Details on social media and peer governance of Yemen’s young protesters

Excerpt from a report by Tom Finn with interesting details:

” Rafat is the founder of the Civic Coalition of Revolutionary Youth, or CCRY, an organization born on Facebook that was set up in late March by a handful of student activists to help unite Yemen’s anti-government demonstrators. It has swelled to encompass one of the largest, loudest and best-organized protest groups in the country.

In addition to running its Facebook group, which has more than 6,000 followers, CCRY coordinates marches on the president’s palace, posts “revolutionary updates” on Youtube and Twitter and publishes a weekly newspaper.

Although it’s a youth-led endeavor — the leaders are all in their late teens or early 20s — CCRY draws support from a broad range of Yemenis, including defected lawmakers, civil rights activists, academics, lawyers and businessmen.

Their success has largely hinged on their ability to coordinate a jumbled assortment of disparate groups — rural tribesmen, bearded clerics, socialists, dissatisfied shop-owners and rowdy school children. In the early days of the uprising, these groups rallied together, marching and camping out in the streets. But a common enemy is all they had.

“At first every tent became a movement,” Rafat recalled, sitting in a nearby coffee shop uploading photos and videos of Wednesday’s bloody assault onto Facebook. “There were some 465 separate groups all proclaiming themselves to be leaders of the revolution. But most of them only had about five members. It was chaos.”

It did not take long for it to dawn on youth leaders like Rafat that their confused revelry, while full of determination and spontaneity, was not going to be enough to oust the president, a stout and wily man who, after decades of ruling this fractious country, has become a master of brinkmanship.

“We were marching and being shot at every day but with no voice, no leader, and no clear aims … we were being trampled on and even worse, ignored. We knew we had to get our act together,” he said.

Rafat’s trick was to persuade all the different groups to gather under one roof. Instead of seeking to lead, he set about forging alliances, persuading them that all their voices would be heard. Each group that wanted to join, he decided, had to elect a representative.

“We soon discovered that most of the groups, whether they were tribesmen or teenagers, had things in common and similar aims. We’ve built a system of representation so that everyone has a voice,” he said.

The system reflects the kind of democratic government the protesters hope will arise when — or if — Saleh leave office.

“Our membership is the voice of a diverse group of activists, local influencers, professional associations, civil organizations and tribal groups,” said Husam Al-Sharjabi, CCRY’s chairman. “These groups have each expressed their aspirations, in one way or another, for freedom, democracy and justice in Yemen. They reject tyranny and the monopolization of power and wealth.”

The movement has at times faced stiff opposition not only from the president but also from within. The country’s political opposition — a motley collection of Islamists, socialists and Arab nationalists, which most Yemenis view as being as corrupt and inept as the president — has been locked in negotiations with Saleh for about two months, a process that has alienated many of the protesters on the streets.”

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