Lights out: Paranoia and Rumors

May 6, 2011

The electricity went out last night. It was the first time it did at night since I’ve been here. Supposedly Saleh is instructing his ministers to deliberately shut off the electricity more frequently and for longer durations as a form of psychological warfare. The darkness here is especially quiet. I can’t describe it other than to say that it’s literally dead silence. It reminds me of my nights in Palestine. In New York, everything can be turned off but there’s still something or another humming in the background. Much of the reason why I feel safe right now is because I still have access to my world back home via the internet. Whenever the electricity goes out, that connection disappears. That’s when the fear sets in and what-if scenarios play out in our heads. There is comfort in having my friend around under these circumstances. Unfortunately, my work is requiring that I move to a location closer to the office.

I arrived here at a very strange time. The situation is hard to read. People are tense, tired, and paranoia runs deep. It rubs off on you. There is frequent talk of how the country is on the brink of something…but no one knows what. Whatever these circumstances are heading towards, an ominous fear hangs over every street corner.

It seems Western media is intent on turning al-Awlaki into our new bogeyman. The threat of AQAP is wildly exaggerated. I’m not sure where this stubbornness and refusal to recognize that Al Qaida is not popular in Yemen comes from, but Saleh uses it as his primary excuse for maintaining power when addressing a Western audience. Had it not been for Robert Gate’s statements regarding the importance of Saleh in supporting the war on terror, he would have been out by now. As long as Saleh continues to have Western backing, he will drag this out for as long as he can. But patience is wearing thin on the street and there are rumors that General Ali Mohsen, who defected recently, has begun training and arming Al Iman University Students. Mohsen has plenty of blood on his hands, having been sent to quash the Houthi rebellion in the North. He was also instrumental in the North’s victory during the 1994 civil war.

At the end of the day, I know I can always turn to the American embassy if violence were to break out. But the people I encounter daily, the new friendships I am making, including those with coworkers- I’d be leaving all that behind. It’s strange forging friendships in a time of conflict. A feeling of discomforting transience accompanies each new bond.


3 Responses to “Lights out: Paranoia and Rumors”

  1. Asa Says:

    Great stuff: more like this, keep it up!

  2. At the end of the day, I know I can always turn to the American embassy if violence were to break out.

    It’s a terribly guilty feeling of security to have in such a situation, isn’t it? Especially considering the friends and relationships you mentioned.

    God is sufficient for us; and most excellent is He (who) protects us.

    Praying every day for your success and your safe return inshallah 🙂


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