Foreign Policy Blogs

Nasser Maweri, Yemen and its Youth

I recently interviewed Nasser Maweri, a Yemeni pro-Democracy activist with a serious understanding of Social Media. Be it Facebook or Twitter, Nasser has been from the get go a permanent fixture of the online Yemeni revolution. A fervent defender and promoter of peace, Nasser represents Yemen’s brightest and vibrant youth. And because he is willing to speak out and speak up, a nation’s hope is being reborn after decades of repression.

This is what he had to say:

 FPA: In your words how would you describe your role within the Yemeni Revolution?

 Nasser Maweri: Since the very beginning of the popular uprising I have been using the social media and the internet to support the movement and keep other people informed of our progresses. I believe that protesting is only a part of what an individual can do to express its convictions. I chose to become an online pro-democracy activist and to use my skills to the benefit of my country.
I actually created the first English group on Facebook which covers all the events happening in Yemen. For security reasons, Nasser asked FPA not to mention the page’s name and internet address. The group functions a bit like a forum, Yemenis and others alike, share news and scoops, discuss recent events and opinions. My aim is to allow people from different backgrounds to experience the Yemeni revolution from the people’s perspective, rather than through the conventional Media.
As a pro democracy activist my main responsibility is to promote the Yemeni revolution and to present it in its true light, by dispelling misconceptions and fighting off the government’s propaganda. As administrator of the site, I put my skills as a translator and news researchers to good use. I also post comments, videos and links on the group’s page on a daily basis. And last but not least I go to “Change Square” and participate in the marches. But my work does not stop there…. I am also very much concern over the humanitarian aspect of the revolution. Some friends and I started off the “We are all Abyan” campaign, which aims at collecting funds for the displaced families of Abyan.

FPA: What do you think was the trigger for the Yemeni Revolution?

Nasser Maweri: This revolution has been simmering for a while you know….. People have been deeply unhappy and frustrated at the regime over the past few years. I think Yemen has reached a point where it cannot take any more injustice or repression. As far as I’m concern the Yemeni revolution has nothing to do with what happened in Tunisia or Egypt. Yemen is not replicating anything. It is just that we’ve been inspired by our “brothers and sisters” courage, feeling that we could too change things for the better.
For more than 33 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh has been a heartless tyrant with no other ambition than his own. He now believes that he owns Yemen and its people. It is about time we show him different! Saleh deprived the Yemeni people of their pride, their rights, their dignity…everything!!! We have endured pain and shame for far too many years….

 FPA: Many political analysts are claiming that the Yemeni Revolution has been highjacked by the political factions. Do you think it’s true?

 Nasser Maweri: Although it might look that way for many, I don’t think it is completely true. Because of its lack of organization, structure and political experience some of the Youth movement has been caught in the political storm that has engulfed Yemen over the past few months. Pulled in different directions by the GCP and the JMP (the Opposition), the Youth tried to counteract the “old guard” and lost track of what was important in the process. Let’s say that the political aspect took over the revolution for a while but the revolution movement is still very much alive.

I believe that for a revolution to be successful, all political decisions should be taken by the revolutionaries rather than the political class. Yemen made the mistake of allowing the politicians into the ring so do speak…. They [the politicians] have made everything more misty and complicated. But I truly believe that the Youth will find its way once again and that this time we will succeed.

FPA: Taiz has become for several months now the epicenter of the Revolution. Why do you think that is? What makes Taiz different from Sana’a?

Nasser Maweri: Well mainly because the people of Taiz have shown a great amount of strength and commitment to the revolution. They understood what was at stake and decided to put everything on the line to achieve their goals.

Taiz has become the soul of the Yemeni revolution! Because they held on to the belief that change could only came through a peaceful opposition of the regime and because they were willing to die in order to achieve it, they managed to hold on to the essence of our movement. No city in Yemen is quite like Taiz on that aspect.

I don’t mean here to underestimate Sana’a or any other Yemeni city, but this is what I think makes Taiz so different. Taiz and Sana’a are nothing alike. Sana’a is after all the capital city of Yemen. It is where the regime forces are concentrated. Saleh knows he cannot allow Sana’a to fall to the hands of the revolutionaries… .he would lose everything with Sana’a.

Sana’a is where pro- regime people gather from every city in Yemen to show their loyalty and prove their obedience. In between Ahmed Ali, the president’s son and commander of the Republican Guards, Yahia Mohammed Saleh, the president’s nephew and commander of the central security forces, and all the other senior officials, the heart of the regime is in Sana’a. They are deploying all their efforts not to lose the capital. But in spite of it all, Yemenis are slowly breaking through those defenses, gathering more and more support for the revolution.

FPA: Do you believe that a compromise could be brokered between the Regime and the Youth?

 Nasser Maweri: What’s happening in Yemen is a Revolution, and the word “Revolution” means the power of people that knows no compromise. We have a dream and we won’t accept anything less. We want to be free we demand our rights of living with dignity. Accepting a compromise will be a betrayal to the blood that was shed and the lives that were sacrificed. We will fight for our rights no matter how politicians try to deviate the revolution from its way, we we will not give up.

FPA: Do you think that the threat of al-Qaeda is real or was it manufactured by the Regime as General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar claimed in a statement to the press?

