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Le Yémen transnational

Imagining Collective Identities

The “Nationalist” Claim within Yemen’s Former Ruling Party
Marine Poirier

Résumés

Au cours de la longue trajectoire au pouvoir du Congrès Populaire Général (CPG), les représentants de ce parti se sont adaptés à des injonctions multiples et souvent contradictoires, ajustant leur discours et leurs activités à des situations et des configurations de pouvoir changeantes. L’objet de cet article est de discuter de l’accommodation paradoxale du discours d’institution du CPG au cours de la dernière décennie, dans un contexte caractérisé par l’aggravation de la dépendance extérieure du Yémen et par l’émergence de revendications politiques nationales concurrentes. Bien qu’empreints d’influences externes du fait de la circulation non seulement du personnel politique mais aussi des normes idéologiques et référents politiques, les représentants du parti ont adopté un discours de légitimation et de mobilisation délibérément nationaliste qui ont masqué ces dynamiques d’hybridation d’identitaires et atténué les clivages internes.

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  • 1 President Ṣāli as well as representatives of the General People’s Congress and the Joint Meeting P (...)
  • 2 The GPC was affected by an important movement of defections, especially in March 2011, after genera (...)
  • 3 The JMP comprises since the early 2000s the Yemeni Socialist Party, the Islamist Yemeni Congregatio (...)

1Amid the turmoil that seems to prevail in Yemen since the beginning of the revolutionary process in 2011 sits the political party of the former ‑and to a large extent present‑ ruling elite, personified by ‘Alī ‘Abd Allāh Ṣāli. The latter came to power in the North in July 1978 and stayed on as president of the unified country before being removed from office through a vote in February 2012, in compliance with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative (al‑mubādara al‑khalījiya)1. This regionally‑sponsored interparty agreement, debated for months in Sana’a and Riyadh, met one of the principal demands of the peaceful and popular revolt initiated in early 2011: the overthrow of the president. Although Ṣāli was formally dismissed, his party, the General People’s Congress (GPC: al‑mu’tamar al‑sha‘bī al‑‘āmm), upheld a leading role in the negotiation and subsequent implementation of the power‑transfer deal. Its representatives were able to maintain a central position in current political affairs despite major defections within the party’s ranks throughout the uprising2. As a result, the GPC still stood in 2013, one year after the launch of the transitional phase, as a key political organisation, sustaining multiple power throttles (noteworthy, the presidency —held by ‘Abd Rubbuh Manūr Hādī—, half of the portfolios in government and a broad majority in Parliament) although officially sharing power with the Joint Meeting Parties of opposition (JMP: al‑liqā’ al‑mushtarak)3.

  • 4 Burrowes, 1987, p. 76‑77.
  • 5 Historically, the idea of a large political organisation emerged well before Ṣāli’s arrival to pow (...)
  • 6 For further insight into the GPC, also refer to Detalle, 1996, p. 331‑34; Longley Alley, 2010; Phil (...)

2The GPC has operated since its creation in 1982 as the central apparatus for Ṣāli’s authoritarian government. Initially, it was conceived as a platform where clandestine political movements could operate openly and legally (among others, the Muslim Brotherhood and the leftist fronts) in the Northern Yemen Arab Republic (YAR). Together with representatives of the military, tradesmen, intellectuals and more “traditional” actors (mainly tribal and religious), these heterogeneous forces participated in a “dialogue commission” and drafted a National Charter enabling a broad national consensus and a common vision of the State that stabilized Ṣāli’s rule4. In a context characterized by much insecurity and bloodshed (two presidents were assassinated in the nine months that preceded Ṣāli’s arrival to power), the GPC was thus primarily designed as an instrument of State construction pacifying the political scene, easing the administration and mobilisation of populations and cementing the central government’s control over the country5. The paradox of its creation as a “party” is that, in the spirit of its architects, it was destined to be the “all‑encompassing”… Built on the accommodation of disparate actors, the GPC was meant to delay rather that consecrate the introduction of political pluralism. In these circumstances, the GPC rapidly developed as an organisation intended to garner Ṣāli’s supporters and co‑opt opponents, concealing the authoritarian essence of the regime with a formal pluralist appearance6.

  • 7 On the dynamic of power monopolisation, refer to Blumi, 2009 and 2010; Phillips, 2008; Brehony, 201 (...)
  • 8 For a detailed account of the Ḥūthī rebellion, refer to Dorlian, 2011 and Bonnefoy, 2010 ; On the S (...)

3With Ṣāli as its fulcrum, the Yemeni regime achieved a political balance that long proved less repressive than elsewhere in the peninsula, allowing, in the wake of the 1990 unification with former South Yemen, multiple political parties and free elections. Although marred by tension and violence, the phase that followed unification was one of power sharing in the form of coalition governments. The GPC for instance briefly shared power with its Southern counterpart, the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), then with the Islamist Yemeni Congregation for Reform (also referred to as al‑I party). In the aftermath of the 1994 war during which the Unitarian army defeated the separatist segment of the Socialist elite in Aden, the growing monopoly over institutional resources exercised by the GPC became increasingly apparent as it recovered a predominant position over competing political parties7. In the second half of the following decade repression aimed at opponents increased sharply, with the “global war on terror” as its primary justification. Against this background new conflicts sprung up, such as the Ḥūthī rebellion in the North or the development of regionalist if not secessionist sentiments in the South. All the while political alliances were reshaped8.

  • 9 For a stimulating discussion of the performative dimension of politics, refer Wedeen, 1999, and Wed (...)

4Throughout GPC’s sustained course in office, its representatives have adjusted to multiple and often contradictory injunctions, adapting the institution’s discourse and activities to evolving situations and configurations of power. It therefore seems of particular interest to question the party’s ideological framework, to observe how it functions in practice and analyse how domestic, international as well as transnational dynamics have challenged its performative dimension9. Based on data collected during ethnographic observations, interviews, informal conversations and press monitoring —as part of a research on the ruling elite’s party since 2007—, the aim of this article is to discuss the paradoxical accommodation of GPC’s institutional discourse during the last decade, in a context characterized by growing international pressures and the emergence, within the country, of competing political narratives. Although bound by external obligations and influences resulting from the circulation not only of labour forces but also of ideological norms and policy guidelines, party representatives have endorsed a deliberately nationalist discourse of self‑legitimisation and mobilisation meant to obscure these dynamics of identity hybridisation while simultaneously euphemising internal contentions. The party representatives’ national claim, which comes in a wide of assertions of nativeness and authenticity, produces a discriminating definition of the “others” while eclipsing the organisation’s inner cleavages. This institutional discourse should therefore be understood as a nationalist statement that emerged and developed in opposition to other competing national identifications.

