As all Yemen obsessed folks know, following the events unfolding in the region from thousands of miles away is absolutely maddening. When my phone beeps with one of my many Yemen related Google alerts, I leap from a shallow slumber to rush to the nearest electronic device with an internet connection.
It’s ironic to expect the power to be on and to be awoken by an electronic beep instead of an artillery strike in a pitch black room void of electric lighting. In some ways I prefer the explosion, at least I’m put at ease realizing that I’m one of the first to know about it.
But in spite of an unceasing obsession with the details, not a lot has changed in Yemen since my departure last September, aside from Change Square being shelled, something Taizi protesters have been dealing with for months already.
But perhaps one of the most interesting details quietly leaking out of Yemen to those that have an eye for it is that the media is now beginning to refer to Taiz as the Bin Ghazi of Yemen. The phrase, first used by the tireless Laura Kasinof, still running from generator to generator across Sana’a to file her stores for the New York Times, seems to imply that Yemen is on the brink of a Libya style revolution.
It was something I began to notice in Sana’a as well. Some protesters even expressed that they regretted calling themselves a peaceful revolution from the outset of the uprising and that perhaps it was time to take up arms.
It is a concept that I wondered myself, laying awake at night in the ancient Old City of Sana’a while I listened to distant shelling. As I grew more and more frustrated with the stagnant status the uprising had reached, I wondered why in the hell they just kept allowing themselves to be shot at. The revolution was never 100% peaceful to begin with. While Yemen’s youth protester never shot back at plainclothes gunmen and security forces, stone throwing was the order of the day. I recall seeing Molotov Cocktails being thrown at water cannon trucks for the first time in April and thinking, “What are they waiting for? It’s time to shoot back.”
But the youth remained steadfast in their calls for a peaceful uprising. The step from throwing stones to firing Kalashnikovs is a big one and it is one most of them are unwilling to take. After almost nine months of constant assault, however, Taizis may have begun getting fed up. Not being on the ground to see for myself, at this point I would not be surprised to see protesters begin shooting back in self defense, especially in the besieged city of Taiz.
Regime supporters often point to stone throwing and the use of Molotov cocktails to demonstrate that the protesters are indeed not peaceful. It’s a laughable point to make, especially when many of them are shot just to get one stone in the air. But what I’ve always wondered is why a violent uprising, as opposed to a peaceful one, is something that is deemed less courageous or less meritorious. What we have in Yemen is an uprising that is stuck somewhere in between violence and total pacifism. A hesitance to chose one or the other could be one of the reasons why we’ve reached a stalemate.
However, should Yemen’s protesters begin defending themselves through force of arms, the consequences could be dire. Images of airstrikes carried out on the country’s most populous cities haunt my dreams. However, one thing is for certain – should the protesters and tribesmen (especially in Taiz) strike out in a coordinated fashion, the Yemeni military wouldn’t stand a chance.
I’m neither advocating nor disapproving of an armed uprising in Yemen, it’s merely an observation. One thing is for sure, the protest movement has reached a violent stalemate. Without some external or internal force willing to drastically change one part of the equation, another nine months of this could come and go before we know it.