Sunday, July 28, 2013

Egypt's Unrest, Yemen and Tawakkol Karman

In parallel to the bloody protests taking place in Egypt last Friday, in Sana'a a huge crowd continued their regular protests calling for justice for the killed two young men by an influential sheik's guards just because they overtook his way in the street. The unfortunate incident has transformed into a significant public opinion issue. During the protest, Yemen's ousted president, Ali Saleh's nephew, Yahya Saleh had the courage to join the crowd and pretend to be engaging in the public's concerns, while Yahya by all calculations is a war criminal and one of the main figures responsible of the killing of thousands of protesters during Yemen's 2011 uprising, and him being free and enjoying this impunity is absolutely unjust. He was eventually kicked out by the protesters when he was noticed. He should have gotten more outrageous reaction for his last action. 

In the front to the right: Yahya Saleh marches with the crowd.
In parallel to Egypt's protest as well, a huge crowd took the streets in Taiz after the burial of Abdulrahman Al-Kamaly - who has passed away last week after he lacked the proper medical treatment for the severe wounds he endured during Yemen's 2011 uprising. Al-Kamaly's unfortunate death raised the discussion once again about the fate of Yemen's 2011 uprising's wounded protesters who mostly never received a proper medical treatment from the current unity government, while it has received million of dollars international aid for that purpose. 

From Al-Kamaly's burial in Taiz. 

On top of all that, in parallel to the unrest in Egypt, again, 37 individuals from Yemen's National Dialogue Conference's members were indirectly called 'infidels' a last week in an issued statement from Yemen's religious scholars committee; referring to them as enemies of Islam after they voted in favor of ( Islam as the main source of legislation of the state) instead of ( Islam as the main and only source of legislation of the state). The statement instigates hatred and harm, and fatal action against the 37 individuals in worst case. The public has been relatively unmoved towards that while it's a worrying how the right-wing status in Yemen is drastically increasing.

A poster made to show the 37 "enemies of Islam" individuals' pictures. 

That's just a glimpse of what should supposedly concern the main opinion leaders in Yemen. Instead, the unrest in Egypt had the biggest, if not all, portion of those leaders' concern. No doubt that Egypt's situation is important to Yemen, the region and the world but the local concerns are not any less important as well. Suddenly, Yemenis became the best experts on the situation in Egypt and some of them transformed to a semi-official spokespersons to the army or the Muslim Brotherhood. With every move being made in Egypt, local press and Yemen's social media react immediately and strongly. Let alone of the huge pro-Morsi protest that took place in Sana'a once Morsi was removed from power, earlier in June.

That brings the attention to what's the link there? Why are Yemenis so concerned about Egypt so that they could forget about their own issues? It's simple, MB members must unite in such difficult times. Yemen's MB political party, Al-Islah is the second large political party in Yemen and poses %22.6 in Yemen's parliament. As it has a strong grip on the people, it is currently demonstrating its strong ties with Egypt's MB. With that as well, it's becoming clearer how Yemen's grassroots share MB's ideology. The pro-Morsi protest in Sana'a was one of the largest protests the city has witnessed after the end of Yemen's 2011 uprising. 

What's significant in the current flow is the nature of Yemen's political elite's stance. Statements from MBs in Yemen have been pouring extensively in support of MBs in Egypt. Islah's leadership's stance, understandably, has always been consistent and clear with being pro-Morsi, however one MB has deviated in the very first events, meaning in 30 June, and later her stance became in the absolute contrary. In the events that followed and until today, and most probably in the future, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Islah member, Tawakkol Karman is openly and strongly siding with Morsi. She has been commenting extensively on her Twitter and Facebook accounts in favor of Morsi and MB in Egypt. "Morsi is the Arabian Mandela," she stated. 

Her comments have erupted huge controversy in Yemen and Egypt alike. Non-Ikhwan social media users in both countries are shocked by Karman's enthusiastic solidarity to Egypt's MB. That shock transformed into mocking her and using offensive words to her. Some of them have even made offensive comments on Yemen in general. Yemen's non-Ikhwan community are ashamed of this matter and try always to confirm that Tawakkol doesn't represent all Yemenis' position. "She is just too affiliated to her political party," one tweeted.

Bear in mind, Islah party is one of the main reasons of why there is no strong legal position against child marriage in Yemen after they opposed and blocked passing a law in the parliament in 2010 to set age 16 as a minimum age for marriage. As one of the most influential voices in the world and in Yemen's Islah party, Karman should have had a clear and strong stance on that. Moreover, the growing popular solidarity with Egypt's MB gives indications on how Yemen's next year elections' -parliamentary and presidential ones- results would look like. Depending on how the situation develops in Egypt, Yemen's political arena is definitely developing as well.