Yemen: New Shift of Power

Where to start!?

The two months in Yemen have been a complete, intense roller coaster ride. Houthis, a Shiite group, “invade” Sanaa city in mid September, claiming to continue the “revolution for change” in Yemen by setting up tents around the main airport road, flooding the streets with armed men (even kids), and taking over the 1st Armored Division claiming it to be the “21st of September” national park. For those who are not aware, on September 21st, the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), a U.N backed deal was signed by all political fractions of Yemen, including the Houthis, to prevent further escalation of camps by Houthis and to form a new government in accordance to the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC).

That first paragraph wasn’t that bad, right? But wait, it’s not that simple!

There’s multiple questions to be asked and I am sure many Yemenis are asking themselves the same thing: What’s next?

Observations

There are some observations I have noticed prior to the “Houthi invasion” – so to speak. Ali Al-Bukhaiti, a prominent Houthi activist and representative for his group traveled to Tehran, Iran at the end of June. He flaunts about his trip to Iran and posts multiple pictures in his “Timeline” album on Facebook. To make life simple, click here for an example. On July 19th, he visited Dubai as well, again, flaunting a photo on this date in his “Timeline” album in front of the largest tower in the world, “Burj Khalifa.”

Why does the Dubai trip send off an alarm for me? It’s simple: Ahmed Saleh. Some people may have forgotten, but General Ahmed Ali Saleh (ex-president Saleh’s son) was sworn in as Yemen’s newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Yemen in the United Arab Emirates. Maybe I may overanalyze some movements by political leaders, but this to me, screams “ALERT.”

The timetable in which Ali Al-Bukhaiti traveled to Iran and Dubai are relatively close. Although I don’t have any magical powers to know for sure what happened in those two trips, most likely and I can almost guarantee it that Ali Al-Bukhaiti met officials in Iran and talked about Iran’s future in Yemen, while also planning this houthi coup with them as well. As for his trip after Iran to Dubai where Ahmed Ali Saleh is based, this also rings a bell that Ali Al-Bukhaiti’s talks were then switched over to Ahmed, in which they both agreed of the coup for both Iran and GPC’s interest to overrun the Islah party and diminish their power.

Following those two trips by two months, the very smooth and well planned Houthi invasion in Sanaa occurred and not shockingly, Islah and the Al-Ahmar clan was the target. The major and most important target was Ali Mohsen’s 1st Armored Division. After they successfully took over that division, Ali Mohsin fled from Sanaa to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is pleased that Houthis are targeting Islah because its the “Muslim Brotherhood” of Yemen.

Clearly, what shows here is that the GPC, Ahmed Saleh and even Ali Saleh want to clear their path to Yemen towards power again. Many questions arise here and this is, will Ahmed Ali Saleh pave way to the presidential chair, after Pres. Hadi? Will the Houthis be a temporary ruling part in Yemen while Ahmed Ali
Saleh paves its way to the presidential chair? Will the GPC then, rival the Houthi group out of power in the near future? Will Houthis be a long term friend for Saudi or will they be friends just until Saudi reaches its goals to fully kill Islah power in Yemen? GPC and Houthis are noticeably working hard together for their interests.

Southern issue

This is quite tricky, especially because Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthi movement, always addresses the southern case in his public speeches, which he says, “That all their demands will be met.” Is this the truth or just a political move to gain support?

There are some unconfirmed news that there are a few officials who are in Aden after the houthi invasion. In fact, some say that Hadi’s eldest son is in Aden currently. Hooriyah Mashhour has published a few tweets stressing the importance of the southern case and that she stands with the southern people for their demands and rights. Timing sounds fishy, doesn’t it?

What happens to the south? Will the south succeed in separation? Well, if Ahmed Ali Saleh comes back to power, will he let south separate by choice? I doubt that. If south separates, will Saudi let the south flourish? I doubt that, too. It’s constant loopholes that both sides of Yemen are trapped in. Will the south be a safe haven for officials? Absolutely.

Please take note: Hadi will never ever succeed in South Yemen. Southerners always considered Hadi weak in personality and the fact that he was VP for ex-president Saleh all these years just makes southerners hate him even more.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi is playing a dangerous game in Yemen, with the big gamble of ending the Islah party from major power. The risks are too high, yet they seem to accept and “welcome” the PNPA agreement signed by Houthis with other political factors in Yemen. While trying to battle Syria, how will they control Houthis and to some extent, Iran from increasing their influence in Yemen? Saudi’s southern borders will most likely be effected by this but to what extent? As all of us know, Saudi would do anything in their power to protect their borders from Iranian influence.

