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How Yemen deals with the film and anti-US protests

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Yemen at a crossroads over anti-US protests

Shatha Al-Harazi
Last updated: September 29, 2012

The main coalitions at Change Square did not call for the protest, believing that ignoring the offense is the best Islamic response to the filmreports Shatha Al-Harazi, winner of Hillary Clinton’s Vital Voices Award.

50 US Marines were dispatched to Sana’a on “Mohammed the messenger of Allah” Friday, as a response to the violence that has gripped the Muslim world.

Nationwide protests accrued in Yemen provenances against the anti-Islam film “the Innocence of Muslims” that provoked Muslims to start anti-American demonstrations in many Arab and Muslim countries.

The protest in Sana’a demanded new laws that would respect all the prophets and apostles, not to offend them or the holy sites and create disincentives for both abuse towards the holy sites and to avert a rift between nations that embrace all religions.

The Friday lectures following prayers had different messages. Some were spreading the culture of violence to stop the “enemy” which is in this case the US, while others were calling for peace, reminding of prophet Mohammed’s behavior towards such insults.

On the second day in a row protesters demonstrated in front of the US embassy in Sana’a. Directly after the Friday prayer, people took off to the embassy from the al-Ferdos mosque. Around 2000 Houthis came to join the protest.

The security forces were now better prepared to stop the protesters from breaking into the embassy. Some people thought that this readiness should have been applied on Thursday instead, when four protesters were reported dead and almost 40 others injured by security forces. Tear gas and water cannons were used to spread the crowd.

According to the Ahrar al-Tagheer coalition one protester was shot by the Marines in Friday’s demonstrations.

On Thursday few had de facto seen parts of the 14 minutes video, but on Friday more people were motivated by curiosity to watch it. Before the Libyan and Egyptian protests, Yemenis were not even aware of its existence. They were busy by the defense minister’s assassination attempt that left seven dead on Wednesday.

The general reaction to the film among Yemenis is sympathy with those who protest and condemn it. But on the other hand the majority are against the violence.

The results of the protests were contradictory. Protesters demanded on the first day an apology by the US government, and escalated to demanding the expulsion of the ambassador. At the same time, President Abd Rabbu Mansuir Hadi apologized to the American government.

“Those who are behind are a mob that are not aware of the far-reaching plots of Zionist forces, especially those who made a film insulting the prophet,” said Hadi.

But for some Yemenis the US is the other face of “Zionist forces” in Yemen.

Hadi also warned that such acts could have a negative impact on what he called the good relationship between Yemen and the American people, according to the Yemeni News agency Saba.

However, political analyst Mohamed al-Sharabi said that these demonstrations will not change the Yemeni-American relationship, as it was not called for by the Yemeni government. In fact, it simply helped to justify the American troops’ presence in the country.

Furthermore, President Hadi has been a useful ally to the US administration in countering terrorism and fighting Al-Qeada. President Obama won’t endanger their relationship, especially this close to the upcoming presidential elections.

The military intervention in Yemen is what provokes Yemenis the most. Although the state department said that Washington has nothing to do with the film production, some protesters believe it was produced as a way of justifying American military presence in Yemen.

And the chant “Death to America” is not new in Yemen; it’s a popular slogan that children in school sometimes chant in protest during religious gatherings, or whenever there is an outcry against violence directed towards Palestine or Iraq.

In those same protests there is another popular chant, “O, Jews: Khaybar, Khaybar. The army of Mohammed will return,” referring to what happened in the year 629 in the west Arabian Peninsula when Mohammed and his followers defeated the Jews living in the oasis of Khaybar.

The US is always seen as the strongest ally of Israel, therefore, these two chants are somehow interlinked in religious-related protests. In 2006, the chant became a slogan for the Shiite sect in Yemen, the Houthis, who used to be fought by ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Neither the chants nor spreading banners by Houthis made Change Square much of a real provoking act to the American diplomats in Sana’a. However, since news of the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” broke out, the same chant became louder and this time posed a serious problem.

The protest that was first called by the Houthis leader on September 12 turned into something bigger. Many participated without knowing about the Houthis call, sensing it was a religious duty to join.

Reports say around 10,000 protesters marched to the American embassy on the first day. Although many reports described it as a spontaneous rally, Amran Ali, a member of al-Somod coalition, told You Middle East that the orders were clear from their leadership to break into the US embassy.

