Note to the Reader: This commentary is written on behalf of youth in the Arab region who are struggling to find a new place under the sun. In my lengthy interaction with the young population, be it in my professional life or as a mother, I hope I have been able to transmit their feelings and dreams for a better future. I fervently hope that in the process of negotiation and recantations within political circles their voices are not silenced nor their presence overlooked, for in bypassing this important segment of society we risk murdering the future just as we adults have been responsible for messing up the present.

History is not only the distant past nor is it the recent past which is always prone to distortion; history is also the future which is being written at present for better or for worse, i.e.history is always in the making. I wonder if the famous quote: “The power of the pen is mightier than the sword” is still true in the modern world of technology, and for a moment I am inclined to think that the bullets that take away the lives of our youth by the dozen everyday are thus more powerful. But in the end I comfort myself with the thought that the power of the pen is still stronger, for what was the power of the pen has become the power of Facebook and the internet backed by technology. This is the same technology that has been a tool for this massive tsunami in the Arab world and the same technology that is being used to quell it. Tet again the power of the pen has proved to be mightier for no matter how many bullets have been shot, the wave of the tsunami is rising higher.

In a previous article I had posed the question in the concluding paragraph, as to whether we have given the present generation the tools for creating structural changes in Yemen and I never thought for a moment that my question would be answered so soon in my lifetime. Yes, my hopes have always been in the young who have the spirit to embark on untrodden paths and whatever is the final outcome, neither Yemen nor the Arab region will ever be the same after this youth propelled revolution.

Bilad al-Arabi awtani (All Arab lands are my home) and “Biladi…Biladi”

By: Samira Ali BinDaair

We taught our children at school – “Bilad al-Arabi awtani” – (All Arab lands are my home) These were songs – national anthems – lip service…..while mocking Jamal AbdulNasser’s Land without Borders. In perplexity,the children ask, “why has the Arabian peninsula become eight countries and “Bilad al-Sham” four?” It’s a mathematical game I tell them: the pastime of politicians. As defeated we stand at window boxes waiting for entry visas that never come; these are walls that separate governments but not our hearts! Omar Mukhtar lives on in Yemen and Zubeiri walks the streets of Libya; Saad Zaghlool talks to Tunisians and Jameela Buhairad’s voice echos in all the squares along with Fatima, Mona, Etab and Mother Eve.

They all came after the demise of monarchs and fall of empires, promising us the Moon and all we had was the moonlight and kerosene lamps hanging in our villages. They promised us bread and rivers flowing with milk and honey as we waited patiently in the alleys of toil and deprivation. So we went on singing the songs of liberation and praying for the Martyrs who freed our lands from Tyranny?

They now sleep peacefully and alive underground, while the skeletons of humanity above sit on velvet chairs with no sweat ever pouring from their luxurious brows. As they elite make speeches from their grand ivory towers, we dig the earth to plant fruit that is not ours to eat. With renewed hopes we declare we are Muslims, that we are one. The Holy Prophet united us while they separate us. Alas! higher walls of barbed wire spring up as we are called “Terrorists.” But what is our crime? The response to the call of the Muezzin at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Our dream to reinstate the lost dignity of the Land of Scriptures. Alas! After Salahaddin we are told that dignity and honour are the vain ideals of Dreamers and Fools in this jungle where the survival of the strongest determines the Bread of nations. Palestine is no longer a Cause and Peace is the new torch that lies perched on the “Statue of Liberty.” Yet everyday we switch on our TV sets only to watch our brethren fall like Autumn Leaves as peaceful as the bitter winter cold on our bare bodies!

The children go on learning about the glorious revolutions of the new monarchs wearing army uniforms, while history is being murdered in cold blood. The Arab League goes on in its endless meetings, condemning while unaware of its own death awaiting funeral rites. It feeds our children canned food long expired. They hold hands with Big Brother, the mighty United Nations, and while taking a leisurely stroll in Park Avenue the rising death toll everywhere catches us all unaware! Palestine is encaged like a bird whose wings are clipped by this elusive dreamed-up Peace, while the pampered baby next door lies happily cooing in the Crib, confident of the flow of sophisticated toys while Palestinian children play with stones and sticks.

The children have grown up, awakened by that very song they sang at school to release us from being hostage to greed, lies and exploitation. Not content with a mere pat on the back, university certificates without hope, knowledge on empty bellies, life without dignity. Like ostriches they had hid their heads in the sand for far too long, afraid to say “Here I am”. With bowed heads,always ashamed to say “I am Yemeni, I am Syrian, I am Egyptian, I am Tunisian: we are all the sons of Tareq bin Ziad and from the Andalus of knowledge and science. We are the daughters of the Queen of Sheba who with justice ruled “Arabia Felix.” The feet of ignorance trample over Al-Kairawan, Zabid and al-Azhar while coveting gold and silver: these must become history while we make history.

Youth is asking for more than bread now, for Allah did not create man like cattle responding only to the calls of Nature. Youth has at last broken through the walls of silence and shed off the bondage of fear. With their bare chests they confront death with true peace offerings to the nation.
“We are Yemenis ” they say, the children of Hikma and Iman (wisdom and faith). We are Egyptians, we are Syrians, we are Tunisians, Algerians, Lebanese; we are Muslims, we are Christians, we are sunni, we are shia, we are shafei, we are zaidi, we are the civilized tribes who have left behind our arms, titles and differences to cement a new world of unity.

The Game is Over for the dictators. We will no longer allow you to plant seeds of disunity to keep your velvet chairs, now full of dust and cobwebs. We know the sun will shine upon our dreams one day, even if the road is paved with high mountains to climb and rubble to clear. We are prepared to wait as we waited for so long on the dirty pavements and you flitted by in your flashy cars.

Please give us back our sunshine eclipsed for so long by your tattered umbrella. Please do not kill us as we protest. Do not kill our spirits. Give us the freedom to dream. “We love you dear soldiers, please do not fore at us us. We gave you flowers, so you must not nip our dreams in the bud with your bullets. Protect us as you took your oath of allegiance to the nation. Please do not kill the FUTURE.”

[Webshaykh’s note: If you want to post a comment, please send it to the webshaykh at daniel.m.varisco[at]hofstra.edu. Due to the high volume of spam, I have temporarily suspended the automatic comment function.]