Interestingly enough, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Zarif and his Saudi counterpart Suad Al-Faisal met in New York on the 21st of September, hinting a new relationship on the surface between Iran and Saudi because of recent developments in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. I believe Saudi is forced to reach agreements and talks with Iran because their borders are at risk. This may explain the welcoming of the PNPA agreement between Houthis and the Yemeni parties.

Conclusion

The main reason why many Yemenis are sleepless and confused by the recent events in Yemen is because we aren’t used to such lightening-fast changes, which were highly unexpected. It still feels like we are in a dream and we want to wake up, but can’t. Northern states have always conflicted with Houthis and their province of Saadah, and so for Houthis to be a main group in the political arena over night, is just too much to handle.

There are many bargains, conflicts that can erupt, but I believe that such events will lead to pressured talks with Saudi and Iran. We may sleep overnight and wake up to presidential elections and the resignation of Hadi. We may wake up to Ahmed Ali Saleh becoming president, too. Who knows!

Would the Martyrs of Yemen Agree?

Two weeks ago, I stopped all of what I was doing for 20 minutes to sit and reflect on all that has happened in Yemen since the revolution in 2011. I thought to myself, “What were some positive outcomes?” I put the positive thoughts in my mind first to try to feel better about the current situation in the country: less fearful, more demanding, valued as an individual and empowerment. These are all great outcomes.

Why haven’t I said “Ali Abdullah Saleh’s fall” as an outcome? Pretty simple: it was partially successful.

Has anyone thought about those who were killed by our government recently? If you have, that’s good. If you haven’t, ask yourself why? Every time I think of the uprising, I get flashbacks of all those individuals that put their lives first for a better life for their brothers and sisters. It’s not something simple to do- especially since most of the martyrs were youth. I’m sure you all remember empowering scenes of protesters bravely stepping forward to soldiers and/or tanks not giving a damn about what will happen to them next. They just did it because they felt it was right. They thought If this is the cost of freedom and value of ones self, it is worth it to stand up and go forward against the oppressor. Do you blame them for making such a bold move? I don’t.

But what happens next in Yemen’s chapter? The National Dialogue:

The greatly appreciated savior of events to create “stability” for Yemen. By the way, I say this with full sarcasm. Basically, the National Dialogue is a 6 month long event that will either break or make Yemen. It’s a dialogue with the government, representatives of political parties, youth (women and men) and movements in the region. The amount of funding to support this dialogue is roughly about $30 million dollars.

So here we have a bunch of individuals who aren’t fond with each other, discussing an important political transition and how the country can move forward in a peaceful, successful manner. Supposedly, the Yemeni government believes that it will be a success because there is NO ‘Plan B’ just incase it were to fail.

This raises concern. No plan b? Why? What makes everyone so sure that it will be a success, especially since our nation is unstable and isn’t in its best shape, at least security wise. Can we afford another round of bloodshed if this event were to fail? Not at all. Therefore, if our government cares and understands that the result is a 50/50 chance of success/failure, there should be another plan. The reason why is to prevent any devastating outcomes in the near future (if anything were to happen).

Let’s talk money. $30 million dollars is a heck of an amount of money. Yes, a stipend should be given to all those who are participating because they are taking a big responsibility, but paychecks aren’t really necessary. Why, you ask? Well, how are we so sure that this dialogue will be for six months? What if something were to happen, security wise, that may stop it? Say 5 million is given for the first month; chaos happens. Then the question arises, “What’s going to happen to the rest of the 25 million dollars?” Yes, I’m aware that some money may go to bump up the security, but still, it’s 30 million. Are there any public documents of some sort on where this money will go exactly?

As an activist who has been to Yemen during the revolution multiple times, I understand that the martyrs are symbolic for protesters to keep going and push for a change in the country.  I, too, respect those individuals who have gave their lives to a cause that we all deem to be important. Would the martyrs approve of the youth participating in a dialogue with political elites that have blood on their hands? Would you sit down with murderers and shake their hands to discuss an uncertain outcome? A few people will say, “Well, we have no other choice.” Yes, that may be true, but that choice isn’t guaranteed a positive result. Give it a shot, but the cost may be the lives of innocent people in the middle of a political war. Hence, why I emphasize the importance of a plan B.

