Bushra al-Maqtari: Writing the Yemeni Revolution

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

Yemeni anti-government protesters paint a wall with the slogan "People want to build a new Yemen" during a demonstration in Sanaa on August 12. (Photo: AFP - Gamal Noman)

By: Jamal Jubran

Published Saturday, December 31, 2011

Taiz, the Yemeni city where it all began, has not stopped protesting for even one day since the outbreak of the revolution. And that is where you can find Bushra al-Maqtari, on the front line of the protests, day in and day out.

Wearing a dress hinders al-Maqtari’s movement and can often be a threat to her safety when protesters come under attack from regime forces and are forced to run for cover. The fact that she is well-known, and does not cover her face, makes her easy to identify.

Initially, al-Maqtari garnered public attention through her sharp articles that were critical of President Saleh’s rule. Her stories carried a bold tone which surprised many, given that as a novelist she had a timid and reserved literary tone.

This was not the first time al-Maqtari contradicted her mild literary persona. She has a precedent of taking confrontational stances. The elections of the Yemeni union of writers and novelists was one such occasion, in which she objected to fraudulent arrangements to guarantee a victory for the ruling General People’s Congress party candidates. While rejecting corrupt offers, she also did not succumb to intimidation.

Al-Maqtari, born in 1975, has been part of the Yemeni cultural scene for some time now through her media and cultural work. She has contributed to the development of today’s change movement since the onset of the peaceful youth revolution.

She was among the youth who rallied for and were eventually successful in winning significant journalistic freedoms over the last five years. Al-Maqtari has also been a vocal opponent of Saleh’s regime and the path of succession which had paved the way for Ahmad Ali to succeed his father.

Al-Maqtari did not stop writing during the revolution. Instead, her writings increased as the protest movement grew. Her days were entirely dedicated to chronicling the revolution. On certain days she’d write about the Taiz protests, on others she would document the shelling of the city by Saleh’s troops which continued until Saleh signed the Gulf Cooperation Council agreement, rendering him a president without any authority.

In al-Maqtari’s opinion, Saleh’s singling out of Taiz was due to his previous experiences in the city. Saleh shot to power after becoming commander of the military forces in the city. She says that Saleh was never on good terms with Taiz, Yemen’s cultural hub, which was open to all kinds of political and social voices. It was from Taiz that the most prominent intellectual and cultural figures emerged.

It was only normal that Saleh would be hostile toward the city since his rule was marked by an aversion to anything relating to culture.

Al-Maqtari believes that this feeling of hostility resulted in Saleh marginalizing southern leaders, depriving southerners of their rights, looting their possessions, seizing their lands and distributing them to tribal sheikhs and rulers of the north that were affiliated with him. These practices created great resentment among southerners who felt the unification of Yemen came at their expense.

Furthermore, the president deliberately eliminated all traces of civil movements that distinguished life in the south from the rest of Yemen by spreading tribal culture and the proliferation of arms on the streets. These were unfamiliar sights in the peaceful society that had faith in the law’s ability to maintain individuals’ rights, without resorting to arms. In the north, the absence of law had led people to use arms to take the law into their own hands.

All the chaos that Saleh caused in Yemenis’ political and social lives led to the belief that change was necessary to save Yemen from its current condition.

Apart from her role in the peaceful youth revolution, al-Maqtari’s biggest contribution has been in reinforcing the idea of not fully succumbing to party leaders who preach from a distance; even those of the socialist party, with which she is believed to be affiliated.

In the current youth revolution, al-Maqtari has demonstrated strong leadership characteristics, particularly because she lives in an environment that has become highly oppressive of women. Taiz was one of the first Yemeni cities in which women had prominent roles. In addition to her presence in Liberty Square, al-Maqtari appears almost every day in media outlets that cover the Yemeni revolution.

While she has been subjected to many threats meant to discourage her from participating in the revolution, al-Maqtari has so far paid little attention to such them. Today, she remains as active as ever with one incident etched in her memory: the scene of regime forces filling fire trucks with sewage water and spraying female protesters in order to humiliate them; an attempt that did not stop them from continuing the march towards completing the revolution.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><img><h1><h2><h3><h4><h5><h6><blockquote><span><aside>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

^ Back to Top