Nasser Maweri: Al-Qaeda is Ali Abdullah Saleh’s favorite game play. He uses the terror group and the fear they inspire to gain international support and increase his personal wealth. He is only playing up the international community’s paranoia here.

I am an independent youth, I am not with general Ali Mohsen and I don’t support him. However, I believe that Al-Qaeda only exists when Saleh wants it to. It’s his favorite wild card. He always cries out for al-Qaeda when he wants to strengthen his political position, warning of the crisis that would ensue if he wasn’t there to fight off the Islamists…. always the same song. I don’t understand how the US is falling for that tall tale!!! Yemen will not become the next al-Qaeda’s hub in the Peninsula if Saleh goes. He only says that so the US would give more money… Let’s make one thing clear, the funds sent by the West to fight off terrorism usually end up into the regime’s bank accounts…

It’s really shameful for the president to be picturing his people as terrorists, bandits, extremists, kidnappers…etc and tarnish the history of our proud Yemeni nation…. just so he could financially benefit from our demise.
This is why many Yemenis want to see the back of him!!!

FPA: With a ratio of 3 weapons per inhabitants, what do you think made Yemenis so reluctant to use violence as a mean to achieve their goals in toppling the Regime?

Nasser Maweri: Yemeni people are peaceful and they chose to pursue freedom peacefully. We are well aware of the fact that violence would breed more violence and that as a result many innocent lives would be lost. The Youth does not want to build up democracy on the blood of their fellow citizens, even if they are pro-regime. We know all too well that the use of weapons would ignite the start of a bloody civil war.

Yemen I believe showed the World that its people’s intentions were honest and true. We came out onto the streets as responsible citizens, asking our government to recognize our right to decide for ourselves who should lead us. It is the regime which chose to answer its citizen’s requests by shooting live ammunition at them. Thousands of protesters have been injured by the government thugs since the beginning of the uprising for they decided they would not be repressed anymore.
Hundreds died across Yemen for they chose peace.

Any of us could have claimed self-defense as an excuse to draw arms, yet we did not! Yemen’s Revolution is to this day, peaceful. I hope this will show the World that Yemenis are neither terrorists nor thugs. Yemen is a great nation with a history which goes back millenia…..

FPA: Many Westerners claimed only a few months ago that the Arab world was not ready for Democracy, what would you like to say to those people now?

Nasser Maweri: We practiced democracy from way before the 14th century when Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) companions consulted each other on who would be the Caliphate. However, what has happened to the Arab World over the past few years is a direct result of socialism and capitalism. Presidents in the Middle East decided to apply western models in order to please and blend in, and it led to autocracy and repression. With Tunisia, the Arab nations started to feel the warmth of freedom and light. Since then, we have fought tooth and nail to reach our goal: Democracy. It is this thirst for freedom that gave birth to what the World calls: the Arab Spring.I don’t think that anyone needs to be “ready” for democracy it is an inherent right that should not be linked to a sense of worthiness and readiness. We all deserve to be free and experience democracy.

FPA: Do you think that the international community is hindering the progress of the Revolution?

Nasser Maweri: The international community’s efforts were so disappointing; it stood by the tyrant’s side against the people. I expected the United States under the leadership of Obama – whose election’s campaign slogan was “Change” by the way – to stand by the Youth and applaud its efforts. Instead it looks as if they were siding with the regime… Why is that? I expected the US to denounce the crimes committed by Saleh against his people, but nothing was said….

I wanted the international community to put pressure on Saleh and make him leave, especially after the World witnessed the sort of repressive crackdown the regime was enforcing on the Yemenis. I totally reject the Saudi and US guardianship over our revolution. But despite their interferences the Yemeni revolution will succeed, when there’s a will, there’s a way.

FPA: Finally what do you want for your country?

Nasser Maweri: I want Yemen to be a civilized country where the Yemeni people can enjoy Yemen’s wealth away from the corruption. I want to see real democracy and civilization in Yemen. I am a proud Yemeni and I want to be able to travel the World holding my head high, knowing that my country is living up to its potential. Yemen should not be the poorest country of the Arabic Peninsula. I want to eat what we grow, wear what we make… I want Yemen to be self-sufficient and free from foreign aids. I want Yemen to be once again “Arabia Felix”. Yemeni people are peaceful, kind-hearted and very well known for their wisdom and hospitality. I want our good name to be restored. We were once the jewel of the Arab World and a reference point…this is what I want for my country.

I hope that my country will be a place where citizens are appreciated and respected. I want Yemen to pull out of poverty by educating its people. I believe we are strong and wise enough to rebuild our Yemen on the basis of democracy and justice. Yemen’s future will be a mirror of its past, Inshallah!!!



Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam

Although French by birth, my studies and my professional life led me to live for many years in the United Kingdom and in the Middle East.
Armed with a Master in Finance, a Bachelor degree in Psychology and 5 languages under my belt I managed to make my way through the maze of the Trading World of Wall Street, as an equity consultant. However, my interest for Politics and the Middle East gave me the necessary push to launch me as a "writer". Since then, I have voiced my opinions via my Blog and various publications such as the Middle East Post, the Guardian UK, and now Foreign Policy Association. I currently live in London.