“More than 22 protesters were hideously killed today by the security forces after they rally. The injuries were very hideous mainly targeting the head and the chest of the protesters. Recent published photos show protesters with scattered heads and some lost their limbs. The forces use very lethal weapons as the air-craft and RPG, according to witnesses and doctors.
April 19, 2011
Bodies pressed up against one another, the march is so massive, there is barely any room to walk; instead it is best to softly tread so as not to cause panic. I have never seen so many people marching in unison in my life. As I climbed onto the hood of a parked car, I attempted to locate the start or end of the march. I realized that it was almost impossible to tell. The number of men that were marching was in innumerable waves. As soon as I thought I saw the end, a new wave arrived.
Yemen has received a bad rep when it comes to their treatment of women. In large part this is true. In many societies within Yemen, women are viewed as inferior, lack common sense, are melodramatic, and incompetent when leading challenging roles due to their feeble nature. This ideological approach on the role and nature of women in Yemen is quite relative, depending on the society. In many tribes, women play leading roles and are very much valued and idealized. You can find these ideological and cultural discrepancies as you begin to mingle within the Yemeni populace.
Throughout my many visits to Yemen, one thing that never seemed to fail or change was the consistency of verbal harassment and mistreatment. If you are a woman in Yemen, expect to be hit on, criticized, denigrated and sometimes even physically harassed. This misconduct is further consolidated in the capitol, Sana’a. This malignity of women is culturally rooted to the proselytizing of primitive philosophy. This however is about to change.
[Who says chivalry is dead?]
I was suddenly surrounded. The march is massive and growing by the minute. I turn around to find two men making way for me. I began to rotate, observing my surroundings. I realize the men in the rally have created a human barrier circling around me. Their hands locked, so at to protect me from the suffocating mass. Amid the tens of thousands of Yemeni men, I’ve never felt so empowered. This march was in reaction to President Saleh’s statements against gender integration at Tagheer “Change” square; yet another statement towards the degradation of women in Yemen. This time, the people had enough. These throngs of men were here in uproar, condemning his misogynistic utterances.
Chants from the march:
يا صالح، يا جبان، بنت اليمن ما تنهان ! يا علي، يا جيفه ، بنت اليمن شريفه
“Oh Saleh, you coward, the daughter of Yemen is not to be insulted!” “Oh Ali, you bad odor, the daughter of Yemen is honorable!”
Yemen is at its crucial point. The people have united: man, woman and child. All have joined the effort. These gender disparities and black sheets that once separated a people have been set aside. The people genuinely want change. This yearning for change has transcended what was originally percieved as tradition. It is a revolution against ignorance and the deterioration of a people.
I strongly believe that this return to chivalry is in large part due to the earned respect and appreciation of women’s role in the revolution. Amongst the many who have led the revolution with courage and determination are women. Women have played a significant role in the uprisings. They have put their lives on the line of fire and continue to do so. These women have surpassed the expectations that Yemeni men have shared for so long, and expunged the conventional image of the “typical” woman. These women have procured the reverence they deserve. It has been an honor thus far to march side by side with women like Tawakkol Karman. These leading females have revolutionized the role of women in a land so frozen in time, in a society so rigid in freedom. These women are our heroes. They inspire us all. This is what promotes change. This is what motivates us to continue. This is what offers our men courage and allows them to face the bullets and poisons of a never-ending regime. It is a hope for a better Yemen.
My families and friends worry about my presence in such dangerous situations. But I have never felt so safe and secure in my life. Despite the bullets that surround us, the poison amidst us, I am inspired. This is all that matters. This is what offers us strength and courage. We feed off each others determination, each others bravery. The male figures of this land that I once feared I have now entrusted with my life. The women that I once sympathized for, I now idolize and revere…
It is a new day in Yemen and there is no going back.
VISIT ME ON FACEBOOK:
June 07, 2011
As Yemen teeters on the edge of social and political collapse, our attention remains focused on Saudi intervention. Gulf states have attempted to mediate time and time again to end the four-month-old political stalemate that has ended in dozens of abductions, thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths. Yemen is in bad shape and the West has watched from the sidelines as the GCC diplomatic discussions have failed time and time again. Saudi Arabia’s inability to find an alternative and have all parties reach an agreement of compromise has left the Yemeni people uninspired and apprehensive of their intentions.
