By Nabil Al-Bakiri*
Islamonline.net - Sana’a
The observers of the situation in Yemen are aware that Yemen has the worst situation in the entire Arab region; no doubt that it is even worse than Tunisia and Egypt, to the point where those observers could have imagines that the revolution would begin in Yemen and not in Tunis or Cairo. However, and for many reasons, Yemen is lagging behind the contagious revolutions waiting to explode.
Over the past few days following the departure of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, marking the triumph of the January 25th youth revolution, a number of Yemeni cities caught on to the trend, particularly the city of Taiz, one or Yemen’s most deprived and marginalized cities, located about 250 miles south of the capital Sana’a. This city holds Yemen’s most learned workers and university students, who took to the streets demanding the departure of President Saleh and his regime which has been in power for over 33 years since 1978.
The critical and complex scene in Yemen is identical to the previous scenes in Tunisia and Egypt, where that revolution was not the works of an official opposition party, like the joint meeting parties, or the Hoothi or Haraki rebels of the south, but it was the youth who were leading the revolution, much like their Tunisian and Egyptian role-models.
There is no doubt that what happened in Tunisia and Egypt has become a source of inspiration and admiration for hundreds of thousands of young people whose age group (18-25) represents more than 50% of the population. This age group represents the future hope for change, revolution, and improvement, but it is constrained by the complex and difficult political, social, and economic situations in the entire region, where the unemployment rate exceeds 35%, with tens of thousands of new college and university graduates annually, especially in major urban centers like the capital Sana'a, Taiz, and Aden.
Scene from the inside
It is true that observers of the situations in Yemen recognize the social complexity experienced by the Yemeni society, in terms of the huge illiteracy rate, which is roughly 40% among males and 60% among females, and how this ratio represents a setback to the level of awareness for the demand of change, and the ouster of the regime that has continuously failed over the last 3 decades, sending Yemeni politics too far behind according to observers, with political, tribal, sectarian, and class instigation among members of the society leading to horrible economic failure in every aspect; thus no longer giving the regime justification for remaining in power.
Economically, the regime has monopolized all the economic tributaries and linked them to the ruling family, and those close to them, through the transition of the people heading the military, security, and civil institution into businessmen, hiding behind the names of other businessmen who have suddenly entered the commercial and economic scene.
The phenomenon of the combination of power and wealth is a serious and key factor behind the wave of anger and rising discontent against the regime, as well as being the single most important factor in the south and Sa’dah crises. This is expressed in the slogans of the demonstrations that take to the streets daily demanding the departure of this regime, which is seen as a looter of the country's wealth, monopolized the country for the interests of the ruling family.
Politically, the President’s desperate attempt for a long time, especially after the summer war of 1994, where the Yemeni Socialist Party was brushed off from power as an essential partner in the unity of Yemen, leading to subsequent constitutional amendments which were meant to grant the President absolute power, where the lack of opposition encouraged him to think about transferring the power to his sons and family through appointing them to crucial security, military and civil institution in preparation for this purpose. This led to the exclusion of competitors, who in turn became disgruntled with the regime.
Apart from that, the Yemeni scene, which has been drowning in a sea of economical, political and social crises over the past three decades since the establishment of unity in 1990, contributed to creating a sense of political awareness in the emphasizing the importance of the departure of the existing regime whose policies created the south crisis, the Sa’dah rebels who had six wars since 2004, and the permanent political tension between the regime and opposition, along with the failure of this regime to solve any of these issues. This in turn, accumulated a sense of political awareness that these crises are created by the regime; as long as that regime exists, so will the issues and the only solution is the departure of the regime.
Opposition … Present and absent
The observers of the Yemeni scene realize, particularly after the series of great protest rallies launched by the Yemeni opposition recently, dubbed the “public gust”, which is a series of public rallies, where hundreds of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets in opposition to the regime’s policies, demanding its departure in light of what happened in Tunisia and later in Egypt. All this makes the observer aware that the opposition still holds the key to change in Yemen. This is what pushed the regime, in fear of what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, to invite the opposition to the dialogue table, where the President announced his solo attempt to make constitutional amendments in preparation for his re-nomination in the 2013 elections as well as the Parliamentary elections next April.
