The Yemeni opposition in Egypt
They chose Egypt for two reasons; Egypt is seen by the Yemeni opposition as a role model after succeeding in forcing their own president to step down on February 11. Moreover, they are also role models for Yemeni protesters because they prosecuted ousted president Hosni Mubarak – exactly what the Yemeni protesters hope to do with Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Yemeni protesters have been rejecting any political initiative to end their struggle by giving immunity to Saleh, as offered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal signed on November 23.
The second reason is that Egypt became a shelter to nest the Yemeni opposition’s activities because Yemenis can enter and live in the country easily since no visa is required.
Some former parliamentarians, who faced personal threats on their lives by Saleh’s regime inside Yemen since the uprising began, chose Egypt as their base to coordinate the work they need to do in order to boost the revolution inside Yemen.
Shawqi Al-Qadhi, an Islah party MP and one of the revolution’s leaders, said he had to move to Cairo after shelling on his house in Taiz two months ago, though he was luckily in Istanbul at the time. He added that it is easier to travel to and from Cairo than it is from any city in Yemen and that his efforts to strengthen the revolution have been more successful from Cairo than at home.
However, while the opposition leaders were holding different activities in Egypt, President Saleh claimed they were on holiday.
As well as the opposition members, Egypt also offers a sanctuary for southern leaders. Some were exiled after the 1994 war between the north and the south of Yemen while others who left in June 2007, when peaceful protests against the regime first started in the south, found it easier to do their work from in Egypt.
When Jamal Haider, a southern activist, was leaving for Cairo on November 5, he told the Yemen Times that he would not be back unless Yemen freed itself from the current regime. Haider was traveling to work for Shebam TV, a new channel founded by southern leaders and aimed at a southern audience, mainly discussing southern issues.
A large conference for the southern leaders was held in Cairo on November 22, headed by Ali Nasser Mohammed, a former southern president, discussing federalism as a solution for the south. The conference concluded that southern Yemenis should have the right to decide their own destiny – whether to stay unified through a referendum after five years of federalism.
Discussing Yemen’s situation
As the Arab League headquarters are based in Cairo, Yemeni students in Egypt came with the idea of protesting in front of the building. Four students established a tent promoting the Yemeni revolution. The Arab League building also happens to be in Tahrir Square, the focus point of Egypt’s own protests, so now there stands two tents; one covered by the Yemeni flag and the other by the Syrian.
When someone passes by, they often stop for a while, looking and asking about the tents – and that is how they promote the Yemeni revolution. The protesters are also active on Facebook, uploading their activities to keep in touch with those inside the country. They are well updated on the situation in Yemen. They keep an eye on the political changes and violence that has been happening on the streets, so when they promote the revolution they also inform people on the situation, using data and photos of exactly why they aim to overthrow the regime.
The Arab league decided to suspend Syria on November 12. Syria has since failed to implement plans to end the conflict and killings, and the Arab League has approved a draft plan of economic sanctions against the country, including the suspension of commercial flights and dealings with the central bank.
This is a response to the crimes the Syrian regime has committed since its people took to the streets calling for president Bashar Al-Assad to step down. The Yemeni protesters neighboring the Syrian tent were hoping to achieve the same objective to put pressure on the Yemeni regime, but so far they have not had the same response from the League.
Inside the tent they play videos of the regime’s crimes against civilians in Yemen so that Egyptians know exactly what is happening in the country.
Egypt’s second revolution
In the past weeks Egyptians have taken to the streets again, rising up against the military council now running the country. Despite damage to the tents during clashes between the security and protesters, which have cost the lives of 40 Egyptians and injured more than 2,000 since November 19, the Yemenis insist they will rebuild, and stay until their own revolution is successful.
Redhwan Al-Azab of the Yemeni tent in Tahrir Square, Cairo, said: ‘The tent was damaged, we lost out laptops, phones and banners but we will never give up. We will keep protesting until our demands are met. We support our Egyptian and Syrian brothers and we are part of the Arab Spring so we will stay until our dream come true.”