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Bodies Upon the Gears: Resisting Government Social Control in Yemen

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

–Mario Savio “Bodies Upon the Gears” Speech, Sproul Hall Steps, December 2, 1964                                                                      Watch “Bodies Upon the Gears” Speech

After three months of demonstrating, facing brutal acts of repression, and losing the lives of so many freedom fighters, we have reached a critical point in this revolution. Despite the government’s many attempts, they have failed to incite the reactionary violence they’ve been soliciting since the start of the revolution. Their campaign of violence has instead inspired peaceful acts and incited civil obedience. It is important that the opposition and our revolutionaries continue to resist our government’s provocations and remain nonviolent. This is key to preventing anarchy and civil unrest.

As a means of counterattacking demonstrator’s peaceful marches and moral aptitude, our government has resorted itself to a new policy of social control. This includes efforts to create chaos, repress ideological expression, and instill fear in its people.

The launching of this campaign to threaten individual freedom and rights initiated a few weeks ago through an orchestration of events and methods:

Psychological Control:


From newspapers to live television, the government has monopolized major media outlets in the country, using them for an endless campaign of propaganda.

Loss of Privacy

Monitoring activists has become an important part of the government’s social control campaign. For instance, as social media tools have become valuable assets to the revolution they have also exposed many organizers and activists, thus allowing the government to obtain an activist manifest. Individuals are no longer free to express their views without feeling threatened.

Fostering Feelings of Insecurity and Danger

Through detainment, arbitrary arrests and kidnappings, people have developed strong senses of paranoia and insecurity. Fear of the government’s unpredictability has kept people on the edge and suspicious. The level of mistrust is unwavering. You don’t know who to trust. Distinguishing your friends from your enemies has become almost impossible. In a country so sheltered and veiled, how can one feel so exposed? You can feel so safe one minute and so unsafe the next.

More Palpable forms of Control:

Controlling Traffic

As time progresses, the government has extended its control by commanding traffic and further regulating the geographical setting of the streets of Sana’a. By increasing checkpoints and blocking major streets, they have dramatically increased congestion thus allowing them to further regulate the public. By redirecting traffic to select roads, they are able to keep firm control over the populace and push them in any direction as they see fit. With this, they are able to control movement and put an end to freedom of movement.

No access to Cooking Gas           

Gas tanks which once sold for 1000 Yemeni Rials (YR) are now sold for up to 7000 (YR). This is attributed to the government control of its distribution. For the past two months, accessibility to gas cylinders has dramatically decreased, compelling average citizens to take on to the streets demanding its supply. Children and teenagers from numerous neighborhoods have taken their empty gas tanks lining them up across their streets in effort to block traffic, thus taking full control over their neighborhoods. As months have passed and there is still no cooking gas in sight, people have become desperate, and what initiated as a simple form of civil disobedience has now evolved into thuggery. These boys now guard their streets with wooden batons ready to react with force with whoever gets in their way.

No access to Petroleum/ Gasoline

Many blame the scarcity of gasoline and petroleum to an insufficiency in supply. Au contraire, the more realistic cause to recent shortages originates from the withholding of its supply by government forces. Yesterday, with only a handful of gas stations open, there was almost no access to gasoline/petroleum in all of Sana’a. The city has been at a stand still. It is as if the government is giving us a taste of what Yemen could become if we were to remain persistent within the movement.

Update : Petroleum is becoming scarcer as it remains inaccessible. Limited petroleum supply is distributed to a handful of gas stations a couple of times a week, leaving most without access and long lines city blocks long. The wait is an entire day. Drivers stay camped out waiting for the supply to arrive many leaving empty handed. This has left a huge gap open for the black market (which is where most petroleum is sold now). Petroleum is sold through the black market for 5 times the price.

Consistent Power Outages

For the past several weeks, Yemenis have had to endure almost endless hours of power outages. Homes stay without power for hours on out on a daily basis. Power outages that used to last for 2 hours can now go on to up to 6-10 hours a day.

Update: Since mid-May residents have been experiencing up to 20 hours of power outages.

Disconnecting the Internet

Controlling freedom of expression and information through constant interference with Internet connection has frustrated those who want to remain connected to the world. In attempt to isolate Yemenis and regulate the amount of information circulating, the government consistently disconnects the Internet numerous times a day. Although only disconnected for minutes on out, it is a clear indication of what we should expect as time and the freedom movement progress.

We must unshackle ourselves from our government’s attempts at forcing a statist mindset. We need not allow their attempts at social control to interfere with our revolution. Instead, we must continue to exploit their efforts as vehicles of motivation and allow their attempts to contribute to our growth and development. We must remain peaceful and not allow their psychological and palpable tactics to force us to reverse to acts of violence and aggression. This is what they want. The government is well aware that once one demonstrator reacts violently, all will turn to chaos. It is important that we disengage this machine through our consistent methods of civil disobedience and peaceful assembly. In this way, we will have our victory and we can consider this the start to new government and societal development.

This also leaves us with the query of why these tactics have been put into action. Is there a possible agenda being set forth, and is this just the initial phase of what might be a massive despotic take over of Sana’a?

Monitoring Power Outages as of MAY 2011 (Sana’a)

Updated as of: May 05, 2011    3:20 AM (KSA)

Date Start Time End Time TOTAL
5/1/11 5:00AM 12:00PM 7 HRS
5/1/11 6:00PM 9:00PM 3 HRS
5/1-5/2/11 10:00PM 2:00AM 4 HRS
14 HRS
5/2/11 10:00AM 1:00PM 3 HRS
5/2/11 6:00PM 9:00PM 3 HRS
5/2-5/3/11 11:00PM 3:00AM 4 HRS
10 HRS
5/3/11 10:00AM 1:00PM 3 HRS
5/3/11 3:30PM 6:30PM 3 HRS
5/3/11 8:00PM 11:30PM 3 1/2 HRS
9 1/2 HRS
5/4/11 10:00AM 1:00PM 3 HRS
5/4/11 4:00PM 8:30PM 4 1/2 HRS

Update : Since mid-May residents have been experiencing up to 20 hours of power outages.

Related Links:

Yemen’s Government Encounter Protesters with Economic Problems:



Raja Althaibani | Create Your Badge


3 responses

  1. Gassim

    Amazing work Raja, well done! I love the idea of monitoring the sequence electricity shut-downs, but I also thought, how is that going to motivate you? I really would get nervous doing this, but I guess it would be very nice to really know how much time as an average they turn the electricity down.

    However, overall, I think you are really pointing towards various things and challenges Yemeni Youth will need to find solutions for as soon as they can, and THEY ARE! 🙂

    May 3, 2011 at 9:50 pm

  2. Gassim

    I am so glad you just explained to me the Internet Connection problems because that has been making me go out of my mind!

    Great work Ms. Raja. 🙂 Keep Bloging and may Allah protect you. Peace.

    May 3, 2011 at 9:52 pm

  3. name

    dear yemeni bros & sis

    keep in mind that, if you want to achieve (real)succes please avoid shytan’s practices during protest such as music and dancing.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm

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