In February 2011, Tawakkol Karman stood on a stage outside Sanaa University. A microphone in one hand and the other clenched defiantly above her head, reading from a list of demands, she led tens of thousands of cheering, flag-waving demonstrators in calls for peaceful political change. She was to become not so much the leader as the figurehead of Yemen's uprising. On other days and in other cities, other citizens led the chants: men and women and sometimes, for effect, little children. These mass public performances enacted a veritable civic revolution in a poverty-stricken country where previous activist surges never produced democratic transitions but nonetheless did shape national history. Drawing on the Tunisiari and Egyptian inspirations as well as homegrown protest legacies, in 2011 Yemenis occupied the national commons as never before. Whether or not their aspirations would be met, the country's youth-who are the demographic majority-had animated a public civic renaissance. Women's very public participation was one powerful signifier of seismic sociocultural change.
Copyright © 2013 LeftWord Books. This chapter first appeared in Dispatches from the Arab Spring.
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Carapico, Sheila. "Yemen." In Dispatches from the Arab Spring: Understanding the New Middle East, edited by Paul Amar and Vijay Prashad, 101-121. New Delhi, India: LeftWord Books, 2013.