As Yemen's tragic civil war continues unabated in spite of Western media's concerted efforts to ignore it (the Reverse-Afghanistan postulate: if a war falls on a mountain and CNN isn't there to embed in it, is it really worth fighting?), the need for mediation is immediate.
The current conflict is one of the Yemeni military--backing the mostly Sunni secular nationalist government of Ali Abdullah Saleh--attempting to crush a rebellion by the Houthi ethnic minority, practitioners of the Shi'ite Zaydi sect of Islam, in the northern mountains. A dire humanitarian emergency now affects tens of thousands of civilians in Houthi areas.
But the conflict underscores the fractious and turbulent coalition of increasingly hostile sociopolitical groups in Yemen, which is barely a generation removed from reuniting after decades of split. Sunni religious extremists are becoming more influential, and the country's former staunchly secular urban elites are being marginalized. The Houthis claim to bear the standard of Yemen's former theocratic royal line, which resonates well with other minority groups across the country.
The animosity is deepening, as evidenced by the decrease in Qat-chewing this year.*
In the absence of any aid or assistance from the rest of the world, Yemen has decided to take conflict-resolution matters into its own trembling hands. President Saleh has called all factions together for a three-day summit to decide the fate of the country with an epic tournament of Al-Moosiqar.
LIKE A JUKE BOX HERO, STARS IN HIS EYES
Al-Moosiqar (Arabic for "the musician") is a web-based music-simulation game built on a platform similar to RedOctane's Guitar Hero or Harmonix's Rock Band, and is produced by Quirkat Gaming of Lebanon.
Except that instead of wailing on a toy electric guitar to KISS or Nirvana, Al-Moosiqar players strum a simulated Oud along to classical Arabic music tunes (or they can upload their own modern-music MP3s).
The game is available in both Arabic and English versions from Fuzztak.com. [PLAY NOW]
Players use keyboard commands to instruct a two-dimensional (and very non-Arab-looking) animated figure whose facial expressions let you know how well you're doing.
Why Al-Moosiqar? "Every day, we feel the lack of a suitable avenue for Arab generations to express their love of video gaming in a way that reflects their identity and aspirations. Al-Moosiqar will capture and deliver to the world a unique Middle Eastern music channel thriving on creativity and musical expression," said Candide Kirk, Quirkat’s CTO, in a press release.
More than that, it might just help solve Yemen's civil war. The leaders of all of Yemen's factions, including the Gitmo detainees just sent home, will gather for a big tourney this weekend. The winner gets Yemen. All of it. According to reports, the players will start with a little Amr Diab, move onto some Marcel Khalife and Fayrouz, and top it off with the Star of the East herself, Umm Kalthum.
Come Monday, Yemen will have a new country, and a new Oud Hero.
* Got nothing else to do today? Watch this in-depth doc on Yemen's Qat problem, "A Nation on Drugs," and then see if you can still bring yourself to toke up this weekend.