A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)
‘Ana Insan Madani’ can best be translated as ‘I am a citizen’. In this regular feature, we meet prominent Yemenis from various backgrounds and fields and hear their thoughts on matters related to Yemen, being a citizen and what ‘madaniya’ means to them.
Photo Courtsey of Emad al-Naqeeb
Ezaldeen Aref is a Yemeni Internet celebrity sharing his views with a mainly Arabic speaking audience, particularly Yemenis, through short videos he publishes on his personal YouTube page. Ezaldeen’s YouTube channel has nearly 30,000 subscribers, with between 7,000 and 10,000 views per video.
Due to his growing popularity among Yemenis at home and abroad, and the influence of his ideas among many young men and women, Ezaldeen was named ‘The Youtuber of Yemen’. This was as a result of YouTube’s expansion of their Creators for Change program, an initiative that launched in September 2016 that invited 11 socially conscious influencers to serve as program Ambassadors to advocate against hate speech, xenophobia and extremism on their popular social media channels.
In April 2017, YouTube announced 27 up-and-coming YouTube stars across the globe, named as its first-ever Creators For Change Fellows. The fellows will receive mentorship and support from YouTube to help them during the time of their fellowship. Out of 27 fellows, 3 were selected from Oman, UAE and Yemen.
Ezaldeen devotes his voice on the Internet to connect the Yemeni viewer with other countries and cultures, with the intention of rejecting the culture of hatred and extremism.
1. What does the word madaniya / مدنية mean to you?
For me madaniya is a condition in which the law has sovereignty over all without distinction. A conditionin which everyone has the necessary rights and freedom.
2. What does homeland mean to you?
Homeland is the land where many people live; they share their resources and wealth and seek to build that land.
3. What does it mean to be a citizen to you?
To be a citizen is to realize the importance of the homeland to which he/she belongs and to perform his/her duties towards the homeland and towards others who share that country.
4. How would you describe the advantages and disadvantages of the rule of law?
There are many advantages to the rule of law: that all are equal before the law so that there is no separation based on social class or financial status; rather, that everyone is equal. The disadvantages of the rule of law? If there are any, I don’t know of them!
5. When you hear the word equality, what comes to your mind?
When I hear the word equality, I think of a situation in which all citizens are equal before the law. I find equality to refer to legislative and legal meanings relating to rights and duties.
6. Have you voted before?
I have never voted. I was under the legal age entitled to vote during the last election.
7. If you had the power to make one change in Yemen, what would it be and when?
It would be to strengthen the rule of law and preserve rights and freedoms. That, in my view, is a safety valve for the survival of our idea of a state. This is what we need at this stage in particular.
8. What should the world know about Yemen today?
The world should know that Yemen has the potential, because of its youths’ knowledge and experience, to make Yemen much better than the way it is now. With that knowledge and energy, we must seek to take Yemen’s hands towards the peace and development this country seeks and deserves.