I have been informed by my friends, by facebook posts, and by the media that today February 11 marks the second anniversary of the "start of the revolution". I was previously informed that January 15 was also the anniversary. Other dates come to mind as well. Personally, I don't care which day was the "start" of the revolution, what matters is that it happened. I don't even mind going back to the peaceful protests in the South in 2006 to count that as the start of the revolution. I don't mind having many days to remember the revolution and honor the martyrs who died for the hope of a better tomorrow, and to honor the many hidden heroes of the revolution. Maybe all of these days should be days to remember.
The first months of the revolution were amazing, and indescribable feelings engulfed many of us. A strong belief in the power of "us" against the unjust corrupt regime gave us the strength to continue. We felt proud, and more importantly, a sense of happiness that we have regained our dignity, and found each other.
Those of us who have dedicated our life to speaking out about injustice, those of us who felt betrayed by the system, those of us who went to bed hungry, those of us who were tortured in prison, those of us who couldn't find a job, and those of us who had to face the corruption of the government on a daily basis, were ecstatic that this day has finally come. We all went out dreaming, and refused to wake up from our dream.
But along the way, we had many nightmares. One, is the control by some of the hardliners within the "opposition" Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) against the independent youth. This was problematic because many in the traditional political parties were part of the same regime as Saleh. Their goals were more personal, they were there for power grabbing, we were there for change. This was evidence by the troubling signs such as as their attempt at censorship in the squares, beating and "arrest" of independent protesters, media propaganda, and sometimes "barring" women from marching. The joining of General Ali Mohsin was another sign that changed the equation and tainted the principles of the revolution. It was a point of contention among protesters, and divided many. Following this there was an incident when women were beaten for marching with men.
These were extremely troubling signs, that cost the movement. protesters feared that protesting these actions publicly would help certain political powers to take advantage of "the division" amongst protesters. This something some regret today.
Then there was the biggest blowback, and the stab in the back to the youth revolution: the signing of the Gulf Cooperation Council's plan, under the support of the "international community". The plan gave immunity to Saleh & many in his regime. Adding insult to injury, the plan stated that there will be a "one man election" and that the next president would be Saleh's vice president-Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi. The transitional government is now made up of a division between traditional opposition parties and the former ruling party. Each using this "limited" time for more power grabbing, putting in place people on "their" side, and as one of my friends said: "some of them are stealing as much as they can before they leave".
Surprisingly many people accepted this plan, but a great majority of independent youth did not. Those who protested were called "spies" or "unpatriotic".
Today however, many of the same people that had accepted the GCC plan as the only viable option, and even voted for President Hadi have now began protesting again. Many average Yemen have began losing hope in this government, fearing that it is using the same tactics of nepotism and corruption as the former regime.
With the upcoming national dialogue conference where millions of dollars will be spent, and where the process itself is believed to be flawed and lacks inclusiveness, revolutionaries have began to protest loudly vowing that they will never stop until there is change.
Of course not everything was bad, there have been many positive effects of the revolution that has impacted cultural perceptions and has broken down barriers to fear.
But one aspect that I have found most extraordinary is the number of friends I have made in this revolution. I am most grateful to the revolution for introducing me to amazing individuals that I had the honor of meeting and befriending. To all of you I say thank you.
But this is not a simple matter about just friendships, but it's also a matter of expanding and empowering the "independent" voice in Yemen. For years, many of us felt alone, felt "odd", and when the revolution started we were relieved to find each other. There were many others with similar ideas, hopes and dreams. We were not alone and won't be anymore.
The past two years has strengthened our bond. Unlike the political parties, we didn't know each other, we didn't have the training they had, but the past two years has began that process, and with time we will be a force that can change this country. People often criticize the independent youth movement for it's lack of organization, (I do as well), but we have to remember that it's a new born movement that will grow with time. The road is long and bumpy, and the coming years will be the toughest, but one day we will get there.
The bonds that were created in the revolution have enabled the start of Revolution 2.0. While Change Square is still occupied by protesters, it has somewhat lost it's spirit. The new revolution has begun, but this time in front of the cabinet, where wounded protesters have been camped and many are still on a hunger strike. The lack of fancy equipment at the sit-in, and the spirit of hope, filled with music and poetry is reminiscent of the early days of the revolution.
Anyone who has lost hope should visit these extraordinary individuals, then you will regain faith in the power of the people.