“These American have crossed all the lines, we wanted to kill any of them but unfortunately they left before we caught them,” he said.

A protester who wore jeans and t-shirt told Your Middle East that “Only protests that end with violence make headlines,” justifying the violence at the US embassy in Sana’a. “The Americans who think they rule the world, that they can kill us in our land and then insult our beloved prophet should realize that they are facing a nation of over 6 billion Muslims around the world.”

The Islah leader Abdulmajed al-Zandani, who is classified as a terrorist by the US, said in an interview with a local newspaper, “this is time for rage”.

Usually Houthis and Islah collide in sectarian conflicts that at one point escalated into a war, lasting for almost seven months in Haja and a year in Damaj. Yet, the hate for the US has united them.

“Today is not a day where we stop to think whether Houthi or Islah called for the protest and anger, the prophet doesn’t belong to one sect, his love unifies us, and if they thought they can differentiate us by sectarianism they should know by now how mistaken they are,” said a protester.

The main coalitions at Change Square did not call for the protest, believing that ignoring the offense is the best Islamic response to the film.

“We know that such a protest won’t end peacefully, people are driven by anger and we had previous information of the possibility for a riot,” said Adel Shamsan, the head of Change Square Media Center.

Other activists condemn the violence by both protesters and the security forces. Some even accused the ousted president’s thugs to be responsible for the violence since Saleh’s nephew remains at the head of the Central Security. President Hadi indicated that “the defection in the armed forces” was the reason behind the mob.

Videos by Change Square Media Center show the Central Security forces leaving their locations and joining the protest.

“One of the soldiers called on me to break into the embassy and destroy the cars, he even said if it was not for the security uniform I am wearing I would not stand watching,” said Shohdi al-Sofi, a protest photographer.

Change Square protesters condemned the mob saying that Yemen has embarked on a civic education since the 2011 revolution and the country is committed to peaceful means.

“We are not in favor of the US, especially after exposing the truth about the American drones role in killing so many civilians in Yemen,” said Ahmed al-Rufaidi from Change Square.

“But we lost over 2,000 lives in the Arab Spring by Saleh’s thugs and we kept being peaceful, it does not make sense that after almost 20 months we give that up.”

Shatha Al-Harazi is a recipient of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award. She is a social media activist and a political and human rights journalist. Shatha has reported from the front lines for a number of international news sources. She met face-to-face with ousted President Saleh in February 2011.


Written by shatha

November 9, 2012 at 7:13 pm


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Dr. Akram Al-Omainey

Yemeni migrants shine in various areas in science. However, their work, which has grabbed attention worldwide, has failed to be recognized even in their homeland.

2011 was full of success stories for Yemeni figures who received honors abroad. Tawakul Karman, the first Muslim woman to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize received particularly strong coverage.

One who wasn’t featured in Yemen’s media was Dr. Akram Al-Omainey. The Yemeni professor was recently honored in Britain for his theory on the invisibility of objects. At the British Science Festival, Al-Omainey received the Isambard Kingdom Brunel Award, an award given annually to young engineers and scientists who exhibit outstanding communication skills when before a non-specialist audience.

31-year-old Dr. Akram Al-Omainey’s award-winning research was on the “engineering cloak of invisibility,” a theory which suggests that human beings can be made invisible.

Last September in London, he delivered his reception speech to a large audience that included famous scientists and proponents of education. From then until the present time, Al-Omainey has continued to deliver his talk throughout the United Kingdom.

“My main research focus was on the influence of radio signals on the human body and vice-versa, which to the external spectator seems to be a straightforward and direct problem and solution equation. It is, however, a complex issue due to the realization that we humans are not only physiologically and psychologically complex: we are also one complicated electric machine, with each organ and blood vein carrying different properties,” he said.

Al-Omainey explained that he worked with a great professor and scientist as he completed his PhD and initial research, and that he was always encouraged by him to think outside the box.

“The idea of using non-natural meta-materials with different characteristics to focus images and light into one place – hence making the perfect lens – came from Professor Sir John Pendry from Imperial College in London. He went on to prove that objects can theoretically be made invisible by bending light.

“The idea was quite intriguing since it was based on making stuff disappear – or correctly making them invisible.”

He explained that theoretically the idea was proven possible, but had yet to be in reality.

