Sheikh Abdulah Mohammed Tuaiman on Mareb: “Unfortunately, our region has not had security and stability for a long period of time” [Archives:2002/12/Reportage]

March 18 2002

The US Department of State’ s report on terrorism points out that Yemen could be a safe heaven for terrorists because of the weakness of authorities in remote parts of the country.
And as the US Ambassador to Sana’a said in a seminar held in Sana’a, some parts of the country can be a breading ground for terrorism, and that they badly need infrastructure projects.
Mareb is indeed one of the most important areas which has a lot of nomadic tribes. It is currently the focal point of the anti-terror campaign in Yemen.
Yemen Times interviewed sheikh Abdulah Mohammed Tuaiman, a sheikh of Jaham and one of the leading personalities of the region on the issue. Following is an edited version of the interview.
YT: How do you evaluate the situation in the tribal areas. Is it really a safe heaven for terrorist?
The economic situation in Mareb, as in the case of some other areas of Yemen, is very bad. As for the existence of terrorists in this area only few elements of Mareb’s tribe provided shelter for those terrorists. Indeed, they have done this merely for serving their own interests, and having such figures in the area in a very embarrassing situation.
We absolutely stand by President Saleh in his anti-terror campaign and we will cooperate with him to crack down on the terrorist elements in the region. Tribesmen of the region fully understand the dangers posed by such elements and they will back the government’s campaign achieve its ends.
YT: What about the two persons linked to al Qaeda (al Harethi and al Ahdal)?
I don’t know anything about persons who have links to international terrorism. All I know is about the existence of two persons (al Harethi and al Ahdal) who are actually not from the Mareb or the Jawf region. These two people are unaccepted in our area because they have been outlawed by our president Saleh. And what president Saleh says is welcomed in our area. Principally, we are against Islamic extremism because it has crossed the limits prescribed by God and the Sharia.
YT: Can you feel any tangible results of Western trends to develop the region?
We have not touched any concrete results of this orientations so far. However, we have heard that some friendly donor countries are willing to help the region.
YT: Why is the state’s role in this area is so week?
This is because of the absence of authorities in the tribal area in terms of infrastructure projects. If the state is serious in its plans to develop the region, it will certainly find cooperation on the part of tribesmen here. We are more eager for building the region than to carry arms.
YT: So, where does the problem lay?
The problem lays in the government’s uncooperative approach in dealing with the problems of the region. Further, some of the government’s officials are biased against the region in general and underestimate our tribesmen as “gypsies.”Unfortunately, our region has not experienced security and stability for a long period of time. Tribal blood feuds are a major problem for people of Mareb, and even if they have resettled in cities, the nightmare of revenge will still follow them.
YT: Why do most of the kidnapping incidents take place in the region?
What happened is that some people resort to kidnapping foreigners under the pretext of claiming for projects, but the real objectives of kidnapping has been always to achieve merely personal gains. The reason for the continuance of this phenomenon is that the new breed of kidnappers would like to benefit as their predecessors have.
Yet, the government itself has been very aggressive in dealing with these elements, as it used excessive force demolishing houses and carrying out random detention campaigns for the people whose surnames are linked to the region.
Though tribes of the region have provided facilities for the government to track down those elements, it had resorted to taking innocent tribesmen as hostages, after its failure to hunt them down.
YT: How do tribes of the region view the current cooperation between Yemen and the US to root out terrorism?
What president Saleh has stated on many occasions in this respect has been convincing. The president has been wise in tackling this issue and he has been able to avoid a disaster.
We hope that the last visit of president Saleh to the United States will have a positive impacts on development, especially in the region. The US is a friendly country and always supports Yemen in different domains.
The US is excused in its current anti-terror campaign since it has been a victim of this terror. Terrorism is dangerous for the USA and the Islamic countries where these elements operate as well.
The September 11 attacks against the US have been denounced by all Muslims and if Osama bin Laden was its mastermind, then he is a terrorist. These acts have distorted the image of Islam which calls for tolerance and co-existence.