The ‘New Yemen’ An insight into post-revolutionary social changes in Yemen
Ever since Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia set himself on fire in front of the headquarter of the state of Sidi Bouzid in a rampage of anger expressing his deep frustration from the confiscation of his wares and the humiliation he received on the hands of a municipality officer; Revolutions inspired by the Tunisian events massively erupted and heavily stormed several countries and slightly affected some in the MENA region , resulting in a domino effect that was subsequently known as the ‘Arab Spring” inflicting threats of removal on oppressive authoritarian regimes in countries such as Libya , Egypt , Syria and Yemen.
Unlike its stable rich neighboring countries ; Yemen has always been fraught with contention and instability either before or after the unification of its two parts ( Northern and southern) in 1990 to form a unitary state that was subsequently known as the ‘Republic of Yemen’ , A unity that did not go as planned , resulting in a massive civil war that took place in the summer of 1994, which had left thousands of victims behind and further more compounded causing a great social congestion between residents of the two former states.
The Arab spring didn’t only affect Yemen through several changes in the country’s political sphere leading to the toppling down of Ali Saleh’s oppressive regime , and a greater step towards advocacy of democracy symbolized in the commencement of the national dialogue conference , but it has also sparked a series s of a rarely -discussed major formative changes that significantly impacted social life in Yemen . The past three years have acted as a’ paradigm shift’ in terms of the population’s exposure to the outside world through the utilization of technology and media tools , they have spread awareness about the importance of such tools in modern- day life, consequently leading to a tremendous increase in the number of internet and social media users . According to the recent report issued by the ministry of telecommunications ” Yemen had significantly jumped from 2.38 million internet subscribers in 2010 to 3.33 million subscribers in late 2011 with an additional 80% increase in the number of cell phones users in 2013 in comparison with the rate in the year before” . The term ”Social Media” itself prior to the demonstrations in 2011 had not yet been fully introduced to the Yemeni society as the media in all of its resources was censored and controlled by their respective authorities, No freedom of speech , no freedom of press what-so-ever ,Nowadays almost every Yemeni is equipped with a social media tool that can even be an internet – connected cell phone that is used to upload videos and pictures taken right from the heart of the events inside squares and sit ins and share them with the whole nation, literally revolutionizing the use of technology in a country where the majority of its citizens appeared to be totally disconnected from their outside world .
Yemenis have always dreamt of a civil country with a better constitution that provides Social Justice , Equality , Democracy ,and guarantees rights for all segments of the society , Unfortunately their dreams seem to be in a constant decay ,and in a battle with an unbearably bitter reality .The past three years have largely exacerbated the role of both tribalism and religious totalitarian control , Nowadays in most Yemeni territories (especially Northern ) The role of State laws have largely diminished irreversibly as the army continues to disintegrate and was replaced by an extended tribal control where the state forces role has been trivialized and limited to no more than a mediator that gently intervenes to reconcile between heavily armed warring tribes instead of forcefully implementing full sovereignty on the ground ! Rarely those reconciliations attempts accomplish a positive outcome leaving the government as an innocent bystander helplessly observing tribal wars. Empowered politically –driven Social Religious Totalitarian movements was another growing issue that Yemenis fell short to anticipate ,as the majority of people in the country are still majorly influenced by the clerical rhetoric that drives them blindly to take certain political decisions regardless of its profitability or not as long as it fulfills the needs of tribal clerical figures.
The past three years have also deeply exacerbated the already –existing social cleavage and congestion between southern and northern natives . Prior to the unification of the two regions of the country ,Yemenis were accustomed to say ” We are one population split in two countries ” This commonly uttered phrase showed a great deal of mutual love and understanding between people of the two former states , however ,what was once portrayed as a romantic relationship between two populations, had totally ceased to exist as people in the south can at present freely express their constant resentment of the misrule, injustice and inequality practiced against them after the 1994 civil war by saying ” We are now two different populations in one country , thus we must secede and proclaim our former state ” There have been incalculable incidence of violence that are ethnically -related especially in the south where so many vehicles coming from the north ( Mostly Families that come for vacations ) were brutally assaulted or even murdered at times , Northern shop owners were savagely beaten and their shops were burnt down in places like Hadramut and Dhalea in retaliatory attacks that are often justified as a backlash against the central government’s misrule in the south , In addition to the fact that Millions of southern have developed some sort of a new identity! They incessantly refuse to be labeled as ‘Yemenis’ but rather to be named as ” Janoobeen” ( Southern Arabs ) as a sign of their non-affiliation with northern Yemenis under one citizenship , which have caused a deep social cleavage tearing apart the nation’s social fabric to an unprecedented level.