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and measurements – but in measurements, there is! So the major challenge was to prove that human being can bend light around an object so that it appears invisible; we can see things because they reflect light and if we can manage to bend light around an object, no-one could ever see it.

“Many groups around the world are now working towards making this a reality…but taking into consideration all the obstacles and challenges, it could take us around 20-25 years to actually make an object – a small book, for example – invisible in all situations and in any place,” he said.

“This isn’t only to make stuff disappear so that we can live out Harry Potter fantasies; it has many beneficial applications. These include making building and other obstacles appear invisible for radio and mobile signals, so that we may have the best possible telephone call quality. Making things invisible do so not only for our eyes, but for any kind of signal, such as having better satellite links without influence from buildings or trees.”

Al-Omainey completed his secondary education in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1998 as one of the top students in the kingdom. He completed his higher education in London with the support of his family.

He received his Master’s degree in Communications Engineering from Queen Mary University in London in 2003. He was then awarded an Overseas Research Scholarship, which is awarded by the UK government to outstanding international students.

He obtained his PhD in Advanced Electrical and Electronic Studies in 2007 from the same university and continued to work as a researcher on topics related to body-centric communications and the role of wireless technologies in our everyday lives.

This work led to his obtaining a lectureship position at Queen Mary University. In addition to continuing his research, he taught university students about the basics behind many of the advanced technologies people use today.

“I became interested in the communications and electronics fields at an early age. This interest was nourished and encouraged by my father and mother, who were always and still are supportive, loving and above all great parents, providing guidance for myself, my elder brother and younger sister,” he said.

“From my first day at university, I was interested in radio signals and their behavior. I made sure to acquire knowledge and learn more about this topic, which led to a few projects of mine related to this field. This influenced my research topic choice, which was electromagnetics and theories behind wireless technologies.

“One of the major global challenges in science and engineering is marketing the fields’ advantages. From the start of my lectureship, I became involved with outreach activities, promoting science and engineering to children, young adults and the general public, no matter what their background was.

My main goal and objective now is to deliver science awareness and an enthusiasm to better our societies in the ever-changing Middle East,” said Al-Omainy.

Although his successful journey started in Saudi Arabia, where he was brought up, and continued in the UK, Dr. Al-Omainy says that he still considers Yemen to be the center of his life.

“Yemen has always been the center of my life, as my parents made sure that we remembered who we are and where we came from. We knew everything about Yemeni culture and heritage. We visited our country frequently, and we managed to enhance the bond with our homeland, Arabia Felix,” he concluded.




Written by shatha

February 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Extremism In The Home

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While the Yemeni revolution has its squares, marches and protest camps, it also has many unseen supporters who pray for success but are unable to actively participate in the revolution.

On the other side, Ali Abdullah Saleh still has his regime supports – despite the fact that he has handed over power to vice president, and soon-to-be-president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Like those seeking the downfall of the regime, Saleh has men who march in his name and those who support him from their homes.

Often those who “participate” from home are more fanatical about their beliefs than those who actually go out onto the streets and give voice to their views.

Friends have even fallen out over their political views. The extent of some people’s extremism has seen some call their friends killers for supporting Saleh’s regime. In another case, a mother threatened to disown her daughter if she stood by the revolutionaries and against Saleh’s regime.

Two brothers were once watching TV and fighting over which news channel to watch. One was pro-government and wanted to watch state TV while the other supported the revolution and wanted to watch Suhail – in the end they broke the television.

Professor Salah Al-Jumai, professor of psychology and social services, commented that such extreme acts are a normal reaction to suppression and disorganization.

“The main reason behind rejecting another’s point of view and taking extreme action against your loved ones is suppression. There are many reasons that prevent some people from participating in the squares, even though they strongly believe in the cause and this makes them frustrated and often more extremist,” said Al-Jumai.

“When one is disorganized he is not mature enough to have a healthy political conversation; so they try to force others to think like them, making them even more extremist in their opinions,” he added.

The reasons why some people cannot participate also affects their views, he added. “Many are governmental employees, and if they join the protests their salaries will be cut. Others are those who cannot afford to join as they are busy trying to earn a living.”

Youth involvement

Despite popular rejection of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) power transfer deal, it was finally signed by Saleh in Riyadh on Nov. 23, 2011. However, the agreement was made between the regime and the opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) – leaving out the youth, who at that time had spent 10 months camped out in protests squares across Yemen.

