Only in Yemen can bypassing a wedding procession cost you your life. Earlier this month, two young men were killed while trying to bypass a wedding procession in Sana’a. The procession was of the family of the leader of Al Awadhi tribe. In Yemeni culture, when there is a wedding or funeral procession, people are expected to stop and give way until the last car has passed through, in order to show their respect.
Armed men from the Al Awadhi tribe got angry and felt insulted when they saw a car bypassing their procession. Then, in an attempt to defend their “honour”, they chased the offending vehicle and stopped the two young men inside it. And shot them dead in cold blood. It is hard to believe what had happened, and it does not make any sense to take a human life for bypassing a procession. But what is really stunning is that the brutal crime happened right near the police car that was assigned to provide protection for the procession; and instead of arresting the murderers, the police protected them. This is the scary security situation in Yemen at present. If police officers are scared for their lives when a crime takes place in front of their eyes, what do we expect from regular citizens in such cases?
Witnessing the progress of the revolution in Yemen is a bizarre experience. We see tribal leaders who contributed towards protecting the revolution not giving up the protection of their tribe’s members. Shaikh Ali Al Awadhi is a member of the National Dialogue that is currently in progress to pull Yemen out of its misery. It seems Shaikh Al Awadhi still thinks his family members are above the law.
These are not the kind of National Dialogue members young people were looking to in order to attain their aspirations. One of the victims, Khalid Al Khateeb, had just arrived in Sana’a from Aden on that day to to fulfil his dream of getting a scholarship to Germany. But his dream turned into a nightmare for his family and the family of his friend Hassan Aman, who was the grandson of famous Yemeni poet Lutfi Jaafar Aman. The victims’ families are well known, and they did not keep silent. They are trying to take the matter to the president himself, and have called for protests from Yemeni people who want to see a Yemen in which there are no guns in the hands of criminals.
What if those young men were from poor families who do not know any officials and the crime was witnessed by police? Would they listen to their case? Would they go after the criminals? Wasn’t Yemen’s revolution for regular citizens, poor or rich, famous or not, to feel safe and secure in an environment where there was equality and justice?
The expectations of young people from the revolution in Yemen were very well represented in a documentary by Diana Moukaled on the Al Arabiya Network. It was called “Yemen’s Walls” and told the story of young artists who have showcased Yemen’s suffering through paintings and sketches on the walls of the streets of Sana’a that were damaged during skirmishes between the forces of ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and Yemeni revolutionaries. It was an attempt by the artists to document crimes committed by Saleh’s forces against citizens and show the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in Yemen resulting from the corrupt 33-year rule of Saleh.
The graphics on the walls of Yemen carried a lot of pain that you can clearly see in the eyes of artists Sahar and Murad. They painted tales of wars, destruction, murder, sectarianism, ignorance, disease, poverty, terrorism, and separatist violence on the walls.
I was watching this documentary, and wondering if these walls will bear witness to the suffering of Yemenis we see sleeping on the roads especially in the current excruciating economic circumstances. On the other hand, there is political wrangling during the National Dialogue by General People’s Congress, the former ruling party and its allies, and the Southern Movement, supporters of Sharia, and the Houthis.
It is crystal clear that the country still faces a series of challenges and longstanding problems of tribalism, poverty, security and regional divisions, which can hinder the National Dialogue. Unless all parties involved obey the law and create a positive atmosphere to discuss Yemen’s challenges and overcome the differences and disputes between them, the country will face a bleak future.