Yes I criticizes a lot, but it’s not for fun and it kills my energy to do so. I criticize because I care about the country I come from. I would love to talk about great achievements done by the government but until that happens, you won’t see so much ‘achievement’ blogposts.

Hope for the best but expect the worst.

The loss of a child due to celebratory shootings.

Two days ago, a friend on Facebook tagged me in a photo… this photo showed the image of a little toddler in the ICU of a hospital in Taiz, Yemen. Her name was Abeer.

Abeer and her mother were walking to a market next to a wedding when the unexpected happened: a gunshot wounded the child. In Yemen and many other countries, there is something called “celebratory shootings.” Celebratory shootings are basically gunshots fired in the air to celebrate an event and in this case, a wedding. Two days ago, she was struggling to survive. Today, I’ve received news by my friend on Facebook that she has passed away and was buried.

There are many cases in Yemen where people have been wounded and sometimes killed by celebratory shootings. It seems that it’s a careless act because on a day of happiness, sometimes someone loses theirs-just like Abeer’s family. Instead of a couple starting off their lives with happiness, they start off with guilt and worry when cases like these happen.

Personally speaking, I am against celebratory shootings and Abeer’s (may she rest in peace) picture shows exactly why. Today, a mother and father lost their little angle. Today, they bury her. Since there isn’t any law against celebratory shootings and we know that to do such an act is part of our culture; we should always remember what may happen: a bad ending, a tragedy.

Next time, before starting to shoot in the air. Think about the damage you can do to a family.

May she rest in peace and may God give her family strength and patience.

TEDxSanaa

Yemen held its first TED event, also known as TEDxSanaa. On New Year’s Eve, over 150 people attended the inspiring event, listening to 19 speakers and entertained by special performances and guests in between.

Each individual spoke about their ideas, hope and personal stories to the audience in the room and to those who were watching live on the Internet across the world. Indeed, many people have laughed, smiled and cried because every story touched the heart. The room was filled with energy and positive vibes shown with glowing facial expressions by the attendees.

The team and volunteers have worked for hours, days and months to make this event happen and I give them props for their hard work because it paid off. From start to finish, it was excellent. Rules were implemented, volunteers made sure everything was organized and the TEDxSanaa team did their best to make it a memorable day.

As an attendee, I felt honored to have been in a room with such great individuals. As I listened to each story, I felt empowered with hope, strength and bravery. It’s because with these stories and seeing all these faces of hope, I knew Yemen will be in good hands. The ideas presented at the event, whether it would be for education or for the environment, were simple yet brilliant. It’s little projects that go a long way for our society.

Change starts with the people, not the government. If we sit and wait for the government to help bring change, then I’m sure we will be waiting for a very long time. Think and ask yourself, what can you do for your country? How can you do it? When can you do it? Starts with a thought and ends with an action.

What it all comes down to is the people of Yemen. It doesn’t matter if you live in Yemen or outside of Yemen, as long as you have a dream and you’re willing to help bring it into reality, you are paving a road for a NEW YEMEN.

We start with ourselves! We are creative and intellectual people. We can help our country. We are the people of a country known for its history and historic makings to better civilization. We’ve done it before, we can do it now for our country because we need to.

Big Role for Yemenis Abroad

This post is to all the Yemenis abroad…I felt the need to write about this:

I think some of us forgot that we have a huge role in the development of Yemen. In some aspects, a more bigger role than the people in Yemen. Remember those first few years when you entered the US, for instance? Many of you struggled in the beginning (if not, your lucky) to build your income to better your living. You left Yemen to seek money, happiness and a future for yourself and your kids. All of you came to a land that has opportunities, options, freedom, etc.

We’ve opened businesses, some of you received diplomas (High school and/or College) and others invested in land, apartments or homes in our homeland. In fact, many buildings and homes that are built are owned by Yemenis abroad. Which is a great thing! We are financially stable to build and buy lands, stores and other things. But I always wondered and thought that we are capable of doing much more than buying lands. We are capable of doing much, much, much more.

Has anyone thought about opening a small tutoring institution? Or a Summer camp? What about Investing in orphanage homes? What about putting money to help a school buy students chairs for classrooms? Boards? Supplies? Investing in the education field in Yemen can help tremendously. Think about what it can do for our people’s future.

You see, it’s not about owning something and having your name on it. It’s not about how many buildings, cars, homes and lands you have. In the end, this will only help you and your pocket for investment if you choose not to live in it. I’m not saying you SHOULDN’T buy/own all these things. I’m saying, put your money into other things too. Something that you will feel good about. Something that will help your community.

