Biography of Professor Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf [Archives:2000/01/Reportage]

January 3 2000
Personal Data:
Full Name: Abdulaziz Yassin Al-Saqqaf
Date of Birth: 24th October 1951.
Place of Birth: Hadharem Village, Hugarriah, Taiz Governorate, Yemen
Marital Status: Married, and has four children
Educational Data:
Ph.D. in International Business: Harvard University and Fletcher School, USA
MPA: Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
MA: Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA
BA: Sanaa University, Sanaa, Yemen.
Since July 1997: Member of the Consultative Council Since February 1991: Publisher and Chief Editor of Yemen Times Since January 1980: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor at Sanaa University Did other jobs at various times.
NGOs and Other Associations:
Chairman: Hadharem Welfare Association
Secretary-General: Yemen-American Friendship Association
Founding Member and First Secretary-General: Yemeni Association of Economists & Businessmen Founding Member: Arab Thought Forum, Amman, Jordan Founding Member: Association of Arab Economists, Baghdad, Iraq Founding Member: Center for Media Forum – Middle East and North Africa (CMF MENA)
Member: American Economists Association
Member: Middle East Studies Association (USA).
Human Rights Contributions:
Active for over 15 years in the promotion of human rights, especially with reference to children’s rights, women’s rights, minority rights, press freedom, etc. During this period, Mr. Al-Saqqaf was suspended from work (at Sanaa University for one year), was imprisoned seven times, beat up two times, and was subjected to numerous forms of harassment.
A: Examples of institutional contribution include:
Founding Member: Arab Organization for Human Rights, Cairo, Egypt – 1982.
Founding Member: Arab Thought Forum, Amman, Jordan – 1984.
Co-Founder and Co-Sponsor: Yemeni Organization for Human Rights – 1986.
Founder, Co-Sponsor & Executive Director: Yemeni Institute for Development of Democracy – 1994.
Member: Committee to Protect Journalists, New York – 1995.
Founder, Co-Sponsor and President: Elections Monitoring Committee – 1996.
Co-Founder, Co-Sponsor and Honorary Chairman: Association for Protection of Child Rights – 1997.
Co-Founder and Co-Sponsor: Amnesty International – Yemen Chapter – 1997.
Founder, Co-Sponsor and Executive Director: National Committee to Combat Torture – 1998.
B: Examples of Achievements include:
Arranged release of 2,017 prisoners during November 1997 through April 1998 from jails in Sanaa, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Taiz, Aden, Lahej, Dhamar and Ibb who were imprisoned without due process of law or without regard to their rights.
Arranged release of Yemen’s most famous political prisoner, Mr. Mansoor Rajih.
Arranged release of 27 underage prisoners and their transfer to orphanages in Taiz and Aden. Arranged release of 44 mentally disturbed prisoners and their transfer to asylums in Taiz and Sanaa Promotion of women’s rights through lectures and television talk shows.
Worked to protect Rights of Muwalladeen (Yemenis born of African mothers) who suffer from racism and other forms of discrimination.
As Chairman of the Human Rights Committee at the Consultative Council (Upper House) organized and prompted hearings regarding many aspects of protecting human rights.
As Chairman of the Human Rights Committee at the Consultative Council (Upper House) proposed law drafts and action regarding many aspects of protecting human rights.
Published 8 books.
Published 42 articles published in different parts of the world.
Many articles in Yemen Times, other local media and international newspapers/magazines.
Highly computer-literate.
Can speak, read and write Arabic, English and French.
Well-travelled, having participated in many international gatherings of different sorts.
Recipient of International Freedom of the Press Award: 1995; Washington DC. Recipient of The Queen of Sheba Title for Services to the Nation: Yemen; 1996 Ranking Professor of Economics in the Republic of Yemen.  
Some beautiful quotes from Dr. Saqqaf
‘Producing the Yemen Times is a very difficult, demanding, and trying task. But we like the challenge.’
“President Saleh has to prepare the country for the 21st century. This can only be done by introducing meaningful change into the system. The two foremost requirements for any modern system are accountability and transparency. He can not continue to give lip service to these issues, He has to show that he intends real implementation.”
“Within the Arab region, human rights was a virtual taboo. I remember in the late 1970s, a group of Arab intellectuals started making noise about the need for respect of citizens by the state. The idea developed momentum until in December 1982, 18 of us- Arab intellectuals and human rights activists-met to establish the Arab Organization for Human Rights. We could not find a place to meet in the whole Arab world. So, we met in Cyprus and launched the effort from there.
I also remember as I come back to Yemen from the meeting, the dean at my college at Sanaa university called me in and grilled me about the crime I had just committed. I was immediately dismissed as chairman of the economics department, and was subjected to many other complications.
Since then, I have been able to remain on the blacklist of our Political Security Organization.”
“The basic requirement for the success of any reform is good governance, which we presently don’t have in Yemen. Hence, hundreds of millions of dollars, poured in by multilateral and bilateral donors, is a misuse of funds. In addition, it leaves us saddled with a new debt, however good the terms.”