“Authentically Yemeni!” Discursive patterns of identification

  • 10 On the social construction of groups and identities refer to Anderson, 2000, and Barth, 1998. For a (...)
  • 11 Martin, 1994. For the analysis of this identification process as applied to political Islam, refer (...)

5At the core of the construction of groups, and particularly of political organisations, lie processes of identification tied to the definition of a relation with the “other” and the demarcation of a frontier between “inside” and “outside”10. Identity is plural and relational, and the formulation of a more or less coherent “us” in politics almost invariably begins with the designation of “others”11.

Engaging with political imaginaries

  • 12 Wedeen, 2008, p. 218.
  • 13 Wedeen, 2008, p. 2.

6One particularly valuable case study of this process is found in the modern history of Yemen, with the emergence of the GPC party, its historical affirmation as the sole political organisation in North Yemen and subsequent effort to maintain a dominant position on the political scene for the past decades. Mobilising on a rather general and consensual rhetoric (defence of the Yemeni revolution, the republican regime or the values and principles of Islam), GPC leaders have produced a self‑understanding discourse that is deeply connected to the definition of an ambivalent relation to what is perceived as exterior. In this regard, the GPC is a political organisation “that stimulates category‑based knowledge about selves and others and, in turn, cultivate group affiliations”12. Following Lisa Wedeen’s invitation to wonder “What makes a Yemeni a Yemeni”13, it seems interesting to study how plural identifications dynamically interact in complex ways, often at levels that are as much trans‑national as domestic. Thus the GPC should not be analysed in isolation but as a by‑product of processes of identity formation and constructed polarities of “us” and “them”. These labels, as much as those of “insiders” and “outsiders”, are not rigidly exclusive categories. Depending on the actors mobilising them, they generate different representations and interpretations. They are also the result of evolving historical configurations: in face of globalisation for instance, the frontier between what is perceived as “domestic” and what is perceived as “foreign” is fluid and thus subject to many adjustments and transformations.

  • 14 The notion of transnational highlights contexts where the State is not the unique actor of exchange (...)
  • 15 I do not engage with the yet stimulating literature on transnational politics in contention studies (...)
  • 16 By “culture” I do not mean a coherent system of symbols that would define and draw the permanent fe (...)
  • 17 Hastings, 2001.
  • 18 Wedeen, 2008, p. 217.

7Undoubtedly, as one of the Yemeni regime’s principal offshoots, the ruling party has been affected by international rather than transnational dynamics14. It nonetheless seems pertinent to mobilise the notion of “transnational”, at least as a pretext to explore and question the national/international dichotomy as well as to underline the circulation of people, norms and techniques that transcend state frontiers. This notion precisely questions the importance of outside flows in the definition and the accommodation of political identities15. In this regard, a focus on what the literature identifies as “political cultures”16 invites us to understand the GPC as a “workshop of collective identities and imaginaries”, a place where collective identifications are formulated, structured and shared17. Political imaginaries are obviously not rigid but subject to a multiplicity of appropriations. They vary according to different local, social and historical contexts and are subject to diverging claims and contentions between competing actors. These self‑representation discourses are central to the production of communities and organisations. As Wedeen explains, they “make possible certain understandings of group affiliation while foreclosing others; they also specify the conditions of “otherness”; they suffuse institutions, can summon and resummon groups into existence, and in all of these ways are inseparable from political action”18.

8When conducting interviews with party members, observing their practices and political activities, reviewing party literature and institutional accounts, there was a recurring polarizing discourse, articulating the party’s claims of nativeness in opposition to the foreignness of other political organisations.

Representing oneself by representing the other

  • 19 Such offices or branches are closely connected to Yemeni embassies and Yemeni student unions abroad (...)
  • 20 This person was formally interviewed three times in Sana’a between 2007 and 2010 and met at several (...)

9The following interview extract exemplifies this pattern that both includes and excludes. Asked to describe the ruling party and explain how he got involved in its activities, a member of one of GPC’s central departments in Sana’a gives an account that both relates to a common, standardized self‑representation of the party and to his own particular trajectory. This representative rallied the GPC during his youth abroad, through one of its many offices overseas19. The son of a Yemeni diplomat, he pursued his education in a Middle‑eastern capital, where, as a student, he developed a significant interest for politics. He enlisted in the local GPC branch in the early 1990s before becoming one of its leaders. After returning to Yemen in the following decade, he continued his political career and rose in the party’s central hierarchy. During interviews, he repeatedly claimed that the GPC was the “right party for Yemen” because it was born out of the “guts of the Yemeni land”, in opposition to other organisations “imported” from foreign countries20. He elaborated:

  • 21 Interview with the author, December 15, 2008, Sana’a.

“People join the GPC because it is a Yemeni party, an organisation that comes from the land of Yemen. It is not an imported party like the Nasserite party, the Socialist party or the Baath party. I know such parties promoting foreign models that do not suit Yemeni society. […]
People join the GPC because it fulfils programs meeting popular aspirations. Within the GPC triumphs freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and respect for diverging views, unlike some ideological part
ies where one will prevail. This is absence of freedom of expression. […]
The GPC is based on dialogue, because it emerged in 1982 as a dialogue. The Commission of dialogue was formed in 1981 and the GPC began its work by building a consensus around the National Charter. T
he practice of dialogue within the GPC is one of the reasons that encourage citizens to rally the party. This also enables us to respond to the dreams and aspirations of the Yemeni people, because we need to face the Yemeni society and express its ambitions and aspirations. Contrary to parties that originated from Egypt, Syria, Iraq or Moscow, parties trying to impose their projects on the country.”21

  • 22 James C. Scott defines public transcripts in opposition to hidden transcripts as a “the self‑portra (...)
  • 23 Retière, 2003.
  • 24 Interviews with party members, 2008‑2010.

10Although this actor’s political career is not representative of most GPC members interviewed, his words are typical of a shared rhetoric or “public transcript”22. It illustrates the permanent effort by party affiliates to assert the organisation’s authenticity. This discursive pattern is based on the variants of a dichotomy between, on the one hand, an original, open and moderate political project enabling national achievements and fulfilling the aspirations of the Yemeni people, and, on the other hand, imported, hard‑line ideological projects imposing foreign agendas rather than meeting local specificities. The contrast between GPC’s alleged cognitive resonance with Yemeni society and dissonance with the other parties highlights the fact that identification processes are also provoked by out‑groups. More precisely, political identities or patterns of association are defined in relation and interaction (rather than in opposition) to otherness. Autochthony, or the sense of deep‑rootedness, is not only the basis for a locally‑constituted collective identity, but also a social relation and a site of contention between competing groups negotiating their respective positions23. As such, the very endogenous self‑representation of the GPC (“original” – a, “both parents being Yemeni” or “translator of Yemeni culture”24) is closely related to the denunciation of external influences. The figure of otherness is a counter‑representation that functions as a foil as much as a mirror. In this line, such statements shed light on how groups represent themselves by representing their opponents and in turn, how the process of self‑identification is based on a mechanism of distinction between one and another that necessarily establishes divisions, hierarchies and exclusions.

