ReflectionsLooking for humor amidst Yemeni arms [Archives:2004/737/Opinion]

May 13 2004

By Yahya Al-Olfi
[email protected]

Revenge and carrying Arms is rampant in Yemen due to the State's policy of Pampering petty chieftains and the ongoing CHIEFTAINIZATION of an ever increasing number of would be Sheiks.
It is not surprising to notice in the streets, restaurants and markets, people wearing all types of pistols, machineguns even pistols with silencers. Homicides in Yemen are for sure the highest but are neither covered by the private nor official media. If one is killed his clan has to follow up the affair or else he is to be forgotten forever.
During past months there were clashes between tribes in Al-Haima, in Yareem and in Tuwaiti areas and the state just ignores it. There are pending revenge cases in Khamir, Amran, Jawf,Marib and in Riashia between Jahmi and Tairi clans(some of which are more than forty years old).
The state media and our con-artist responsibles are abiding by the Nazi propaganda top man's wisdom “lie until people believe you”. The problem here is that they have themselves believed their own lies and none on the local or foreign levels believe any of their claims on issues such as security, equality, prosperous economy and other social aspects. Simply if a normal citizen approaches a police station nowadays to report a theft or a crime etc. he shall not be listened to, unless he pays an amount of money.
In fact I know someone who used to be a manager of a police station and when I asked him why he left his position he told me that he was overthrown because he was not bribing his superiors for he should rip normal citizens off and give his superiors their share in order for him to remain in his position. This bad state of affairs at the police, investigation and security sectors permits crimes and criminals to act fearlessly.
Investigation officers are downright corrupt and do sell criminal records as well as release some criminals in return for large amounts. Now, let us mention some incidents, which are lamentable and funny at the same time.
One day a son of a sheikh hit a normal citizen's son. The normal citizen decided to first complain to the Chieftain (in Arabic Sheikh). The chieftain reprimanded the man and told him that his son was wrong and how dare he fight a small Sheikh and asked his henchmen to chuck him savagely out of the gate.
The man returned to his small shop sulking and feeling helpless. He had one thing in his mind and that is how to return this offence? He thought about going to the police station but because he knew that they would not help with this situation, he decided against it.
Incidentally he remembered cases where the underpaid disrespected soldiers were bribed and then they fulfilled their duties to the letter. So he approached the police station, spoke with the manager and agreed to pay him an advance payment and the remaining sum after the mission had been accomplished.
The Station officer accompanied by his soldiers approached the Sheikh's house and asked the Sheikh to go out. The Sheikh just like all the sheiks of Yemen are paid salaries and most are PSO agents. Their children have the priority of promotion and some of them are ministers and ambassadors just because they belong to a sheikh family. In brief Sheiks are pampered by the state together with their children and kin. Hence, he told the officer don't you know who I am and mumbled some words which were understood by the officer and his men as mockery and disdain from the soldiers and whom they represent so the officer retorted the same slander.
The sheik angry at the insolence went down and slapped the officer (slapping someone is a grave offence according to traditional Yemeni customs) and in the process of tit for tat the sheik killed the officer so the soldiers killed the sheik and there were casualties on both sides.
The regular citizen was later asked how did he develop this brilliant idea? He answered: “Well you know, that I am just a poor regular citizen and “an Iron power” such as that of the defunct sheik could only be mitigated with the same kind!. Also another incident took place during a marriage ceremony. The celebrator fired in the air and then put the pistol back next to his Djambiyya ( a traditional Yemeni curved dagger). Mistakenly the trigger was pulled and the poor man's genital was obliterated forever, so the ceremony ceased and the victim was rushed to the hospital.
There are many incidents where, believe it or not, babies and toddlers killed their parents just because they pulled at the trigger of pistols laying carelessly in any given corner of a regular Yemeni House.
Another incident took place during a marriage ceremony in Hajjah where mortar shells were fired and one mistakenly killed many celebrators. While the Ultrashiits in Wadi Nashoor Saadah instead of whipping themselves like normal Shiites or as practiced by Christians in the Philippines and elsewhere, they celebrated last Ashoora with firing of different arms and shot at effigies and targets standing for the Three Sunni Caliphs Omar, Abu Bakr and Osman. During their last festival they killed thirteen individuals of their lot.
So now let us have a brief outlook at different aspects of tribalism and the Yemeni Rulers' policies towards this social Yemeni stigma..
Different regimes in Yemen dealt with tribes and chieftains according to their own whims and interests. The British during their occupation of south Yemen turned Sheikhs into Sheikhdoms, Emirs into Emirates and Sultans into Sultanates. This British approach was applied in Southern Yemen as well as in the other remaining parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Imams in northern Yemen dealt with sheikhs according to Islam in that Sharia has superseded tribal traditions and so sheikhs used to act only as mediators whilst the real power was within the hands of the Judges as per Islamic Jurisprudence. At the time of President Sallal and Iriani, both tried to attract tribes so as to defend the newly born Republic against the then theological royalist imams. While President Ibrahim Al-Hamdi was the one and only Yemeni president who successfully tried to assert the dominance of the central government, applied equality of opportunities, justice, law and order. Unfortunately, he was assassinated after three years of his ideal remarkable governance, which was considered by his detractors as “brinkmanship”. His successor was president Alghashmi who only ruled for six months during which he showed boundless affection to tribalism and tribalists. He was assassinated through a well-designed southern Yemeni plot. After the Assassination of President Ghashmi a new president took over. The new president was none other than the current president who seized power on July 17, 1978.
During the first years of his rule there were continuous tensions with the then “PDRY” which was pro-soviet. He utilized and manipulated Tribalists and Islamists successfully in his attacks against the “Democratic National Front” which was run by the recently slain prominent YSP Assistant Secretary General as well as in the 1994 civil war. Unfortunately, nowadays there is no need whatsoever for the tribalists nor there is any need for the Islamists and both are now a burden on the state's security and treasury. Serious measures ought to be taken in order to curb the influence of both who are now entertained with state positions, prestige and are a menace to law, order, investment and Tourism. So, can we hope for a reverse policy? Unfortunately as seen from the day-to-day findings the current rulers are extremely happy with the status quo and would like others to copy it out, to the extent that some have suggested exporting such expertise to other nations particularly American occupied Iraq.