The strong influence of Yemeni women is what drove President Ali Abdullah Saleh to deliver his now famous speech in which he accused protestors of “mingling” in Tahrir plaza. However, women remained an integral part in the revolution that is calling for a new era in Yemen.
In fact, the powerful presence of Yemeni female activists who defend human rights was ultimately recognized with Tawakkul Karman winning the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Karman represents the Yemeni woman who daringly and courageously defends human rights, fights all kinds of forms of corruption, and calls for political reformation, freedom of expression, and religious change.
She was amongst the most prominent revolutionaries who called for the ouster of Saleh’s regime long before the Arab Spring started. She led youth movements and took part in several religious dialogues.
After she was chosen as one of the most revolutionary women and listen as one of the seven women who changed the world, she has now become the voice of the Yemeni revolution after gaining international acclaim with the Nobel Prize.
On the other hand, the situation is very different in Yemen’s official corridors or the voices that support Saleh ─ or what is left of his regime.
Some of those voices were not even known in the country before the crisis began while some were Saleh’s staunch opponents until they suddenly switched loyalties.
One such voice was sentenced to death in absentia and fled Yemen after the 1994 war only to return a few years ago and become an ardent supporter of the president. I am talking about Ahmed Obeid Bin Daghar, the former member ofYemeni Socialist Party’s political bureau.
Then there is Yasser al-Yamani, also a former member of the Socialist Party.
The most famous amongst them is now the official spokesman of the remnants of Saleh’s regime: Abdu al-Gindi, Deputy Information Minister who was the former secretary general of one of the Nasserist parties and was chosen to be member of the Higher Elections Committee as part of the opposition.
Add to them Ahmed al-Sufi ─ once subjected to prison and torture by the regime he now supports ─ and Tarek al-Shami, who was a member of the Union of Popular Forces Party and used to call for the monarchy’s return to Yemen.
These former opposition figures are now Saleh’s new supporters and they are unable to leave power which is why they are relentless in backing the president, his regime and his family.
However, they have been kicked out of history whereas Karman has entered it — this Yemeni woman who has one single demand she has vowed never to give up: tell Saleh to step down.
(The writer is head of media at Al Arabiya. This article was first published in al-Jazirah newspaper on Oct. 10, 2011 and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.)