Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Faces from Yemen's Revolution: Noon Arabia

It was an honor to be featured  as a 'Face from Yemen's Revolution', in an article in Yemen Times by Shatha al-Harazi
Faces from Yemen's Revolution: Noon Arabia

Shatha Al-Harazi


Noon Arabia has become one of the main sources for information on currents events sprouting out in Yemen in the world of Twitter. Her up-to-date page usually receives ‘Top Tweets’ which has earned her 2496 followers. Noon advocates for the success of the Youth Revolution in Yemen – her news tweets is written in both Arabic and English which has earned her a wider audience across the web. Noon Arabia also keeps her identity anonymous due to security reasons; however this has not been a set-back as people seem more readily to trust the information she tweets.

Her twitter sub-heading is simple yet lyrical ‘Yemeni by birth, Egyptian by choice, Arab by identity, A diplomat’s daughter, a citizen of the world, a natural born activist with a passion for politics and poetry’. Not a soul knows the location of Noon Arabia except that she’s tweeting from outside Yemen nevertheless she tweets a great deal of information in relation to the Youth Revolution protests which has gone on for over 6 months in Yemen. Therefore Yemen Times newspaper has obtained an interview with the mysterious activist. When asked why she doesn’t reveal her true identity, she explained quite resolutely “My father was a prominent and known statesman and Ambassador and I keep my name mysterious not out of fear but because I don’t want to jeopardize my family.” Noon explained.

Noon is not a stranger to travelling, while her father was an ambassador she travelled to many places across the world; Canada, Italy and Iran to name a few. And due to her Egyptian husband’s job, she’s travelled further afield. Conclusively she’s lived in Yemen only for a few years, she further said “I lived in Yemen a total of 7 years yet I have a strong sense of pride and belonging, thanks mainly to my father who made sure every year that we spent most of our summer holiday in Yemen”. A mother of four children and her new line of work is an online activist, championing for the Revolution across the Arab world to blossom and thrive. An educated Yemini with a B.A in Political Science with a minor in Economics and thus she explains her passion for politics.

With various skills and tools at her disposal, most notably her expertise in languages, she has contributed immensely to the cause of the Yemeni Revolution with up to-date information on the humanitarian crisis and changes occurring on the ground.

She became politically active during the Egyptian revolution using Facebook as her vehicle of choice. And as the revolution spread to Yemen she readily switched her platform to Twitter because as she pointed out it has a more dynamic feel and she can reach more people. She exclaims “I had no idea I would have so many followers, what mattered to me the most is for people to know what was going on in Yemen, since there was minimal news coverage about the revolution in Western and Regional media-outlets who all seemed to support President Saleh ” She further added “I am also an admin on one of the Facebook pages that covers the news of the revolution and I have been hosted on BBC Arabic and English radio stations a couple of time to express my views.”

Noon believes that social media is an important tool to be used and utilized for the Yemeni revolution because it formulates interaction between the youth in Yemen and those abroad and among activist in other Arab countries. Social media has helped the flow of information to be available among different regions of Yemen, conversely one would think that due to the high level of illiteracy in Yemen and the increasingly power outages across the country, social media would have been sidelined and not used as a mobilizing force as we’ve seen in other Arab countries but even through these set-backs are severe, Noon mentions “it served to expose to the outside world what is really happening in Yemen, through the blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube videos and mainly twitter.”

Her anonymity online has proved to be a shield against threats or reprisals attacks “I am sure I would’ve otherwise [been attacked]. Many people I know whose names are public have been and a close family friend was shot at and survived an assassination attempt.” Noon remarked.

Posts on Noon Arabia are updated almost continuously throughout the day, her research takes her to websites bearing the support of the State, oppositional websites, Yemeni Facebook pages, and YouTube videos, tweets and International news sources, and she asserted “Before I publish anything I usually verify the information with more than one source. I think my [real] name wouldn’t make a difference to my credibility, my followers know that I am a Yemeni who cares a lot about my country and want to make it a better place.”

At this critical juncture in Yemeni politics, she explains the best strategy is for the opposition, the Youth and all the factions in Yemen who are playing a part in the revolution to set aside their differences, political ideologies, principles and agenda’s and unify under one umbrella to coordinate their efforts efficiently to topple President Saleh’s regime, she exclaims “The National Council [which was recently formed –Editors note] is a good step, yet what is needed is better organization and coordination among its members, an equal representation of South Yemeni’s and more members from the civil society. The old political figures need to step aside and empower the youth to play a bigger role and bring about the change Yemen needs, after all this is a Youth’s Revolution”.

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