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!”