The ‘New Yemen’ An insight into post-revolutionary social changes in Yemen (By Ahmed Saeed)

31 Jul

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.

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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.

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