Hussein Al-Qadhi, 24, was one of the first young men who started an anti-government sit-in at ‘Change Square’ in Marib governorate earlierthis year in March. The common stereotype of the tribes in Marib is of them being armed and violent, but Al-Qadhi wanted to show that the people of Marib are equally able to protest peacefully. Among others, he was successfully able to encourage the tribal youth of Marib’s ‘Change Square’ to lay their weapons aside and protest peacefully under banners.
When protests first began in Marib, they were not calling for the overthrow of the regime. Hussein and his friends from various tribes in Marib had gathered for a qat chewing session by candle light. During the qat-inspired brain storming session, they discussed what action should be taken so that Marib was treated equally with other cities as far as having access to electricity.
The youth in that session decided to protest in front of the governorate building to demand more hours of electricity. The next morning 40 young tribal youth went and protested but they were soon attacked Central Security Forces and Republican Guard with live ammunition and two were wounded.
“All we demanded at the beginning was equal distribution of electricity, as the gas [power generating] station is in Marib, but the electricity is always off in Marib and on in other governorates,” said Hussein.
When soldiers opened fire on the protesters, the protesters immediately escalated their demands shouting for the regime to withdraw.
“At that moment our weapons were in the car but we didn’t use them. We encouraged all protesters to remain peaceful, and show that the power is in not returning violence, but in demanding their rights strongly,” Hussein explained.
The protesters brought their tents and created a sit-in and then marched on the governorate building. The governor himself left the building and shot at the protesters according to some who were there. The official news agency, however, reported that protesters broke into the building and stabbed the governor in his neck.
The republican guards and central security joined in the attack against the protesters at this time, and at least seven protesters were wounded.
“He [the governor] came out. I saw him with my own eyes, and he was the first to shoot,” said Hussein.
The regime has repeatedly accused the tribes and the political opposition parties of preventing fuel trucks from traveling between Marib governorate and the capital Sana’a.
Hussein was one of three young protesters who wanted to show that the regime’s accusations against the tribes were lies. He offered the director of the fuel company assurances that the trucks would arrive safely to Sana’a. They offered to protect the trucks, and even to drive it them if needed. According to Hussein the director initially seemed happy with that solution and promised to call them in few days, but the call never came. The director then became unreachable.
“Ten of the fuel trucks owned by Ahmed Ali [the president’s son] were taken by thugs. Some were taken by those who called themselves revolutionaries, but were not. So that’s when the company decided to no longer transfer fuel to Sana’a and the [fuel] crisis began,” said Hussein.
Now there are two protest squares in Marib. One is the peaceful sit-in protest in front of the governorate building where the protesters plan and hold political discussions. The second protest square is in front of the government buildings and is armed to protect the buildings from thugs and looting.
“We revolted in Marib seeking to change two things. First, the stereotype that the tribes of Marib are violent, and to show that armed people can use a peaceful path. Second to demand the withdrawal of the regime,” said Hussein.
Two escalation plans have been suggested by political parties and some revolutionary figures in Sana’a – a National Council or a transitional council. When asked which plan he prefers, Hussein said that those Marib’s ‘Change Square’ lean more towards the transitional council, even though a National Council would include members from Marib’s ‘Change Square’ and the transitional council would not.
“We need a realistic solution now to end the fuel crisis, and the transitional council seems the solution,” he said.