For many, President Saleh’s lack of regard to GCC attempts and Saudi Arabia’s more recent involvement during this week’s escalating violence has left Yemenis to believe the entire operation is a sham and a front to conceal the Gulf’s true intentions of protecting their own political interests. “Why has it taken them so long? I don’t trust Saudi Arabia in any of Yemen’s business” a demonstrator said to me when asked if he was disappointed about the GCC execution of the deal and Saudi’s direct involvement in state affairs, “Saudi Arabia has never sought the best interest of the Yemeni people, why now?” This is a valid question and for the past couple of months, it’s been a question many people have been asking.
Saudi Arabia has much at stake when it comes to Yemen’s stability and instability. Overseeing and monitoring the transition of Yemen’s structure is in their very best interest. Regulating an inevitable revolution and uprising and its every facet is in their best interest. Playing a role in the political negotiations so as to decide whom and what the Yemeni government will look like is in their best interest.
Saudi Arabia has made it clear that it will do whatever it can to support neighboring monarchies. Their commitment to despotic governments was recently exhibited when they sent troops to Bahrain to protect that monarchy. Keeping the region autocratic is part of their objective to remain in power. This includes keeping their wielding hand in conflict zones like Yemen. Shared ideals are not what keep this region’s ties together, it’s power and interest. This is also translated when considering the Saudi and American relationship. Historically, the US has done everything it could to maintain its strong rapport with Saudi Arabia and to keep the oil flowing, despite American ideals and aspirations of democracy and freedom.
This explains the US’ delayed response after repetitive pleas of intervention by the Yemeni people. It represents the deeply rooted interests of the US in Saudi Arabia. It also symbolizes the deepening rabbit hole and how much the West would ignore to maintain this connection.
Saudi Arabia wants to keep Yemen at the happy medium of not too stable and not too unstable. They have kept their long and powerful wielding hand in Yemeni state affairs for a few decades now, exerting their power through both troops and money.
If Yemen’s peaceful resistance succeeds and Yemen prospers both economically and by developing a political system of value, the weak nation that Saudi Arabia once crushed under its heavy weight will demand its rights and no longer accept the current system of corruption. According to Yemeni analyst Ali Seif Hassan, “Saudi Arabia has often treated Yemen as its backyard.” This will no longer be the case once Yemen reaches a more independent state.
There is also the possibility of Yemenis demanding northern territory that was conquered by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul-Aziz bin Saud in a 1934 war. This land is now southern Saudi territory and is said to be rich in oil.
A major argument made for Saudi involvement is the threat of Yemen’s instability to their national security. For a while now, Saudi Arabia has been providing “economic support” for tribes along the Yemen-Saudi border, hoping to maintain power and influence in the area to fight off the Houthi- Shi’i threat. Al-Houth are a powerful local clan in Sa’ada, along the Saudi border. Saudis view them as fundamentalist Zaydis who serve as a threat to their security.
In addition, Saudi Arabian concerns about the threat of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continue to mature. They fear that the AQAP threat is a growing one and continue to provide the current regime with monetary support as a preventative measure to combat AQAP’s infiltration of the border. Many Yemenis argue the contrary. They claim that the only reason AQAP was able to establish themselves in Yemen was because of the current government neglect and Saudi leaking extremism and Wahhabism from across their border into Yemeni land.
There is also the fear of extreme instability and political unrest creating a breeding ground for further violence and tribal conflict that can also leak into Saudi jurisdiction. This fear has kept Saudi Arabia on their toes. Pushing them even further into the intervention process in Yemen.
It is important that when dealing with Saudi Arabia we keep these realities in mind. We are at a crucial part in our history and we have an opportunity to protect our nation and its interests. We shouldn’t refuse international support and intervention. Instead this intervention and support must come in more implicit forms rather than the more current direct form. This is our opportunity to stand on our own two feet. We can lean on others for support but it’s extremely vital that we remain our own watchdogs. We are asking for an end to a corrupt regime. This includes us reconsidering and reevaluating our current allies.
