So what's going on in Yemen?

I was on my way home from work a few weeks ago, around 5:45 am, when I stopped into my local/favourite deli on the corner. I love this deli and I love the guys who work in it. They are all from the same big Yemeni family and always remember me, remember what I like to eat, ask me how I am and how my day is going and all of that nice stuff. And I always return the favour. I stop by to say hello, chat with the guys about where they are from as well as random everyday stuff, kind of just make the place into my local corner shop that I stop into every day. The reason I stopped by after work the other night was because I saw some sketchy looking guys hanging out on my street corner, and I just didn't feel comfortable walking past them - so I went to hang out at the deli for a bit, until they left. The guys who were working the night shift were watching something on TV behind the counter, and I joined them... They were watching reports on the ongoing protests and governmental/police violence in Yemen, protests that have been going on for months.

Yet again another country that the media doesn't really care about. I posted about Bahrain a while ago, and we all know what happened there (or you do if you either read my post and watched the AJE documentary I posted). So what's been happening in Yemen? The country has been rising against the existing governmental body, requesting the resignation of president Ali Abdullah Saleh since last January. That means nearly a whole YEAR. A whole year of protests and crackdowns on protests and police and the army shooting into the crowds and killing people. A year of negotiations and agreements and backing out of agreements and confusion and lies and more marches and demonstrations. The murder of innocent people by the government is not calming the crowds down - it's making them even more intent on fighting for change.

Saleh has been in power since 1978. That is the year I was born, and this means that the same man has been governing Yemen for the past 33 years. I honestly doubt that he has been democratically elected as president for the past 33 years, so it's only natural that the people want to see something different, especially with the other uprisings and fall of dictatorships in other Arab countries this year. Apparently the elections in Yemen have been set for next February, but with the recent shootings who knows? Protesters marched miles for 4 days from the city of Taiz to the capital to demonstrate their unhappiness and discontent with the way things are moving, and were attacked with tear gas and sniper shots; men throwing stones at the crowds and attacking women. How much longer does this need to go on for until someone decides that it's enough? Is this another Bahrain, or maybe another Egypt? There has been internal fighting in Yemen for years now, and different political factions clashing... Including Al-Qaeda. So with Saleh on his way out, does this mean a different type of worry for the West?

Do you even really care? I know I do. And I know my friends from the deli on the corner are worried about their country and their family. I know revolution is not usually non-violent, but it doesn't always need to come at such a price.

More information:
Yemen Live Blog on AJE
Yemeni Uprising on Wikipedia (remember that not everything is always 100% accurate)

Those deaths we celebrate – food for thought

While reading the below remember that I am not pretending to have the answers to any questions. All I want is for people to start questioning things more than blindly accepting them.

So, when are we allowed to celebrate a death? When are we allowed to be happy about the death of someone we actually have never met? What allows us to rejoice, watch gruesome videos online, when normally we would weep, or, most often, not care. Why does the death of certain people touch the world, when ongoing death and starvation in third world countries takes a back seat.

In the beginning of May this year, US Special Ops stormed into a house in Pakistan and shot Osama Bin Laden dead, and many of us around the world rejoiced. There was no doubt that this person was one of the main masterminds of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, and the head of one of the biggest terrorist organizations in the world. The world is now a better place, no? Would it have been possible to have caught him alive, and tried him in front of a judge and jury? There was no doubt he was guilty. He was Number 1 on the “Most Wanted” list. Dead or alive… He probably would not have even wanted to be taken alive. I’m not even going to try to go into his mind, or that of the guys who went in there and killed him. He was taken out, pure and simple. A small act of violence to venge the death of thousands. A celebration around the world that the head of a despicable organization was chopped off, but as we all know, if you remove one, there are many more ready to pop up and do the dirty. We just got rid of the face of 9/11. Some may say that it took long enough, but “we” finally did it. I do think the whole death at sea part was a little strange, but who am I to question this? Then again, for all we know, the guy could have been captured alive, stuck in some bunker in some far off country, while people try to make him talk by any means possible (which I honestly doubt he will do, he probably has the willpower that Jean Moulin did when he faced Klaus Barbie). Or his body could really be at the bottom of the ocean, bones picked dry by fish and other hungry sea predators. Not that we will ever know, right?

This week Muammar Gaddafi was killed. We all knew this was going to happen at some point, he said he was going to fight until the bitter end, and again, I don’t think he really would have wanted to be taken alive either. First of all I doubt the “rebels” were going to treat him with kid gloves, and second of all, I doubt any of his former allies (hello US, Italy…) would really have wanted him alive. It could have been a little embarrassing, you know, going through some of the secret actions that had been kept secret for so long. Every country has its secrets, some just remain buried forever.

I’m happy for the Libyan people. They were ruled for 42 years by a cruel dictatorship and are now going to have to learn how to live as a free country. I’m happy that they are now going to have the chance to actually choose their own government. I don’t envy them however, because they are now going to have to fight off plies from their “allies” who all want a piece of the Libyan oil pie. In any case, we know Gaddafi was captured. We’ve all seen the videos, and he had such a memorable face that it would have been difficult to mistake him for someone else. The autopsy revealed today that he died of a bullet to the head. Where that bullet came from, no one will ever know, all we know is that he is dead and gone. So we celebrate his death all over the world, and hope for a better future, for the Libyans at least.

So, back to my original question: when can we celebrate a death? What makes it allright to rejoice over the death of someone we never even knew, instead of crying about it? Yes, the fundamental bases are there: we rejoice over the death of someone who caused harm, death, pain and grief. I myself am happy that Bin Laden and Gaddafi are dead (at least I hope they are), but I just wish people would question themselves about everything before blindly believing everything they are told. Instead of just rejoicing over the death of a dictator by posting about it in your Facebook status, why don’t you read about what kind of atrocities he committed to merit such a death? Why not take a few minutes to go back 42 years and read about how he came into power, about how certain countries courted him and then turned their backs on him, the love/hate relationship he had with certain secret services, how his name was attached to the Lockerbie bombing, and how he treated his people during his time in power. Yes, it’s totally OK to rejoice in the deaths of despicable human beings (as long as we know they are really guilty), but at least know why you are rejoicing before you do.

If you don’t bother to question anything you are just accepting the world we live in. And I can’t rejoice in that.

(On a lighter note, I think someone should count how many different spellings of Gaddafi there are and decide which one is the correct one).