Since then, youth groups have started to come to terms with the reality of Yemen’s situation – that the GCC deal has been signed and that they need to use the opportunities offered by the International community to involve themselves in the transitional process.

While the youth in the squares have begun to get more involved in a bid to influence Yemen’s future, those who support the revolution from their homes continue to reject the GCC.

Some youth groups have begun campaigns to encourage public participation in the coming presidential election, despite the fact that it is a one-man race, with Hadi as the sole candidate.

Other activists are using social media to call on the parliament to simply announce Hadi as the president, rather than spend huge amounts of money on a pre-decided election.

Khalid Rajah, one of the first anti-government protesters on the streets, lost one of his brothers in clashes between thugs and protesters, while another was shot in the knee.

“I announce my participation in the next elections, not as a betrayal to my martyred brother’s blood, but to demand that the new president prosecute those who killed him,” he said. “And to see Yemen headed by a new president. My brother gave his soul to build a new Yemen and I promise that we will build the new Yemen”

However, Amal Al-Himiary, 24, says the youth should not be supporting the election. “I know I am too taken by the revolution and that I take any word against those in the squares or the revolution as a personal offensive,” she said. “But the Gulf Cooperation Council deal is a game to stop the revolution; the youth should not give up the squares until their demands are met, with the first being the prosecution of Saleh.”

Although the parliament voted to grantee Saleh immunity from prosecution in Yemen – something that has been widely rejected by people on the streets and in squares – many youth groups are now trying to be realistic, while less active supporters simply reject the law.

Reem Ali supports the revolution, and says she gets almost fanatical about it – despite the fact she has not had the chance to participate in person, as her family did not allow her to protest. She says that because of this, she feels she was not able to contribute as much as the protesters, so she keeps talking about how the revolution will continue and denying that anything could be wrong – including the fact that squabbling sides sometimes fight each other in the squares.

“When someone is in his house and does not have the chance to experience the thing he supports, he thinks of it in ideals to keep his spirit high,” she said.

Saleh supporters

At the same time, pro-government “advocaters” provoke the opposing side by refusing to listen to their point of view and by glorifying Saleh after any new step he takes.

Some of his supporters even go as far as to claim that Saleh has the right to kill protesters because they disobey him; some say that Yemen is worth nothing without Saleh.

“He should have killed all the protesters but he is too democratic. That’s what led the country to this chaos,” said a 60-year-old woman in support of Saleh.

The media also plays a role in fostering extremist opinions. “When people get their information from the biased media without trying to get another point of view, they become extremist,” claimed Nabeel Ahmed, who fell out with her mother because of their opposing political opinions.

“My mother is a Saleh supporter – even though he left the country, she is still passionately defending him. Her information comes from the state media and it is hard to convince her that these are lies.”

Written by shatha

January 31, 2012 at 6:59 pm

The Arab spring is ageing me: Yemen after the GCC

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Yemenis have been protesting since February calling for president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down , after being in power since 1978, and after at least 2200 died in major Yemeni cites protesting for Saleh’s resignation. Yemen has now witnessed a “peaceful” power transition for the first time after decades. Although Yemen is alleged to be a democratic country it has never seen a new president through elections it.

The Gulf Cooperation Council brought an initiative to end the violence in Yemen and proposed a peaceful way to transfer power. The initiative guarantees impunity for Saleh, becoming an honorary president for 90 days after signing. He delegated power to his deputy Abdrabu Mansour Hadi, Hadi is supposed to form a coalition government consisting of the political opposition parties and the ruling party and they have to prepare for an early election in 90 days of which we all know the result in advance; Hadi should be the next president for the next two years. More importantly the parliament should hold an exceptional session on Nov.29 to give Saleh impunity.

After three times failing to sign the GCC deal, he finally did last night, Nov23.

The Youth who were the only pressure that led Saleh to give up power while he is alive were not involved in this deal, they were only a tool.

What has changed since the Arab Spring started, what good did it bring to the people of Yemen? I asked myself this morning when the world was still celebrating but Yemenis were again dying in the street – what was the point again!!

On BBC radio yesterday they asked me “which is better, giving immunity to Saleh and stopping the violence or protesting against the GCC deal and more deaths?”