Having to leave Yemen now is quite difficult for me. My last few days here have been emotional and stressful.
To be honest, when the uprisings began in February I felt apprehensive, and like our Yemeni culture has taught us, I was quite pessimistic. So many questions came to mind: Are we ready for this? Are the Yemeni people ready and willing to put everything on the line for change? For Freedom? For a better life? My answer was: No, this is not the time. Maybe I was afraid to be hopeful. Maybe I was afraid that if I was too hopeful and we failed I would be shattered and devastated. Like the many Yemenis who have watched the revolution from the sidelines, I carried that victim complex and defense mechanism and immediately thought it wouldn’t work. Yemeni’s have used this mechanism for a long time. Protecting themselves from disappointment through the acceptance of their “reality”. Dreaming of a better life was never an option. Dreaming? It’s all too painful.
Coming to Yemen, I witnessed a change. People are not only dreaming now, they are fighting to make their dreams become a reality. We have witnessed one of history’s longest sit-ins. Camped out for the past five months, our youth, children, men, women and the elderly have decided they want change. We will change.
These past five months have been a roller coaster ride. We have been through so much. The fight to put an end to corruption continues. We have lost so many of our friends and loved ones. As soon as we have a chance to breathe and reflect on our achievements, our regime comes bearing brutal and violent reminders that the fight isn’t over.
Most catastrophic to our morale is Saleh’s re-appearance and possible return, along with the threat of political interest groups as they continue to prey on our accomplishments, waiting for the right moment to swoop in. But this should not and WILL NOT break us. Remember these are minor obstacles we will eventually overcome. You have all inspired me to my very core, as a Yemeni, as a woman, as a Muslim and as a human being. You have inspired me through your struggle and resilience and you have taught me so much. You have given me the gift of freedom. A value I’ve taken for granted. A value I’ve always had but NEVER fully understood. You have taught me that this is a value that exceeds everything, even life. A life without freedom is a life not worth living. You have taught me, that family, friends, sleep, power, petroleum, and water are the rewards of a free life.
However, it seems like our roles have shifted. You have given me hope, reassurance, confidence and determination; but for some of my new friends and revolutionaries, these obstacles and challenges that keep reappearing have slowly begun tearing at their strong and determined spirits. You’re disappointed. You’re exhausted. You feel defeated. This is okay. Embrace this moment of weakness, because this is the only moment you will have. Don’t fester on these feelings for too long. Keep it short, because what you’re feeling now is crucial in this process. The rest is in your control.
You will either allow this to break you or you will use it for its very purpose of fortification and regeneration; a natural part of this HUMAN process.
Don’t be discouraged. What you don’t realize is that a revolution and change doesn’t only consist of political reform- political reform is the reward of the struggle. It is PART of the struggle. What is much more fundamental is individual change. Don’t assume that victory is far. We have succeeded. You have achieved the critical undertaking of individual change. This was our Goliath. This was our mountain. Not Saleh. Not the regime.
You are no longer victims. You have surpassed this by taking back your lives through finally recognizing your worth and what you deserve. You haven taken back your lives the first day of this revolution when you faced the fear of what was possible. Of what you could have and what you would have to do to get it. Now you can dream. Now you aren’t only dreamers, you are doers. You are leaders, and warriors. You are heroes. You have succeeded. The rest will come naturally. Freedom will come and so will its rewards. This is something no one can take away from you, not a tyrant or a preying vulture. You have nothing to worry about. It is them who should worry. Stay strong and continue to inspire us everyday.
Thursday, President Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared on Yemeni state TV in a pre-recorded interview. Saleh has been off the radar since his assassination attempt and attack on the Presidential compound a month ago. In a culture of conspiracy theories, there have been countless rumors of his condition including brain damage, paralysis and even death. Saleh’s evading the media and keeping his condition undisclosed has kept people speculating since. With the proliferation of misinformation and inaccurate reporting from government officials and Saudi officials, it was difficult distinguishing fact from fiction. It allowed us all to witness Yemeni creativity as everyone came up with his or her own conclusions and conjecture.
