Sunday, November 13, 2011

three weeks outside the arab league

For Yemeni students Redhwan, Amru, and their fellow protesters, tomorrow will mark three weeks of protest outside the Arab League in Cairo. Despite the landmark decision to suspend Syria from the Arab League yesterday, nothing similar has so far followed for Yemen. Here are some photos taken over the last three weeks, in chronological order from bottom to top.

November 12 - Behind the police line, engineering student Ola leads the Yemeni section of the protest in chants, as delegates inside the Arab League vote on Syria's temporary suspension. Before the final decision is announced, Syrians, Yemenis, and Bahrainis protest together outside the main gate. Police attend the event, after a Syrian opposition delegate was pelted with raw eggs several days before.

November 10- It takes two lightbulbs to make a cup of tea in the protester's tent. “The generator can’t handle both [the kettle and the lighting],” explains Redhwan with a grin, as he takes them down.

November 6 - After the first prayer of Eid al-Adha, Yemenis join Syrians to protest against the regimes of Saleh and Assad. Despite one of the Syrian protester leaders announcing that there would be no Eid today but a "funeral for the martyrs", the mood is jovial on the first day of Eid. Old friends reunite outside the tent, and one man licks the remnants of a plate of basboosa, an Arabic cake, off his fingers.

November 1 - Yemen's candidates in this year's Arab Idol, sisters Amal and Houria, sing Dana Ye Dana and other Yemeni songs to fellow Yemenis, Egyptian passers-by, and Taizi opposition figure Sultan al-Samie on a visit to Cairo.

October 28 - A giant poster of Taha al-Juneid dwarfs the photos of other deceased protesters beside him. Medic student Redhwan knew him, and tells me how his friend's story turned the weekly protests outside the Arab League into a permanent sit-in. They abducted and tortured him for being a protester, he tells me. Before, protesters were been killed in the squares, but this was different. “I went out. We’re protesting! I said.” Redwan motions to the large poster of Taha behind him. “That one I printed,” he says quietly. “I paid for it myself.” (Taha's story with graphic images is here.)

October 28 - Engineering student Amru and law student Mustafa, who I found reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho at 8 am that morning, charge their phones from the tent's generator after a shared breakfast with their Syrian neighbours. The Syrian anti-Assad protesters have set up their tent on the pavement on the other side of the Arab League's permanently-closed front gate.

October 26 - As night falls, Yemenis gather in the newly-erected tent outside the Arab League headquarters just off Tahrir Square in Cairo. The make-shift tent, topped, with the Yemeni flag, was put up on October 24. "We ask the Arab League to suspend Yemen's membership," reads the sign.

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