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Winner of the 2011 ICRC Humanitarian Visa d’or Award – International Committee of the Red Cross

Martyr, your blood has not been shed in vain Chant of the revolutionaries in Yemen

Students, drop-outs, people unemployed or simply disillusioned – they are all there together, packed onto the square outside the new University of Sana’a, and now known as Change Square. They are determined to stay there until President Ali Abdallah Saleh, who has held power in Yemen for 33 years, steps down. From the mountains in the North to valleys in south, from the shores of the Red Sea to the wadis of Hadhramaut, youth movements have reached every province in the country. The “revolutionaries” are an improbable, motley lot, and that is no doubt the first success story for the revolution. The people of Yemen have been looking at one another and speaking to one another; they have been discovering one another. Tribal men have had discussions with young students specializing in communication; socialist parliamentarians have been debating with Muslim women; shopkeepers from the old city have been listening to air force officers. Uniforms and titles are irrelevant: “We are all children of Yemen” proclaim the demonstrators.

As more and more people join the advocates of change, the President’s party has suffered spectacular decline. Diplomats, ministers, parliamentarians, governors, officers and sheikhs, once loyal supporters of Ali Abdallah Saleh, have rallied to the demonstrator’s cause, adopting their call for the president to go and the régime to fall. Change Square in Sana’a and Freedom Square in Taez are focal points for thousands of citizens who have chosen to embrace peaceful resistance. Yes, that is another original feature of the “revolution” – it is being conducted without weapons. In a country with more than 50 million firearms, and despite the many military checkpoints monitoring movements into and out of the city, it is not very difficult to get a Kalashnikov or a rocket-launcher. But opponents to the regime discovered that they could make demands without violence, simply by using words and by being there, although the armed conflict between President Saleh and the Al-Ahmar clan north of the capital almost pushed the “revolution” into a state of civil war. Demonstrators have been targets for snipers on rooftops and teargas and attacks by central security men wielding truncheons. Yet they have remained peaceful pacifists to the end, without firing a single shot. While the president is still in hospital in Saudi Arabia, they have endeavored to bring about a gradual, peaceful shift in power. They have called for a proper and sound parliamentary regime, a new Yemen which they wish to see tackle corruption and injustice. Time is needed to succeed, and for them success is the only possible outcome. In the meantime, they shall return to the streets, quite aware that the security forces are waiting for them there. So they shall chant: Martyr, your blood has not been shed in vain.

François-Xavier Trégan, July 3, 2011.

This report could not have been accomplished without support through assignments for Le Monde Magazine and ELLE magazine.

Catalina Martin-Chico

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