Thursday, August 6, 2020

Yemen's Multilayered War: Southern Secessionist Movement

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Anant Jani

Article Title

Yemen's Multilayered War: Southern Secessionist Movement

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Global Views 360

Publication Date

August 6, 2020

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Official Logo of Southern Transitional Council | Source: Alyazedi via Wikimedia

This is the 5th part of a short explainer article series on the current crisis in Yemen. To read the earlier parts of the series click on the link.

To read the 1st part of the series click on the link.

To read the 2nd part of the series click on the link.

To read the 3rd part of the series click on the link.

To read the 4th part of the series click on the link.

Since the unification of Yemen in 1990 the political, economic and military leadership was dominated by the Northerners which resulted in continuous conflicts. It was the fight against Al Qaeda linked elements and the Houthis that the political and military forces continued to work together.

A formidable coalition of UAE and Saudi Arabia, led by Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) and Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), the Crown Princes of respective countries, backed the deposed President of Yemen Mansour Al Hadi in his fight against Houthis. The Houthi forces were supported primarily by Iran which is the geopolitical rival of Saudi Arabia.

The coalition forces used heavy aerial bombardment and naval blockades, but contrary to their expectation, Houthis proved to be formidable opponents and were able to withstand the assaults. President Hadi was confined to Aden and his forces, in spite of massive backing, couldn't dislodge the Houthis from Sana’a. Iranian help in the form of military hardware and trainers enabled the Houthis to launch some spectacular attacks deep inside the Saudi Arabian territory as well.

The failure of President Hadi led forces against Houthis along with the increasing activities of Al Qaeda in Arabiam Peninsula (AQAP) encouraged the revival of a long suppressed secessionist movement in Southern Yemen, Al-Hirak al-Janoubi commonly called Hirak.

Al-Hirak al-Janoubi :

During the rule of President Abdullah Saleh’s rule in 2007, another movement for promoting the secession of Southern Yemen was launched. It was known as Al Hirak and its objective was to revert to the pre-unification status of Yemen. This movement could not garner much support but was lying dormant for a long time.

In 2017 a faction of Al-Hirak movement formed Al-Hirak al-Janoubi or The Southern Transitional Council (STC). Its current members consist of governorates in the southern part of Yemen. It is headed by a former governor of Aden, Aidarus al-Zoubaidi.

Aidarus al-Zoubaidi, Head of STC | Source: Aboodalyazedi Via Wikimedia

Zoubaidi was dismissed as governor of Aden by Hadi in 2017 for his close ties to the UAE. As a governor Zoubaidi was quite popular in Aden, and his dismissal was met with protests against President Hadi. With support from the UAE he went on to form the STC, also known as the Separatists.

In 2018, the Separatists occupied the government at Aden in a coup d’état against the Hadi government, leading to 38 deaths. The Hadi government called this a UAE backed-coup. Since the UAE and Saudi Arabia are part of the same Arab coalition, they agreed to sit down for talks regarding the Yemen issue.

Despite this, the Separatists took over Aden in 2019, leading to much confusion over who controls the basic services and administrative duties (such as payment of civil servants) in the city.

The BBC reported that “In April 2020 the STC declared self-rule in Aden, breaking a peace deal signed with the internationally recognised government, saying it would govern the port city and southern provinces.”

So in effect Yemen is now governed by three separate entities, Houthis in North Yemen, STC and Hadi faction in Southern part of Yemen. Apart from this in parts of tribal hinterland, Al Qaeda is running its writ. There is a real danger that Yemen is now on the path to disintegration.

To read the 6th part of the series click on the link.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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