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Faces from Yemen’s revolution Arwa Othman By: Shatha AL-Harazi

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Arwa Othman is a philosophy graduate, a middle aged woman, and a mother of three daughters who are all revolutionaries.

Arwa is considered an inspiring figure in the country’s ‘Change Squares’, and many describe her as kind, brave, strong, and one of a kind.

She has a different appearance from other women in Yemen, as she doesn’t wear the traditional Abaya.  She usually wears jeans and shirts instead, sometimes covering half of her hair. Arwa has always fought to establish new social concepts such as acceptance: in a conservative society such as in Sana’a, she has to struggled to be accepted despite her different appearance.  Now, in the protest squares everybody in included and accepted.  It has been a turning point for society that Arwa can walk around among the tribesmen who know she is not a foreigner, that she is a Yemeni woman wearing jeans, and they accept her.

At the beginning of the demonstrations all of the protesters were happy about the new culture of acceptance, but as time passed and more people joined the protests, levels of acceptance diminished. Arwa herself faced lots of trouble inside the square from some members of the Islah Party. She once led a march condemning what President Ali Abdullah Saleh said about women protesters  (he indicated that women protesting in Al-Tagheer Square weren’t Islamiclly allowed to do so).  In that march, Arwa and other female activists were beaten by the Islamists for marching with men.

She went out in public and announced that she would condemn all the wrongdoings both inside and outside the square and outside the square and that she would struggle against the Islamists if they tried to control the revolution, and she did.

Along with her protest activities, Arwa has been creating a potage documentary of the Yemeni revolution since February, a film for which she was recently a winner of   XXX.  She treats her camera as a part of her, but the Islamists broke her camera to make sure they broke her weapon.

At one point, some of the protesters were more into becoming armed and fighting the state.  However, Arwa remained peaceful and raised awareness of the peaceful revolution; she was more focused on establishing the concept of a civil state rather than simply repeating the same chants of withdrawing the regime.

The revolution that Arwa helped establish was more about morals rather than politics.  When the Hashid tribal confederation (to which the president belongs) joined the revolution, they started to spread the word that Saleh’s real surname was Afash – in Arabic is a term to describe a bad person who also comes from lower social class.  People started to use this fact against Saleh, writing the name on walls and on the streets.  Arwa stood against it, saying, “We revolute to build a new society that accepts everyone.  We didn’t revolute against Saleh because his real name is Afash or because he is from a lower class, we revolute only against the injustice he brought to the country.“   Some people didn’t like the fact that she made people find sympathy and morals.

Last week when the tribes of Arhab claimed to overcome Al-Samea’ Mountain while fighting the state, some people congratulated each other, feeling it was a factory.  Of this, Arwa said, “What are people congratulating each other for? Killing is killing, those who were killed are still our brothers, fathers, and neighbors, and most importantly they are Yemenis. “ According to Arwa military interference is never a solution; it will only start a bloodbath that will never end.

Her messages is not limited to the protesters; she always tries to build a better understanding in society because she cares.  She talks in a mother language to everybody.  And although she is full of life, putting flowers in her hair, at the same she is brave to stand  up and say that the opposition media is not different than the state-run press. They all serve the owners’ interests and are not spreading any goodness.

When some of the Change Square residents came on the state TV and warned that they would use their weapons against the protesters if they didn’t move, Arwa wrote to them that “no one forgets your brave stances with the protesters: many of your houses were always open to them whenever they needed it; you helped them when the security forces attacked them; you threw flowers during their marches. We know you bear a lot of troubles, but there will always be solutions besides killing…that’s one thing that cannot be fixed.”


Written by shatha

August 8, 2011 at 3:29 pm

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