We tend to forget about this important, yet simple task. If those who are financially capable invest in things like orphanage homes, schools, offices, homes, food for the poor (not Qat), etc. I think Yemen would be in a better stage than what it is now. 10 years ago, many areas (where I live) were empty. Today, there are hotels, villas and businesses and most who built were Yemenis abroad. I want to add, that Yemenis who live in Yemen have a role too (those financially capable).

It’s something to think about. We can do so much to help. If each one of you can buy or build magnificent homes, I’m sure you can invest in helping communities with supples, projects, schools, etc. I know people personally that came to the US and forgot about their roots and country. They see laws and life in the US and when they see Yemen they criticize it and push Yemen out of their mind- never stepping into the country. We have to think for a moment and tell ourselves to thank God for what he planned for us. You or I could have been in a country without freedom. You and I could have been trying to make money for rent. You or I could have been worrying about how to make ends meet.

Do not forget your roots.. do not forget your country. Invest in things that will help your community. The littlest thing can go a long way. Believe me, it’s so simple. Try once, you’ll feel proud that you helped.

I can’t help but cry for you, Raja Al-Hakami

 

Ever since I watched Raja Al-Hakami’s interview on Suhail TV via Youtube, I can’t help myself but cry for her.  I take a moment by myself everyday and sink into my thoughts, letting out a deep sigh when I think about my country, Yemen. It hurts to see the country that I wish the best for in such a mess. I think about those troubled faces, the empty stares, the hurt, disappointment and anger.

Flashbacks of Raja’s video come into mind and my tears start flowing out of my eyes. At first, I asked myself why am I crying? I then realized it’s because of the injustice in my country. I’m really saddened to write that she is under a death sentence, after a 2 year jail sentence for defending her honor and family from an alleged rapist. My heart sinks every time I read a headline regarding her case…

What’s frightening? This ruling can happen to any other woman in Yemen when defending herself and her honor. Injustice can happen to anyone in Yemen. No one is safe from unjust rulings.

Knowing Yemeni officials and our failed courts, they won’t look at her case again. If they do, and give her a fair trial, it will be considered a miracle. You see, there is no such thing as human rights in the country nor is there such thing as justice. How can your kids grow up in a country where there is no such thing as equality for both sexes? How can we build a nation when the fundamentals aren’t even established? How can we ‘better’ our future when our rights are nothing to the government? How are we going to go ahead in a country that doesn’t even have a judicial system? Think about yourselves and what your entitled to. These are our rights! If we have nothing near that, then we will never see a better Yemen.

I cry because our people have took so much from our corrupted government. I cry because our people haven’t lived a decent life. I cry because they are so hopeful yet they turn around and say, “There’s no use.” I tear because even after all this, they are still hopeful saying, “God willing, things will change“… that’s a beautiful thing to hear.

But I pray… I pray for Raja and all the others who are are going through injustice. I pray for the little kids that are dreaming…I pray for the mothers and fathers that worry endlessly about their kids future. Most importantly, I pray that God will help a country in need of His assistance.

 

Update: The People of Yemen project

Today, I wanted to write specifically about the project that I’ve started around the month of September. Around the same time, I wrote a post regarding the project as an idea and was excited to start it. For those who do not know about the photo project, it’s basically a project to show people around the world a positive image of the country and its people.

The project isn’t self served- it’s a community project and effort. To make this project successful, we need contributors that are willing to showcase their pictures on the People of Yemen Facebook page. I do want to make clear that this page will only posts pictures of the people of Yemen, not the beautiful landscapes of the country.

I’m really glad to say that we do have a website up and running with all the photos we post on our Facebook page. As we look to expand on the project, we hope to see people contributing by sending any photo they have with a caption of their choice and the location where you took the photo. We’ve made it easier for our audience to submit photo(s) by going on our website and clicking on the “submit a photo” tab or you can visit out Facebook page and send us an inbox. We also receive pictures by e-mail (please see ‘about’ section of FB page.)

Those who’ve participated from the start really started the base for the project. With that, I would like to say thank you to the individuals who have contributed from the beginning. Thanks in advance to those who will contribute now and/or in the future to the project. Without the community (Yemenis and non-Yemenis), it would have never had the same feeling.

Also, special thanks to the People of Yemen team!

Warm regards,

Summer Nasser