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Guest Thinkers

Friday Protests

Brilliance in the morning: The New York Times had an absolutely wonderful op-ed today (some of you may have noticed that I have been strongly disagreeing with Victoria Clark’s piece for some time) but this one by Ali al-Muqri was, in my opinion, spot-on.  Seriously, if you read Waq al-waq and you haven’t read this piece, do so right now.  I can’t recommend this highly enough. 

Full disclosure: I consider Ali to be a friend, and I had one of the most heart-wrenching conversations I’ve ever had in Yemen with him one summer a few years ago in the back garden of the Yemeni Centre for Studies and Research. 

Ali is an incredibly passionate and articulate man and a wonderfully provocative writer – I prefer his prose to his poetry, mostly because I rarely understand the latter. 

Protests: Now for the protests today.  Obviously, I’m not in Yemen at the moment and so I, like a lot of people, am forced to triangulate what is going on through a combination of news stories in English and Arabic, notes from friends on the ground, and calls with people I respect.  Although this isn’t necessarily all that different from being in Yemen.  (Anyone who has ever been to a qat chew will understand what I mean.

Besides, I was in Egypt when the protests got started and for several days after that and it was much the same process of triangulation, it was just impossible to get a good bird’s eye-view of what was happening.

Having said that, I don’t think today was the tipping point in Yemen.  But I do think today was the first day that a number of people began to seriously believe that the unthinkable could happen, that Salih could be forced out.

Now, I’m not saying this will happen, this thing could still go a number of different ways, but I’m saying what I believe to be true: today, for the first time, people in Yemen began to believe that what happened in Egypt and what happened in Tunisia could also happen in Yemen.  And that is a big thing.

The coming few days leading into the period Feb. 24-28 should be key in Yemen, there may be some lulls at times but it looks like the protests are picking up steam.  I know President Salih is incredibly worried at the moment.  According to al-Tagheer he even took a helicopter ride over the protests in Taizz.

At the moment there are a lot of playbooks about how to not deal with these type of protests – cue Ben Ali and Mubarak – but no one has yet to figure how to deal with them, which is why you see so many different leaders trying so many different things.  This explains Salih’s meeting with tribal leader (although reference yesterday’s post as well) and all the announcements that are coming out about new hires that the government is making and pay increases for existing employees. 

The government is throwing a lot of things against the wall in the hopes that something sticks.  Unfortunately for the government, its credibility is in the tank and most of these stories are being drowned out by the sounds of protests and news reports on the violence. 

Rulers in the region still don’t have a play to counteract what is happening in their public squares.

Twitter: Also, as some of you may have noticed, in a decision I’m sure I’ll come to regret, I have joined twitter.  And so if you can’t get enough of my ramblings on Yemen here at Waq al-waq you can follow me on twitter where I’m forced to be brief.


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