Middle East

Yemen: Living with uncertainty

Soldiers rest while protesters celebrated after President Saleh left for Saudi Arabia
Image caption Soldiers rest while protesters celebrated after President Saleh left for Saudi Arabia

The people of Yemen are still seeing fierce clashes and standing their ground in protests while the president is currently in Saudi Arabia undergoing treatment after being wounded in an attack on his palace.

The country is divided in opinion and worried about a physical and political division that may tip them into further violence and instability.

Two residents of Sanaa with differing views discuss their concerns about the current political stand off.

Raja has family in Yemen. "I was here in November. I went back to New York to return to my studies but when I saw the uprising happening, I came back in April. There was no real presence of foreign media here so someone has to try."

Raja has been monitoring the activity in the protest camp in Sanaa and noting activity in her neighbourhood. "Many people are relieved that Saleh has left, but most of us are trying to work out how the explosion happened. People were celebrating in the square in Sanaa, but it was not the same excitement that we saw in Egypt, it is more cautious. People are not sure if President Saleh will return or how he will return. They are not sure if there will be vengeance."

But some people are feeling more certain and comfortable with the idea of the return of the president.

Salah Ali lives in Sanaa and is a supporter of the president. "He will come back and if he decides not to be president, we want a peaceful transition. No matter how things change, all we want is peace. During the days of Saleh, I was able to walk out of my home at any hour of the day while feeling secure. There is no security now. No sense of safety of law."

During the protests, citizens of Sanaa have lived in pressured and abnormal conditions. "We no longer have effective security," explains Salah Ali. "We don't have access to basic necessities. We all live in fear. It may be a peaceful resistance, but look at the situation now. We have people struggling for power. People who have been sitting in the shadows waiting for this opportunity to join and hijack power. This is not right. And we need to be cautious and more aware of these threats."

Raja agrees that the price of change is high, "Electricty was cut around the start of the protests and we realised that this was a method of adding pressure to protesters and their families. We would have no power for up to 20 hours per day, there was no petrol available and food prices were going up to four or five times the usual costs. Good men have died for the protest and now that things might change it is sad that they are not here to see it."

The attacks on the presidential palace and the mosque in Sanaa have also been devisive in an already complicated situation. Even those who stand against the president feel it was a step too far.

"To attack the presidential palace crossed the line" says Salah Ali. "At the end of the day he is still our president. Attacking the mosque within the presidential compound is where the real atrocity is. It is still the house of god. This is where I am personally insulted and offended. Any house of god or worship should never be subjected to any form of attack or violence."

Raja agrees, "To attack a house of worship goes against the rules of war. Houses of worship are usually used for civilians to flee. A place of security and safety. Houses of worship are sacred and never to be attacked. If we no longer value this, then we have entered a much more terrifying stage of violence."

There is some hope in the stand off. Within the camp where protesters are standing their ground, the standard of living has been hard but the change in liberty has been surprising.

Raja has been inside to visit: "The protesters have a sort of city within a city. They started with the protesters camp and then some of the members of the military joined them to add protection. People are checked at the entrance to the camp for weapons which are not allowed in. There is freedom and democracy there. A lot of Yemeni people have not tasted these things and they like it. It's beautiful."

Image caption Even though some pressures have been relieved, the future is still uncertain for Yemen

But the effect of the clashes and lack of a leader also provides stresses for others, "I'm sitting on the sidelines hoping for the best. Whatever happens will happen. I have no control over it," says Salah Ali. "I feel safe as a supporter, but as a resident I feel trapped in a war between people fighting for power. This is the problem we are having now. We are all forced to live in the middle of the violence."

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