Overall sorrow and disappointment for the arrest of Saddam Hussein in Yemen:Saddam’s arrest upsets Yemenis [Archives:2003/695/Front Page]

December 18 2003

Hassan Al-Zaidi
Sanaa, Dec. 17 – Yemenis have shown deep sorrow and disappointment for the humiliating capture of Saddam Hussein, and they believe that it is a clear message and hint to all Arab leaders, which could potentially lead to the possible fall of other regimes in the region.
This was the overall conclusion of an extensive survey carried out by Yemen Times in the capital city Sana'a, in sounding the opinion of the public concerning the arrest of the former Iraqi president that took place last Saturday near his hometown Tekrit in Iraq.
The survey covered several various fractions of the community including ordinary citizens, officials, Islamists, nationalists, officials, and intellectuals.

Shock, disappointment, and sadness
The overall feeling among regular citizens was mainly shock, disappointment, and sadness for the demise of what they once thought was the Arab idol and hero who set an unprecedented example in defiance of the superpower of the world. But they also said that this could only be the beginning of the fall of other Arab regimes as well.
Many have clearly said that Saddam's surrender in such a humiliating manner had made them realize he was not the man they thought he is. “I thought he would retaliate, would fight back, and would show us how a courageous Arab leader should be. What I saw was not Saddam that I believed in.” one citizen said.
Regular Yemeni citizens agreed that the way Saddam Hussein appeared on TV was a humiliation not only to him, but to all other Arab leaders, especially as it happened on the hands of the USA. “At least he should have committed suicide” one Yemeni said with disappointment.
But they also emphasized the need for Arab leaders to learn from what happened and expressed their belief in that it is the people's backing that resulted in Saddam's arrest and not the might of the USA.
However, some citizens have openly suggested that it is the Iraqi people who led to his arrest and claimed that Iraqis have always been insecure and went through many internal wars as the different fractions are always in distrust with each other and could have only been the reason for the fall and arrest of Saddam.

Event exaggerated
The President's reaction to the arrest was calm as he tried to reduce the shock felt by most of the population by saying that the arrest is a mere media propaganda and has no meaningfulness as Saddam and his Baath Party have fallen when the coalition forces started their assault on Iraq. He said that the arrest was only intended to achieve political gain and to relieve those who had a dispute with Iraq and its regime.
The President called for a national conference in Iraq representing all Iraqis to have the country recover from its current status.
Officials told Yemen Times that the event does not concern Yemen very much and said that Iraqis now should look to the future and forget about the past. They emphasized that the Arab countries should now try to reactivate joint Arab action and review the way they plan their partnerships and relations with each other. They said that the current Arab regimes should work on achieving economic and developmental cooperation and look towards opening up their societies and enhance democratic practice.

Normal result, but some sympathy
Islamic figures called the arrest of Saddam Hussein a normal consequence for the weakness and vulnerability of Arab nations. They also considered it a victory for the USA and Israel and humiliation for all Arabs and Muslims. They emphasized on the need to have all Arab leaders learn from what happened and start reforming their regimes and ridding them of corruption, oppression, and injustice. “This is normal for an oppressive Arab leader who ruled his country for 35 years with injustice and cruelty.” An Islamist figure said.
However, some less extremist figures have expressed some sympathy towards Saddam considering him the only Arab leader who at least criticized the USA and Israel so openly and courageously more than any other Arab leader.

Sadness, fear from the future
Nationalist figures were the ones who were the most affected by the arrest of Saddam Hussein. Many of the nationalists, also Baathists, have complained with extreme grief that it is Arabs' inability to support and standup for Saddam Hussein that led to his fall. However, they also praised Saddam Hussein for his courage and said that he should have retaliated and fought back, but they suspect that he was paralyzed intentionally by using certain gases.
They defended Saddam fiercely by saying that “at least he stayed in his home country and never left it and never surrendered willingly.”
They also could not hide their fears from the future of Arab nationalist movements, especially as former Syrian President Hafid Al-Asad also demised, leaving those movements with no leaders, and putting their future at stake.
“Some have told us that the end of Arab nationalism may have come, but we will fight until the end and keep the legacy of Saddam Hussein forever.” one of the nationalists said.
“This is the end of the last Arab nationalist leader.”

Good for Iraq, good for Arabs
The intellectual community comprising of academicians and highly educated Yemenis were the only group that have received the news of Saddam's arrest with joy and pleasure. Most of them have expressed no grief or sorrow for the Iraqi leader, saying that what happened is “a normal result of decades of oppression and tyranny.”
They claim that this will only have positive results on the future of the region in terms of reflecting the fact that no Arab leader is invincible no matter how strong or rich he is. They attempted to focus more on the need to use this to pressure other Arab regimes to carry out major reforms to their democratic values and human rights records.
“The issue is not about who arrested Saddam, it is about he was let down by his people because of his long years of dictatorship and mismanagement of the country and its resources.” one of Sana'a University academicians said.
“He should be set as an example for all Arab leaders to realize that their end will be similar if not worse if they continue oppressing their people and depriving them of democracy and better life standards.”
As conclusion, the Yemeni society seemed to be sorry for the arrest of Saddam Hussein, but even more upset because of the humiliating way he was arrested in. Shock and disbelief was evident in most Yemeni citizens who at the beginning wished that it could be one of his lookalikes. But when it turned out to be him, they could not hide their sorrow, but at the same time, they used this event to signal the possible end of other regimes in the near future, especially if they don't reform and improve their countries and conditions of their people