If any Arab population needed a revolution, it was Yemen. If we talk about poverty, there is no one poorer. If we talk about illiteracy, there is no one more illiterate. If we talk about corruption, there is no regime more corrupt than the one that was in Yemen. I was born in 1972. We were a poor family. Society then was traditional, but it was colorful. The women participated in everything. In the market, in the bakeries; buying, selling. Things started to change when we reached the mid-80s. Each year, society was becoming stricter. The status of women was a real problem. Sana became full of weapons and tribes. The revolution didn’t start in a day. In 2006, a coalition of civil society organizations was formed. I was one of the leaders. We protested and organized sit-ins. Freedom! On Jan. 24, 2011, we were following what was happening in Tunisia. When a corrupt ruler in an Arab country goes down by a popular act; it was, for us, an impossible dream. That day, I woke up earlier than usual, feeling that I had a big mission to accomplish.
We stood in front of the Tunisian Embassy and I told an Al Jazeera reporter that I had a message I wanted to send to President Saleh. I hope that the movement progresses and for the fall of the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who threatened us with Afghanization, Iraqization, and Somalization. Today, we say to him, we threaten him with Tunisization! When I was saying those words I felt like I was shaking the throne of tyranny. When I remember the first days of the revolution, I feel that, for a few days, we were able to create a whole country in a small area. Not more than one kilometer maybe. We created a Yemen that was united, collaborative and respectful of one another. Yemeni women were at the front of this revolution. Most of the marches were led by women. Women’s issues were strongly represented in 2011; in its beginning. There were slogans and banners about maternal mortality, child marriage, about women being the victims of illiteracy, poverty.
Then the women started to get pushed away from the platform. To the back, to the back, to the back. In less than a month, they were beaten in the square where they had previously led. The important women’s issues I wanted to discuss were the issues of women in decision-making positions, women’s health and child marriage. Unfortunately just as the women were pushed away from the revolutionary scene, their voices were crushed in the dialogue conference. The women barely advanced at all in the revolution. Yemen is always at war. Even if it isn’t declared, it’s a war. There is the war against Al Qaeda, there is the war waged by Al Qaeda. There is the war between Houthis and Salafists. There is the war between the Congregation for Reform and the Houthis. The women called for peace and it’s a state of war. I know a very progressive official in the country who said very clearly, “Now is not the time for women. For their freedom. It’s not the right time.” Everyone, including women, is saying that it’s not the time.
But when is the time?.