Democracy and Fear [Archives:2001/52/Law & Diplomacy]

December 24 2001

Abdulbari Taher
The democratic margin Yemen enjoyed in both the Northern and Southern parts had strong links with the collapse of the former USSR and its eastern pact, as well as the victory of the United States, leader of the so-called free world. The United States, the human rights advocate, whose constitution ensures public freedom, as well as freedom of expression and beliefs, strongly supports democracy.
The whole world has undergone a wave of false pessimism with the crucial and final victory over dictatorship and totalitarianism.
Admittedly, worries about the democratic margin available in Yemen have been principally related to the absence of the two major players in the political arena: the People’s General Congress (PGC) and the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP.) Factually, this democratic margin remained alive, although not as vigorous as it used to be immediately after the realization of the unification of Yemen on May 22, 1990. Thus, fear continued to exist most properly, because of the persistent trend of the PGC to amend the constitution and to modify laws related to elections and local authority in ways that helps it run elections in its favor.
It sounds that people in power are afraid of the civil society organizations and the political parties, although these parties and organizations can change nothing. They are clearly more afraid of civil society organizations than the powerful tribes, because they are initially programmed to hate the rule of civil society.
It is truly that the regime in Yemen still has close links to dictatorship which will be further reinforced under the pretext of combating kidnapping and establishing security in the country. The government’s handling of the different issues seems to be a prelude for a new dictatorship. These trends have strong presence within the political platform of the regime and corruption serves as a catalyst for this trend. Yet, cracking down on democracy, freedoms and human rights is the result of corruption prevalent at all the government departments.
The September 11 suicide attacks on New York and Washington, as well as the war against Afghanistan have substantially affected democracy and freedoms in its own home (USA, Britain and the other European countries.) The fear now is that this current war may have direct consequences on the emerging democracies in the world.
The war waged by the most powerful country in the world against one of the poorest nations in earth is a direct threat on human principles in general. It is indeed a difficult test for democracy and human rights. The risk of the U.S. war against Afghanistan, if it last longer and expand further, as confirmed by the U.S. and British officials, will certainly have catastrophic outcomes on the international peace and stability.
Formerly, the international challenge was to prevent a third global war, but the third global revolution, i.e. “globalization,” has partially solved the problem. The telecommunication revolution has enormously contributed in this respect some ways. One way is mainly related to abandoning war as a means to settle conflicts over interests of companies affiliating to different countries. This has evidently come after manufacturing the mass destruction weapons, including the transcontinental nuclear warheads and after all countries under occupation gained their national independence with exception to the Palestinian people. Apparently, the current war against Afghanistan is a fresh attempt to restore to colonialism, despite being under the auspices of the United Nations.
The majority of occupations that took place in the last two centuries had been carried out according to international resolutions. In fact, what is happening at the Afghan soil is not a crackdown on the roots of terrorism represented by the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda network as the war zone could expand to include different countries of the world, particularly Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Lebanon and probably Yemen. The U.S. and British governments are keen on having strong military presence outside their borders under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Although this is a mere speculation that we hope not to come true, the U.S. strong presence in Afghanistan, as well as its attempts to gain the support and participation of some Arab and Islamic countries have many connotations. Yet, the persistence of the current war will surely constitute a great threat to democracy, openness, tolerance, inter-civilizations dialogue and the peaceful transfer of power, particularly in the third world countries. Furthermore, the merciless war policies will certainly pay no attention to human rights and what happened to the prisoners of al-Qaeda organization, in Janhi Castle in Mazzar-e-Sharif, is just a case in point. Thousands of prisoners of war have been slaughtered by both the forces loyal to Abdulrashid Dustom and the U.S. forces. What is more catastrophic is that many of the victims were found to be tight-handed. Consequently, the uprising of the prisoners who had been placed in a well-guarded castle besieged by the Northern Alliance and the U.S. forces is openly a scandal for the U.S. administration.
What is more shameful is that the governments of these prisoners have not articulated even a word of condemnation on the massacre carried out against their nationals. Similarly, all the international human rights organizations, as well as the civil society organizations remained silent regarding this issue as if nothing happened.