Extremism in the home
While the Yemeni revolution has its squares, marches and protest camps, it also has many unseen supporters who pray for success but are unable to actively participate in the revolution.
On the other side, Ali Abdullah Saleh still has his regime supports – despite the fact that he has handed over power to vice president, and soon-to-be-president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Like those seeking the downfall of the regime, Saleh has men who march in his name and those who support him from their homes.
Often those who “participate” from home are more fanatical about their beliefs than those who actually go out onto the streets and give voice to their views.
Friends have even fallen out over their political views. The extent of some people’s extremism has seen some call their friends killers for supporting Saleh’s regime. In another case, a mother threatened to disown her daughter if she stood by the revolutionaries and against Saleh’s regime.
Two brothers were once watching TV and fighting over which news channel to watch. One was pro-government and wanted to watch state TV while the other supported the revolution and wanted to watch Suhail – in the end they broke the television.
Professor Salah Al-Jumai, professor of psychology and social services, commented that such extreme acts are a normal reaction to suppression and disorganization.
“The main reason behind rejecting another’s point of view and taking extreme action against your loved ones is suppression. There are many reasons that prevent some people from participating in the squares, even though they strongly believe in the cause and this makes them frustrated and often more extremist,” said Al-Jumai.
“When one is disorganized he is not mature enough to have a healthy political conversation; so they try to force others to think like them, making them even more extremist in their opinions,” he added.
The reasons why some people cannot participate also affects their views, he added. “Many are governmental employees, and if they join the protests their salaries will be cut. Others are those who cannot afford to join as they are busy trying to earn a living.”
Despite popular rejection of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) power transfer deal, it was finally signed by Saleh in Riyadh on Nov. 23, 2011. However, the agreement was made between the regime and the opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) – leaving out the youth, who at that time had spent 10 months camped out in protests squares across Yemen.
Since then, youth groups have started to come to terms with the reality of Yemen’s situation – that the GCC deal has been signed and that they need to use the opportunities offered by the International community to involve themselves in the transitional process.
While the youth in the squares have begun to get more involved in a bid to influence Yemen’s future, those who support the revolution from their homes continue to reject the GCC.
Some youth groups have begun campaigns to encourage public participation in the coming presidential election, despite the fact that it is a one-man race, with Hadi as the sole candidate.
Other activists are using social media to call on the parliament to simply announce Hadi as the president, rather than spend huge amounts of money on a pre-decided election.
Khalid Rajah, one of the first anti-government protesters on the streets, lost one of his brothers in clashes between thugs and protesters, while another was shot in the knee.
“I announce my participation in the next elections, not as a betrayal to my martyred brother’s blood, but to demand that the new president prosecute those who killed him,” he said. “And to see Yemen headed by a new president. My brother gave his soul to build a new Yemen and I promise that we will build the new Yemen”
However, Amal Al-Himiary, 24, says the youth should not be supporting the election. “I know I am too taken by the revolution and that I take any word against those in the squares or the revolution as a personal offensive,” she said. “But the Gulf Cooperation Council deal is a game to stop the revolution; the youth should not give up the squares until their demands are met, with the first being the prosecution of Saleh.”
Although the parliament voted to grantee Saleh immunity from prosecution in Yemen – something that has been widely rejected by people on the streets and in squares – many youth groups are now trying to be realistic, while less active supporters simply reject the law.
Reem Ali supports the revolution, and says she gets almost fanatical about it – despite the fact she has not had the chance to participate in person, as her family did not allow her to protest. She says that because of this, she feels she was not able to contribute as much as the protesters, so she keeps talking about how the revolution will continue and denying that anything could be wrong – including the fact that squabbling sides sometimes fight each other in the squares.
“When someone is in his house and does not have the chance to experience the thing he supports, he thinks of it in ideals to keep his spirit high,” she said.
At the same time, pro-government “advocaters” provoke the opposing side by refusing to listen to their point of view and by glorifying Saleh after any new step he takes.
Some of his supporters even go as far as to claim that Saleh has the right to kill protesters because they disobey him; some say that Yemen is worth nothing without Saleh.
“He should have killed all the protesters but he is too democratic. That’s what led the country to this chaos,” said a 60-year-old woman in support of Saleh.
The media also plays a role in fostering extremist opinions. “When people get their information from the biased media without trying to get another point of view, they become extremist,” claimed Nabeel Ahmed, who fell out with her mother because of their opposing political opinions.
“My mother is a Saleh supporter – even though he left the country, she is still passionately defending him. Her information comes from the state media and it is hard to convince her that these are lies."