I said “it will be wonderful if they stopped the killing but that will not be the case if the GCC is signed.” Today, the first morning after the deal was signed, at least five died and 40 wounded by live ammunition.

Islah Party, part of the political opposition parties that signed the GCC deal last night, showed a new face at the protest today. Unlike each time the protesters marched before, Islah did not do any preparations in case of emergency today.

“They [Islaeh] cut the youth banners that oppose their stance of the GCC deal, they didn’t turn the generator on at the field hospital although many were dying, only two doctors were at the hospital, today we felt like if it was the end of the world at the square “said Adnan Al-Rajhi, a reporter who presents at the field hospital.

“So far this is the most unsuccessful revolution in The Arab Spring,” said my British friend who has been following the situation in Yemen. “Ten months of protests and hundreds of deaths have produced a deal that offers immunity and no real democracy.”

I also got another e-mail from my Australian friend saying “For once, somebody brought a pen to the signing ceremony, and for once Saleh actually signed. Perhaps it was the promise of a comfortable bed in New York? Who knows the pressures and temptations plied upon him in Riyadh?

“Maybe he just couldn’t stomach the company of Ben Ali complaining about the recent elections in Tunisia? Whatever happened, I am happy to see this small step forward towards a potentially new Yemen. I’m glad that I’ve followed the story this far and that all of you are still safe,” he added.

He went on “It is a small step forward. His sons are still in power. The JMP are dancing with the GPC in a new power play. Those responsible for violence are not being taken to justice. And the myriad social and economic problems plaguing Yemen for decades are still there waiting for someone to address them. However, a little celebration and joy is surely allowed at this moment? I know this is not the end, but just the beginning of a true revolution. Look at Egypt now – they still have so far to go. But congratulations anyway – as individuals, as a newspaper, as a people, and as a nation for holding out to get this far.”

Some people think that Yemenis like to stay in the streets protesting chewing Qat, they just found a new way to live. I sometimes think so as well, but this doesn’t reflect they role that has not taken in considerations .where am I as Yemeni citizen in this GCC deal?? What does it offer to any Yemeni?? The only thing I see is the Gulf spoiling Saleh; he is an honorary president, he gets immunity and he enjoys the Yemenis money he stole, while we “who matter” suffer from 22 hours of power blackouts every day, price increases and unemployment moreover, getting killed for having an opinion.

Still I know the revolution has just begun and we have to come together until our demands are met. Removing Saleh from power is just one positive step that we should build on.

Written by shatha

November 24, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Civil war means rape in the mind of Yemeni women

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“I would rather she died than be rapped,” said Um Ahmed Alam angrily. Alam, a woman in her fifties, has different expectations for the future than the anti or pro-regime protesters trying to draw up a future full of rights and freedoms. She fears the chaos the country will suffer if the conflicting parties cannot reach an agreement and civil war breaks out in Yemen.

Her fear of sexual harassments is bigger than her fear of losing any of her four daughters. “Death is death, we all will die eventually, but the shame of rape is what we cannot handle,” she said sadly.

Unfortunately, this is a common worry among Yemenis and Alam is not alone in thinking this way; fear that sexual harassment and rape could become a big problem if the state loses control and war breaks out is a growing concern for Yemeni men and women alike.

Mothers have begun to exchange advice on how to protect their daughters from rape if the country slips into civil war.

“I would kill my daughter with my bare hands if this happened,” said Alam’s husband, even though he acknowledged that the girl would be the victim in this situation.

“At the very least we make sure she [the daughter] is covered from top to toe when she sleeps, since the shelling usually starts at night,” said Alam.

Nuha Saleem, 23, is a resident of Hail area. She told the Yemen Times that her mother wakes up at night when she hears explosions, walks three floors up to wake her daughter and make her cover her body to protect her from rape.

Be prepared and cover up

Zainab Al-Ahdel, 23, lives in the Al-Hassaba neighborhood, where the warfare between the Hashid tribal confederation and the regime forces has been fierce. She described her own – and her mother’s – fears and thoughts when the area was shelled.

Al-Ahdel said that she was in her pajamas; a pair trouser and T-shirt, lighting a candle because the power was off, when the sounds of the explosions became stronger, closer and more frightening. “I felt the house shaking,” she said. Then her mother began shouting at her to wear her abayya [a traditional black dress that Yemeni women wear while out to cover their bodies].

