SANA`A, YEMEN — Carrying a green flag in his hand and with ribbons tied on his wrist, Walid Ahmed al-Thueli, accompanied by a big family, arrived at the Square of the Seventy in the capital Sana’a early morning of Monday. He came to celebrate the birthday of Islam’s Holy Prophet Muhammad and recent victories that have been achieved by Yemeni forces against Saudi-led Coalition. The Yemeni’s family, which abides in the Rawdah neighborhood north of Sana`a, left their house at 6 a.m. to ensure finding a good place in the arena but were unable to reach the center of the square. Inside the square filled with celebrators, thousands of protesters were singing traditional songs collectively and dancing to the tune of “al-Baraa,” a dance of the Yemeni heritage.
Despite an ever-present hovering of Saudi warplanes above, a fuel crisis, high prices and destroyed roads, massive demonstrations took place across 14 Yemeni provinces on Monday — including Sana`a, Sadaa, al-Houdeida, Hajjah, al-Jawf, al-Beyda, Taize, Amran, Ibb, Dhamar, al-Mahwit, Raymah, Shabwa, and the oil-rich Marib. The protests, organized by Ansar Allah (Houthis), were not only to celebrate the birth anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad, but also to send local, regional and international political messages, including pledging to expel Saudi-led Coalition forces from the whole country, rejecting the policy of normalization with Israel, and opposing the actions of industrialized countries that threaten the climate.
In Sana`a, where the largest demonstrations took place, hundreds of thousands of residents from the suburbs of Sana`a and its neighboring provinces gathered near the rubble left by Saudi air raids on the parade platform in the Square of the Seventy in the center of the capital. Since early Saturday evening, human torrents had been pouring into the square from four entrances, facing potential bombardment that might be renewed at any moment by fighters flying in Yemeni airspace. Other Arab and Islamic communities also joined with protestors in the Seventy Square, including Palestinian, Syrian, and Egyptian communities and a delegation from southern Saudi Arabia, specifically from Najran.
Welcome banners were hung over the square, which was decorated with green flags and colored lights. Loudspeakers blasted out hymns and the big flat-screens around the square displayed inspirational programs. All were celebrating and dancing on the ruins of Saudi destruction in a demonstration that is also a challenge to the machine of death. “We came to this place to make it clear to the world that our lives are continuing and that, despite the destruction, the bombing, we are winning and the joy is still here between us,” Walid said.
There was a similar mass demonstration for women, who gathered in Althawrah Sports City Stadium north of Sana`a. In oil-rich Marib, where the Yemeni Army has advanced steadily towards the last strongholds of the Saudi’s allies in the province, the demonstrations were held in Harib for the first time despite a constant hovering of Saudi warplanes above. In al-Jawf — an oasis region in western Yemen that was the core area of one of the most ancient of the Arabian kingdoms, “the Minaean state of Ma’in” — thousands also took to the streets in al-Hazm.
In Shabwa, the third-largest governorate by area in Yemen and home to the port of Balha’s natural gas refinery, thousands of southerners took the streets in Bihan, a newly liberated area to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday and the expulsion of Saudi forces. The number of people who took part in the demonstrations dwarfed similar rallies that took place in previous years, indicating a growing support to Sana`a authority.
Celebrations and positions
The massive crowds were unprecedented, exceeding all expectations. Following the completion of preparations in various governorates, organizing committees opened the celebration squares in Monday’s early hours and more squares were opened to accommodate the large influx of protestors. Security was tight across Yemeni cities where the protests were held, as reports circulated that al-Qaeda and IS were planning attacks on demonstrators in retaliation for their recent crushing defeat in Al-Bayda. Police carried out special measures to ensure security, including establishment of additional checkpoints in the Yemeni capital and throughout Yemen’s provinces. Despite the huge crowds, no incidents or attacks were reported.
