Yemen

Killing the Ambulance Man

Susanne Dahlgren 12.17.2014

Sad news came on December 15 from Aden, the port on the southern coast of Yemen. The city had awakened to a day of civil disobedience, called to speed up what Adenis and other southerners hope will be their independence from the central government in Sanaa. As the day’s protests gathered steam, government troops shot and killed Khalid al-Junaydi, popularly known by his Facebook name, Khaled Aden.

Muhammad ‘Abd al-Malik al-Mutawakkil

Muhammad ‘Abd al-Malik al-Mutawakkil, Yemeni political thinker, activist and university professor, was assassinated by gunmen on a motorbike on November 2, 2014 in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Iris Glosemeyer and Anna Würth, researchers of contemporary Yemen based in Berlin, were his friends from the early 1990s onward.

Dear Iris,

The Yemeni UFW Martyr

In the summer of 2014, director Diego Luna released Cesar Chavez, a feature-length retelling of the story of the 1973 grape pickers’ strike in California that inspired an international grape boycott and made Cesar Chavez a household name. In the film, the first person killed on a farm worker picket line was a Mexican bracero named Juan de la Cruz. In fact, de la Cruz was the third of five “United Farm Worker martyrs” to die violent deaths struggling for social justice in the vast fields of American agribusiness. The first was Nan Freeman, a young Jewish student helping a sugarcane strike in Florida, and the second was a Yemeni migrant called Nagi Daifallah.

Explosions and Ill Omens

On October 9, 2014, a suicide bomber detonated himself in central Sanaa, killing dozens of innocent people. Upon reading the news coverage of this terrible event my thoughts leapt back to a series of plays that I had seen performed in Sanaa in the spring. Most of these performances took place under the aegis of the annual celebration of World Theater Day, known locally as the Festival of Yemeni Theater. Five months prior to the explosion in Sanaa, a surprising number of the festival’s plays had made references to suicide bombing.

Chanting for Southern Independence

“Our revolution is the South Arabian revolution,” shouted five or six men at a march in Crater, a district of Aden, on March 20, 2014. The mass of demonstrators answered in unison: “Get out, get out, o colonial power!” The call-and-response pattern continued: “Our revolution is the South Arabian revolution.” “Against the power of the tyrants.” The stanza concluded with the chant leaders prompting, “No unity, no federalism,” and the crowd again thundering, “Get out, get out, o colonial power!”

A Poor People’s Revolution

“This is no longer a movement,” said the young man whose Facebook name is Khaled Aden. “This is a revolution.”

The Breakdown of the GCC Initiative

On September 21, 2014, fighters of Ansar Allah, loyal to the Houthi movement based in the northern highlands of Sa‘ada, conquered Yemen’s capital. Militants occupied the home of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman, a leader of the 2011 uprising against the regime of President ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih and a member of the Islamist party Islah. When the young men tweeted photos of themselves sprawling on her flowery bedspread with automatic weapons and bags of qat littered around them, the Houthi fighters conveyed a triumphal logic of coercive power, here sexualized for maximum impact. They later apologized, saying that the intent was to “guard” the Nobel laureate’s home.

From the Editor (Winter 2014)

Midway through Barack Obama’s second term as president, there are two Establishment-approved metanarratives about his foreign policy. One, emanating mainly from the right, but resonating with several liberal internationalists, holds that Obama is unequal to the task of running an empire. The president, pundits repeat, is a “reluctant warrior” who declines to intervene abroad with the alacrity becoming his station. The other, quieter line of argument posits that Obama is the consummate realist, a man who avoids foreign entanglements unless or until they impinge directly upon vital US interests.

Southern Yemen After the Fall of Sanaa

The mysteries in the September events in Sanaa loom large. Who decided that security forces should not try to stop the Houthis from entering the Yemeni capital? Why didn’t Hashid tribes, closely tied to the political elites of Sanaa, stop them? These are questions that southerners are asking when trying to make sense of what happened on September 21 when Ansar Allah, the militia of the Houthi political group, stormed the largest city in the north.

State Department Taking Passports Away from Yemeni-Americans

The Editors 08.9.2014

Over the past year, dozens of Yemeni-Americans visiting their ancestral homeland have had their US passports summarily revoked or confiscated by the embassy in Sanaa without any clear legal basis, effectively stranding them outside the United States. Last month, a coalition of US civil rights groups submitted a report on this practice to the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) pursuant to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Drama in Yemen

On May 11, 2013, armed tribesmen stormed the Cultural Center in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, demanding that the activity in progress immediately cease. A minister of the Yemeni government was whisked away by underlings from his front-row seat and out a side door; the assembled crowd quickly dispersed, some nervous, others titillated by the unexpected disruption. The tribesmen exited in triumph, leaving the central participants in the evening’s presentation stunned, angry and bereft of an audience.

