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March 22, 2011

Sarah Ishaq’s Yemen: A View from the Street

Posted in: Human Rights,Middle East

Last night as I was catching up on the news I noticed a twitter message from Andy Carvin who has been such a good hub of information on the Arabic uprisings.

Carvin was retweeting a link to a video of yesterday’s funerals in Sana’a and I took a look and discovered three videos by Sarah Ishaq (her channel can be subscribed to here and sat mesmerized as I watched.

For so many weeks now we’ve been talking about the revolts, the people’s demonstrations – from Tunisia and Egypt to Bahrain, Iraq, Syria and Yemen as well as Libya. Much of the video footage we’ve had has been astonishing, raw rough images taken on cell phones and such, quickly uploaded and sent out to the world so we can witness – a demonstration, a brutal crackdown, a moment of victory. But in all of those videos – often taken at extreme risk to the creator – it’s often hard to really see the faces, the people who are turning the world upside down (or right side up perhaps?) They become the “protesters” or the “activists” or the “rebels” Even with their limitations they are so very important as they do bear witness.

Sarah’s videos do something else, something we can too easily miss. She brings us face to face with the individual people in those immense and wondrous crowds, she introduces us to their eyes and their voices, their children and their sorrow.

While things are moving fast in Yemen, another country like Bahrain where our administration has been willing to merely issue pro forma statements of concern – today they said the violence was “unacceptable” – but has not called for Saleh to step down. Following the killing of 52 peaceful protestors and wounding of untold more, the Saleh government appears to be crumbling with military leaders picking sides, some with the people, some against. Whether this leads to a coup or genuine reform or a revolution, we don’t yet know. Yemen is beset with so many troubles – vanishing water supply, extreme poverty, major political and tribal divisions – what comes next is unlikely to be simple or easy.

But I hope you will take a few minutes and watch each of these videos – and meet the people of Yemen, the people who are risking all for something better. [More video below.]

The first video is from the demonstration on March 1, 2011 and Sarah describes it as:

Daily anti-government protests and sit-ins have been taking place in the “Square of Change” outside Sana’a university (Sana’a, Yemen) since the 18th February, 2011. Men, women and children peacefully took to the streets yesterday (04/03/2011) – with numbers almost reaching a million – calling for a change in government and for Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down “with dignity”. Pro-government demonstrators congregate in Tahrir (liberation) square, 2km from the anti-government demonstrators, in exchange for government-funded lunches and wads of Qat.

The second was filmed a little over a week later, on March 11, 2011 and includes wonderful interviews with Yemeni children. She notes:

Eight hours after filming this, the square was attacked by security forces using live bullets and poisonous gas during dawn prayers. All the demonstrators are unarmed and have been camping peacefully in the square since the 18th Feb, 2011. Two demonstrators died and almost a thousand injured this morning. Armed thugs blocked off entrances to the square with bricks, however demonstrators tore the walls down. Medics were arrested for helping injured demonstrators stuck in the square, and only a few ambulances were allowed to pass. Hospitals filled up today (12/03/2011), however demonstrators remain steadfast and non-violent in the square.


The third was filmed yesterday during the funerals of the 52 killed by Saleh’s thugs on Friday.

Sarah ends the third with the words Victory is near. Insha’allah.



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