Kingdom of the Dead [Archives:2001/30/Law & Diplomacy]

July 23 2001

Abdulbari Taher
‘Kingdom of the Dead’ is the name by which the great scholar Lynus called Yemen in his book “From Copenhagen to Sana’a” . Ameen al-Rahbani a traveler called Yemen as the country of the armed ignorance. But the commonest name is the one made by Mohammed Mahmuod al-Zubairi in his poem “The Graveyard of the Dead” . In the thirties an Iraqi visitor described Yemen as ” a pearl at the hand of a blacksmith”. Prior to the application of this names to what is in reality we could notice the great differences between the names of today and that of the by-gone times. The Greek travelers at first called the southern Arabia as the ‘Arabian Flix’ and it also has been described as an ‘admirable country’ by the Holy Quran. And this raises many questions on the situation of Yemen today, if compared to that of the past: Does Yemen is still the graveyard of the dead?, does the pearl is still at the hand of the blacksmith and who is the blacksmith today; and the most important thing does Yemen today still a pearl or does the pearl itself has become a piece of coal and no longer in need for a blacksmith?
A fact that we have to admit is that Yemen is no longer a graveyard as seen and described by Lynus and al-Zubairi. However, Yemen at the level of government and people have not break off its relation with death. As the frequent wars, tribal conflicts and the acts of blood feuds taking place at a daily basis as well as the recourse of the government to the use of excessive force for extremely trivial reasons, the wide-spread of diseases, particularly malaria epidemic, hepatitis and the modern age diseases; all these factors have made Yemen at the top of the least-developed countries in the world and a country partisan to death. Yemen was called as the country of illiteracy and armed ignorance as described by al-Rahbani we could find that despite the passing of around forty years since the eruption of 26 September and 14 October revolutions we would notice that illiteracy is still prevalent at the Yemeni society as the illiterate people constitute a majority and it is more prevalent among women. Armed ignorance is alarmingly increasing in Yemen to the time al-Rahbani came to Yemen at the beginning of the 20th century. At that period arms used to be restricted to the army of Imam and sultans and it used to be as well conventional ones. But today firearms and all sort of weapons are available at every quarters of Yemen and Yemen has turned to be a market for all weapons. The description of Yemen as a pearl at the hand of a blacksmith is so manifested as all the wrong and disastrous policies since the exit of the Turks following the outbreak of the World War I passing through the two Yemeni revolutions and finally the realization of the Yemeni unification we find that this pearl has lost its shininess and glittering and the problem has nothing to do with the blacksmith “government” but the problem lies in the pearl itself which is no longer shinny. Hence, the debilitation of the limited resources and potentials and the spread of corruption all theses things have led to the deterioration of the overall progress and development of the country. Furthermore, the deterioration and the absence of security and justice have also contributed to the loss of many investments and reducing the share of tourism in the national income as well as the Kidnapping of foreigners has led to tarnishing the image of Yemen overseas.
The democratic merge Yemen used to boast of, has gone with the wind and the democratic process is not more than words publicized through the official media organs. As tribes are now the dominant force at the Yemeni society while the other forces which are supposed to play the major role in the society have been marginalized. And this can be proved by just looking to the current situation of the labor unions, political parties and community organizations. In Yemen, the police station is superior to the court and tribes’ sheikhs are more influential than the university’s professors and the leading intellectuals. We also have to know that the reasons behind tribal feuds is the injustice and the weakness of the different government’s law-enforcement agencies.
The outcome of this destructive policies is the halt of the democratic process with its different related freedoms such as the peaceful transfer of power, voting and press freedom. Democracy in Yemen is not more than a farce for media consumption and the solution for this situation is the recourse to the principles of the 30th of November 1990 and the essence of the constitution of the Republic of Yemen which has been amended several times for tyrannical motives serving those in power.