Political Analysis

Political Jokes: The Only Way for Public Expressions

National Yemen

Asma al-Mohattwari

Political jokes are a way to vent about problems of daily realities. Humor has an important role in the Yemeni politics. It is sometimes impossible to reflect some attitudes and ideas in the press, media, or public lectures. Instead, people used jokes to express their anger.

In the three last weeks, Sana’a has passed through a difficult time when al-Houthis entered Sana’a to hold peaceful demonstrations. In his first public speech on the eve of the beginning of the protests, al-Houthi presented three demands: dissolving the government, cancelling the fuel subsidies decision, and implementing the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, Yemen’s transitional process set up in 2013 after Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ouster.

But their peaceful demonstrations took a different turn after police killed two of al-Houthi’s followers near the Sana’a airport. On Sunday September 21, many state institutions were controlled by Houthis, including the First Armored Division that was led by Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar.

The crises ended with Hadi announcing that political parties had succeeded in signing an agreement to end the conflict to ensure the safety and stability of the country.

All the events in Sana’a made the Yemeni people use jokes to express irony or cynicism of the situation. The jokes centered on the five political players: Hadi, Saleh, al-Ahmar, al-Houthi, and Benomar.

When al-Houthi took over the First Armored Division and tried to capture al-Ahmar for his corruption and looting of Yemeni land, a joke said that “when al-Ahmar’s home blows up, I advise everyone to go out into the street because the sky will rain with land property documents and you may have a document of a land in Yemen.”

It is known that Houthis blow up the homes of their enemies. They didn’t do this in Sana’a, but there are some jokes related to that. For example, “a man has an old house, and he wants to destroy it and build a new one. The contractor told him that the demolition process cost him two million riyals. The home owner ignored him and put a large panel written in it ‘Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar house.’ The next day the house was destroyed.”

Some jokes relate to the events. For example, “Ali Mohsen found a magic lantern among his property documents. He rubbed it and a genie came up to him. Mohsen said, ‘help me to escape from the Houthis!’ The genie replied, ‘death to America, death to Israel, curse on Jews and victory to Islam! I was looking for you!’”

Another joke reflects the large number of Mohsen’s houses in Sana’a, with the mock headline, “Bombing groups of Houthsi complaining of fatigue and exhaustion due to the large number of houses affiliated with Ali Mohsen.” Another one goes, “People said Qatar has offered Ali Mohsen security. Mohsen replied, ‘are you crazy, the lands I owned in Yemen are larger than Qatar!’” Another example goes, “A Yemini asked his friend, ‘do you think Ali Mohsen has a home in Shamlan?’ His friend replied, ‘are you kidding me, he is the seventh neighbor of every Yemeni.’”

Some months before the Sana’a incidents, a tunnel was built to enter Saleh’s house in order to kill him. Rumors said it was a project of Ali Mohsen, so a joke came like this, “Ali Mohsen flees to the house of Ali Saleh and says, ‘please hide me from the Houthis.’ Saleh said, ‘don’t worry.’ He instructs his guards to hide him in the tunnel and bury him.’” If you dig a hole for your brother, you will fall into it.

Most Yemenis believe that what is happening is like a play and the political players benefit from it. One joke clarifies the political players and their roles:

“We have reached the end of the play. Thanks for all those who participated.”

Director:  Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi

Play’s Protagonist: Jamal bin Omar

Actors:  Ali Mohsen, Abdulmalik al-Houthi and al-Ahmar’s Family

Supporting Characters: Iran and Saudi Arabia

Another joke discusses how when any political leader has a problem, no one will help because everyone only looks out for themselves:

 Ali Mohsen is calling some people to save him.

Al-Qushipi: No!

Hussein al-Ahmar: No!

Al-Hassan Abker: No!

Hamid al-Ahmar: In Turkey.

Sadeq al-Ahmar: In the bathroom from yesterday night.

Asker Zeil: Selling stuff in Hail Street

Tawakkul Karman: Japanese men answer.

Ali Abdullah Saleh: Begins singing, “look to the mountain standing that can’t be shaken by wind.”

Some jokes relate to President Hadi and his weaknesses. One goes, “President Hadi is chewing Qat with his friends. Suddenly he asked them to turn on al-Masirah Channel. Why, they ask. The President replies, ‘to see if there are any new suggestions!’haaha

Another goes, “President Hadi was informed that Houthis took the TV headquarters. Hadi said, ‘so what? I have the remote!’” haaha

Another common joke goes, “Question: what is something that has no benefit but no danger to you? Answer: President Hadi.”