Written By: Mohammed Humaid*
Article Date: Sep 16, 2012 - 8:36:01 PM
I live next to the bridge leading to the US Embassy. A number of windows of my house were shattered during an exchange of stone throwing between the protesters and the anti-riot police on Thursday afternoon, September 13, 2012.
We also had a dose of tear gas in our house that infiltrated from the shattered windows. Youths in their teens were hysterically throwing stones and chanting anti-American slogans. Youths too young to form any serious political opinion seemed thrilled with the prospects of throwing stone at police and chanting a mantra that promotes self-sacrifice.
Later in the evening we saw TV footage of horrific scenes of these youths, entering the US embassy and looting whatever can be carried. Scenes of protesters smashing wind screens of cars were particularly appalling.
This shameful conduct demonstrates an inherent character that we have tried to deny but failed repeatedly; it’s that tendency to seize the property of others by use of force, if it can’t be seized, it gets destroyed. This is not a transitory reaction to hap hazard events. It is becoming part of our modern identity. It’s true that the majority of people denounce it but the fact that it continuous unabated means that it defines who we are.
The issue is not against whom the violence is directed, nor to whom the property in question belongs, the question is why force and unlawful seizing of property has become a way to express our anger or discontent?
The trouble is deeper than one might think at first instance. An incident such as the appalling film against the prophet served as a stimulant that incited anger and discontent. The interpretation of such response depends on the culture and set of values the respondent believes in.
In Libya, it took the form of barbaric brutality that led to murder, In Egypt rioting and invasion of US embassy compound, in Morocco peaceful condemnation, in Asia burning of the US flag. In Yemen, violence and looting of property. We have experienced similar incidents when Sana’a was looted in 1948; when Aden was looted in 1994; when several ministries were looted in 2011 and when the Ministry of Interior was looted in 2012. The looting of the US embassy was thus not an act of animosity directed at the embassy as per ce, rather it is a form of expression of our anger and discontent.
The chief culprits are the youths who are themselves are victims of misgovernance. The youths, have little hope, little education and are frustrated with their lives. They lack the simplest forms of recreation; they have energy but don’t know how to expend it. You see them playing football in the roads, streets and alleys.
No sports grounds, no places for them to discover their talents and improve their skills. They are jobless with little prospect of employment no matter how hard they tried. Scholarships, abroad and inside the country, are taken up by the small elite. The same elite that have confiscated the parks and recreation grounds and suffocated their hopes.
This practice is recurrent day in and day out and explains not only why Yemeni cities are deprived of green space and from trees and why most of our roads lead to nowhere. Disrespect of their rights translates into disrespect for the rights and property of others.
Relations between Yemen and the United States haven’t been better. The US has given Yemen hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, making it the second largest donor after Saudi Arabia.
The United States played an indispensible role in brokering the Gulf Cooperation Deal and the Security Council resolution on Yemen that paved the way for restoration of peace in Yemen.
The US ambassador used his good offices and shuttled back and forth relentlessly between warring factions with a view to securing the Gulf Cooperation initiative.
Mohammed Humaid is a Yemeni Fulbrighter, Economist and journalist
In fact, the US played and continuous to play a critical role in defusing tension during and after the signing of the political settlement. US president Obama has denounced the film so has his secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Having said that, the US says that freedom of expression gives right to citiz
ens to express themselves and there is nothing the government can do anything about it, yet US laws give individuals who become victims of slander or libel the power to prosecute the perpetrator when individual dignity and respect have been violated so there must be laws that punish people who show disrespect to the spiritual believes of other cultures, especially when the lives of many are at stake.
May be when US laws were enacted situations such this one didn’t exist, but now require a fresh look. It can’t be that hard to enact a new law. After all respect goes both ways.
*Mohammed Humaid is a Yemeni Fulbrighter and journalist