My Friend in Yemen

I was lucky enough to have spent my last two years in high school in a very special international program that drew students from all over the world, from diverse backgrounds and economic standings, not just the upper-middle class expatriates that you usually find in international schools overseas. One of my best friends is a Yemeni girl, who opted to take a gap year after we graduated last summer.

Then the protests started, and she’s right in the middle of it. While there is coverage of the events in her home country, it is lacking in details and it is hard to know what goes down on the ground, to know the perspectives of the people caught up in the midst of the conflict. As I’m writing, the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has fired his government, after thousands of protestors turned up for the funerals of those shot in demonstrations on Friday. My friend was in those demonstrations, and this is the note she posted on Facebook afterwards. (Reprinted with her permission.)

What brings all the Yemenis together when we have been a country of war?

Many ask the question of what have brought the Yemenis together today although through the largest period of our history, these moments have been very rare.

Some 40% of the population in Yemen lives under the line of poverty. A third of the population suffers food shortage. 59% of the population doesn’t have reliable access to drinking water. Statistics like these and many more are what have made all the Yemeni people gather behind one slogan “Fall for the Regime.” The disparate need for change has been clearly depicted in the different forms of uprisings around Yemen during the last two decades; the 1994 war, the Houthi movement in Sa’ada, the secessionist movement in the South, the coalition of the opposition parties. Many of these movements attempted to bring about change in a peaceful method, and through negotiations with the government. Nonetheless, all of these attempts where doomed with failure.  Consequently, and due to the political system in place, the president has been viewed as the reason for failure. This has helped all the different movements in Yemen that want to achieve a change unite in trying to get rid of the president.

Despite what many think, the wave of change in the Middle East came only as an encouraging factor to cease the dialogue with the president and ask for the fall of the regime. As the protests were fruitful in Tunisia, Ali Abdullah went in public and said that Yemen is not Tunisia. But what people never agreed up is that Yemen is not Egypt. Egypt has always been looked up to as the role model in the Middle East. This has inspired the Yemeni youth to start the demonstrations, not to mention all the preparation and the separate events the opposition has been holding by then as the dialogue proved to be unsuccessful.

The main concern and question that stays, is what comes in the post Saleh era, and why are there no agendas announced so far. The only reason I see this deliberate inattention is the opposition attempt to hold on tight to its winning card. There have been many attempts to try and unite people behind one agenda, which may have not been necessarily successful. As the opposition wouldn’t want in any way to risk the great spirit of enthusiasm, it focuses on what brings all the different factions together. But let us not forget that the opposition coalition has announced an agenda in 2006. I am sure what they have agreed upon still exists. Perhaps, there are still some points that they don’t fully agree upon, but they still have something.

 Her media and government are trying to shut down her voice, and I wanted to help in every way that I can, even if that is only getting her story out to as many people as possible.

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