In President Saleh’s speech in front of the House of Representatives and Shura Council in 2/2/2011, it seemed as though he was providing major concessions to the Joint Meeting Party opposition such as the abolition of the unilateral decision to amend the constitution as well as the formation of a High Elections Commission, which made the opposition announced their acceptance of this initiative on Sunday 13/02/2011. They then went back and announced the next day that after further analyzing the statements, they no longer welcome the statement because the speech did not measure up to what they can call initiative, unless the regime provides a comprehensive national dialogue, not bilateral, between the national parties and the president's party, the General People's Congress, calling on the President to exclude all relatives, to the forth degree, out of military, security, and civil services.
Many observers see that apparent confusion in the ranks of opposition is due to the parties’ lack of agreement between them, as well as its non-responsiveness to the aspirations of the ecstatic streets, such as those in Egypt and Tunisia, which came out daily demanding the departure of their regimes. Apparently, the opposition parties, despite their strength in the streets, seem to lag far behind the aspirations of the streets. This may create a wave of frustration that can reflect negatively on their popularity, and thus losing their grasp on situations to youth banners beginning to appear of Facebook such as the “February 3rd movement”, and the “curiosity for change and reform”, along with civil society organizations, away from the guidance of opposition. This already became apparent in the banners held up in the protests reading “no partisanship, no partisanship, our revolution is a public revolution” along with other slogans.
Strategy of the current regime
Two hours after the declaration of the departure of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, President Saleh met with his regime in the National Defense Council, which encompassed senior security and military officers, the officials of the ruling party, and Presidency members of the House of Representatives and Shura Council. This meeting was believed by observers to result in decisive decisions regarding the issue of political complexity in Yemen, however it only resulted in miserable recommendations that disappointed the Yemeni streets.
However, some observers believe that decisions have been made, such as the extreme disbursement of security personnel, now called “the thugs of the ruling party”, and their occupation of official squares, especially those dubbed “Tahrir Square”. Most of these security personnel are militants in civil clothing. As well as for the incitement campaign led by the President himself among tribes surrounding the capital Sana’a and scaring them from the risks of change that the protesters and opposition are demanding. All this refers to the extent of fear and loss of cohesion experienced by the regime, forcing it to use the “thug card” prematurely along with suppressing the media, and attacking journalists, knowing fully that such tactics do not work.
Thus, the regime claiming a “state of chaos”, only comes to show that the regime is not ready to accept dialogue and peaceful reform to the deteriorating situations on Yemen, and the declaration of chaos will only lead to the regime’s 33-year rule’s demise. This option of “if I go down, I’ll take you down with me”, displayed by the President in pushing the tribes into destroying and looting the capital Sana’a, is a tactic that was used during the Imamate system during the 1948 revolution, not knowing that these circumstances do not apply today.
It is true that observers of the situation of Yemen realize that it is the worst and most complex situation yet in light of the confused and disharmonized opposition from the blurry political scene they are trying to figure out and the sharp north-south division experienced in the Yemeni streets. They are still far from the revolutionary picture painted by Tunisia and Egypt, or the one that Marx once mentioned that it comes when people realize that they have nothing to lose except the chains restraining them.
Talks about revolution in Yemen, along the lines of Tunisia and Egypt, remains out of place, due to the social and psychological circumstances surround the Yemeni society different than those experienced by the Tunisian and Egyptian societies, even though all the key aspects to a revolution and its success are to an extent available in the Yemeni reality. What cannot be predicted here is that if a revolution did not occur it Yemen that would be a form of madness and an unreliable gamble.
The opposition revolution in Yemen is established in more than one way, with different activities here and there; taking the regime out of the picture and making it lose its control over society. Thus makes the presence of the government in name only.
However, some observers of the Yemeni situation see that the Tunisian and Egyptian scenario can be repeated, provided the involvement of the Joint Meeting Party, although this scenario would be rather costly no doubt, in light of the security and military conflict and multi-polarized leadership and loyalty, as well as a military with tribal biases depending on the tribe closest to the ruling family.
Other than that, is the loss of these armed and security units the minimum standards of human rights and patriotism, where they behave as tribal sectors following a military leadership. Their position as a neutral party may backfire and slip the Yemenis in a whirlpool of events and tangle them with the opposition party. The best proof of that is what happened to the troops throughout the war against the rebels, where these forces became involved in interfaced conflicts for the pillars of the regime and settling political scores.
· Yemeni writer and political analyst