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Faces from Yemen’s revolution Farida Al-Yarimi By: Shatha Al-Harazi

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Farida Al-Yarimi was the first woman to join the sit-in in front of Sana’a universality which is called now “Change Square”. A mother of five and 47 years old, when you see her in her long black abaya [overcoat worn by women in Yemen] and scarf wrapped tightly around her head might not strike you as one of the leading independent Yemeni female protestors but she is. Originally from Taiz although living most of her life in Sana’a, Farida’s stories are an example of struggle and pursuit of justice. Even though her husband is no longer a part of her life today, her larger family including her former in-laws still support her and view her as symbol of bravery. Farida is one of the figures who believed strongly in “the Yemeni revolution” and never give up. You would always find her smiling even in the worst situations. She joined the protest in its second day on 12 February 2011, to become the first women who actually slept in a tent in the square defying all Yemeni norms and stereotypes. The organizers at the time dedicated a side section for female protestors which she was the first to use. “I knew what I did wasn’t expected traditionally. But one of the female activists had to start and pave the way for women to join the protests for real,” she reflects on her brave decision. “When I first came here I expected the worst, but it was great. The way the men protected me and secured the tent was amazing,” she added even though she complains of the sun which gave her a dark tan from being in the streets for more than five months. Four of her children joined her just two days after she joined the protests. Farida’s youngest son and daughter are as eager as herself to make the revolution happen and to turn this tribal society to a civil society. They were exposed to tear gas in some of the security attacks against change square. Throughout the five months during which she had left her comfortable house to become an integral part of the protests her life was not easy for obvious reasons. The sense of privacy and relaxation were almost gone as she had to go to the mosque to use the toilet or relax. Her mobile phone was stolen during one of the security raids on the square but still she has not given up, although now since the mosque has become an extension of the field hospital to treat the wounded protestors her life has become much more difficult on Change Square. But today, Farida realizes that what she has done has even helped change the mentality of even traditional tribesmen who learned to respect her and her female colleagues for what they stand for and how they contribute to change in Yemen. Looking back at her background, she says she is an ordinary educated Yemeni woman; a university graduate from the science college who works in the educational sector. She had a regular job before joining the protests. Today her contribution to the revolution is acknowledged and other protesters view her as an optimistic and giving person who keeps them energetic and encourages them to continue. Throughout her struggle the opposition parties tried to dominate independent youth in general one way or the other, but she insisted on remaining independent. Over a month ago, when the independent youth decided to take their separate place in reaction to the political parties [mainly the Islah] domination, Farida was among the few women who left “the women section” and set up her own small tent in the new protest section alongside independent youth. Recently especially since Saleh has left the country, there had been some disputes and sometimes violence between the political parties and the independent youth. Farida played a role in encouraging the youth not to leave the square or give up their dream. “We will continue, no matter what or who is against us, we will never leave what we have started for others to climb on our shoulders to power,” she said. “As we making an end to Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime of 32 years, we will continue our peaceful protest against anyone who wants to take advantage of our revolution, and we will not change our stance or demands for a civilian state.” Although Farida as part of the independent youth were the first to call for toppling the, she was accused many times publicly by the Islah members by name of being an agent for the state “National Security,” who in turn was rumored to include her in some wanted list to coerce her into leaving the protest. Despite her position and long history in the struggle Farida did not receive her fair share of the limelight whether locally or internationally, still she did not mind that. “I am not here to be a hero, I am here to make sure that my children have a better future,” she said.


Written by shatha

June 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm

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