Rage and roses

While the eyes of the world have shifted from Tunis to Cairo and become fixated there for the time being, Yemen--always the global blind spot--has been stirring as well. The always-insightful Brian O'Neill has been blogging up a storm at Always Judged Guilty since last week; we at the YPP meanwhile have maintained a cautious quiet. It is far too soon to make predictions about what the ongoing public protests in Yemen will achieve, but it's clear that they will have a serious—and possibly permanent—impact on the larger political and social situation there. Last week I argued, in the AJG comment section, that President Saleh would probably be able to manage these protests, and possibly even turn them to his own advantage. It doesn't need to be pointed out that I made some predictions about Egypt in those same comments that have proven to be way off, but I think the chances of a popular movement ousting the Yemeni regime are still slim. The main protest leaders are planning a new round of massive demonstrations on Thursday February 3, an event they're branding Yemen's "Day of Rage." The moniker is borrowed from recent days of rage in Lebanon and Egypt, but Yemen's protesters have vowed to keep their demonstrations peaceful, and have adopted the color pink to symbolize their pacifism.

This is a risky tactic. If large enough numbers turn out on Thursday, and stay united behind committed and trained protest leaders like Tawakul Karman, the demonstrations could have a tremendous effect, and could permanently alter the terms of interaction between the regime and the opposition(s). But all this advertisement also gives the regime time to plan its response. According to the Yemen Times, earlier protests were disrupted or attacked by plain-clothes police and paid-0ff civilians, and the demonstrators found limited sympathy among the residents of San‘a, who have a hard enough time making ends meet without the economic side-effects of popular revolt.

The path to change is never easy. I'm afraid that real change in Yemen may be a long time coming still, but surely this is a period of unprecedented opportunity. While I can't predict what will happen come the 3rd of February, all of us at the YPP are thrilled to stand with our brothers and sisters in Yemen as they demand to be heard. For now we hope and pray that peace will prevail.