Monday, July 11, 2011

Yemen...Pity My Nation

Yemen's revolution continues to be the longest of the Arab Spring Revolutions. It started on the eve of Mubarak's stepping down on February 11th and so far is into it's sixth month and counting. In order to understand what made Yemen's revolution drag this long, one has to examine the players. Besides the regime headed by the President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his relatives, comprising of his son Ahmed: Head of the elite Republican Guards, and nephews Amar: Deputy Director for National Security, Yahya: Head of Central Security Forces and elite Counterterrorism Unit, and Tarik: Head of the Presidential Guards. There are also the local players, the opposition which are made of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) a coalition of Islamist, Socialist and tribal elements. Then there is the Ahmar family consisting of 10 brothers, who's father Abdullah Hussein Alahmar was one of the founders of the Islah Party, an Islamist party of the JMP. Sadeq is the elder son who succeeded his father as leader of the Hashid tribe confideration, Hamid a powerful businessman, controls Saba Phone one of the two main mobile networks in Yemen and was considered a possible successor to Saleh; Himyar, who was deputy speaker of parliament, and Hussein who is the leader of Hashid tribe. Whoever has been following Yemen's revolution is familiar with the wars that have raged between Saleh and Alahmars in Hasaba in the capital Sanaa, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries from both sides.
There is also General Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, head of Yemen's 1st Armored Division and the commander of the Northwest Military District whom defected following the March 18th Massacre in Sanaa. He is not related to the al-Ahmars.
Last but not least are the backbone of the revolution, the Youth, who are a civil movement comprising of diverse age, economic, social, and educational backgrounds as well as geographical, tribal, religious and political affiliations. They are the people in the  sit-ins, filling squares across Yemen, marching the streets daily and in millions on Fridays "chanting for freedom, justice, order and a civil government, with a clear message aimed at peace, stability and basic human rights."
There are also two prime players who are "outsiders". Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, our next door neighbor, and the world greatest power and advocate of human rights. This of course adds to the complexity of an already complicated familial, tribal and political complicated scene. So unlike other revolutions, not only is Yemen's revolution fighting against the local "hijackers" but also against these two unwanted yet dominant foreign players. Both the US and Saudi Arabia have different interests in Yemen which they both want to safeguard by jointly keeping the status quo, even if that means the demise of the revolution and the Yemeni people in the process.
Saudia Arabia is clearly against democracy in Yemen or any other Arab country for that matter. It has long considered Yemen as it's backyard and doesn't want the revolution nor "God forbid" democracy crashing into it's front door. "Keep Yemen weak" is what King Faisal is quoted to have said to his sons on his death bed. And they have done a good job at that, keeping many Yemeni government officials, tribal leaders on their payroll and funding internal conflicts.
Then comes the US's role in Yemen, which has primarily been to fight terrorism and al- Qaeda and defend the US from any possible threats, with a policy of "the end justifies the means". Al Qaeda and security isn't seemingly all the US is after in Yemen, it has a bigger and more ambitious aim. Certainly Yemen is poor and doesn't have much oil yet it has a very strategic location rendering it important to the US. It has Bab el Mandab where 3.3 million barrels of oil a day flow through this narrow strait to Europe, the US and Asia. It is worth highlighting that controlling this waterway, which is one of the most important seven water chockpoints, is vital in the US trade war with China.

As the prolonged Revolution in Yemen turned into a political crisis and resulted into power outage, water, fuel, economic and humanitarian crises, the Yemeni youth and people at large are the ones paying the most with their lives, blood and their suffering from the impotence of the JMP, Alahmars and Ali Muhsin who joined the revolution without bringing about the needed change; Saudia Arabia's attempt to subvert Yemen's revolution through the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) initiative and the US orchestrating behind the scenes, not finding a suitable successor for Saleh, forcing the deal down Yemen's throats and launching "robotic assassins" a.k.a drones on Yemen's territory.

Some describe Saleh's assassination attempt and treatment in KSA as a trip from hell and back. Well the GCC deal seems to have survived as well. Saleh appeared at ease and fully recovered yesterday receiving John Bernann US Counter Terrorism Chief, who urged him to accept the power deal. And as the White House statement points, the economic assistance to Yemen is contingent upon the GCC proposal being signed and implemented. It is the Yemeni people who are living in hellish conditions and who will continue to die and suffer should Saleh remain a day further in power.

I wish too see my country democratic, developed, united and above all independent. Yemen has paid a hefty price through it's peaceful protests calling for change and aspiring for democracy, yet the future remains uncertain. Beside the photo above, these two photos represent my conflicting feelings about Yemen's future. The first is of a little girl with the words "erhal" i.e leave on her forehead and a pondering look if Saleh ever will, and the second is of another girl with Yemen's flag on her cheek and the word "alnasr" i.e "victory" on her forehead and a hopeful look in her eyes of a promising future ahead...

For further readings:
Yemen's Uncertain Political Future
Yemen continues to inspire against great odds
Yemen's protests hijacked
Humanitarian crisis in Yemen
Yemen's Economy Teeters on Collapse

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