Beyond the nationalist rhetoric, historical transnational influences

  • 25 See in particular Yemeni Republic ‑ General People’s Congress, 2005, The GPC at the stage of its es (...)
  • 26 Interviews with party members, 2009.
  • 27 For more details on the PDRY, refer to Halliday, 1990.
  • 28 On North ‑ South relations and the inter Yemeni wars of 1972 and 1979, refer to Dresch, 2000, p.124 (...)
  • 29 Dissociating from its developmentalist connotation, I refer here to modernisation only as the ratio (...)
  • 30 For instance, the Turkish occupations of Yemen are depicted as periods of “recession, despotism and (...)

11The “Yemeniness” of the GPC is promoted by party members as a given that should go without saying, although repeatedly asserted. It is also conveyed in party literature25 which claims to provide “historical proof” of the authenticity of the organisation, built upon “a Yemeni idea coming from the people”26. However, it seems necessary to denaturalise such political identifications and claims, and consider their contingency. The elaboration of the National Charter and the ensuing creation of the GPC are direct reactions to a global situation and not strictly to domestic politics. The creation of the GPC was an attempt to counterbalance the influence of the Yemeni Socialist Party in both the Southern People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY)27 and North Yemen. The party thus emerged not only as an instrument of state‑building in the North, but also as a consequence of the Cold war and intense rivalry with the Marxist PDRY28. The GPC fostered a competing doctrine supporting a project of political modernisation29 rooted in Yemeni history and outwardly denouncing foreign intervention and ideologies30.

  • 31 Idem. Following quotes come from the same document.

12As an example, the modern history of Yemen is revisited in a state‑sponsored publication associated to the Charter as a “history of violence due to ideological conflicts”31. The “colonisation of thought” (al‑itilāl al‑fikrī) and the “polarisation of the world between Marxism and capitalism” are largely condemned. In contrast, focus is drawn on the national dimension of the GPC, with a recurrent reference to Yemens “democratic experiment” (especially the Himyarite and Sabaean kingdoms) and to its genuine “Islamic civilisation”. The promotion of an endogenous project of political modernisation is used to stigmatise what is regarded as the “imported” (mustawrad) modernity and “ideological colonisation” (al‑itilāl al‑aydiyūlūjī) of South Yemen. The GPC is clearly a by‑product of international reaffirmation meant to “return Yemen to its place in the world’s civilisations”.

  • 32 The creation of a political organisation in the North is mentioned in the Tripoli agreement for the (...)
  • 33 See Waterbury, 1983.

13Even more so, promoting “Islamic democracy,” Arab unity and political “modernisation” and defining itself as a third option transcending the Marxist/Capitalist divide, the GPC also related to a larger regional and historical political movement, pan‑Arab, Islamist and nationalist. Neighbouring countries like Egypt, Syria or Libya for instance, underwent comparable processes in the aftermath of their independence. They also played a significant role in Yemeni contemporary politics. Egypt in particular provided assistance to the September 26, 1962 military coup against the Imamate and was directly involved in the civil war that followed, its military intervention lasting until 1967. The Egyptian experience of the Arab Socialist Union (ASU), as well as that of the Syrian Baath party and the Libyan General People’s Congress may well have served as models for the later construction of the GPC (many rhetorical and structural similarities can be noticed)32. Gamal Abdel Nasser convened in 1962 a 1750‑member Congress of representatives from peasant, worker, professional and occupational associations to debate on a National Charter that stressed Egypt’s attachment to Arabism as well as Islamic principles33. Following its adoption, the congress set up a new and unique political organization meant to gather the masses, likely inspiring, two decades later, GPC’s architects.

  • 34 Dresch, 1993, p. 73.

14The GPC terms of legitimisation as a national organisation are thus related to a broader context, that of the Northern Republic’s construction, which is inseparable from inter‑Yemeni rivalries and the simultaneous development of a shared unification project. In this process, GPC leaders were keen to emphasize the party’s attachment to local traditions and history. As Dresch explains, “In the context of progressive, developmental rhetoric promoted by the State and parties, tribal “customs and traditions” (‘ādāt wa‑taqālīd) have become a marker of Yemeni cultural authenticity”34. This nationalist claim of authenticity was further developed in reaction to regional globalisation, characterised by increasing circulations and exchanges and the extension of transnational political solidarities and constraints.

International normalisation and frame alignments

15The GPC is imprinted by multi‑level connections and influences. As such, a substantial part of its discourse and activities have been reshaped in order to adapt to increasing transnational circulations and growing foreign involvement into Yemeni affairs that have resulted from the normalisation of globalisation.

Growing international injunctions

16Evolutions in the international context and the fund‑raising issue have represented major challenges for political actors in Yemen and particularly for the ruling elite. The growing involvement of international aid agencies and NGOs, as well as multi‑ or inter‑national companies, has directly affected political agendas. Although primarily focused on issues of security and stability (particularly in the post‑9/11 context), foreign governments and a number of actors supported by theses governments have taken interest in development projects. They have also launched activities with the explicit aim of supporting democracy, promoting transparent elections and “empowering” citizens. Such international concern has produced a demand that different types of local actors have sought to satisfy. As a result, different buzzwords (such as anti‑corruption, sustainable development, gender, good governance, decentralisation, etc.) and agendas have been more efficient than others in providing government representatives, political parties or NGOs with funding from Western donors, consequently affecting the way these actors frame different issues. In this regard, the ruling political elite has negotiated much‑needed international development aid on the basis of democratic “breakthroughs”.

  • 35 Detalle, 1993.
  • 36 After Yemen gave its support to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, over 800,000 Yemeni workers we (...)
  • 37 Dresch, 2000.
  • 38 Phillips, 2007.
  • 39 The Millenium Challenge Corporation is a US foreign aid agency providing cooperation programs with (...)
  • 40 Nasser Arrabyee, “Yemen in need”, Al‑Ahram Weekly, n° 1116, September 27, 2012: http://weekly.ahram (...)

