Literary cornerFifty Years In Shifting Sands (3-5) [Archives:2005/886/Culture]

October 17 2005

By: Abu Al-Kalmah Al-Tayyibah
Author: Mohsin Al-Ainy, Former Prime Minister of Yemen

Language: Arabic & English

Publisher: Dar Al-Nahar, Beirut

Year Published: August 2004

Number of Pages: 384 pages

If there was anything to be learned from the 1955 attempted coup against Imam Ahmed of Yemen, led by soldiers, who got carried away in their treatment of some of the residents of the Houban area of Ta'ez, is frantic coups against the Imam Ahmed are simply out of the question. They are doomed to failure, even if two of the brothers of the Imam (Prince Abdullah and Abbass) were on the side of the rebels. The Imam started his countercoup by feigning to go along with the rebels and he signed a “turn over charge of affairs from the right hand to the left hand” (his brother Abdullah). Then he played sick, as he always does when the going is some what challenging, He was however not to be easily overtaken. The besieged Imam was able to gather momentum by secretly mobilizing his loyal supporters in Ta'ez and all of a sudden the artillery that was once used to besiege the Imam was lobbing shells at the barracks of the rebel troops and the Imam showed up amongst the rebel troops riding horseback demanding that the rebel troops drop the “Imam's rifles” and weapons, and his supporters were shouting “God protect the Imam”. Soon he headed for his rebellious brother and told him: “Now I will show you how revolts should be!” Seventeen of the rebel leaders were executed including Colonel Thulaya, and the Imams' two brothers, who sided with the rebels. In the meantime, the Free Yemenis in Cairo were somewhat stunned by the whole affair in Ta'ez, so the author and Yahya Geghman were nominated to send a message to the rebel leader, Al-Thulaya. Just as they arrived in Aden (there was no direct air access to Yemen then), they were flabbergasted to learn that the coup has been foiled and they were met with screaming crowds in Aden shouting “Long live the Imam!” When the Imam had requested that Al-Ainy and Geghman come to Ta'ez, through his Viceroy in Aden, the two men reluctantly had no choice but to oblige. The Imam had arranged for them to continue their studies in Paris and many of the students in Egypt were also distributed to other locations to keep them from making trouble. In addition the Imam was waging a war against possible opponents that were overseas and trying to discredit them with the authorities wherever they were to be found. However, the sojourn in France for Mr. Al-Ainy was a chance to enlighten him to western left oriented liberal political thinking and the Latin Quarter was what he viewed as the best political education institute one can go to. He pointed out that had leaders like Gamal Abdul Nasser, Mu'ammar Al-Qadhaffi, Hafez Al-Assad and other Arab revolutionary leaders had a chance to live in the Latin Quarter for a few months, things would have probably developed quite differently in the region. Mr. Al-Ainy soon learned French and translated the first French account of a Frenchwoman's journey into Yemen (“A French Women Doctor in Yemen”). With the post-1956 Suez War with Israel, France and Britain over, the Arab Nationalist Movement got a boost and many young Arabs, especially students were trying to find partisan niches here and there. Most Yemenis found these movements (from center to left) irrelevant to the struggle in Yemen and even Al-Ainy's membership in the Ba'ath Party did not have any particular on the Party or himself. Al-Ainy returned to Cairo and obtained a Law Degree from Cairo University in 1959. He went back to Aden for a short stint as a teacher and a labor activist. The translated book had already gained him the disfavor of the Imam in Ta'ez and the Imam convinced the British authorities to expel Al-Ainy out of Aden. He returned to Cairo. In the meantime, discontent was steadily increasing in Yemen against the monarchy and there were sporadic bursts of rebellion here and there, but none could reach any lasting impact and were quickly overturned by the Imam. When Syria broke away from the United Arab Republic union with Egypt, the Imam of Yemen began his own media campaign against the socialism of President Nasser of Egypt and this was a signal that Egypt now would be more interested in supporting the Imam's opposition. However, Al-Ainy noted that the constituents in the opposition were taken aback when the Egyptians had decided to promote the leadership of a new entrant to the opposition, Dr. Abdurrahman Al-Beidhani. Thus, most of the other leaders in the opposition movement had to step aside and show token support for Beidhani's imposed leadership, although most did not agree with the logic or approach that Beidhani was actively pursuing.

It was clear that the Egyptians needed a boost for their many setbacks politically in the region (secession of Syria) and the domestic economic situation in Egypt, as well as the increasing opposition from the traditional regimes of the region. The Egyptians apparently, thanks to a strong “friendship” between Anwar El-Sadat (Speaker of the National Assembly and a close man to Nasser) and Dr. Beidhani, were gearing up for a more active role in Yemen, especially after the Imams' attacks on Nasser's socialist agenda, which the Imam found anathema to Islam.

With Beidhani about the only one with a clear idea of what the Egyptians had in mind, most of the free Yemenis had to go along with the Egyptians coziness with Beidhani, and thus were pretty much out of the picture, as the Egyptian Embassy worked along with the Free Yemeni Officers, who were mostly trained by the Egyptian advisers, who were sent to Yemen. Preparations were already ongoing for something to happen, but according to Al-Ainy, the leadership of Free Yemenis overseas hardly had an inkling of what the plans were to lead to. When Mr. Al-Ainy was in Baghdad after the Imam Ahmed passed away in September 19, 1962, he learned that the September 26, 1962 Revolution against Imam Mohammed Al-Badr has been carried out, from Abdul-Karim Qassim, then President of Iraq, who also advised him that the author was the first Foreign Minister of the new regime in Sana'a.