On February 11 after the Friday noon prayers Yemeni students and activists organized a demonstration in the capital city of Sanaa in solidarity with Egyptian demonstrators frustrated with Mubarak’s refusal to resign. At about 1 PM they met in front of the small roundabout by the new campus of Sanaa University and marched through town chanting slogans and carrying pictures of Gamal Abdel Nasser the Egyptian hero of Arab nationalism. Less than 200 people took part and only two were women. Slogans chanted included:
“Awaken! Awaken oh youth!”
“Long live Egypt!”
“Down Hosni Mubarak!”
“Egypt mother of the free! Mother of the revolutionaries”
And they sang an excerpt from a poem by Abu al Qasim al Shabi, a Tunisian poet of the early 20th century: "If the people will to live, providence is destined to favorably respond; and night is destined to fold, and the chains are certain to be broken.” This song had been heard in Tunisia, Egypt and then throughout the Arab world as popular mass revolutions spread.
The small group of demonstrators walked by throngs of Yemenis ignoring them or looking bemused while they continued their purchase of Qat, the mild stimulating narcotic nearly all Yemenis chew. One onlooker asked another who the guy in the picture was. “Gamal Abdel Nasser,” said the other man. One traffic policeman spat out that the demonstrators were sons of whores and nobodies. “What does Egypt have to do with our mothers?” asked a boy contemptuously. “Fuck them they’re gay!” said another man. Some people watching shouted “Long live Hosni Mubarak!” and laughed.
A Yemeni Red Crescent car with about six people in it followed the protestors from start to finish. I asked why they were there. “For them,” one of them told me, gesturing at the demonstrators. A lone policeman on a motorcycle and two sanitation trucks full of young men with plenty of sticks and rocks also followed.
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya`s edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.