17As early as 1993, it seemed that one of the regime’s principal preoccupations in organising the first parliamentary elections was to attest before the international community to the pluralism and relative transparency of the ballot35. It was assumed that more or less open competition would ensure Yemen a raise in international financial assistance, on the decline since the first Gulf war36. In 1997, elections allowed credit facilities to match the national debt37. The correlation between the apparent development of pluralism and the growth of subventions granted by international institutions such as the World Bank was corroborated in 2006. A month after presidential and local elections, Yemen secured a development aid promise of almost 5 billion dollars at the “Friends of Yemen” donors conference in London38. A few months later, in February 2007, Yemen’s eligibility for the Millenium Challenge Corporation was reinstated as a result of the internationally praised 2006 “open and genuine competition”39. Despite international donors’ pledge to support the Yemeni state’s reform efforts and address its economic problems, aid did not materialize substantially. The country failed to meet transparency and accountability injunctions that conditioned such assistance. Yet new promises have been made since the transition deal was brokered in late 2011. The principal donor and sponsor of this power transfer agreement, Saudi Arabia, alongside with the United States and the United Kingdom for instance, has committed to support the implementation of reforms and the fight against terrorism endorsed by the National Unity government during the “Friends of Yemen” meeting in November 201240.

  • 41 Phillips, 2011, p. 13‑17 ; Ruiz de Elvira, 2008.
  • 42 Bayart, 1996, p. 80‑81.
  • 43 Lefresne, 1992.

18GPC leaders have thus developed a discourse oriented towards donor governments and international aid agencies in order to secure financial and political support, enhance cooperation and gain international legitimacy41. However, in this alignment process, the ruling elite has made a significant effort to “endogenise international injunctions. Importing norms has in many ways been associated to a process of “cultural extraversion”42, whereby adopted foreign cultural elements and jargon are submitted to autochthonous objectives generating “transfers of signification” and reinterpretations. Democracy injunctions for example have been reinterpreted in party literature and policy reports with reference to a double historical Yemeni heritage, that of the pre‑Islamic Himyarite political experience and that of Islamic history and culture (as synonyms of the aḥwa (“revival”) and shūrā (“consultation”)). These interpretations are not exclusive to the GPC, but widely shared and promoted by competing political parties such as al‑I43. These actors have used the democracy rhetoric, similarly translated in local traditions, and thereby opposed the regime’s claim to monopolise it as a resource for legitimisation.

An instrumental political hybridisation

19Overall, aligning with international injunctions has led to the hybridisation of the party’s discourse and the development of an ambiguous and euphemistic language or newspeak. Party representatives have appropriated the “politically correct” language of donors and thereby secured their financial support, despite major discrepancies between the intended meaning and expected outcomes. Indeed, the democracy‑bidding contest led by the GPC has not achieved substantial progress in participative politics or government accountability. The democracy rhetoric has been used to exclude opponents from political decision‑making circles, pushing them out of the instituted political arena and ultimately encouraging radicalisation processes. The regime and ruling party representatives have also largely hijacked concepts such as local governance, participative democracy or decentralisation.

  • 44 The self‑help movement of the local development cooperatives spread in the 1960s and 70s in North Y (...)

20In the case of decentralisation, the creation of local councils has enabled the ruling party to co‑opt local notabilities. The decentralisation laws, voted in 2000 with the support of international actors, sought to revive the 1970s movement of local development cooperatives44 and to grant citizens more responsibilities at the local level. Due to lack of budget, lack of experience by the actors involved, and also lack of political will from the ruling elites, the decentralisation process was not successful. Elections of local councils, first held in February 2001, were postponed numerous times before being organized in September 2006. Since, local councillors’ three‑year mandate was extended in November 2008 by a vote in parliamentary for four years, and until further notice since engaging in the transitional phase in January 2012. Although the direct election of governors by local councils, conducted in May 2008, seemed to represent a further step towards decentralisation, the transfer of resources from the state to the districts was ineffective and the ruling party’s executive authority was largely maintained over local bodies. As a whole, the process enabled the regime to manoeuvre a large co‑optation campaign, favoured the aggravation of GPC political domination (75% of the seats in local councils, and all elected governors were GPC‑affiliated prior to the 2011 revolution) and the revitalisation of tribal notabilities.

  • 45 Daair, 2001.
  • 46 Phillips, 2008, p. 49.

21Despite the widely shared democracy rhetoric, domination schemes and authoritarian practices have been sustained. The politics of elections, as much as the overall politics of “democratisation” have accounted for the regime and therefore the GPC’s “politics of survival”45 in a changing international context. It has become an effective fundraising tool, increasingly orienting and formatting actors’ discourses yet without substantially alleviating democratic practices46. Transnational politics of democratisation have therefore provided the GPC organisation with new resources for domestic politics, showing its leaders’ ability to adapt to change and adjust their practices and discourses.

Dissonances and contentious appropriations

  • 47 Du Bouchet, 2007.
  • 48 See for instance GPC’s participation to rallies against the Israeli attack on Gaza in January 2010.

22Other issues however have been less easily subjected to this appropriation process, such as the fight against terrorism and corruption for example although both mobilize a moral dimension and a religious rhetoric. In particular, the Yemeni government’s cooperation with the Unites States in the “Global war on terror” since 2001 has been subject to many contentions within the ruling GPC. Many party members do not support what is perceived as Yemen’s alignment with American policies. Since the end of 2009, growing American military involvement in Yemen has generated great turmoil within the organisation, especially when interventions have led to civil fatalities. Party representatives have however upheld the “fight against terrorism” discourse, during party rallies and electoral campaign gatherings covered by local media. “Fighting” terrorism has proven quite useful for the ruling elite, which has used the directive to criminalise opponents and fight political and regional upheavals, while capitalising in the meantime on important coercive resources47. Cooperation with the US has however been uneasy, as it is overtly unpopular within Yemeni society. Public dissent aggravated in the wake of the Wikileaks revelations in 2010, when the launch of American drones in Yemen was disclosed. The December 2009 strike on the Southern village of al‑Ma‘jala in Abyān governorate that resulted in dozens of civilian casualties also provoked important protests within the GPC. Party representatives have therefore had to find alternative ways to express their own independence and critical posture with regards to American foreign policy, blaming an unfavourable international balance of power. Party leaders let members protest locally against US intervention, and organised mass rallies meant to divert attention towards other regional issues such as the Arab‑Israel conflict48.

  • 49 Before 1999, the minimum age for girls was 15.
  • 50 About GPC’s split on the subject and the political instrumentalisation of the issue by the ruling p (...)
  • 51 Lisa Wedeen similarly discusses how structural adjustment programs, widening disparities of wealth (...)