Was it an act of terrorism? A reprisal for a drone strike? An attempt to derail a high-level cabinet meeting?

What About ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Awlaqi?

Lisa Hajjar 06.29.2014

The US government wanted to kill Anwar al-Awlaqi long before a CIA-JSOC drone strike actually succeeded in doing so on September 30, 2011. Before and after that deadly strike, al-Awlaqi’s kill-ability has been a bone of contention because he was a US citizen. The cleric, who had become radicalized as the “war on terror” wore on, moved to Yemen, his ancestral homeland, in late 2004.

An Interview with Huda al-‘Attas

Huda al-‘Attas is an activist for women’s rights, an author of short stories and a teacher of sociology at the University of Aden. Aden was the capital of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), which existed from 1970 to 1990 under the governance of the Yemeni Socialist Party. Al-‘Attas is deeply engaged in today’s peaceful fight for the independence of southern Yemen and the broader movement (or hirak) around what is called the “southern cause.”

Southern Yemeni Activists Prepare for Nationwide Rally

Susanne Dahlgren 04.24.2014

For the first time, a Million-Person Rally or milyuniyya will be held in Yemen’s oil-rich eastern province of Hadramawt. It is being called milyuniyyat al-huwiya al-junubiyya or the Million-Strong Rally for Southern Identity.

Seven Questions for Ammar Basha

Sheila Carapico 04.16.2014

Ammar Basha is a Yemeni filmmaker. His documentary films include Breaking the Silence, about the discrimination faced by working women of African descent in Yemen, and a series called Days in the Heart of the Revolution, about the 2011 Yemeni uprising. Breaking the Silence took second prize at the Women Voices Now film festival in Los Angeles in 2010. The latter series was screened at the International Yemeni Film and Arts Festival in Berkeley, Washington, London and Sanaa. Basha also makes feature films.

Romancing the Throne

Sheila Carapico 03.27.2014

President Barack Obama plans an overnight stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on March 28-29 for a rendezvous with King ‘Abdallah. The enduring but always strange bedfellows have been quarreling of late over Saudi Arabia’s belligerent relations with neighbors Iran and Syria. Both sides hope during this visit to kiss and make up.

The First International Yemeni Film and Arts Festival

Annelle Sheline 03.21.2014

March 18 was the third anniversary of what Yemeni “peaceful youth” call the Jum‘at al-Karama massacre, the day in 2011 when snipers opened fire on Friday of Dignity protesters in the space they had begun to call Midan al-Taghyir (Change Square). By the next day, more than 50 unarmed demonstrators lay dead.

As in Cairo’s Midan Tahrir three years ago and Ukraine’s Maidan in 2014, trigger-happy security forces not only failed to quell dissent in public squares but actually galvanized popular outrage and elite defections from the regime.

The Middle East Despot’s 13-Point Guide to Longevity and Prosperity

Only a few dictators are blessed with a security apparatus powerful enough to suppress any and all challenges to their rule. The wretched remainder have to turn to Machiavelli’s Il Principe — a handy companion for political realists — for answers to the question of how to forestall their otherwise inevitable overthrow. But does Machiavelli’s masterpiece supply the foils for the new perils that insubordinate youths pose to the Arabian emir of the early twenty-first century?

Demonstrators, Dialogues, Drones and Dialectics

In 2011 Yemenis shared a vision of revolutionary change with protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria demanding the downfall of cruel, corrupt presidential regimes. Today, like many of their cousins, the peaceful youth (shabab silmiyya) of Yemen face a counter-revolutionary maelstrom from within and without. If Gulf sultans were anxious about insurrection in North Africa, they were even more fearful of subaltern uprisings in their own neighborhood.

Sojourners and Settlers

The United States is a nation of common people from marginal environments. In spite of contemporary America’s preoccupation with coats of arms, few of our ancestors were the children of privilege. Nor did they come from lush plains or fecund valleys. More often it was the mountains and hill country they left behind, where stony soils, forests, or harsh weather made farming difficult and made them willing to tear themselves away and take their chances in far-off America. They were Irish from Kerry and Donegal, Italians from Sicily and Abruzzo, Romanians from the mountains of Transylvania and Swedes from the forests of Smaland and Dalarna.

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