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Ibex in the Yemeni civilization: a historical symbolism being revived

Carvings of the ibex were found in antiquities in Yemen, as the animal was chosen to be an emblem of the region's ancient civilizations. Image used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Yemeni activists and intellectuals called on the Yemeni authorities to make January 22 of each year a national day for the Yemeni ibex and to revive it as a historical symbol in Yemen to curb the hunting of the endangered animal.

The  ibex, is a ruminant and very similar to the goats, in terms of its long neck, but its most important characteristic are the long and curved horns. According to some studies, ibex have existed on the planet for more than 8,600 years, and the most common problem facing this animal in Yemen and other countries of the world today is over-hunting.

Found in many countries of the world, the ibex in Yemen bears historical symbolism. The ancient Yemenis chose it as a emblem for their successive kingdoms, appearing as a symbol of their civilisation as it was depicted in many inscriptions, monuments, statues and coins.

Despite the almost complete interruption of internet service inside Yemen due to the ongoing conflict there, many Yemeni activists, intellectuals and politicians participated in a wide campaign on Twitter under the hashtag #Yemeni Ibex_Day with the aim of reviving the ancient Yemeni symbol and limiting the extinction of the ibex in Yemen .

In this context, the well-known Yemeni writer and researcher, Adel Al-Ahmadi, says in an article published on the Throne News website:

تقول الآثار اليمنية إن أجدادنا العظماء اتخذوا الوعل رمزاً للقوة والخير والجمال والعفة والوفاء، وخلدوه في نقوشهم وأثرياتهم. إنه كالنسر الجمهوري اليوم ونحن إذ نتمسك بالنسر شعارا خالدا لجمهوريتنا، باعتبار اليمنيين أيضا أول من جعلوا النسر شعارا كما تقول بعض الآثار، فإننا كذلك نُحيي رمزية الوعل كرمز للقوة وكذلك نجعلها مناسبة للحفاظ عليه من عمليات الصيد الجائر الذي قد يعرضه للانقراض.

Yemeni antiquities say that our great ancestors took the ibex as a symbol of strength, goodness, beauty, chastity and loyalty, and immortalized it in their inscriptions and antiquities. It is like the republican eagle today, and, as we adhere to the eagle as an immortal emblem of our republic, considering the Yemenis also the first to make the eagle a emblem, as some antiquities say, we also salute the symbolism of the ibex as a symbol of strength and also make it appropriate to preserve it from over-hunting that may expose it to extinction.

He also said in the article that “dedicating a day to the Yemeni ibex comes as one of the vocabulary of inspiration for the brave Yemeni self in its splendid vows and its splendid names and symbols.”

Hussein Al-Mashdali wrote on Twitter:

The ibex is the symbol of the sacred Ather, and it represented the god of rain, thunderbolts, fertility and growth among our great ancient Yemeni ancestors.
It is an ancient symbol found on rock drawings from the Neolithic period until the era of the kingdoms of ancient Yemen. He was also the god of war.

While researcher and political activist Hafez Mutair wrote:

Our grandfather, King Himyri / al-Saab bin Marathid al-Himyari, known as Dhul-Qarnayn, who reached [the location] from where the sun rose and where it sat, after God gave him from everything he needed, and he followed a cause.
These antlers adorn his crown, and he is called One with Two Horns, because he has two horns on his crown, as it is in his carved image.

Danger of extinction

The number of ibexes has significantly decreased during the past three decades, especially in Hadhramaut and some areas of Shabwa (eastern Yemen) as a result of hunting, which threatens them with extinction. Winter is the season for hunting this type of animal. Many Yemenis prefer ibex meat over others, and there are those who consider it a long-standing tradition.

According to some media reports, some areas still hold annual rituals to hunt ibex, which usually conclude with collective celebrations in which the people of the region participate, interspersed with chants and dances in which the heads of the ibexes are raised, and are used as decorations in the end.

In a Twitter post, Abdullah Al-Maalem called on the House of Representatives, represented by the Speaker, to “approve a fine of ten million Yemeni riyals and imprisonment for five years for anyone who kills an ibex, gazelle, oryx or tiger,” which is equivalent to nearly USD 4,000. He added:

اقرار الوعل رمز وطني للجمهورية اليمنية.

Adoption of the ibex is a national symbol of the Republic of Yemen.

Munir al-Omari, founder and director of the Center for Research and Social Development, wrote:

Everyone must mobilize and efforts, both popular and official, must come together to protect the Yemeni ibex from extinction, by preventing its hunting and providing its own reserves. Leaders in all governorates must play an important role in protecting the symbol of Yemeni identity and raising the level of public awareness of the need to preserve it.

Common traits

In their bids to protect the ibexes, activists praised the qualities of the creature which they say it shares with the Yemeni citizen, who takes it as a historical symbol and a cultural heritage.

Musa Abdullah Qasim wrote:

Arwa, a name frequently used in the Yemeni civil registry, throughout history, this name is for the female ibex, and plural Arawi, and it is very similar to the character of the Yemeni female, tenderness, kindness, tenderness and hardship in living, and it is noted that the female ibex does not have a chin and does not have long horns like the male Do not enter into inter-conflicts. #Yemeni_Ibex_Day

The Yemeni journalist Muhammad Al-Dhabiani wrote on Twitter that “the significance of the Yemeni man's choice of the ibex as his symbol is due to his ability to adapt high mountains and live on the edge of the abyss with wisdom, steadfastness, poise and composure, standing tall at the top, which enables him to have a comprehensive and panoramic view of the scene. Determining the circumstances of the moment and the requirements of the future.

Broadcaster Hisham Al-Ziyadi added:

Do not listen to those who belittle your history and your national symbols.

These are psychologically defeated, suffer from an inferiority complex, or at least fear extinction, for people to stop believing in their cross-border affiliations, because they see national identities as a great competitor to their existence.

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