23Another example of the risks of GPC’s strategy to endorse agendas formulated and imposed by the international community is the case of early marriage. The media frenzy around the case of child brides and sexual abuses crystallised the debate on setting a minimum age of marriage for girls into a passionate struggle. Albeit GPC’s central decision to vote for the re‑establishment of a minimum age in parliament49, an important number of its MPs defected from the party line, rallying members of al‑I party to establish a sharia committee against such legislation and publically demonstrating before Parliament50. The internal opposition of this conservative group (led by religious and tribal figures) has been broadly denied and silenced by GPC representatives. These policies and their association to a foreign agenda have encouraged indiscipline and fostered counter mobilisations within the ruling party51, weakening the GPC in a context where its dominant position on the political scene was being increasingly challenged.

A domestically challenged nationalist discourse

24The assertion of the GPC’s nationalism constitutes an effort to label and brand an organisation characterised by a relatively loose doctrine and subjected to international injunctions, as well as opposition movements that have fostered competing national imaginaries. Accordingly, the autochthony narrative participates to a larger apparatus of power characterising Ṣāli’s rule meant to euphemise internal dissensions, claim legitimacy, mobilise citizens, as well as stigmatise, divide and exclude opponents.

Self‑legitimisation, stigmatisation and criminalisation

  • 52 Burrowes, 1991 and Detalle, 1996.
  • 53 Tradition is referred to here as a social construction and invention, in line with Erik Hobsbawm an (...)
  • 54 International Crisis Group, 2009, Yemen: Defusing the Saada Time Bomb, Middle East Report, n° 86; D (...)
  • 55 Brehony, 2011; Day, 2012.

25GPC members have been promoting for the past decade what seems to be a largely consensual political project, meant to accommodate and downgrade Yemeni society’s plural regional, religious, social, political and tribal identities and solidarities52. Affiliates with very contrasting political trajectories (nationalism, Arabism, socialism, Islamism, etc.) easily share the common denominator of a Yemeni identity, and mobilise it as a convenient argument to justify their stances. Competing over the right to manipulate the symbolic capital of Yemeni society and history, GPC representatives have in a sense appropriated if not confiscated “Tradition” (historical, religious, tribal, etc.) as a resource for political legitimisation53. However, counter narratives have developed in opposition to the ruling elite’s monopoly on state resources and cultural hegemony. The rise of the Zaydi revivalist movement (the Believing Youth – al‑shabāb al‑mu’mīn) in the Ṣa‘da region for instance, and the war launched by the army in 2004 against its activists and former MP Ḥusayn Badr al‑Dīn al‑Ḥūthī, accused of seeking to restore the Imamate, has represented a major military and political challenge for the Ṣāli regime. Clashes between the army and Ḥūthī supporters have occurred with varying intensity and in spite of multiple mediation attempts, with Zaydi sectarian discourses strengthening as the Ḥūthī‑s stretched their influence54. Concurrently, a protest movement has developed in the Southern governorates of Yemen since 2007. The Southern movement (al‑irāk al‑janūbī) initially emerged among retiree associations of South Yemen’s former army and civil service before intensifying and spreading to large segments of the Southern population. These socio‑political mobilisations protesting against the hegemony of the Sana’a regime have led to a resurgence of regionalism and even secessionist sentiments55. Both movements have participated to the diffusion of counter national narratives and competing visions of the “imagined community”.

  • 56 See, for instance, Bonnefoy and Poirier, 2010; Dresch and Haykel, 1995; Schwedler, 2007.
  • 57 Read for example ‘Alī al‑Shāir, “Irābiyun tat al‑maẓalla al‑siyāsiya”, Almotamar.net, October 5, (...)
  • 58 See for instance the caricature circulating on the pro‑GPC website, and particularly January 6, 201 (...)
  • 59 Khālid Ḥassān, “Ṣunā‘ al‑azamāt”, Almotamar.net, February 8, 2010: http://www.almotamar.net/news/pr (...)
  • 60 Franck Mermier, « De la répression antiterroriste à la répression antidémocratique », Le Monde, 7 j (...)
  • 61 Wedeen, 2008, p. 66.

26Simultaneously, the Joint Meeting Parties’ affirmation as Ṣāli’s principal opponent during the September 2006 presidential election and the opposition candidate’s Fayal b. Shamlān’s official 22% score, has aggravated tensions within the ruling elites. Confronted with a vibrant opposition forum, GPC representatives have systematically made use of broad essentialist rhetoric in an attempt to discredit, criminalise and divide competing parties. The stigmatisation mechanism and de‑legitimisation of competing organisations (mainly the YSP and the Islamist al‑I party) revolves on the promotion of stereotypes such as their radical ideology, foreign agenda and imported character. Al‑I party for instance is commonly referred to in the online mouthpiece of the GPC Almotamar.net as the “Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen”, although its trajectory and political project dissociates it from the transnational Muslim Brotherhood as it is largely imprinted by local dynamics56. The Islamist party’s ideology is slandered as radical (mutaarrif)57 while the Yemeni Socialist Party is confined to the image of Southern secessionists and infidels (infiāliyyīn wa‑mulidīn). Members of Al‑Ḥaqq, a conservative Zaydi party, are accused of supporting the Ḥūthī rebellion and the restoration of the Imamate. Since the JMP has adopted a more confrontational strategy in the aftermath of the 2006 election, organising massive rallies in different cities in its boycott campaign of parliamentary elections, the coalition has been accused by GPC affiliates of instigating chaos and sabotage (fawā wa‑takhrīb), violating the constitution and refusing democracy58. Opposition parties have been held responsible for fuelling the crisis and providing support to armed groups, for example to al‑Qaida militants59. The confusion promoted by state‑sponsored media between opposition parties and violent groups have contributed to the criminalisation of their political demands in direct reference to the “global war on terror” international agenda60. Simultaneously, the authoritarian and repressive side to the regime, facilitated by the international community’s security concern, has accelerated the emergence of resistances and the promotion of counter claims to nationalism, not only articulated in terms of regional and sectarian identities61.

Autochthony versus foreign alienation: the case of the 2011 mobilisations

  • 62 Starting from January 2011, political protest in Yemen has intensified and extended to the whole co (...)
  • 63 Listen, for instance, to Ṣāli’s speech on April 28, 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evpanvA2f (...)
  • 64 Refer, for example, to the discourses and slogans during the General national congress organised in (...)
  • 65 The JMP was represented with blood on its hands in an article of the pro regime Nabanews agency, De (...)