“Democracy is not just a bunch of rituals behind which power-hungry politicians can hide. Democracy is a system, is a way of thinking, it is a style of living, it is an environment which follows various individuals and groups to be and do their best.”
“One of the key characteristics of working in the media is the concept of deadlines. Everything has a deadline. Everybody is under some kind of time pressure. While this pressure may not be good for one’s health, it is a wonderful contributor to efficiency.”
‘The basic source of wealth should be one’s work.’
“Unless there is a true commitment to the democratization process based on acceptance of the people as the final arbiter of power in a meaningful relationship between the general public and politicians, the whole transformation process will be a sad joke.”
“One fact of life is about basic economics. Unless a society can make progress at the economic front, whatever progress is made at any other fronts is brought to naught. This is the basic lesson, which our politicians should comprehend. The basic source of wealth should be one’s work. Mind you, I am not a communist, but I have a lot of respect for hard work, not necessarily physical exertion.”
“For those who are aware and for those who are not aware, it is absolutely crucial that we all prepare ourselves for the next century. The main source of power and wealth in the next century is going to be knowledge and the ability to organize and use it optimally. There are two dimensions to knowledge-education as an overall base and as a tool for its use in a specialized sense. Therefore, for those who want to prepare themselves, they had better address those two issues.”
“It is important that the regime gives the majority of Yemenis a stake in its fortunes. If the people have nothing to fear in the fall of the system, they will not be inclined to defend it against any onslaught. It is important that all Yemenis should feel that they have a stake in the system; otherwise they won’t identify with it”
“In all cultures worldwide, responsibility grows with social and political stature. That is probably because more power entails more responsibility by definition. Also because people with a higher public profile traditionally become role models and, therefore shoulder a higher burden. In addition, leaders are often seen as a source of inspiration and spiritual and moral guidance. For these and many other reasons, people at the top of a power structure carry a bigger responsibility than the average individuals.”
“It is my belief that grass-roots level organizations such as unions and syndicates are vital contributors to the system because of their broad-based interaction. They give tangible meaning to popular participation within a democratic context. Therefore, any effort to broaden the participation base of decision-making in the country should, in part, involve the unions and syndicates. This means letting these organizations do their job.”
“Development is not merely an accumulation of capital. It has a moral component, which elevates society to behave within certain norms and values. A corrupt system can not lead to prosperity for all members of society….. The Republic of Yemen already is poor in resources. If such a disadvantage is further coupled with the wrong values, then our society will be saddled with poverty and backwardness for a long time.”‘Yemen needs politicians who are true to the ideals they propagate and are accountable to the public.”
“A true democracy is based on tolerance, especially of different points of view. Yemeni officials can prove to be democratic by showing their tolerance and respect of the freedom of the person. The Ministry of Information should not claim to be the guardian of thought. A democratic society does not need one.”
“We in Yemen need to nurture within us the automatic inclination to respect the law. As citizens, we should respect the law, as businessmen, we should respect the law, as government bureaucrats, we should respect the law, and as leaders, we should respect the law. Living by the law is the other side of the coin called democracy. Let us help stop these citizens who break the law, let us help stop those bureaucrats who break the law, and let us be ready to stop our leaders when they break the law. This is the way to safeguard our freedom and to preserve our democracy.”
“In the final analysis, the better humans are those that are more able to live with one another and help one another. That actually is the base of the Yemeni mentality and character throughout ages. That is why we were successful as merchants, as messengers, and as mediators and middle-men throughout history. Snobs and self-righteous people could never have succeeded in those trades. The question is? Are we losing touch with our nature as Yemenis?””One of the virtues of democracy is to bring a certain degree of accountability to the system. This is a good place start. Could our leaders lay down the rulers for giving away government money?”
” I have always known that the system of Yemen is not hospitable to the well-educated. It is a fact that the people who feel most at home in Yemen are the sheikhs and their tribesmen. The lawyers, engineers, physicians, PhDs, journalists, accountants and other professionals are in a constant search for a home elsewhere in the world. With this happening, no one can convincingly tell me we have a good government in Yemen.”
*What they say about him, Page 11
What others had to say about him:
“In Dr. Al-Saqqaf we found not only a sincere belief in democracy and human rights, but the ability to create institutions in support of his belief, and not only Yemeni patriotism in its most positive sense, but the ability to see beyond borders and factions.”
Barbara Bodine
American Ambassador