With President Saleh’s TV debut since the attack, came an end to all the conjecture. His TV appearance was a confirmation of his stable health and proof of life. This was the moment Saleh supporters were waiting for. This sparked a chain of celebrations all across Sana’a and other parts of Yemen as supporters took out their weapons and shot into the air, celebrating the good news. A wave of bullets hit the air as sounds of gunfire signaled fellow supporters to go out and celebrate. A mob of men stood in the middle of Mosbahi Circle by Hada, Sanaa as they watched the sky light up with fireworks, tracer fire bullets and heavy artillery. When asking supporters what they were feeling at that very moment one said, “This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. We knew he was alive. We were waiting for him. And now he will be back to put an end to these protests!” This was followed by heavy cheering and with the Republican Guard shooting rounds of ammunition into the air.
It’s difficult distinguishing Saleh supporters from participants of the revolution, however tonight the supporters weren’t hard to miss. Upon hearing the news of Saleh’s TV appearance, shop owners blasted their radios and danced on the streets, residents went on their roofs and fired into the air, women ululated from their windows, and teens jumped in their cars and drove around the city hanging out of the window screaming, “The people want Ali Saleh!”
There have been reports of multiple casualties from returning bullets in Sana’a. The number is sure to rise throughout the night. Last June, a pro-saleh celebration brought death with celebration as arrant gunfire left several people dead and dozens injured. “This wasn’t a celebration. It was a message from the ruling party. It was a threat,” said Mohamed, a youth organizer at Change Square’s Media tent.
Despite the celebrations and excitement, there is no clear sign of concern on whether or not President Saleh is fit for duty. During the pre-recorded interview, signs of Saleh’s extensive injuries were visible. His arms and hands were heavily bandaged and movement was a struggle. His face exhibited signs of severe burns and was covered with white stubble. This however did not discourage his supporters. Despite the long recovery period ahead, supporters insist, “he is back!”
Since the start of the revolution in February, one political figure that has remained in the shadows is President Saleh’s 42-year-old son, Brigadier-General Ahmed Ali. Even after the attempted assassination of his father on June 3, 2011, the deafening silence persisted, leaving residents and the opposition unsure of his intentions and plans. After the attack on the Presidential compound, it was announced that Vice President Al-Hadi would take lead until President Saleh regained his health. Concurrently, Ahmed Ali moved into the Presidential palace claiming that not Al-Hadi, but he was in active power until his father’s return. This ignited the inevitable power vacuum that left all sides vying for power. Al-Hadi argued grounds that the constitution immediately granted him active power in the situation that the president was not fit to lead. Despite these stipulations, it has been widely expected that Ahmed would assume his father’s role when the time came.
Since the attack, there has been a political-stalement and lack of clarity and consensus on who really was qualified to gain active power. With each side claiming inheritance and lacking amicable assent, residents were left confused and anxious, fearing this deadlock would lead them into another armed conflict and power struggle, leaving them once again caught in the crossfire.
Brigadier-General Ahmed Ali Breaks his Silence
In a statement just published by the country’s Defense Ministry, Ahmed Ali breaks his silence. President Saleh’s son makes his remarks vowing loyalty and support to Vice President Al-Hadi:
“The army forces of the Republican Guards and Special Forces are loyal to the country and unity, and are committed to implementing the orders of Vice President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, ” Saleh’s son said in the statement. Ahmed Ali is the commander of the Republican Guard and Yemeni special operation forces.
“As the military commander of the Republican Guards and Special Forces, I reaffirmed to fulfill my duties and responsibilities to defend the country and preserve its democracy, security, stability and unity under the leadership of Vice President Hadi,” Ahmed Ali said.
Yemeni defense is institutionalized and part of the regime’s power machine. It’s lack of autonomy and very nature of interdependency suggests that the destabilizing and decentralizing of the current regime structure is far more complex than one may have assumed. High-ranking military positions and security institutions have been granted to President Saleh’s relatives, to further consolidate power. By filling Yemen’s security apparatus with family members, he was insuring himself and his protecting his power.