27The popular opposition movement that blossomed following the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions in 201162 has been particularly revealing and an accelerator of such processes. Confronted by a vibrant “revolutionary youth” (shabāb al‑thawra, as protesters define themselves), party leaders have largely mobilised the autochthony claim, combining it to the defence of an allegedly “constitutional legitimacy” (al‑shara‘iya al‑dustūriya) which opponents were denied63. During rallies organised in support of President Ṣāli on al‑Tarīr square, preventively occupied by regime supporters, and on al‑Ṣab‘īn square, or through various propaganda spots broadcasted on Yemeni television (al‑Yaman), leaflets and posters distributed in the country’s streets, regime elites and members of the GPC publically upheld and claimed their role as defenders of “unity and democracy” (al‑wada wa‑l‑dīmuqrāṭiya), “security and stability” (al‑āman wa‑l‑istiqrār)64. Opponents have been stigmatised as violent thugs encouraging anarchy and civil war65.

  • 66 It is the case for example of human rights’ activist Tawakkul Karmān that was slandered in al‑Jumhū (...)

28Even more so, the legitimacy and popularity of the protest movement has been denied by the stigmatisation of their connections with the exterior and their alleged implication in the implementation of a foreign agenda. Activists and opposition party relations with foreign embassies in Sana’a have been incriminated and used as an argument to demonstrate their illegitimacy66. In an interview, Nu‘mān Duwayd, the governor of Sana’a province and a high‑ranking leader in the GPC, condemned the protesters’ political and linguistic alienation. Speaking of those who call for the overthrow of the regime, he explains:

  • 67 Interview with Nu‘mān Duwayd, al‑Diyyār, n° 178, March 3, 2011, p. 4. Contrary to what Duwayd sugge (...)

“They import foreign words, they wave foreign signs, and this originates from foreign intelligence. Some say ‘Game over’ or ‘Go out’ [in English]: these are foreign words fabricated by foreign intelligence. Our demand, we Yemenis, is not ‘The people want to change the regime’ ‑ this is not a Yemeni expression! I go to al‑Tarīr square and the Yemeni expression and dialect goes: ‘We entrust God’s covenant to protect the province’ […] ‘With our blood, with our souls, we sacrifice ourselves for you Yemen’. Our fathers and grandfathers uttered these words. They aren’t words we import from the exterior. [Opposition protesters] are limited to the extent that they import words. Now their dialect has become Tunisian for some, Egyptian and Libyan for others. They lost the Yemeni dialect.”67

29More generally, the conspiracy theory has been mobilised by GPC supporters to vilify the protest movement and oppose competing national imaginaries being fostered by protesters. Their uninterrupted sit‑in in front of the New University of Sana’a, named Change Square (Sāat al‑Taghyīr), participated to a process of citizens reappropriating the public space and reinventing the national community. Around the demand for a “civil State” (dawla madaniya), new collective practices emerged as well as alternative ways of being Yemeni. This dynamic led to the development of nationalist discourses and claims opposing the ones produced by the regime. For instance, national holidays such as the May 22 unification, the September 26 and November 30 revolutions were celebrated with original civilian processions (rather that the traditional military parades) and various shows done by children. Many protesters re‑discovered their national attachment and mobilised symbols such as the national flag or anthem, contesting the regime’s attempt to monopolize such references.

  • 68 Speech of President Ṣāli, April 28, 2011, op. cit.
  • 69 President Ṣāli declared during a visit to medicine students in Sana’a University that “what is hap (...)
  • 70 Speech of President Ṣāli, May 21, 2011: http://www.almotamar.net/news/91121.htm.
  • 71 The official media has dealt with the protest movement as a political crisis only. Read for example (...)
  • 72 Speech of President Ṣāli, May 21, 201, op. cit.

30In reaction, President Ṣāli has repeatedly charged the opposition, during rallies, press conferences and in the media more broadly, of being traitors (khuwana) and foreign agents (‘umalā’)68, denouncing an Israeli‑American conspiracy69. He further referred to the Joint Meeting Parties as the “Joint conspiracy parties” (azāb al‑ta’ammur al‑mushtarak), accusing them of wanting “to come to power through rivers of blood”70. Interestingly, mediation from Gulf Cooperation Council monarchies for a transition of power in April, which was welcomed by JMP representatives, was initially decried by GPC leaders as a “foreign interference” (tadakhkhul ajnabī) in Yemeni internal “political crisis”71. During the celebration of the 21st anniversary of Yemeni unity in Sana’a, Ṣāli declared that the GCC initiative was “simply an attempt at a coup”, “brokered by foreign sides and follow[ing] a foreign agenda […] of big international regimes that export their problems to others and claim custody of these helpless people”72. He explained that protesters were being financed by foreign countries and decried “the money being funnelled from the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf Cooperation Council”.

  • 73 See for instance the regime’s stigmatisation of the Southern movement as a foreign‑sponsored secess (...)
  • 74 Bayart, 2001, p.182‑3.
  • 75 See for example pictures of the July 21 rally, “Jum‘a al‑i‛tiām bi‑hibl Allāh”, AlMotamar.net, Jul (...)
  • 76 On Yemeni‑Saudi relations, see Laurent Bonnefoy, 2006, “Brothers yet enemies”, Le Monde Diplomatiqu (...)

31If the national versus foreign opposition principally justified brutal exclusion and repression73, the stigmatisation of opponents as “foreign sponsored” or “non‑nationals” was intended by the authoritarian regime to regain ground in public opinion74. However, foreign involvement in domestic affairs significantly progressed during the revolutionary process in spite of the official defiance rhetoric upheld by the regime. The discrepancy between this rhetorical pattern of mobilisation and the activities carried by GPC representatives (participating to negotiations with the GCC for example) produced a major contradiction on the ground. As from the attack on June 3, 2011 on the presidential mosque that resulted in Ṣāli’s transfer to Saudi Arabia for intensive care, the ruling elite’s aggressive discourse against regional interference converted into plain support. The Saudi kingdom and its monarch, whose flag and portrait were respectively carried during pro‑regime rallies until late 2011, suddenly became champions blessed by Ṣāli’s supporters75. This extraordinary demonstration of allegiance to the Saudi “friend”76 shed light on the ambivalence of such mobilisation schemes and, most importantly, on their malleability. Institutional narratives and strategies of action, constrained by the organisation’s traditional repertoires as much as by the perception members have of their resources and opportunities, were affected by a perceived change in the domestic as well as regional balance of power. Alongside fluid political affiliations, logics of action evolved according to context and its transformations.