“It is hard to think of a death that would be more shocking to this country, he was well-known and liked. I think he could be described as an agent-provocateur of where and what Yemen could be; he was so desirous of seeing Yemen achieve its full potential.”
Derek Butler
NDI Field Representative in Yemen

“Dr. Al-Saqqaf contributed a great deal to human rights in Yemen and was held in high esteem, both professionally and personally, by his friends and colleagues here at Amnesty International. His tireless and selfless efforts to promote human rights will long be cherished by human rights activities across the world.”
June Ray
Middle East Program

“We at CARE International in Yemen came to know Dr. Al-Saqqaf as a good friend, a champion in cause of development of all the people of Yemen and a dedicated patriot. He will be grievously missed not only for what he had accomplished in his relatively short life, more over for what was still to come from this man of immense vigor and devotion to the issues of Yemen.”
Tim Kennedy,
Country representative
CARE International in Yemen

“As a man who possesses so many multi-cultural facets, he was greatly liked and respected among the international community, and he has left behind him a legacy which will be difficult to follow.”
Henrikas Yushkiavitshus
Assistant Director-General
Sector for Communication, Information and
Alain Modoux
Program for Freedom
of Expression and Democracy

“The people of Yemen have lost a great leader and their foremost advocate. The international community in Yemen and worldwide has lost the man who was a window of Yemen to the world.”
Habib Humam

“In Dr. Abdul Aziz, NDI found a friend of sound judgment and absolute sincerity, one whom we can never replace.”
Ken Wollack
Les Campell Regional Director
Middle East and North Africa Division

“He was a tireless champion of democracy, human rights and the building of civil society. He exhibited a selfless sense of patriotism and succeeded in making Yemen a better citizen of the world. It was an honor to work with him and support him in these efforts. He shared freely his wisdom and counsel, enabling us to gain a better appreciation of the tremendous challenges faced by Yemen. On a personal level, we all appreciated his human warmth, sharp wit and sense of humor.”
Canadian Ambassador

“He was a crusader, a missionary and a visionary. His passion was inexhaustible, his enthusiasm indomitable, his humanism inimitable. To a foreigner like me, he symbolized the harbinger of a new era in Yemen which I have been eagerly awaiting in the new millennium. His memory is ineffaceable. He will continue, I am sure, in the hearts and minds of countless admirers like me as a bright, shining star of hope, of recognition.”
Ramakanta Sahu
College of Education, Mahweet

