Literary CornerCulture and the revolution in Yemen (4) [Archives:2007/1055/Culture]

May 31 2007

Abu Al-Kalima Al-Tayybah
The book under review becomes pertinent these days in light of the upcoming celebrations of the National Day of Yemen or the 17th Anniversary of the Unification of Yemen, which would be the holiday that has supposedly replaced all the other dates that used to represent the National Holiday of the country. The author asserts from the start that Revolution should be represented by change, not so much change of the ruling regime, but rather a change in the way of thinking – change of culture – about our ways of doing things and running our affairs. Baraddooni also continues to portray the efforts of a series of administrations that took the helms since the Revolutions of September 26, 1962 and October 14, 1963, in both North and South Yemen respectively, to view the revolts as merely an erasure of a past error and all that the rulers of previous administrations or regimes. The author projects this line of thinking under all the different post Revolutionary regimes, especially in the North (the Yemen Arab Republic). In what he calls the First Republic of President Abdullah Al-Sallal, he understandably sees good reason why the Government should do all it can to instill upon the minds of the citizenry to remember the horrible state of backwardness the country was in under the rule of the Hamid Al-Din Dynasty. At the same time however, Baraddooni regards such exaggerated misrepresentation of the Revolution as no more than a waste of time, resources and, more importantly, intellect. Revolution can only be promoted with a clear propagation of knowledge as to what needs to be done now that the “archaic regime” has been removed, how should the evils of the past be replaced by modern institutions and actions that will herald the country on a new path of progress and proper civil conduct.

Baraddooni notes that this really only occurred on two occasions in the history of Yemen: the first was the bloodless coup of Ibrahim Al-Hamidy and of course the Unification of Yemen. In the former case, the late Colonel Al-Hamidy, being of an educated and cultured background rose to the helms of power on a platform of reforms directed at removing the ills of the post revolutionary administrations of Abdullah Al-Sallal and Qadhi Abdul-Rahman Al-Iriani. Noting that both of these administrations were paradoxical in many respects (one was military in nature and the second was more civilian, having a popularly elected Parliament and a President of a Presidential Council elected by Parliament – which was clearly a notable feat of progress for Yemen at the time), the author also suggests that the latter's good intentions were offset by the loss of civilian control of governmental affairs, which the former (Al-Iriani) clearly projected, although the military brass continued to fill the air with unrest and partisan association with a totalitarian content.

In essence the revolutionary cultures in North and South Yemen did differ in aura and in content, noting that the South had undergone over a century and a quarter of foreign control and the North had just come out of control of a dying Ottoman caliphate that has been battered to the last cell by continuous warfare to maintain the Caliphate of Islam, despite pressures from a rising Europe and internal disapproval of persecution and repression by the Porte in Istanbul.

All this was bound to create obvious differences, as the South was more in touch with the outside world, especially with Aden being an important vibrant sea port in a strategic position in the sea lanes that needed to be guarded heavily to keep the lifeline of the British Empire intact. The North, however was not welcome by the imperialist powers for its economic significance, although it was given serious considerations in the equations of big power global politics. Thus the isolation of the North, while maybe being good reason for demanding change from within, did not produce an adequate aura for fomenting cultural adaptation to a rapidly changing world and thus many of the changes being sought were more a reflection of egoistic drives for solidification of power amongst a clique that represented a configuration of blocs ranging from a representation of the traditional tribal and religious establishments to the infusion of mercantile and of course tribal elements that perhaps may be regarded as the added inputs that the Revolution had to absorb, because the latter could not be erased from the established order (as was the case in the South). In fact, with the National Reconciliation that was arranged, under the astute administration of Qadhi Abdul-Rahman Al-Iriani, thus ending the First Civil War (1962 – 1970) after the Revolution, most of those who fought to reinstate the monarchy had returned to the folds of the citizenry, either as government officials at all levels or as common citizens with some participation in the quasi formal established civil and social institutions (primarily religious). Even the military was not removed from the infusion of some of these “returnees”, who played significant roles in subsequent Post Revolutionary Administrations, including the current regime.

In essence, the author is suggesting that it is useless to continue presenting diatribes against the old regimes that preceded the Revolution, because most of the elements that ran the subsequent regimes were themselves elements of the overthrown orders and thus representative of all its good or bad connotations. In the following couple of issues we look at some of the various governing principles that prevailed in the post revolutionary eras and how they played a role in giving directions to the regimes and the constituencies that existed hence.

Subject Book: Culture and the Revolution in Yemen

Author: Abdullah Al-Baraddooni

Language: Arabic

Publisher: Arab Writer's Press

Year Published: 1991 AD

No. of Pages: 574