In tribute to all those patriots [Archives:2004/776/Opinion]

September 27 2004

No one in Yemen doubts the sincere genuine intents of all those Yemeni patriots who gave their lives freely to ensure that the Yemeni Revolution of September 26, 1962 lives on to liberate the Yemeni people from so many centuries of deprivation and backwardness. The Yemeni fervent desire for change and freedom is as old as time. Quite often, over the centuries, many Yemenis turned to emigration overseas in order to escape the hard times that their own country is subjected to over the course of its long history. There were other times when Yemenis sought for a different life for totally different reasons such as the large influx of Yemenis that joined the Moslem Armies that fanned out East and West in the early period of Islam, most of whom settled wherever their expeditions took them to. Yemen, nevertheless, by virtue of its geographical and terrestrial features eventually sank into relative isolation and intermittent civil warfare over the Middle Ages, with various kingdoms prevailing in different regions of the country, some of which reached epochs of prosperity and cultural splendor, such as the Suleihi State and even some of the Zeidi Imamic periods in the 16th and 17th Century. With Ottoman rule prevailing in most of the country after that and with many of the remote areas of the country resisting any form of centralized political control, the country was left for the most part immune to keeping pace with many of the scientific, political and social developments that mankind as a whole was witnessing for some three centuries. Even the unflinching hunger of imperialism and western colonialism could not find worthwhile attractions that would satisfy the wretched hunger of any of the leading contestants for world power and economic domination vying for the world during this period. When many prominent Yemenis began to realize that Yemen was indeed seeming out of place in a rapidly developing world, they called for change and set up the Free Yemenis Movement. This movement encompassed Yemenis from all walks of life, political, social and commercial and eventually led to the attempted overthrow of the monarchy that evolved after full independence (1918) was gained from the Ottomans. The 1948 Revolution however could not succeed, because the regional scene was still mainly made of traditional monarchical regimes and the general affinity of the powerful Yemeni tribes remained with the strong character of the self proclaimed successor to the old Imam Yahya. Several attempts to remove Imam Ahmed were thwarted, with each time the Patriotic Movement regrouping and seeking to find ways to remove the stubborn and wily Ahmed from the throne, who ruthlessly suppressed any attempts to unseat him. In 1962, thanks to the emergence of the Pan Arab Nationalist Movement of Gamal (pronounced Jamal) Abdul Nasser and the eminent death of Imam Ahmed, the Free Yemenis Officers, under the prodding of the former took the initiative and decided to overthrow the monarchy once and for all. Imam Ahmed's son and successor was allowed to rule for a week before the six tanks that launched the Revolution tore down the walls of his palace, and he was forced to flee to the mountains.
Because of the prevailing divisions of the Arab World at the time, Yemen became the battleground for the traditional and progressive forces in the Arab World that were vying for control of the destiny of the Arab World. Both the progressives, led by Egypt (then the United Arab Republic) and the traditionalists, led by Saudi Arabia took sides in the ensuing battle between the Republicans and Royalists until the 1967 Arab Israeli War brought an end to inter Arab conflict for awhile and Yemenis were able to decide their own fate. The Republic prevailed and reconciliation of the two Yemeni parties was easily accomplished peacefully. Yemen enjoyed a relatively peaceful period of seven years under a generally democratic order, albeit with brief periods of outbreak of violence among some of the competing political forces that were emerging and trying to prevail in the political arena. The moderates in all instances prevailed and most Yemenis were generally pleased with the success of the Revolution. Yemen continued to become the victim of some of the regional and international political ramifications that accompanied the Cold War, sometimes with civil disturbances instigated by supporters of radical change propagated by the radical regime that was set up in the south of the country after gaining independence from British rule. The highlight of victory that crowned the efforts of the national patriotic movement was crowned by the achievement of unity and the institution of democratic constitutional government in May 1990. Nevertheless, Yemen continued to witness internal political wrangling, sometimes with external prodding, that eventually culminated in a decisive victory for one of the parties that peacefully brought about unification. While this victory was worthy of praise for instilling the unification of the country, it did however led to the removal of a delicate balance of power among the prevailing political factions, which helped to maintain a semblance of democratic government during the transition post unification period (1990 – 1994). The commitment to democratic rule is still fervently adhered to by the President of the Republic and the government. However, there are some problems in translating this commitment to practice, as many elements in the socio-political arena, find their own avenues for imposing some of their own narrow minded will and enhancing their own interests.
In appreciation of all the martyrs who have given their lives for the ultimate success of the Yemeni Revolution and the genuine patriotic intentions those martyrs gave their lives for, it is most imperative that Yemen continue to abide by the democratic rule that we have come to visualize, even if at marginal levels. The best way to do this is to ensure that basic fundamentals of democratic rule, such as free speech and a free press are allowed without any hindrance or threat of suppression. It would be most reassuring to the Yemeni people and an excellent way to give tribute to all those martyrs if President Ali Abdullah Sale would order the release of all those people imprisoned for the expression of their views vis a vis the last tragic events that occurred in Sa'ada. Most of these people are, after all, dignified members of the society (moderate religious leaders and journalists). Moreover this will confirm Yemen's determination that democracy is here to stay to both its people and to the world at large as well. Isn't it time that we actually mean what we say!