“I know that many people considered Aziz an anti-establishment activist, while many others thought of him as being a supporter of the ruling authorities in his own way; but both such sides can never but agree that by the tragic death of Aziz Yemen has lost a great son and patriot at a time when his contributions were very much needed and at an age when such contributions would have been at their peak in terms of innovation, creativity and excellence.”
Prof. Mohammed Abdul Mageed Qubati
Advisor to the Presidium of the Parliament,
Secretary of the Political Committee of the PGC Party.
“He taught me how to stand firm and solid by my rights, he taught me that rights are not a blessing to be wished for but fought for.”
Yousef Abu Ras,
Information Assistant
UN Information Center

“He was a man of great values, courage, integrity, and outstanding scholar, who made great contribution to Yemen and Yemeni community at large, who enjoyed world wide recognition for the ideals which he stood for.”
Fouad Gohery
Canada Fund Development Program, Sanaa

“He was brave, ambitious, learned, generous and kind. He was a man with a cause. It did not matter whether you loved him or hated him, you could not help but admit that he was an extraordinary man.”
Dr. Mohammed Abdul Malik

“He was an entire party in a single man and a man as great as the whole country.”
Dr. Abdullah Al-Maqaleh

“Dr. Al-Saqqaf was not merely the chief editor of the Yemen Times. Rather, he was a good father and a staunch advisor for everybody who worked with or knew him. With courageous spirit and modesty, he was able to achieve visible strides for the paper, making our country a better place by calling for democracy and civil society. He was also a brave politician who was able to win the hearts of all people, fighting for the good values with nothing but his pen and the interest in searching for the truth.
He respected women and supported them in all fields. He was always ready to support any project adopted by them. In the 1997 parliamentarian elections he declared in the Yemen Times that he was ready to finance the electoral campaign of any non-partisan women interested in nominating herself for the parliament.”
Sayidah Al-Hailamah
Al-Mara’ah newspaper
Chief Editor

“Is destiny so harsh and merciless as to deprive Yemen of a man who worked hard to lead it into the 21st century while it was in its strange reality unprepared to bid farewell the 18th century?”
Hafidh Al- Bakri
Al-Wahdawi newspaper

“His legacy will live on in the history of democracy because he worked to strengthen and spread it throughout his life. His work and contribution in this field will really live on.”
Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qirby

“In Ramadhan, 1996, we were together walking in Bab Mosa street in Taiz. Suddenly he stopped. I noticed that he was looking at a bare-footed child wearing clothes that had seen better days. The young boy was watching attentively looking very happy, for his father was buying him new clothes for the Eid. Then Dr. Abdul Aziz stepped towards him, took him by his hands, led him into the shop and bought him everything for the Eid, even socks.”
Mohammed Al-Meitami

“The Yemen Times has been an advocate of human rights and fighting corruption and corrupts. Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Saqqaf was a solid defender of wronged people in all cases.””The reason behind the success of Dr. Al-Saqqaf was his active conscience and his love for his country and its people. He used the Yemen Times as an invincible weapon to disclose corruption and their interests that were always sought at the expense of poor people. The Yemen Times has been playing a great role in disclosing corruption while many others have chosen to keep silent and enjoyed watching from a distance.”
Ahmad Al-Haj

“He was able to lead himself to glory. A quick look through his contribution will make you respect him even if you are among his opponents.”
Izzaddin Saeed

“Women occupied a great part of his attention. He rejected male-chauvinism, and encouraged woman to be educated and assume better positions.”
Sameerah Abdullah Al-Huttar
Al-Maraah newspaper

“As far as human rights are concerned, he was among their first defenders. His contribution in building the civil society are still alive. His departure has left a yawning vacuum in the political, social and general life that is difficult to fill.”
Shaher S’ad Mohammed

“Freedom for him was a sun that must shine on everyone, a moon whose light must be enjoyed by everyone, water that everyone must drink from and as the air that everyone must breathe.”
Yahia Abdul Raqib Al-Jubeihi

