Some protesters claim that the expansion is simply part of the escalation plan. Others who spoke to the Yemen Times, however, claim that independent youth wish to put some physical space between them and protesters who are organized by political parties. Many in the independent youth movement have claimed that Yemen’s opposition political parties have tried to take control of the protests too much.
“This is our new area of protest,” said a 25 year old protester at the sit-in at the old university area. “We didn’t want to defect and weaken the protest by going to a different area, therefore we thought that expanding from the original area would make everybody happy within the goals of the revolution,” he added.
Tensions between the independent youth and opposition parties were strained after an incident where a female activist was assaulted by Islah party members. The incident occurred during a mixed sex march to condemn President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s speech last April where he denigrated men and women protesting together as un-Islamic.
“We know that we are all part of the revolution as independent youth or as members of the Joint Meeting Parties. We had a power balance problem at one point, but we won’t let that ruin the main objective of the protest,” said Ameen Dabwan, one of the Free Yemen Youth Coalition leaders, an independent coalition that has been active in the square since February.
The new protest area has its own stage. The stage had previously been a cause of conflict in the the old protest area. The stage was at the beginning controlled by political parties which made the independent youth feel unrepresented, according to Waleed Abdul Hafiz, one of the independent protesters.
“Our stage is open for everybody to say and share whatever they want. It is a true democratic zone… The first stage was crowded and couldn’t give the chance to let everybody participate,” said Dabwan.
Last week an Islah member protester was angered that a female protester spoke on the stage and then assaulted her. The incident led to a fight with the independent youth protesters who believe that everyone has the right to speak, both males and females. According to the protesters, five were hurt in the fight.
“Problems happen everywhere. The fact that we faced only these problems when we expected more – as the protest consists of too many different groups – this makes us feel how unified and integrated as a people we are,” said Dabwan.
Some youth think that the state run Saba TV channel is doing good work in promoting the independent youth protest, even in their attempts to show the negative side of the university protest.
“It’s funny how the state media was opposing themselves, but this time at least they didn’t call us names and just said the truth in reporting us. Now Saleh has no reason to attack this protest,” said Abdul Hafiz.
“Saleh was always justifying his attacks on the protesters, saying they were JMP protests. He always wanted to depict the protesters as members of political parties that had orders from their parties. That is what kept a few people supporting Saleh, because they were scared of the JMP,” he added.
More activist and independent youth support the idea of expanding as one group, rather than expanding randomly as separate smaller groups. The partial segregation of the independent from the political protesters shows more about the different groups.
The new protest area is full of new ideas, with popular phrases drawn nicely on the streets that show the artistic soul of the youth. The new protest area is cleaner than the original site, with fewer people chewing qat in the street. The crowding is less, and the new protest area appears well organized with medical tents and painting exhibition tents.