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A Better Yemen is found in Tagheer’s Makeshift City

As you walk through the streets of Tagheer Square, you instantly forget that this was formerly a university campus. Rows of distinct tents go farther than the eye can see. Try walking to the end; it may take you all day. Tagheer has expanded its borders beyond the campus into the city. Barbed wire restricts freedom of movement in small neighborhood entryways, containing the demonstrators in this makeshift city and preventing harmful intruders from disturbing the peace. Instead there are a select few ports of entry and exits heavily guarded and secured.

There is no other way to explain it. The square has turned into its own sovereign city. With an army guarding the perimeter, thriving businesses, makeshift hospitals, and tents offering its inhabitants shelter, it is a city in itself. This is almost prophetic, a glimpse into a possible future for Yemen. This city represents what Yemen could potentially be. Despite recent attacks, it is one of the safest places for an individual to be.  Once you cross through it’s borders you’ll find a sense of brotherhood, harmony, fortification, and solace.  There is no room for dishonesty, harassment, or vice.

This revolution and square is led and kept by a diverse group of people: students, youth, feminists, civil society/professionals, religious leaders, tribes. It is legal pluralism at its best, and it again debunks the idea of Yemen’s inability to politically thrive, and reinforces the feasibility of Yemen maintaining its traditional tribal roots while grabbing hold to untainted democracy. I am a firm believer that change starts with the individual. And yes, change takes time; however, the people in Tagheer have demonstrated an inclination and willingness to self-reformation through their commitment and enforcement within the square. Their demands are accompanied with action and example. This is where change begins.

This change is exhibited through the square’s makeshift hospital, formerly the University’s mosque. No one is turned away here. As some hospitals outside the square turn injured demonstrators away, this hospital takes them in. It has opened its doors to all. In recent attacks, it has received victims from both the opposition and loyalists (including the President’s thugs). Dr. Abdelaziz, head of operations at the hospital explained that it is unethical to turn anyone away, regardless of their political affiliation. He emphasized that change starts within the borders of the square and when demanding change, one must lead by example.

Although this makeshift city offers Yemenis optimism, and proves it is capable of betterment, there is a masked and lingering threat of deceit and infiltration. The truth is, there are individuals amongst us who claim to be loyal to Tagheer’s cause, but instead divulge information on the opposition to those interested in the ruling party. One can possibly consider this as an indication of the ruling party feeling shaky and threatened by the oppositions overwhelming force; yet, this raises security and safety concerns. How can one feel so safe yet so insecure at the same time? All sorts of feelings like uncertainty and apprehension are consistently reckoned with. Stories of arrests, deportations, kidnappings and death are shared and accompanied with warning. Paranoia sets in for many, yet these attempts of intimidation fall flat, as all remain motivated and unyielding, well aware, that this is greater than the individual him/herself; it is a movement of an entire people. It is inspiring to witness a people so oblivious to the self, and instead so committed to the nation as a whole. It’s no longer me it is we.

For all those part of this movement, through this makeshift city you have tasted what it feels like to be free, to have a voice. In this interim city, you have improvised your dreams, impositions and desires. You have allowed yourself to dream again, but this time all in actuality. You have taken command of your life, and finally recognize that you are worthy of what every human being rightfully warrants, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And no one can tell you otherwise.

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