Facebook: A Place for Politics Discussion with the Presence of Qat

National Yemen

Qat farmers sell fresh Qat for individuals

By Shadi Yasin

In the reality of Yemen’s political controversies, more and more Yemenis are turning to Facebook and social media networks to engage in political discussion.  The multiple political and ideological schisms and intellectual divisions in Yemen have led to thousands of posts. The ideas vary between extremism and moderation.

Abdullah al-Qadri, a journalist from Marib, said that Facebook has had a major impact in his province because it provides the opportunity to express political views. “Despite Marib’s lack of many basic services, political debates dominate the people of the province. Facebook turns into a political forum rather than just a social network. At the same time, it turns into a mini battleground over political projects in the country.”

Facebook plays an educational role for Yemenis. The increased usage of Facebook and social networking sites coincides with the Arab Spring. Such sites became an arena to organize revolutionary actions during the popu

lar uprising, which overthrew the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Twitter does not get much Yemeni interest because of its limitations, and most political activists and controversial figures use Facebook.

Publishing on Facebook in the evening is linked to chewing Qat. It is a period of relaxation when people have completed their routine work.

According to Sarah Ahmed, social networking sites increase the discussion of public opinion about political differences. “The issue has two sides. One is positive, for it is a way to show opinions freely. Yet it is also negative because it becomes the only means for expressing opinion. The anger of the people may be calmed through some posts on Facebook,” she said.

Yemen has witnessed an escalation in demonstrations supporting the president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, while others are organized by the Houthis and demand the resignation of the government and the cancellation of oil subsidies.

The tone between the Yemeni president and the leader of the Houthis seemed to be harsh during the last two weeks, although political initiatives may solve the current crisis in the country.

In addition to all this, the use of “hashtags” have flourished in the last week, but their use is not sustained for a long time and users quickly move to another hashtag, before the first achieves its goal.