Conclusion

32To conclude, the discourse of collective identification and mobilisation within the GPC party has participated to the promotion of a national reference despite competing domestic claims and varied contentions on the international level. The nationalist discourse has contributed to singling out “others” while also surpassing and overshadowing internal cleavages. Simultaneously, the mobilisation of international norms has provided major resources for the construction of the GPC and to stand out on the local political scene. In a globalised context, circulations constitute major factors of transformation and interaction. Transnational flows challenge the coherence of political groups, transcending their self‑representations as much as fuelling them, enhancing identity reactions and claims of localism.

  • 77 See for instance, the case of the RCD during Ben Ali’s rule in Tunisia: Myriam Marzouki, « Parler l (...)
  • 78 Bayart, 1996, p. 10.

33Assuredly, the call for autochthony and nationalism within the GPC has developed as an effect of a globalisation process and should be analysed with regards to an evolving international and national situation. Simultaneously, the complex and ambivalent relation GPC representatives have sustained with what they perceive as exterior has provided them with significant levers for maintaining domination. As observed in other authoritarian regimes and hegemonic parties77, ruling elites are not only subject to the international community’s injunctions. Party leaders have also used them as a springboard to maintain power. As such, the alleged dependency of the Yemeni regime on transnational solidarities may well be a form of political action rather than a sign of its blunt domination78.

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Notes

1 President Ṣāli as well as representatives of the General People’s Congress and the Joint Meeting Parties of opposition signed the political agreement brokered by the GCC monarchies in Riyadh on November 23, 2011. According to this settlement, power was transferred to former vice president ‘Abd al‑Rubbuh Manūr Hādī and a peaceful political transition launched over two years.

2 The GPC was affected by an important movement of defections, especially in March 2011, after general ‘Alī Musin rallied the revolution. 20% of GPC’s members of Parliament resigned from the party. In the absence of precise data, it can be assumed that a similar proportion of actors defected from GPC’s central and local sections.

3 The JMP comprises since the early 2000s the Yemeni Socialist Party, the Islamist Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al‑tajammu‛ al‑yamanī li‑l‑iṣlā, or al‑I party), the Nasserite Popular Unionist Organization, the National Arab Socialist Baath Party, al‑Ḥaqq Party and the Union of Popular Forces (two small parties with Zaydī markers). Browers, 2007.

4 Burrowes, 1987, p. 76‑77.

5 Historically, the idea of a large political organisation emerged well before Ṣāli’s arrival to power in 1978. For more details, refer to Burrowes, 1991.

6 For further insight into the GPC, also refer to Detalle, 1996, p. 331‑34; Longley Alley, 2010; Phillips, 2008, in particular p. 51‑53; Poirier, 2011.

7 On the dynamic of power monopolisation, refer to Blumi, 2009 and 2010; Phillips, 2008; Brehony, 2011.

8 For a detailed account of the Ḥūthī rebellion, refer to Dorlian, 2011 and Bonnefoy, 2010 ; On the Southern movement, see Day, 2012.

9 For a stimulating discussion of the performative dimension of politics, refer Wedeen, 1999, and Wedeen, 2008.

10 On the social construction of groups and identities refer to Anderson, 2000, and Barth, 1998. For a contemporary approach of these issues in Yemen, refer to Wedeen, 2008.

11 Martin, 1994. For the analysis of this identification process as applied to political Islam, refer to Burgat, 1998.

12 Wedeen, 2008, p. 218.

13 Wedeen, 2008, p. 2.

14 The notion of transnational highlights contexts where the State is not the unique actor of exchanges. It generally entails a focus on non‑state actors and societies without ignoring the State’s reactions to such dynamics.

15 I do not engage with the yet stimulating literature on transnational politics in contention studies (as developed by Sidney Tarrow, Charles Tilly and Ernesto Castañeda for instance) for multiple reasons: in this article, I do not aim at mapping the transnational practices of a political organisation nor do I study a social movement, and the targeted group generally tends to legitimise and reproduce the regime rather than to resist and contend with it.

16 By “culture” I do not mean a coherent system of symbols that would define and draw the permanent features of a specific group. See the criticisms formulated by Lisa Wedeen to the Geertzian approach to political cultures. Wedeen, 2002.

17 Hastings, 2001.

18 Wedeen, 2008, p. 217.

19 Such offices or branches are closely connected to Yemeni embassies and Yemeni student unions abroad. These state‑sponsored structures, present in Europe, America, Asia and in the Middle East, principally aimed at providing services for students overseas, nonetheless contribute to the expansion of the regime’s influence over expatriates.

20 This person was formally interviewed three times in Sana’a between 2007 and 2010 and met at several party events and socialisation instances during fieldwork until 2011.

21 Interview with the author, December 15, 2008, Sana’a.

22 James C. Scott defines public transcripts in opposition to hidden transcripts as a “the self‑portrait of dominant elites as they would have themselves seen. […] A highly partisan and partial narrative […] designed to be impressive, to affirm and naturalize the power of dominant elites, and to conceal or euphemize the dirty linen of their rule” (Scott, 1990, p. 18). As suggested by the author, the dominant discourse is a plastic idiom that may carry an important variety of meanings (Scott, 1990, p. 102).

23 Retière, 2003.

24 Interviews with party members, 2008‑2010.

25 See in particular Yemeni Republic ‑ General People’s Congress, 2005, The GPC at the stage of its establishment [Al‑Mu’tamar al‑sha‘bī al‑‘āmm fī maralat al‑ta’sīs], Idārāt al‑amāna al‑‘āmma, Mu’assasat al‑Mīthāq.

26 Interviews with party members, 2009.

27 For more details on the PDRY, refer to Halliday, 1990.

28 On North ‑ South relations and the inter Yemeni wars of 1972 and 1979, refer to Dresch, 2000, p.124 and p. 149‑150.

29 Dissociating from its developmentalist connotation, I refer here to modernisation only as the rationalisation and reform of State.

30 For instance, the Turkish occupations of Yemen are depicted as periods of “recession, despotism and corruption”. Yemen Arab Republic ‑ GPC, Al‑Mafhūm al‑‘aqā’idī wa‑l‑minhajī li‑l‑mīthāq al‑waanī, Press of the administration of general affairs and for the moral guidance of the armed forces, n. d.

31 Idem. Following quotes come from the same document.

32 The creation of a political organisation in the North is mentioned in the Tripoli agreement for the unification of Yemen in 1972: “There will come into existence a unified political organisation which will include all productive groups of citizens … to work against backwardness” (article 9). The GPC not only takes up the name of the Libyan GPCs, established by Muammar Gaddafi in 1977, but the local structure of the organisation and its developmentalist orientations (to fight backwardness and guide citizens on the road to political awareness and empowerment) echo that of the Libyan leader, comforting the hypothesis of a Libyan influence.