“During the shelling we were scared, we could become victims of the random shelling and then become one of the daily deaths,” said Al-Ahdel. “When our fear reached its maximum, my mother began shouting at us to dress in our abayya – that was not at all logical for us.”

In Sana’a where all women – and occasionally even young girls wear an abayya and scarf to cover their face and body – families fear their community’s reaction if the shelling forced their daughters to escape without being able to cover themselves appropriately.

“I believe my mother wants us to make it a priority to cover our bodies the whole time in case we need to escape. But by saying so she makes me feel as though I have no values in life other than those society gave us,” said Reem Ali, a 25 years old girl from Hail Street.

She lives in an area where the regime forces have been fighting the defected First Armored Division. Hail Street it is also at the entrance to Change Square, where the anti-government protests and continued fighting have been taking place.

Society not ready to forgive

For the same reason some girls even do not go to the bathroom during shelling; when girls chat these days they show off how they managed to prevent themselves from responding to the call of nature.

In a heroic way Samah Ahmed bragged to friends how she managed not to use the bathroom for five hours while they shelled in Kentucky Roundabout in mid-September.

“Whenever I panic I need to pee; it is how I am and I cannot help it,” she said. “But during the shelling in our area, even though I was scared I might die, I was more afraid of going to the bathroom in case a blast hit and people saw my body.”

“Society is not ready to forgive females for being victims; families will consider getting rid of their daughters, killing them or hiding them from the society if they are victims of sexual harassment” said Al-Ahdel.

The lowest place

In the violence seen in Sana’a last month, two women were shot in the legs by snipers while walking in Hail Street. Although hundreds of men have also been shot, with some surviving and others dying, Yemeni society was particularly offended by these shootings.

“These thugs reached the lowest place you reach,” an assistant in the field hospital told the Yemen Times. “They sniped women – they did not kill them but shot them in the legs so their bodies would be seen by the men trying to rescue them or the doctors treating them.”

“These thugs have reached the lowest place you can reach,” a female assistant at the field hospital, who did not want to be named, told the Yemen Times. “They sniped women – they did not kill them but shot them in the legs so their bodies would be seen by the men trying to rescue them or the doctors treating them.”

The assistant, a woman aged over 50, cared more about keeping victim’s bodies covered, than the risk to their lives – and unfortunately she symbolizes the mentality of our society.

Written by shatha

October 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Faces from Yemen’s Revolution: Maha Salem

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The revolution isn’t confined to those in Change and Freedom Squares. The cries for change and revolt against Saleh was not only from those inside the country for Yemeni migrants too played a role in whatever way they could. Yemeni’s in diaspora communities put their best foot forward to help the revolution. This included those who carry other passports and nationalities. They took shouldered the burden and asked for change.

Maha Salem, a 22-year old female activist was first to strike. She responded to the revolution by sparking protests in London expressing solidarity with the Yemeni revolution.  Although she is a British citizen and her birth place and accent are Saudi, she cares about the Yemeni cause ; she wanted to make it a better place for millions who call Yemen home.

“I revolt because I want my children to be born and raised in Yemen. I lived in two varying cultures and I did not know anything about Yemen. Despite that I have always been proud of my roots, my color, and my land,” said Maha.

“I got involved in youth work a year prior to the revolution. My friends and I established the Yemeni Youth Association and coordinated visa Facebook,” explained Maha, But the transition from facebook to the real work was “when the revolution started” Maha played an increasing larger role in in coordinating the protests in London. “This is how we spread to other cities and now we are coordinating internationally,” she said.

Yemeni youth activists have started Yemen revolution UK — both virtually via Facebook and actually on the streets —  in London with others who were motivated, who felt the fervour of the revolution despite the distance.

”We started organizing protests in front of the Yemeni embassy,” said Maha and then, the BBC noticed her. She was interviewed by the news channel fo her active involvement in the revolution. She has met with many diplomats with the aim of pushing Yemens Revolution forward. Maha is also involved in the Yemeni women forum in the UK..

From the BBC, Sheffield live radio reached her too and she was invited to to share her ideas there.

”We face many difficulties in London as a community as we do not find enough support from other Yemeni communities in the UK; We fund ourselves which is hard as we’re all students. We make the posters, get the permission, write letters and coordinate nationally and internationally,“ she added. It is hope that keeps her going despite the slow political progress.

