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Monday, 18 April 2011

Tribes adopt values of non-violent resistence. From Kalashnikov to Ghandi

Yemen Times
Yemeni tribesmen adopt the values of a peaceful revolution

Population of Al-Baida who are mostly armed tribesmen leave thier weapons aside and join pro-democracy protests. Photo by Majed Karood
Ali Saeed

SANA’A, Apr. 17 – As the popular nationwide uprising demanding an end to President Saleh’s 33-year regime continues, a culture of peaceful struggle has been spreading across much of Yemen, including areas always considered as ‘tribal’.

Al-Baida governorate, almost 300km to the south of the capital Sana’a, is a tribal area where most of the population is heavily armed. All kinds of arms and weapons are sold in public markets across the governorate.

However, the wave of peaceful protests spreading across the country has had a marked impact upon the population of around 700,000 in Al-Baida. The tribesmen, who make up the majority of the population, have left their Kalashnikovs aside. They have started protesting peacefully, and are demanding justice and a civil modern state without a call to arms.

“I saw tribesmen coming to the protest square in Al-Baida handing in their guns and Kalashnikovs to the popular security committees around the square, and entering the protest without their weapons,” said Ahmed Arman, a lawyer and human rights activist at the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedom (HOOD), who is from Al-Baida and regularly attends the protests in Al-Baida.

“It is often hard to find a tribesman who hands in his weapon to the state’s soldiers. He may fight to prevent that, but now you see a change. They come and hand the weapons in themselves,” he explained.
When pro-democracy protesters called for popular civil disobedience across the country on April 13th, Al-Baida was the first to respond. Shop owners as well as other offices closed down for three hours in the city, according to Arman.

According to Majed Karood, a local journalist in Al-Baida, the protesters have maintained their peaceful protest despite provocative actions taken by the regime in the governorate to induce protesters to use violence.

He explained that on March 3rd, around five protesters were wounded by live ammunition fired at them “by thugs loyal to the ruling party.”

There are about 2,000 protesters permanently camped out in Al-Baida. They started setting up their tents on Feb. 27th, and have since swelled in numbers demanding the ouster of President Saleh and his regime, according to Karood.

On April 17th, 20,000 people marched on the streets of Al-Baida condemning Saleh’s statement on women participating with pro-democracy protesters. They called for the president to step down.
The president gave a speech in front of his palace to thousands of supporters in Sana’a on April 15th stating that pro-democracy protesters at the University of Sana’a should not allow mixed sex protests. He further went on to say that such mixed protests were “illegal under Islam.”

Protesters in Al-Baida raised placards with phrases such as “Saleh do not speak about women, we will cut out your tongue.”

Dr. Mohamed Al-Qadi, a political analyst, said that the regime had tried to play the tribal card and push them towards violence. However, the regime had failed. As this revolution began peacefully, the tribes have kept their peace.

“This is a huge shift in the life of the Yemeni tribesman – to leave his arms and demand his rights peacefully, even if hurt,” he said. Al-Qadi said that this has occurred not only in Al-Baida, but across a majority of tribesman nationwide.

“Because they have suffered a lot from injustice, corruption and inflammatory wars among the tribes, they have resorted to peaceful means,” he said.

Al-Qadi added that these represented a new set of values among the tribes in Yemen, and should be encouraged and promoted

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