The leader of Ansar Allah, Abdulmalik al-Houthi, was the keynote speaker at the celebrations via video conference and giant screens. In the annual speech, in which the principles of the political program of Ansar Allah for the year are laid out by the leader of the movement, al-Houthi outlined Ansar Allah’s strategy and position on a number of local, regional and international issues. He renewed Ansar Allah’s position on efforts to end the war in Yemen, saying that the Yemeni people’s efforts to achieve freedom and independence are uncompromisable, confirming that the Yemenis will continue struggle until the end of the war, expelling the occupiers, lifting the siege, paying compensation and reconstruction.
Al-Houthi renewed Yemenis’ support for the Palestinians. At this point, he also confirmed that the Yemeni Army will definitely be a part of determining the al-Quds Formula. “We confirm what we previously proclaimed, that we are part of the historical equation announced by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah that the threat to al-Quds means a regional war,” al-Houthi said. He also condemned the so-called Abraham Accords and recent normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab regimes, describing them as “demonic alliances.” Prior to that, Ansar Allah had announced their joining in an initiative, the so-called Jerusalem (Al-Quds) Formula, that was spearheaded by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and has already been embraced by Palestine’s armed resistance
The birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad, which is also known as Eid Milad-un-Nabi or Mwaled, is observed on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. The Holy Prophet was born in Mecca on that day in the year 571. The revival of the Prophet’s birthday was prohibited under the Saudi influence during the previous regimes. Now — as in other Islamic countries, except Saudi Arabia where the prophet was born — this day is a time of rejoicing for all Yemenis. This year, the scenes inside the besieged, hungry and pandemic-ravaged country were abounding with joyful chaos, a rare sight in the war-torn country.
The cars, homes, public places, government buildings and squares are decorated with green lights despite the lack of power; and green flags fly, representing peace, spiritualism and patience. Yemen’s impoverished families were keen to distribute sweets and gifts, hold parties, and create paintings, sculptures, poetry and essays that are appropriate for al-Mwaled. The sky of Yemen was also decorated with fireworks
The massive and unprecedented celebrations, however, came also in the wake of the recent developments in Yemen`s Shabwa and Marib provinces, and southern areas. The spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, confirmed at a press conference held in Sana`a on Sunday that Sana`a forces supported by local tribes have managed to liberate 3,200 square kilometers in Shabwa and Marib during new military operations dubbed Rabi’ al-Nasr’ (Spring of Victory). In Shabwa province, which contains Yemen’s largest natural-gas reserves and produces over 100,000 barrels of oil per day, General Saree confirmed that Baihan, Usailan and Markha Olaya had been liberated in the operation of Rabi’ al-Nasr.
US, facing defeat, cries foul, talks peace
In Marib, which lies about 120 km (75 miles) east of Sana`a, Abdiyah, Harib, and parts of Al-Jubah and Jebel Murad are freed despite the fact that the United States has tried to stop Ansar Allah’s advance in the oil-rich province. In the statement of the U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, which was met with dismissal by Ansar Allah, was a call to “Houthis” to stop and ensure the opening of a safe passage for “life-saving aid and the wounded.” Mohammed Abdulsalam, Ansar Allah spokesman, said on Saturday night that “the U.S. demand is roundly condemned. It shows Americans are in close connection with al-Qaeda and Daesh militants, who suffered heavy defeat in the al-Abdiyah district of Marib province.” He added:
As Yemeni forces are closing in on the last bastions of Saudi-led militia forces as well as Daesh and al-Qaeda operatives, Americans are crying foul and claiming they seek peace. This is while they are the enemy of peace and tranquility in Yemen and worldwide.
In the other southern areas, people are suffering from a serious humanitarian crisis because of Saudi policies that have led to high prices of food and medicine and frequent power outages. Yemeni currency has been in freefall, with the value now at a mere 1,180 Yemeni Rials to a single U.S. dollar, making food prohibitively expensive in a nation where 80% of the population is reliant on aid.
Featured photo | Fireworks are launched and buildings illuminated with green lights during celebrations for the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, in Sana’a, Yemen, Oct. 17, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.