“I have known many Yemeni people and I have seen that they soon get tired of trying to keep abreast with the times. Whenever they start, they come to a halt in the middle of the road and step aside to see who will venture to continue except Al-Saqqaf. I knew him to be fond of tiredness to the extent that I thought tiredness itself got tired of him.”
Saleh Abdu Al-Dahan

“Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Saqqaf was the founder of the first English newspaper in Yemen that has been a reflecting mirror of the Yemeni democratic experience, freedom of press, etc. He contributed a lot to human rights and general freedoms, not only through his successful and distinguished role as an editor in chief of the Weekly Yemen Times but also through the Human and Liberties Committee of the Consultative Council he headed.”
Mahboob Ali

“His words bespeak his great and passionate love for the country and his unlimited willingness to sacrifice for the principles and values he devoted himself to.”
Ali Saleh Abdullah

“Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Saqqaf and the Yemen Times have been the best in representing Yemen in English-speaking communities. Had the government closed down some of its embassies and satisfied itself with distributing the Yemen Times to foreign Ministries of those countries, their relations with Yemen could have been more concrete than they are nowadays.”
Late Abdul Habib Salim

“He was a distinguished Yemeni scholar who devoted his life to teach his students at Sanaa University, and to becoming the voice of the voiceless. He was an activist who supported non-governmental organizations and had a lot of dreams for our country and our people. He was fearless in pursing and exposing corruption and injustice in the Yemeni government. He will always be regarded as a scholar, and journalist who broke barriers, and who was a pioneer in independent journalism.”
Shaker Ahmed Al-Ashwal
New York

” He was a well-informed man and a person who worked for his beliefs with honesty and seriousness. He was a faithful friend, and a man who was concerned with the issues of his country, and all Arab and Islamic nations.”
Murtadha Rahimi
Iranian Ambassador

“He was an extremely honorable reflection of a courageous and hard working Yemeni, working for the prosperity, wealth, and democratization of his country, Yemen. He gained respect from prominent international and Arab individuals, and he had excellent relations with the Palestinian people and leadership.”
Yahia Rabbah
Palestinian Ambassador

There is no better way to understand Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, other than his writings in Yemen Times. Here, we publish, or rather, re-publish the first ever editorial written by him as the Chief Editor, in which we introduced his beloved newspaper,Yemen Times.
Introducing the Yemen Times
“This is the first issue of the Yemen Times. Therefore, it is with pleasure that I use this editorial to introduce it to the reader.
The Yemen Times is an independent weekly paper not attached to any political party or thought. As such, its stand vis-avis the various local, regional, and international issues is determined on the basis of an objective assessment of the merits and demerits involved. The paper aims to reach out to a large base of readers, especially amongst the intellectual classes, the decision-makers, the business sector, and the international community. Nevertheless, the paper covers with interest and commitment two categories of activities, which are:

1. Economic/Business Activities:
Yemen Times will provide detailed coverage of economic and business activities in Yemen, and a synopsis of important regional and international issues in this sector. Major emphasis will be placed on trade, investments, economic laws, tenders, and market-watch aspects in price levels, consumption, interest rates, exchange rates, etc. In general, government and private-sector efforts in the country’s socio-economic development process will be extensively covered.

2. Democracy and Human Rights:
Yemen Times believes that the prosperity and strength of nations, if at least in the long run, will depend on democratic values and observation of human rights. In the absence of those two basic elements in society, it is doubtful that much can be achieved. Therefore, the paper will closely follow those two issues as reflected in Yemeni life. Much has been achieved in both counts in the recent past, and much more remains to be achieved.
The paper will heavily depend on primary sources of information; i.e., interviews, polls, field surveys, and contributions and feedback from our readers.
Yet, the paper will also provide information from secondary sources, especially through the weekly summary round up of the local press. All in all, Yemen Times hopes to be informative and analytic in nature. All members of the paper promise to make a sincere effort to serve our readership, and all of us will appreciate an active participation and feedback.
Till next Wednesday, take care!”
Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf
Editorial, Issue 1,Vol. 1
27 Feb. 1991, Sanaa