February 4, 2011

The Arab Street: Here's Who I Am and Here's What I Need

I have to say, this photo did confuse me for a second. It was photographed in Sanaa at a demonstration yesterday against the Yemeni President. But because I’ve been looking at pictures of rocks showering Cairo, I first imagined the bread was being worn to protect this man’s skull.

Let’s think about this photo for a minute, though.

Of course, the point of taping bread to your head while protesting the government is to make the point that even the basic staples of life are going lacking, that people can barely sustain themselves.  But then, I believe there’s another element here, perhaps a more practical and political one, as connected to the message as the bread is to this man’s face.

I imagine this man has concluded that the powers-that-be in Yemen can’t see him, that he’s invisible. I think this is the same feeling gripping all the populations in the region and motivating the expanding waves of protests.  As the shouts and screams continue to rise though, I’m sure the people in the streets are also filled with profound uncertainty that their voices will actually be heard.

My sense about this guy is that he has this in mind, so much so that if the powers did happen to lay their eyes on him, he wanted to make sure the message, and the need, would just be that much more obvious.

(photo: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters caption: An opposition supporter with pieces of bread taped to his head shouted antigovernment slogans in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday. Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in the capital, calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.)

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Michael Shaw
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