of the leading voices of the revolution, have posted messages on their Facebook pages urging Yemeni citizens to take part in Friday’s demonstration.

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