The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Meanwhile in Yemen

A friend in Sanaa writes:

So today after Friday prayers there was a demonstration organized by students and activists, it started at about 1 pm in the new university and they marched chanting for an hour until the Egyptian martyr’s cemetery

It was less than 200 people. Only two women. One of them was Tawakul Kamran, the activist who was arrested recently for one day.

All the chants were about Egypt and protestors carried many pictures of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The chants were “awaken, awaken oh youth”

“Long live Egypt”

“Down Hosni Mubarak”

“Egypt mother of the free! mother of the revolutionaries”

Something about dictatorships but I didn’t get it

And they sang the poem by the Tunisian poet abu qasim ashabi:

“If people ever wanted to have a life destiny and fate shall respond, darkness shall leave and chains shall be broken”

They walked by throngs of Yemenis buying qat and ignoring them or looking bemused.

One man asked another who the guy in the picture was. “Gamal Abdel Nasser,” said the other guy.

One traffic policeman called them sons of whores and nobodies

Some kid asked what the fuck Egypt has to do with him

"Fuck them they’re gay" said another guy

Some people watching shouted "long live hosni Mubarak."

A Yemeni red crescent car with about six people in it followed them the whole time, as did a lone policeman on a motorcycle and two sanitation trucks full of young men

When they got close to the Egyptian cemetery many more security forces arrived. A few cars and one bus, a total of at least 30 and some others in civilian clothes. Some had clubs. The two sanitation trucks full of at least 20 men also pulled up. They were obviously there to attack the demonstrators if it became necessary. But after a couple of minutes in front of the cemetery it ended and people walked home.

At the end, in front of the security forces, tawakul kamran smiled and shouted “down down Ali Saleh!”

Responding to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s decision to step down, independent Yemeni activists in the capital city of San’a called for a candle light vigil to celebrate the events. By 8:30 in the evening hundreds of Yemeni students, academics, activists and citizens gathered in front of the new university. It was very spontaneous. One activist told another activist 'why dont you have a celebratory candle vigil for Egypt?" some phone calls were made and people gathered quickly. The timing was right in terms of the qat chewing cycle. People had been home chewing and talking and watching al Jazeera for hours. Soon their numbers grew to the thousands. People chanted in support of Egypt. Chants included:

“The Egyptian people brought down Mubarak”

“Long live the Egyptian people”

“Revolution until victory”

“One thousand greetings to al Jazeera”

and other chants for Egypt which soon became chants focusing on the Yemeni regime such as:

“yesterday Tunisia, today Egypt, tomorrow Yemen will open the prison”

“down with the regime”

“the people want the regime to collapse”

“revolution oh Yemen from San’a to Aden”

“the Yemeni people is fed up with Ali Abdallah Salih”

They decided to march to the Egyptian embassy. It took an hour and as they marched their numbers grew to the thousands. They marched past neighborhoods and were cheered by onlookers. They were eventually met by soldiers guarding the Yemeni embassy and they turned around and gathered in San’a’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square. By about 10:30 pm several trucks full of heavily armed soldiers began to arrive but until then the demonstration had been peaceful.

At least ten army trucks carrying dozens of men in civilian clothing who are likely members of the Yemeni security forces arrived as did many security force pick up trucks and jeeps. Hundreds and hundreds of men in civilian attire carrying sticks, knives as well as automatic weapons arrived carrying pictures of President Saleh. They attacked some demonstrators with knives and sticks and at this the majority of the anti-regime demonstrators dispersed. Hundreds of uniformed members of the Yemeni security forces were present facilitating the arrival of those chanting support for Saleh. The security forces also closed off the roads in the area of Tahrir square, allowing only pro regime demonstrators in who came running with signs, sticks, knives and automatic weapons. The remaining few hundred anti regime demonstrators lasted for a while with a few dozen of them sitting on the street. There was some pushing back and forth as the columns of pro and anti regime demonstrators met, and some water bottles thrown back and forth. But dozens of police in riot gear separated the two sides. Anti regime demonstrators burned pictures of Saleh. They shouted at the pro regime demonstrators “army wearing civilian clothes!”

Pro regime demonstrators shouted “with our spirits with our blood we sacrifice for you oh Ali!”

Anti regime demonstrators responded by chanting “oh oh leave oh Ali” and “oh god oh god down with Ali Abdallah”

Demonstrators on both sides danced and sang.

Then hundreds more pro regime demonstrators charged them and pushed them forcing them all to flee. This happened under the eyes of the chief of security for the area, hundreds of various security forces and the general secretary for San’a, Amin Jum’an. In the end thousands of pro regime demonstrators had occupied the square singing, banging on drums and dancing. At least ten anti regime demonstrators had been arrested.