Middle East

Yemen: Artists urge President Saleh to go

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Media captionYoung protesters rapping for a democratic revolution in Yemen

As Gulf leaders try to broker an exit for the embattled Yemeni president, the protest camp in Sanaa's Change Square has become a flourishing political and cultural space.

The streets leading into the square are lined with tents, full of protesters who say they will not leave until President Ali Abdullah Saleh does too.

In the heart of the square, street vendors sell grilled corn and fresh juices.

A large stage dominates the space. It's where political leaders, preachers and activists stand up and address the crowds during the day.

In the evenings, singers take their place.

One musician, Muhammad Nasser al-Adroei, is rapping his way to revolution.

"Be wise, the government is a poison, the one who annoys it is killed," he raps in Yemeni dialect.

The crowd joins him for the chorus, chanting that much-repeated slogan of the Arab revolutions: "The people want the fall of the regime".

The chant has made its way from the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to restive states throughout the Middle East.

Adroei - an unusual character in this conservative Gulf country - has become the voice of young Yemenis who have camped out in Sanaa's streets demanding democratic change.

"When I sing about the president, it spreads quickly and makes the impossible possible," he says.

"He fights us with weapons and we fight him with our minds," he adds.

"Who will win in the end? The minds, of course."

Uniting force

After nearly three months of protests, life has settled into a familiar pattern in Taghiyer (Change) Square.

After the morning speeches, teenagers play football in one corner while poets throw out lines, competing to describe a future for Yemen without its embattled leader.

Violence has marred the protests, but these activists try to overcome their political differences using words.

On one issue, though, they are united: President Saleh has to go.

Unlike Egypt, Yemen's military won't aid a peaceful transition.

"Here the military is divided along sectarian lines and this prolongs the crisis here," says Ahmad Seif, who heads the Sheba centre for strategic studies.

"But at the same time it guarantees a balance of power that probably provides a safety valve," he adds.

Yemen is a country divided by religion, race and tribe.

There is no strong central government.

Many people - both inside and outside the country - worry that when President Saleh goes, the country could split.

Image caption Protesters gather in their tents to watch news of Osama Bin Laden's death

Back at the square, the youth have a different view.

"The protests have brought Yemenis together, rather than divide them," says Mohammed al-Qaid.

Along with his friends, he has established the Movement for Change and Development. Everyday, the youngsters gather and debate their views.

"Some tribes are here and they have some issues - revenge issues - and these were settled here. You can see a kind of reconciliation all over the country."

Governments in the West will be hoping that he is right.

Yemeni soldiers have been trained to defeat al-Qaeda fighters in the country. Britain and the US supported this work.

They hope that a Yemen without their ally, President Saleh, in charge will not become an even more fertile ground for militancy.