Too many Fridays a week

24 Oct
The naming of pro-Saleh Fridays focuses on themes of Home, Unity and Stability. The names of the Fridays of the revolutionaries focuses on themes like revolution, Victory and Peace.

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:24-10-2011

Yemenis no longer have only one Friday a week. Since February, when the revolutionaries started giving each Friday a special name reflecting their expectations and thoughts, the regime’s supporters have also felt obliged to make their Fridays distinctive.
Naming Fridays in Yemen soon became contagious just a few Fridays later, the Southern Movement leaders, who have been calling for secessionism from the north since 2007, joined the trend. Now, with the uprising in Yemen entered its 38th week, some people have begun joking that we need a dictionary of Friday names.

At noon every Friday, millions of Yemenis go to mosques to perform the Friday prayer.

However, since the uprising began in February, some Yemenis have stopped praying in mosques on Friday. Instead, they perform the Friday prayer in the streets; some against the regime and others with the regime.

Now each Friday in Yemen has at least three names, one given by revolutionaries, one given by the regime’s supporters and one by the Southern Movement leaders in the South. The Friday prayer they attend reveals their political demands and affiliation, rather than their religious beliefs.

Political affiliations

Three weeks ago at noon, when the sun was at its height, dozens of people from Change Square in Sana’a were approaching the 60 Meter Street – the widest street in Sana’a – to perform the Friday prayer along with thousands of other people.

The protesters have been living in tents in Change Square, in front of Sana’a University, since February, calling on president Saleh to step down.

Among them, 22-year-old Mo’tasem Thabet was on his way from the square to the wide street to pray.

That Friday was named the “Friday of the late President Ibrahim Al-Hamdi”. It was the 34th Friday since the organizing committee of the revolutionaries in Sana’a decided to give each Friday a special name outlining a previous incident or a prospective dream.

“I like it when they name the Fridays. They make the prayer more meaningful for me,” said Thabet, who added that it would be impossible for him perform prayers with regime supporters.

Thabet said that the name of the 34th Friday in particular made him remember “an honest president whose main goal in life was to make Yemen a civil country”. Ibrahim Al-Hamd, ruled from 1974 until he was as assassinated in October 1977.

The Friday of the beginning

The first of Yemen’s “named” Fridays was February 25th when the organizing committee in Change Square called it “The Friday of the beginning” to mark the start of the revolution.

Four Fridays later, those allied to the president started to give their Fridays a special name too. Since March 25th, Fridays in Yemen have had two different names – one in the 60 Meter street where people against the president pray and the other in 70 Meter Road where pro-Saleh supporters pray.

As a result, where someone prays has become a sign of their political affiliation. For Thabet, it is very important to pray with the people in 60 Meter Street because he wants the president to step down and this makes it clear to others that he is a “revolutionary”.

The organizing committee in Change Square is responsible for “naming” the Fridays, according to one of its members, who asked not to be named. He explained that names are usually chosen according to the incidents that have occurred in the previous week.

“When we were attacked on March 12th, one person was killed by toxic gas and another had suffocation signs,” he said. “We decided that the following Friday would be named ‘Dignity Friday’.”

The names of Fridays are chosen after talking to the people protesting on the streets.

After two months of naming Fridays, each name became a matter of proving the legitimacy of the revolutionaries’ demands of the revolutionaries as well as those allying the regime, said Fateq Al-Rudaini, a journalist writing in Saba Press in May.

Naming Fridays even becomes a matter of internal conflict among the revolutionaries, said Al-Rudaini. For example, the 12th Friday was supposed to be named the “The Friday of loyalty for Sa’ada’s martyrs”. However, much to their surprise, the young people who do not belong to any party found that the name has changed to “The Friday of determination” – determining the destiny of the revolution.

The Fridays of the ruling party

But for those allied to the president, naming Fridays has never been a matter of conflict. According to Tareq Al-Shami, spokesman for the ruling General People’s Congress, the names are chosen after consulting with civil society organizations.

He said that naming Fridays depends on the current situation. Two weeks ago, they named their Friday “The Friday of insisting on the right and supporting the people of Palestine”.

When the president appeared on TV on July 7th after being injured in an attack on June 3rd, his supporters rejoiced. That Friday, July 8th, was named “The Friday of thanking God for the safety of the President and the leaders of the state”.

The revolutionaries named that Friday “The Friday of rejecting custody on Yemen”.

A third Friday in the south

Naming Fridays has become contagious. In Aden and the southern governorates, where people have been calling for secessionism since 2007, people have also begun to name their Fridays.

Even though there are revolutionaries against the regime in the south, the names of their Fridays are not the same as those in Sana’a.

For example, the last Friday in Aden was named “The Friday of Ba Awm”.

Hasan Ba Awm is an active leader in the Southern Movement who has been in jail for more than a year and many people believe he is being tortured, said Nuha Ahmad, a resident from Aden.

“The Fridays in Aden are named after leaders of the Southern Movement,” she explained. “They do not take the names of revolutionaries in Sana’a because they have different claims against the state.”

However, in Mukala, the capital district of Hadramout in the far east of the country, Sa’eed Al-Muhsan, a protester who has been living in a tent for eight months, said that they keep same Friday names as the revolutionaries in Sana’a.

Friday prayer should be a religious ritual

If the issue of naming Fridays is preferable for some to help them achieve their political goals, it is not well-liked by others.

Mahmoud Al-Matari, a 21 year-old university student in Sana’a, does not like to participate in either of the Fridays. He prefers to pray at the mosque near his house.

“Religious rituals like the Friday prayer bonds Muslims and they should not be part of politics,” he said.

“When I go to pray, I want to listen to an Imam who reminds me of my morals and the things we should do in our world to go to heaven. I do not want to listen to Imams allying the regime or the opposition,” he added.

The Friday of Doomsday

Since a keyword for the revolutionaries calling for Saleh to step down has been “leave”, the president’s supporters shout “he will not leave” at their gatherings and protests.

A funny comment about the naming of Fridays has been inscribed on a wall in 60 Meter Street.

It reads: “Let’s wait for the Friday of Doomsday and we ALL shall leave.”

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