Political splits threaten social bonds

31 Oct

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:31-10-2011

Since the uprising began in Yemen, political conflict has spread from the streets, extending itself to create problems among friends, neighbors and even within family.

Khalil Thabet, a 22-year-old university student who has been active in protests, talked about an incident when he was taking attendance of the students in his class.

“One day, my professor said that I should no longer be responsible for taking the lead in my class because I was responsible for creating chaos outside of university,” said Thabet.

“It was extremely embarrassing when the professor told the students that he had deleted my number from his phone,” he explained.

He said that some of his relatives were talking maliciously about him that he often got into arguments with them.

But sometimes, the arguments go far beyond malicious words.

Intisar Mohammad, a resident of the Old City of Sana’a, said that their neighbor was killed because he was participating in a protest in September.

The father of the martyr refused to allow their neighbor, who is pro-regime, to take part in the funeral.

In some cases, people say they no longer know what is the right path to take – pro-Saleh or pro-revolution?

Conflict psychoanalysis

Salah Aldeen Al-Juma’e, a psychological professor at Sana’a University, commented that the excessive expression of feelings in political conflicts could cause serious problems in the future.

He said that when members of one family discuss the current political crisis without respecting each other’s point of view, future relationships could be damaged.

“In general, people in the Arabia society get very fanatic when they discuss political issues and it gets even worse when they represent two different standpoints,” Al-Juma’e said.

In one case two young men smashed their TV after an argument over what channel they would watch.

“It was in my village in Ibb governorate when two neighbors of mine, who always got on well, had an argument over what channel they want to watch,” said Salah Al-Deen Al-Juma’e, a psychology professor at Sana’a University.

He said that while one wanted to watch Suhail, an anti-regime TV channel, and the other rejected it because “it does not represent his views”.

Al-Juma’e said that while it is good to have attitudes toward political situations we need to respect other’s views or the country would become fragmented.

The political conflict is no longer restricted to the streets where people with either side sometimes have arguments with each other. It has spread among neighbors and even within the same family.

He added that the homes have become “like a ring for different political players”.

Change Square in the home

Amani Al-Ansi, a resident in Sana’a who supports the anti-regime protests, said that his house is now full of arguments.

“We call the living room, where my father and my two sisters watch Yemen TV channel, the regime square and we call the other room where we watch Al-Jazeera, Change Square,” he said.

But some families’ respect for one another shows their maturity. According to Ameen Dabwan, a protester in the Change Square, the relations between him and his wife’s family has “shifted”.

His wife had been a ruling party member but she, and one of her sisters, had switched their support to the protesters. Her father felt sad but respected their wishes.

“My father- in- law dealt with the situation in a good way and said that everyone was free to express their own beliefs”.

A famous case

Political debate has been a part of almost every house in Yemen, including the home of politicians. One famous case is that of Abdu Al-Janadi, the spokesman of the Ministry of Information with the regime. Although he is a Saleh supporter, his son has joined the protesters looking to oust the president.

Al-Janadi said in one of his interviews that the “opposition” set his own son against him and that he does not show him respect. However, his son Abuthar appeared on TV stating that he has never spoken against his father and that he remains a good son regardless of his political affiliations.

Trying to solve the problems of adults, children sometimes reveal what they hear from their parents of siblings.

“My 8-year-old daughter goes with her father to the protests and this reflects on her. The women in my neighborhood tell me they would appreciate it if she stops insulting their children for not being on her side,” said Muna Hasan, a housewife.

She said that she keeps telling her husband not to take their daughter to the protests because she might be in danger and because she has became more aggressive against her young peers.

“But my husband just argues that I should join the protest.”

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