33 See Waterbury, 1983.

34 Dresch, 1993, p. 73.

35 Detalle, 1993.

36 After Yemen gave its support to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, over 800,000 Yemeni workers were expelled from the Gulf and neighbouring countries, provoking a major humanitarian and socio‑economic crisis. The Yemeni government estimated losses due to the Gulf crisis at over 10 billion dollars, including 3 billion in lost remittances.

37 Dresch, 2000.

38 Phillips, 2007.

39 The Millenium Challenge Corporation is a US foreign aid agency providing cooperation programs with poor countries and financed by Congress.

40 Nasser Arrabyee, “Yemen in need”, Al‑Ahram Weekly, n° 1116, September 27, 2012: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1116/re11.htm.

41 Phillips, 2011, p. 13‑17 ; Ruiz de Elvira, 2008.

42 Bayart, 1996, p. 80‑81.

43 Lefresne, 1992.

44 The self‑help movement of the local development cooperatives spread in the 1960s and 70s in North Yemen (especially Taiz region) conducting activities in the fields of education, health care, water supply and road‑building. Many analysts describe it as a unique and early occurrence of a wide scale civil organization. Carapico, 1998, p. 211.

45 Daair, 2001.

46 Phillips, 2008, p. 49.

47 Du Bouchet, 2007.

48 See for instance GPC’s participation to rallies against the Israeli attack on Gaza in January 2010.

49 Before 1999, the minimum age for girls was 15.

50 About GPC’s split on the subject and the political instrumentalisation of the issue by the ruling party (as a stigmatisation tool against al‑Iṣlā party), see Nabīl Subay‘, “Aklu al‑bayḍ”, al‑Nida’, April 5, 2010.

51 Lisa Wedeen similarly discusses how structural adjustment programs, widening disparities of wealth and increasing poverty, encourage the rise of religious institutions that might support Islamist political mobilisation. Wedeen, 2008, p. 193‑211.

52 Burrowes, 1991 and Detalle, 1996.

53 Tradition is referred to here as a social construction and invention, in line with Erik Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s work The invention of tradition.

54 International Crisis Group, 2009, Yemen: Defusing the Saada Time Bomb, Middle East Report, n° 86; Dorlian, 2008; Wedeen, 2008, p. 148‑185.

55 Brehony, 2011; Day, 2012.

56 See, for instance, Bonnefoy and Poirier, 2010; Dresch and Haykel, 1995; Schwedler, 2007.

57 Read for example ‘Alī al‑Shāir, “Irābiyun tat al‑maẓalla al‑siyāsiya”, Almotamar.net, October 5, 2010, http://www.almotamar.net/news/print.php?id=84801.

58 See for instance the caricature circulating on the pro‑GPC website, and particularly January 6, 2011, http://www.almotamar.net/news/87549.htm.

59 Khālid Ḥassān, “Ṣunā‘ al‑azamāt”, Almotamar.net, February 8, 2010: http://www.almotamar.net/news/print.php?id=77951.

60 Franck Mermier, « De la répression antiterroriste à la répression antidémocratique », Le Monde, 7 janvier 2010.

61 Wedeen, 2008, p. 66.

62 Starting from January 2011, political protest in Yemen has intensified and extended to the whole country. The multiple opposition actors on the ground (students, civil society activists, secessionists, ūthī‑s, political parties, salafis, etc.) have progressively converged, rallying around the joint call for the immediate departure of President Ṣāli. The nonetheless fragmented revolutionary movement has expanded its support since the beginning of the uninterrupted sit‑ins of protesters in most cities in late February. Despite the high risk of escalating violence and the repressive response of the regime, demonstrators have continued to occupy public spaces and defend the peaceful dimension of their revolution.

63 Listen, for instance, to Ṣāli’s speech on April 28, 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evpanvA2fek.

64 Refer, for example, to the discourses and slogans during the General national congress organised in Sana’a on March 10, 2011 archived on Almotamar.net.

65 The JMP was represented with blood on its hands in an article of the pro regime Nabanews agency, December 29, 2010: http://www.nabanews.net/2009/32688.html.

66 It is the case for example of human rights’ activist Tawakkul Karmān that was slandered in al‑Jumhūr newspaper as “the activist Tawakkul Dollar”, January 10, 2011: http://www.almethaq.net/news/news‑19429.htm).

67 Interview with Nu‘mān Duwayd, al‑Diyyār, n° 178, March 3, 2011, p. 4. Contrary to what Duwayd suggests there is no unified Yemeni dialect but a plurality of Yemeni dialects. If people understand each other, their regional origin is easily spotted by their language. These local imprints are however progressively fading with a progressive standardisation of dialects in urban centres such as Sana’a.

68 Speech of President Ṣāli, April 28, 2011, op. cit.

69 President Ṣāli declared during a visit to medicine students in Sana’a University that “what is happening in the Arab region comes from an operation room in Tel Aviv run by the United States”, March 1st, 2011: http://www.al-tagheer.com/news27326.html.

70 Speech of President Ṣāli, May 21, 2011: http://www.almotamar.net/news/91121.htm.

71 The official media has dealt with the protest movement as a political crisis only. Read for example, “Qiyādāt taḥāluf munaẓamāt al‑mujtama‘ al‑madanī tu’akid an mā yajrī fī al‑Yaman azma siyāsiya”, Saba agency, May 17, 2011: http://www.14october.com/News.aspx?newsno=3010171.

72 Speech of President Ṣāli, May 21, 201, op. cit.

73 See for instance the regime’s stigmatisation of the Southern movement as a foreign‑sponsored secessionist project connected to al‑Qaida, and the brutal repression it supported (Human Rights Watch Report, In the name of unity. The Yemeni government’s brutal response to Southern movement protests, 2009, p. 40‑50).

74 Bayart, 2001, p.182‑3.

75 See for example pictures of the July 21 rally, “Jum‘a al‑i‛tiām bi‑hibl Allāh”, AlMotamar.net, July 22, 2011 : http://www.14october.com/News.aspx?newsno=3010171.

76 On Yemeni‑Saudi relations, see Laurent Bonnefoy, 2006, “Brothers yet enemies”, Le Monde Diplomatique, octobre.

77 See for instance, the case of the RCD during Ben Ali’s rule in Tunisia: Myriam Marzouki, « Parler la dictature de Ben Ali », Le Monde, 21 janvier 2011.

78 Bayart, 1996, p. 10.

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Marine Poirier, « Imagining Collective Identities », Arabian Humanities [En ligne], 1 | 2013, mis en ligne le 30 mars 2013, consulté le 26 mars 2017. URL : http://cy.revues.org/2078 ; DOI : 10.4000/cy.2078

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