SANA’A, Apr. 6 – As the political crisis in Yemen escalates, different political viewpoints are causing tensions within Yemeni families.Three different perspectives as to what comes next for Yemen can be roughly discerned, both on the street and inside houses. The first is that President Saleh is the one and only president for Yemen. The second is that the president should step down immediately. Those holding this opinion have been protesting nationwide and have promised not to leave the streets until Saleh steps down. The third point of view is that Yemen needs reforms, but that the immediate departure of Saleh will lead the country into a constitutional vacuum and civil war, as rivals clamber for power in a post-Saleh Yemen.
Some family relationships have practically come to an end over heated political discussions within the family. A well-known figure at Sana’a University who is also a member of the ruling General People’s Congress, said that he is going through the worst family crisis he has ever experienced because of his political position. He did not wish his identity to be revealed.
“I am loyal to the party that I’ve always believed in, and even if President Saleh stepped down, I will still be a member of the party,” he said. “My mother, who is anti-government, refuses to speak with me on phone because I haven’t resigned from the party yet.”
Many are facing similar problems at home. Some have decided simply not to have any political discussions with their “opponent” family members. Amal Nasser, a Yemeni student in Germany, said that she faces problems when calling her mother who lives in Sana’a whenever the discussion turns political.
“It has come to the point that we don’t talk about politics. This is when everything to talk about in the country is politics. But now all my calls are only, ‘How are you?’, ‘What did you have for lunch?’” said Amal.
“I have a friend here in Germany whose mother hung up the phone on her while discussing the March 18 massacre. The mother said Saleh would never do something like that, and that neighbors are the ones who killed the protesters.”
Amal believes that many parents have been raised on fear, and that they get annoyed that this generation has lost its fear, and are asking to change the regime. “What our mothers do now is the same political repression we are facing. They believe that whoever is at the top of the family pyramid is always right, and those on the bottom have to listen and not step out of line,” Amal explained.
Marwa Najem, a sports reporter on Al-Sae’eda TV, said that her family who lives in the same house have split into three teams. “Unfortunately, we have all the contradicting opinions that exist in the street. One is deeply with those in Change Square and give them all their support. The second is for change, but against those in Change Square, especially after the opposition parties joined them. And a third team is in between, undecided, and every now and then changes its position between the other two teams. In the end they often chose to keep silent and not participate,” said Marwa.
Ansam Ameen is a young anti-government woman who goes through “difficult arguments” with her family. They accuse her and all the anti-government youth of being tools used by the opposition parties. “Everyday a new event happens and my family says ‘You are the reason for all of these crises. You are the ‘pro-change youth’ who are only a game piece in the hands of the opposition parties,” said Ansam.
Nasr Fadhl, an anti-government activist, said that he is always in conflict with his mother as he is the only son she has. “My mother doesn’t support Saleh, but she thinks that the country can’t handle a constitutional vacuum. She says that the country will descend into internal conflict, maybe a civil war, and no one will survive except Saleh,” said Nasr.
Nasr, who is from the southern governorate of Lahj, says that his mother’s concerns about the withdrawal of the regime are very serious, as the southern part of the country might face a bigger crisis than the north. “My mother says that we are a minority in the south, and it won’t take more than 86 seconds to make us extinct.” Nasr says that she calls him everyday to make sure that he is safe. The conflict between them gets extreme every time he goes to participate in a protest. She tells him how he will end up replacing Saleh with Al-Zandani, and then he will regret it.
Ahmed Salem, another anti-government activist, says that he has to act as a pro-government supporter when his mother calls him from Saudi Arabia. “My mother is addicted to the Saba pro-government TV channel. She says we will manage to get over this crisis as long as we support Saleh. I have only met her for one week this year as I live in Yemen, therefore she doesn’t know much about my political position. The rest of the family also do not know much of what is going on over here, but I have managed to change their thinking a lot. It’s all the media that are blinding their eyes,” said Salem.