Jihad Stamps from Yemen
FDR collected stamps. Has any president since? Maybe philately should be a required hobby for NSA types. Stamps are miniature works of art, symbols of national identity, achievement and aspiration. If Bush I or Bush II had been stamp collectors, they might have noticed evolving political sentiments expressed on the postage stamps in the Persian Gulf region. Rising militaristic spirit is spelled out boldly on Yemen’s stamps, for example.
Let’s look at a few stamps from Yemen Arab Republic (YAR), People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen and People’s Republic of Southern Yemen. Same place, different guys with guns in charge.
On stamps from the 1920’s through 40’s, the nation was known as Royaume de Yemen and Aden. Stamps resembled philatelic issues of Syria and Lebanon, then French protectorates. Early in the 1950’s the country name is simply Yemen.
There’s a flashback to French titling and design on several issues celebrating the Arab Postal Union, Arab League and other pan-Arabian organizations. During the early 1960’s, a wave of modern philatelic design focused on great works of art, boy scouts and the United Nations.
Uh oh, trouble ahead. Trouble behind…
Issues of 1963-64 are labeled Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) and the stamps depict patriotic themes – flags and tanks, raised torches, guns with bayonettes and more flags.
Yet in 1964, the YAR splashed their stamps with JFK, Olympic sports and Soviet astronauts, a practice used by many small nations to generate sales to topical collectors. Oddly, the New York World’s Fair appears on Yemen’s 1964 stamps. There’s prescient symbolism too, with New York City skyscrapers on Yemen’s stamps.
New York City Skyline
The Yemen flag appears inside an oval over- laid on New York harbor including the Empire State Building. It’s tempting to read meaning into the stamps which show airplanes aimed at the New York skyline, but the stamps were airmail, so the image is reasonable. I guess.
Issues of 1964-65 depict a turbaned revolutionary figure (an image similar to 21st century radical Arab-Islamics) holding a machine gun aloft honoring the Yemen Second Revolution Anniversary, not the 2nd anniversary of a revolution, but the Second Revolution. Was the First Revolution skipped by government stamp designers?
JFK and Builders of World Peace
There’s a stylized peace dove on one YAR stamp issued in September 1964 for the Arab Summit Conference. U.S. President Kennedy’s face appears on a series honoring space exploration and Russian cosmonauts issued in 1966.
- JFK image with space craft. Yemen Arab Republic stamp .
Also in 1966, Yemen prints the Builders of World Peace series and includes JFK and Pope Pius XII, who famously built peace by appeasing Nazi Germany. Can you find the Arab leader who was an honored peace builder?
Several years pass. Birds, fruit, medicine, space craft, European and Asian art treasures, and Olympic winter sports are the subjects Yemen prints on its stamps. Not a bad idea since these are topical subjects prized by world philatelists, translating to revenue for the YAR.
Countries like Turkmenistan and Palau issue stamps commemorating events in the U.S. featuring U.S. Presidents. Sales revenue unknown.
Soon Yemen has another name and a new revolution. Would this be the Third Revolution? The Fourth? In 1971 the postage stamps of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen depict turbaned and masked fighters in white robes holding machine guns against a backdrop of barbed wire.
Perhaps the Yemen political propaganda department decided that didn’t encourage productive international relations, because in 1972, the commemorative stamps show folk dancing.
Southern Yemen abruptly appeared as a new country in 1968. (I’ve lost count of the revolution time line.) The new name is overprinted on stamps of the Federation of South Arabia. Subsequent stamps from the People’s Republic of Southern Yemen use images of girl scouts and soldiers aiming rifles out of a foxhole. I wonder why is it, that countries titled “People’s Republic” or “People’s Democratic Republic” never are?
Southern Yemen’s stamp designs and subjects for commemorative issues in 1969-71, glorify rifles, fighters, explosions and soldiers with rifles.
Not surprising, the series titled Palestine Day bristle with military images. The most explicit seems to be a jihad warrior ascending to the heavens on a cloud above what might be a sleeping dog.
Revolution Day in Yemen is October 14.
Might be a day to stay home.
Chalk it up to your least favorite Bad President.