Commemorating Al-Zubairi [Archives:2006/934/Viewpoint]

April 3 2006

Dr. Hamdan Dammaj
Managing Editor

For non-Yemenis living in Sana'a, Al-Zubairi is the name of a main street crossing the capital from Bab Al-Yemen (the southern gate of the Old City of Sana'a) in the east to Asir Mountain in the west. But do they know that Al-Zubairi was a prominent Yemeni poet, revolutionist and intellectual figure or that last Saturday, April 1, marked 41 years since his assassination?

Mohamed Mahmoud Al-Zubairi was born in Boustan Al-Sultan in Sana'a in 1910. He received his basic education at Al-Madrasa Al-Elmiah, one of few schools in Yemen at that time. He showed a tremendous talent for poetry at an early age, but like many intellectuals at that time, he was very concerned about the deteriorating condition of Yemen and its people's misery. He went to Egypt in 1941 where he found a suitable environment for improving his thoughts and political awareness. He met many Yemenis there who were against the Imam and his way of ruling the country which resulted in suffering and hardship for Yemenis.

Al-Zubairi began his activities by criticizing the regime, highlighting Yemen's poor condition and calling Yemenis to be freed from illiteracy, poverty and dictatorship. His writings and speeches found enormous support from many Yemenis, both inside and outside Yemen.

When Al-Zubairi returned to Yemen, he was thrown into jail. After his release, he continued writing and his poems became very popular. Under pressure from the Imam's regime, he escaped to Aden to join the Yemeni Freemen Movement, becoming a founder of the Yemeni Freemen Party in 1944 and the Voice of Yemen Newspaper dedicated to showing Yemenis their rights and calling for a constitution and radical reforms. Following the 1948 revolution's failure, Al-Zubairi fled to Pakistan, living in exile there for many years while working as a teacher and broadcaster. However, he continued his struggle and became one of Yemen's prominent opposition leaders calling for revolution and a republican system between 1952 and 1962. After the 1962 Yemeni revolution, he was appointed Minister of Education and a member of the presidential council.

Al-Zubairi was assassinated April 1, 1965, while trying to convince some tribes in Barat (Al-Jawf) to discontinue their support of the monarchy against republicans. He was against Yemenis fighting each other and wanted the civil war to end. When news of his assassination spread throughout the country, citizens thought it was an April Fool's joke. They simply could not believe that the peaceful leader, whose only weapon was poetry and dialogue, had been killed. Over the years, Al-Zubairi formed an image of a leader who did not remain in the office preaching, issuing orders or seeking political or financial gain from his long history of struggle. Rather, he died on the field, trying his best to give Yemenis what they deserve: freedom and development.

Al-Zubairi also is considered the foremost Yemeni poet in the first half of the 20th century. Full of passion, his poetry echoed his revolutionary anger toward the Imam's oppression and national struggle. It was a source of inspiration and motivation for Yemenis to continue their uprising against a dark and backward era, and most importantly, to keep faith in their vision of the future for generations to come.

Dr. Hamdan Dammaj

Managing Editor