Faces from Yemen’s revolution Mohsen Al-Aghbari
Mohsen Al-Aghbari is a third-year physics student at Sana’a University. At 32 years old, he is a member of the Free Independent Youth Coalition, one of the most active independent coalitions in Change Square, where anti-government protests have been taking place since February.
Al-Aghbari joined the protests during the last week of February after his first-term exams. Since then he has been facilitating awareness-raising sessions in Change Square. Al-Aghbari has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the need for cooperation between the independent youth and opposition political parties. But this has come at no small cost. He, like many of his fellows, suffered at the hands of the Islamists trying to control the square.
He speaks with respect of those who attacked him. On April 15 he was participating in a mixed march with female human rights activists, in response to President Saleh’s speech denouncing women’s participation in protests as forbidden by Islamic law. During the march, a group of Al-Islah Party members and divisional soldiers assaulted the female activists. Al-Aghbari, with six of his colleagues, tried to defend the activists but were detained and held at the Science and Technology Hospital for almost seven hours.
“We should be grateful that we are luckier than those who attack us, that we have better education and that we differentiate between wrong and right.” said Al-Aghbari.
At his detention Mohsen said he won the soldiers’ sympathy to his cause as he spent time chatting with them and raising their awareness.
That caused a split between the different constituencies in Change Square has emerged over which groups ought to control the square, as well as whether change should come through a political solution or revolutionary actions.
Many of the independent youth in the square lost their trust in the opposition political parties, whom they accuse of being too slow with respect to the revolution.
The opposition political parties [Joint Meeting Parties] opted for a different path than that advocated by the independent youth at the square when they accepted the Gulf Countries Council [GCC] initiative. This agreement guarantees a peaceful transfer of power in Yemen only if President Ali Abdullah Saleh is granted immunity from prosecution.
Al-Aghbari, like other independent youth in Change Square, condemns the Joint Meeting Parties’ [JMP’s] acceptance of the GCC initiative. Still he thinks it was a mistake by the JMP and the independent youth should forget it to continue their revolution and should work with the JMP as a partner in the revolution
“We need to work hand to hand with the Joint Meeting Parties, it’s so wrong to take a side and isolate the others.” Al-Aghbari told the Yemen Times. He believes the independent youth should be included in the National Council that the Joint Meeting Parties are forming; the JMP has vowed to announce the final form of the National council on Ramdhan 17th.
“The JMP made a mistake by accepting the negotiations with Saleh but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore their political role in the past, or deny their experience,” he added.
Al-Aghbari explains that both the National Council and the Transitional Council are necessary but the Transitional Council missed two key opportunities. First, they failed to inform the representatives they chose that they were chosen to represent the protesters in the Transitional Council. Second, they were unable to explain what the Council’s needs were to be successful. In his view, the National Council is a step toward ending the revolution the way it should be ended.
Al-Aghbari encourages the independent youth to take part in the National Council because it will give the youth the chance to be political partners in the crucial transitional decisions. The independent youth, he notes, are the main players in this revolution, but they are still unorganized.
“I think the JMP has the right intention – to end the revolution by forming the National Council – and it should be considered a primary goal to form a transitional council,” he adds.
Al-Aghbari says that although revolutionary actions have proceeded slowly, the political awareness one gains from being in the square is incomparable.
“We [the youth] will never be fully aware of the depth of the Yemeni cause,” he noted. “For my part, I have discovered just how strong is the foreign interference from such as the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran.