Monday, March 21, 2011

Arms and the Man

A notable feature of the Yemeni resistance has been the relatively peaceful and disciplined behavior of the protestors, in a land  alas not known for either discipline or peace.    Particularly noteworthy is that the protestors have been, for the most part, unarmed -- this in one of the most democratically armed countries on earth.   They have faced armed government thugs  weaponless -- by choice and not necessity.

That statement might seem to be belied  by images you may have seen  of tribesmen milling around Taghyir Square with an alarmingly large dagger at the front of their belt.  This is the jambiya(**), the traditional wide-bladed curved weapon.  Its use is principally ceremonial, not for real fighting.   Sometimes they are almost comically large and impractical.  More care is lavished on the belt and on the handle (rhinoceros horn is especially prized [***]) than on the blade.  The latter, on some cheap ones I’ve seen, might serve to cut butter -- but not if it had been in the fridge.   The tribesmen left their real weapons at home.

So far as it goes, this augurs well for the (inshallah) post-Saleh era.  The principle challenge to the nation -- dwindling water resources (and the qat plant that sucks them up) -- cannot be solved by force of arms.

(**) Normally so spelled in English , though underlyingly it is janbiya (then pronounced with anticipatory assimilation), as witnessed by the plural, janaabi.
[***] The most highly prized are made from the horn of a unicorn:  but these have not been seen since the time of Solomon.

~ ~ ~

Another hopeful sign:

Each Yemeni tribe is concerned  with defending its own territory, and its own members.   But this is not on the level of “my tribesman right or wrong”.  There is a long and carefully crafted tradition of mediation and reparation.   Indeed, by comparison with our own legal system, it has certain points of advantage. A system, less of laws  than of justice, you might say;  though like all things here below, imperfectly implemented.

So I don’t think that, once Saleh is gone, there would necessarily be civil war.   My general impression -- admittedly, it is only that -- is that Yemenis are an exceptionally sweet-tempered people. (Such is, indeed, their own self-impression:  al-yamaniyiin saaliyiin, as they say.) Rough around the edges, and many current deficiencies, but with a core of good nature that will serve them well once they take their destiny into their own hands.
God be with them.

~    ~     ~

[Update 4 IV 2011]
As always, the protesters were totally unarmed...

The scene today in Ta`izz (gas)
More from today in Ta`izz

[5 IV 11]
“The regime has surprised us with this extent of killing,” parliament member Mohammed Muqbil al-Hamiri told the al-Jazeera television network. “I don’t think the people will do anything other than come out with bare chests to drain the government of all its ammunition.
Uncannily reminiscent of the Christians in the Colosseum.

[29 IV 11]
Infographie au sujet des sit-ins pacifiques

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