Marib, the way out of the crisis [Archives:2007/1067/Viewpoint]

July 12 2007

In the last few days, three friends of mine complained about how the recent attack against tourists in Marib has affected their businesses negatively. The first one was more of a national disaster rather than a personal loss. The director of the Desert Locust Monitoring and Control Center complained that because of the attack, the insurance on planes to be used in the locust aerial control has doubled 200 percent. “I am afraid most of the funding will be spent on insurance rather than on the chemicals and the equipment needed to clean the infested areas,” he said.

Another friend working in real estate complained that a good deal he was about to earn, was ruined because the international company, that was scheduled to come to Yemen for business, changed its plans.

The third was a director of an Arabic language teaching institute, some of the students who usually come in hundreds every summer cancelled their trips. Others who already arrived had a tough time at the airport because of the frenzied security concerned with the additional responsibility, until the institute management insured their responsibility for the safety of the foreign students while in Yemen.

What I want to say is that because of the terrorist attack so many people in Yemen in various sectors were affected negatively. The criminals did not only harm the state as per say, their wrong doing has hurt many people and disturbed their businesses.

Now the state is standing beside itself in confusion as to what to do with its five-year development plan which depended mainly on tourism. It will have to work much harder to erase the negative image caused by the attack.

All that being said, there is another side of the story. The attackers in their warning claimed to be Al-Qaeda in Yemen and sent out a few demands. One of which was the release of prisoners detained without just charges or trial. Actually, it is not an unreasonable demand if it is looked at in isolation from the current circumstances. But the fact is that most, if not all, the prisoners in Yemeni prisons have been dumped there without adequate or just procedures. If the attackers' demand is to be met, all the prisoners must be released.

Another issue is that looking at Marib, the town where the tourists were attacked is one of Yemen's oldest and best tourist attractions. Yet, the development and the infrastructure of the place (Marib) is in terrible conditions i.e. there are no paved roads, not enough schools, no adequate health care tc. No wonder the locals dig out the historical antiques and sell them to tourists for almost nothing.

I am not justifying what the terrorists did, for there is no excuse for killing innocent people. What I am saying is that we must look at the big picture and understand why such things happen. The question is what can be done in order to prevent or at least reduce the likelihood of such a terrible incident to happen again.

In fact, the crisis of Sa'ada is still existent despite the on-going promises of tackling it, and there are chances some similar issues may erupt in other places in the Republic. The point is that you can't fight faith or thought with force.

This is why the state should be careful how to deal with the Marib issue and not repeat its mistakes. If the state wants to make the people in Marib loyal to it and concerned about the national stability, it needs to make sure their basic needs are fulfilled and the people are happy. For, only this way, even if there are a few radical Al-Qaeda people there or whatsoever, will enable the rest of the community to make sure that the extreme minorities understand they are not welcomed and their acts will not be tolerated.

If the state wants to save Yemen, it must make Yemenis appreciate their government, and hence, their country.