The witch hunt is on or Arabia Infelix [Archives:2007/1027/Opinion]

February 22 2007

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
“Who would have thought that in the age of the Internet, global communications, democracy and all that jargon that makes up the world of the age of globalization, a government can still turn a whole province into one giant prison?” Farid had a problem trying to figure out how to reach his brother, who just got to Sa'ada last week.

“What is eating you Farid, you are neither from Sa'ada or a Zeidi?” asked Hashim.

“Why must Sa'ada go through so many trials and tribulations, because its people insist on praying with their hands on the sides rather than on the chest? I pray with my hands on my chest, but from now on I will pray with my hands on the sides, just to let the Government know that for all intents and purposes, the good Moslems of Yemen of all sectoral inclinations, really don't care how the people of Sa'ada pray, as long as they are praying to the same God.

One would think that God, in all his Mercy, would never condone sending bombers and helicopter gunships against the very citizens of the same country, who pray to the very same God and send their prayers and blessings for the peace of the Prophet Mohammed (PAUH). I went to the bank to try to send funds to my brother in Sa'ada, who is treating his wife in the Al-Salam Hospital donated by the Government of Saudi Arabia, because the medical equipment and facilities his wife's treatment needs are only available in that hospital. I was immediately put to the grind mill: 'Who is this money for?'; 'What business do you have with the Houthis?' From which embassy did you get this money?' etc. It is like the Government has been afflicted with a new form of fear syndrome called the Houthiphobia.

No one knows exactly how it started. Even the Govertnmetn could not come up with the proper diagnosis of the illness. But there it is you see it in every public telephone office, post office or even bank in Sana'a, where now you have to submit to all sorts of q's and a's, that would make Riz Khan of Al-Jazeera (formerly of CNN) seem like child play: 'Who are you calling?' 'Why'? 'What is your ID number?' We have never seen such questions in all the past senseless or even half-way understandably sensible wars that the poor Yemeni people have been forced to endure?” Farid was expressing the feelings of many of the people, who have now been forced to encounter more obstacles to their free movement or even free communications.

I can't even make a cell phone call to Sa'ada to find out how my brother's wife is doing, who also happens to be my wife's cousin. The sad part is that no matter how hard you try to explain to the authorities the predicament my brother is in, without any money or even the ability to hitch a ride back to Sa'ada, you only get deaf ears and a suspicious face.

Commercial traffic is stopped, public busses are only occasionally allowed to go through, but with their passengers subject to the worst humiliation along the road. What is this country coming to?” Farid was really getting worried about his brother, while at the same time striking a sympathetic chord for the people of Sa'ada.

“This will probably be over with soon, as the image of Yemen would seriously be damaged throughout the world, if this barbarity in Sa'ada continues. Amnesty International and other international peace and human rights activists groups are already sounding out their appeals to the President to order a full stop to this senseless killing and put on full throttle to these strenuous security absurdities even for the most minor of normal transactions.” Hashim was sounding hopeful.

“It seems like the people of the country will never get to see the light of day again. Just think for a week now, my brother is in Sa'ada without any funds to provide for his needs there, since he had only expected to stay for a couple of days before the military brass cut off all traffic to and from Sa'ada. What is worse is we can't even find out how he is and where he is staying.” Farid underscored what the situation in Sa'ada has meant for him and his family, all of which originates from Ta'ez.

He continued: “What is worse is that there is no telling when it will end? The people of Sa'ada are unable to tell us, because they say they never wanted any hassles with the Government. The Government is trying to convince us that there is a rebellion there, but it is hard to determine how a rebellion can really be effective, from three hundred miles away, from the plush government offices of Sana'a?”

Hashim added his new perspective: “Look this is damaging to the image of the Government inside the country as well, as there are now a lot of disappointed people like you throughout the country, who haven't the slightest idea who the Houthis are, or where the latter place their hands when they stand in prayer.”

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.