Location: 60m Street, Sana’a Yemen
Date: June 14, 2011
Youth and opposition members organize a march demanding the initiation and establishment of the transition government. In this rally, tensions were high, as there were disagreements b/w Youth organizers and members of the opposition (specifically the Islah) on whether to march or launch a sit in. As members of the opposition pushed the masses to march, a couple of hundred Youth demonstrators stood their ground on 60m Street and planned on remaining there for three days; however, they were met by dozens of Mohsen soldiers, who warned that if the sit in didn’t grow, they would consider the demonstrators thugs and be compelled to react w/ force; forcing demonstrators to leave.
Originally published In Aramica’s June 1-15, 2011 Issue.
As tribesmen loyal to President Saleh and the Ahmar family, make their way into the Capital, residents make their way out. With the proliferation of violence in the city, thousands of residents have fled to isolated villages outside of Sana’a, hoping to escape the mayhem. “We can’t help but feel terrorized”, “Saleh and Ahmar are the real terrorists” are just some of the statements I’ve heard in the past day. With yesterday’s escalating attacks on the Ahmar Family in Hada and attacks on the presidential palace, residents feel as if Sana’a is on the brink of tribal war. Some of the fear is directly related to the propensity each of these families have to attack in the name of “honor” and retribution. It is a fear that things will eventually snowball into tribal war and further chaos.
As the international media has shifted its focus from the revolution to this family dispute, it has opened a window for consistent attacks by security forces on demonstrators in Taiz and Sana’a. As the world turned its attention to Al-Hasaba, Taiz’s Freedom Sqaure was infiltrated and burned to the ground, as Sana’as Change Square sustained numerous attacks by armed thugs and snipers, leaving dozens dead and hundreds injured.
While the city of Sana’a trembles from both the explosions of family war and overpowering fear, residents in Sana’a continue to prepare to flee the capital. Civilian neighborhoods, schools and children’s playgrounds have turned into battle zones where President Saleh and his former cohort Shiekh Sadeq Al-Ahmar duke it own in a game of my gun is bigger than yours. During the initiating phases of the fight, residents in Al-Hasaba area were told to flee their homes. Many did. But for those who could not afford to, they were caught in the clashes, many losing their lives. For those remaining in Al-Hasaba and the new danger zones, they have little to no access to basic necessities like power, food and water. Residents are forced to rush to their cars to charge their phones, their only form of communication, as sounds of mortars and heavy shelling surround them. Families are forced into tiny windowless rooms to take cover as RPGs, mortars and 12/7 heavy artillery weapons explode into the evening and wee hours of the morning.
Humanitarian pleas were sent out through the neighborhood mosque minarets, urging Saleh and Ahmar to end the violence. Today, the fighting in Al-Hasaba persists. The effects of war have extended to all parts of Sana’a as tribesmen leak into the capital infiltrating major streets and contributing to springing violence on all parts of the capital. For everyone else in Sana’a, living conditions are worsening, as the most basic necessities are almost inaccessible. With power outages lasting up to 20 hours a day, residents are living in total darkness as sounds of warfare echo around the city. In addition to roadblocks and increasing checkpoints, inaccessibility to petroleum has also added to difficulties in freedom of movement. With the few gas stations that have limited access to petroleum, there are long lines with customers waiting up to 5 hours, many times forced to walk away empty handed.
Since the latest attack on the Presidential compound, leaving President Saleh wounded with second degree burns, everyone is Sana’a is beginning to prepare for a new wave of attacks by tribesman loyal to the Saleh seeking retribution. Neighborhood watch groups have been formed, as citizens bear arms and guard entry points to their neighborhoods, “There is no security now, it is up to us to protect our families and homes from the inevitable”, said Sadam Saidem, a young man of 18 years, as he stood on the curb with a loaded AK-47 on his back. Most of those who stood with him were much younger. Those who didn’t own weapons were carrying sticks. “We are at a state of lawlessness, and after the attack on the presidential palace, we are sure the President will hit with heavier force!” they said.