“I want to go back and develop Yemen. I strongly believe we have the ability to make Yemen like any other European city,” said Maha.

Written by shatha

October 17, 2011 at 8:04 am

Faces from Yemen’s Revolution: Yahia Al-Dheeb

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The first soldier to be featured in our “Faces” series also happens to be the very first soldier to defect from president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s armed forces to join Yemen’s peaceful revolution. Majior Yahia al-Dheeb, 26, was one of Saleh’s personal guards before he made headlines for joining the revolution, bravely,challenging the armed forces, and inspiring great courage in colleagues who later joined him against the regime.

He used before March, 2011 to risk his life protecting the president for no more than 26,000 YR per month. “I was a bodyguard for the president and sometimes his family as he [the president ] does not trust any guard enough to keep him as a permanent bodyguard…he fears that we can learn too much about his life,” said Yahia.

Yahia learned to adopt peaceful ways as a result of the revolution. Although he is a member of the armed forces, he disobeys any orders to use violence either against civilians or armed forces loyal to president Saleh.

“I refuse to hold any weapon after joining the peaceful revolution. I swear to God my hands will never hold a gun against any Yemeni. I would prefer to die peacefully than kill any Yemeni, even in self-defense” he said.

Yahia has suffered as a direct result of being the first soldier to defect. He received death threats and was chased by Saleh’s thugs. He has not received his salary, which amounts to only US$130 per month, since late last year.

His problems have continued even after key figures in Saleh’s regime defected and vowed to protect the protesters.

According to Yahia, when the state stopped paying defected soldiers’ salaries in March, Qatar took on that responsibility.  Yahia contends that leading army defector Ali Mohsen receives direct financial support from the Gulf nation to pay soldiers’ salaries.

“Even Mohsen does not pay me my salary, as some of us [the armed forces coalition in the square] defected from him as well – when we learned that he wants us to hold weapons to protect the youth, we refused his orders,” said Yahia. “They told me that if you want your salary, you have to hold the weapon and kill whoever assaults the protesters. They will make us kill each others and they will not care how many of us die. Eventually Mohsen or Saleh will call the other and apologize; it’s us Yemenis who die.”

“We said we will not face weapons with weapons; we will face fire with our bare chests.”

Yahia urges all the protesters to remain peaceful, saying that before the army defected, the youth were managing to gain more opposition-held grounds. “Before March 18, the youth reached Al-Irani Hospital; on March 18, we reached the old university without weapons and without Ali Mohsen’s forces either,” he said. “Now after all those deaths in marches, Ali Mohsen makes deals with the regime and surrendered Kentucky Round.”

Yahia strongly feels that Mohsen is implementing Saleh’s plans in Change Square by controlling the square in the name of protection. “Ali Mohsen serves Ali Saleh: they both think of benefits for themselves, they have always deceived the Yemeni people. Why would they stop now?” said Yahia. “We [the revolutionaries] achieved a lot in our efforts to topple Ali Saleh before Ali Mohsen joined us, and today we hardly move forwards.”

Yahia’s is an honest voice. He speaks his mind, highlighting issues, with little concern for the consequences.

“President Saleh’s picture still  hangs in Ali Mohsen’s office. How stupid they think Yemenis are! When Mohsen joined the revolution, he said that he would only protect the youth…today he’s the only commander of the square” said Yahia angrily.

Yahia told the Yemen Times that Ali Mohesn recruits civilians into his army, calling them “revolution supporters,” and that the Army loyal to Saleh is doing the same, in that case calling recruits “legitimacy supporters.”

Despite his angry language when expressing how the regime benefits from Ali Mohsen’s defection, Yahia is a fun person, always joking and smiling no matter what threats he receives. In particular, he is known for a trick he pulled on Yemen TV. The resulting video has been shared by many opposition Facebook groups. Yahia called Yemen TV to participate in a program against the revolution.  As the program receives only receives calles from Saleh supporters, Yahya posed as one, cursing the revolution.  As soon as he was put on-air, he spoke truthfully about the Republican Guard having shot protesters.

The program’s host was taken aback and Yahia’s call was cut, but not before he had a chance to speak his mind.


Written by shatha

October 10, 2011 at 8:14 am

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