Divided by Yemen's Saleh: Two brothers fight on opposite sides
One brother is fighting to oust Yemen's President Saleh; the other is a proud member of his Revolutionary Guard. They respect each other, but could end up divided by civil war.
(Page 2 of 2)
"Saleh's boys don't have a chance at ruling Yemen," says Yemeni political analyst Abdul Ghani al-Iryani. "Even with all of Saleh's skills and connections, he was losing control of the country. However, ... should Ahmed or [Saleh's] nephew Yahya feel his exit is dishonorable, they may be compelled to take up arms against all that oppose their patriarch."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Powerful tribes, powerful state media
Throughout Yemen's modern history, no imam or president has ever been able to take on the tribes. North Yemen's third president, Socialist Party leader and Army officer Ibrahim Al-Hamdi, was assassinated when he attempted to strip power from Yemen's tribes.
Many in rural areas, such as the northern mountain village where Hashim and Ghazi grew up, strongly support Saleh, who has held the country together for 32 years.
Their father is one of them. Like many rural residents in this deeply impoverished country, he can't afford satellite TV and so depends solely on state-run radio and TV for his news.
"It's not his fault that he supports the regime; he is bombarded with government propaganda on a daily basis and has been for most of his life," says Hashim.
Two paths to a better life
It was in this village, where their father still toils in the fields to grow khat, corn, peanuts, and other vegetables, that both brothers developed aspirations for a better life.
Hashim saw education as his ticket, earning a bachelor's degree in English literature. For Ghazi, serving in one of Yemen's most elite military units fulfilled his sense of adventure.
"You must be invited to join the Republican Guard. An officer sends a letter to the local council," the governing body of a tribal village, "with a list of names. Those people get to join," says Ghazi, who at first failed to make the cut.
"He walked up and down the mountain to the military camp every day for a month. Finally, someone vouched for him and he was invited to join," says Hashim.
But now, Ghazi's role in enforcing Saleh's tentative hold over the country is a major point of contention between the brothers.
"Ghazi's belief in loyalty to a leader instead of to a nation or a people is a symptom of Yemen's tribal government," Hashim explains. "We want to be rid of this tribal patronage system and institute a civil state."
Respect between two brothers on opposite sides
There seems to be no bitterness or hostility between the brothers, however.
"He's dead wrong," says Hashim, "But I love and respect him and he respects me as well."
Hashim also feels sorry for his brother. "The Republican Guard are paid 30,000 Yemeni riyals [about $150] per month. He is just being used by this regime," says Hashim.
Hashim tries desperately to convince his family that Saleh is a dictator and a criminal and that it is their religious duty to institute freedom and democracy in Yemen.
"Every Friday, I invite my brother to come pray with me at Change Square so he can see that the Yemeni people yearn to be free," says Hashim. Ghazi replies: "I can only tell him that if he goes, he has to go without me."