As I drove through Sana’a today, the streets that once bustled with street venders, shoppers and traffic are completely empty. Businesses remain closed and traffic is no longer a problem. The streets are bear, the only thing that remains are the child laborers and beggars, a harsh reality of their existence despite the worst circumstances, reminding us that hunger has no boundaries. The square is at a calm, unsure of what will happen next. Experiencing daily attacks has kept them on their feet and uncertain of what the future will bring. One thing that remains consistent is their determination. Despite all this, they remain camped out waiting for President Saleh’s departure. They remain peaceful and continue to wait. The people of Sana’a have done the same. Despite the violence and clashes between President Saleh and Al-Ahmar, they insist they will remain peaceful; they are trapped in the middle of the crossfire, yet remain peaceful. They insist on protecting Yemen while remaining peaceful. And as Sadam puts it, “Yemen belongs to the people, and not some power hungry men that want nothing less but to terrorize
On June 3, 2011, President Saleh ordered his son Ahmed Ali, head of the Republican Guards to launch an attack on his opponent, Hamid Al-Ahmar’s home in Hadda neighborhood. The attack was launched from Al-Nahdayn mountain where there is a military base and weapon depot. The Attack lasted all day.
The very same day, there was attack within the compound of the Presidential Palace. After Friday prayers a little after noon, the President and his legion were exiting the vicinity’s mosque as it was attacked by rockets. The attacks were said to have been launched from within the vicinity of the compound. President Saleh suffered severe burns and critical injuries and was transported to a hospital in KSA for treatment. The recovery period is said to take up to 6 months. VP Abdel-Mansoor Al-Hadi has now taken active power; however there has been conflicting reports as Saudi’s claim is is Ahmed Ali, President Saleh’s son who has taken active power. This has yet to be confirmed.
This photo-essay is of resident homes that suffered heavy hits during the attack. Residents remain the victims of this political conflict and power struggle as they continue to get caught in the crossfire. A heavy price to pay for political retribution.
On May 29, 2011, ordered by the current regime, security forces stormed into Taiz’s Freedom Square. The city of Ta’iz shook as explosions and heavy artillery and shelling hit the square and other parts of the city. Heavy Gunfire was fired indiscriminately at demonstrators as security forces entered deeper into the square burning everything in sight. Tanks followed demolishing flattening tents. What was once Freedom Square turned into a war zone where screams were heard from quite a distance a way.The local hospital overflowed with casualties as hospital staff sent out a humanitarian plea appealing for emergency assistance “we are understaffed, and lack supplies!” They said. The distress calls continued as the attacks on demonstrators continued. Hundreds were reported injured and over 50 killed.
Ta’iz has not seen a day of peace since the start of the uprisings. Although they were able to take back Freedom Square, they still face escalating violence and brutal repression by security forces. The death toll keeps rising as demonstrators remain persistent and determined.
The day following the attack, Sana’a staged a mass march in which thousands of demonstrators marched in solidarity with the people of Ta’iz. The people of Ta’iz continue to be an inspiration to those also leading the peaceful resistance out of Change Square in Sana’a. Sana’a has been facing similar acts of brutal repression and escalating violence. Today they marched to remember those who lost their lives on that horrific night.
A horrific massacre took place on Sunday May 29th in Taiz when Security Forces stormed to the Freedom Square. Heavy explosions shook the city with very heavy gunfire that was fired indiscriminately on the youth protesters in front of the Administration Building. The youth protested in front of Cairo Directorate to demand the release of the detained and kidnapped youth but they were surprised by random live ammunition and grenade bombs that were thrown at them. The hospital was getting full very fast and distress calls were made appealing doctors, surgeons and orthopedics to help save a life as injuries were increasing by the minute.
According to witnesses, Security Forces tried breaking into Freedom Square from Agriculture Bank while using heavy gunfire and tear gases on the protesters. Just then, at the start of the attack, two dead were announced and 50 others injured by live bullets, Al-Safwa Hospital was drowning in blood.
Republican Guards, Central Security and Saleh’s thugs were attacking the peaceful protesters, they were located on the top of the nearby buildings and they were shooting the protesters directly. This video shows how inhuman they are.