In solidarity with political detainees [Archives:2008/1161/Opinion]

May 5 2008

By: Dr. Abdullah Awbal
What hampers progress toward civil life is the kind of government policies that encourage arbitrary crackdown on journalists and restriction of press freedom. The past few years have been full of conflicts between particular forces with a strong desire to build the modern state of law and order and other forces that defend their traditional positions through tools of an oppressive authority.

Remarkably, Yemeni authorities continue to violate the constitution, restrict press freedoms and abuse basic human rights, mainly after they turned to behave as if they are a unified security system at the expense of protecting public freedoms. The government has no effective presence in conflict areas, which is why law, order and human rights guarantees are missing.

All the political battles launched by the opposition are merely a reaction to the government's arbitrary procedures and the way this government places its hostile policies in effect. I imagine that the peaceful democratic action might have been a product for large elite of political activists, human rights defenders and field leaders who are able to exercise effectively positive influence on the urban communities. There is no value for opposition activities unless they at least convince the authority to modify its behavior and consider interests of the community.

Two common factors are believed to be responsible for the notable deterioration of press freedom and the various obstacles facing efforts to defend and protect human rights. The first factor has to do with the opposition and its direct relation with society, which is why the government sees the opposition groups and civil community organizations as a decorative face for people because they lack the authentic contents. Consequently, the government tightened the noose around the opposition and civil community groups via its instruments, power and money.

The second factor is attributed to the government's exploitation of its facilities to control and oppress moves and directions of people and the way they think under the pretext of building the modern state of Yemen. Only certain forces (senior officials) have benefited from their relation with the authority to defend their social values, culture and statuses, as well as demonstrate their dominance over all the aspects of life. These forces use power to reproduce the same kind of culture and values again and again.

Jails turned to be homes to activists:

I want to say that jails are currently housing journalists, educated people, politicians and human rights activists. Having a thorough glance at this condition helps annuls all the viewpoints and visions labeling the government's policies and the way it behaves as logical. We all know and the authority knows that such political detainees don't create a threat to a state heavily depending on heightened security to ensure and maintain its survival.

Since 1997, the authority has been used to jail political activists and then release them after weeks or months without any charges. This is nothing more than a policy aimed at halting progress of human rights, civil and political developments, as well as hindering the tendency and move toward civil society and a state of law and order.

At this point, I mean that the government strictly resists any peaceful civil activities and is more serious and tougher in this regard than in dealing with highway robberies or other illegal practices.

Seemingly, the security authorities are addicted to arresting activists and restricting public freedoms. Whenever a peaceful action develops, the government then launches a massive arrest campaign against activists and throws them in security and military jails with the intention of foiling their wills and destroying their determination, as well as warning other activists to avoid behaving the same way.

Please see how many times Dr. Saood Ali Ubeid of Abyan has been jailed. The man has become a permanent target for the political security. When there is a demonstration or sit-in, the man has to prepare himself for a separated cell in prison and the main reason for his agony is attributed to his journalistic writings.

This is also the case of many political activists and opinion writers such as Ahmad Al-Qama, Hassan Zaid and others. Ubeid has been released, but others are still detained while their relatives and beloved ones know nothing about places of their detention.

Yemeni security authorities achieve their objectives via insulting and oppressing political activists, human rights defenders and opinion writers. The authorities don't target any of these activists unless they are sure that the community has dispensed with them. They admit how vital the community's role is to providing distinctive activists with power and strong determination.

Finally, my message is that we must not be late in expressing solidarity with all the political detainees who remain thrown in the various security and military jails without clear charges.