Those soldiers give a bad impression [Archives:2003/637/Viewpoint]

May 26 2003

There were so many occasions that I have gone through in which I have been subject to being pushed around and treated respectfully by escorts of the president or his vice president. One of the occasions where I was truly disturbed was when the vice president came to inaugurate an exhibition in Sana'a. Several pickup vehicles filled with soldiers preceded the vice president's motorcade. But when the vice president arrived, those soldiers rushed into the gate of the exhibition center pushing people around carelessly. The attitude of the soldiers angered me along with all those who witnessed this incident. But what angered me most was not the way they pushed us around. I was angered more when I realized how this incident reflected a bad image to those foreign guests who were present.
What would the impression of a foreign dignitary be when seeing soldiers pushing other respectful guests around ruthlessly to supposedly make room for the head of state or his vice? Doesn't this reflect poor morals, or at least poor management and organization abilities?
I later realized that this is a mere culture. It has been implanted generation after generation since the early days when escorts and bodyguards would push away citizens to give way for their sheikh or tribal figure. Yes the customs may have changes, and yes, weapons may have developed, but the action is still the same. So is the mentality. This also applies to escorting cars in a presidential convoy. They seem to disregard anyone and anything on their way, sometimes speeding up and causing fatalities to pedestrians. This mentality should change.
It is about time for the president and all other high ranking officials to give those soldiers a warning. They are either to respect other people, especially those who are at the scene for a reason (being guests, or invitees), or not be involved at all.
It was so upsetting to see that those soldiers who were accompanying the vice president were actually ready to fire with their Kalashnikovs. Their fingers were on the trigger, causing fear among those poor guests who have crossed hundreds of miles to participate in the event.
It is all in our leaders' hands. They can have their escorts and bodyguards trained to treat others respectfully and prepare for things beforehand instead of rushing in the last moment and causing panic and fear among the public. They could have some hints on how to carry out their escorting duty without the need to humiliate other people around them.
The president has always been calling for human rights, but doesn't the preservation of the dignity of normal citizens fall into the category of defending human rights? Many people that I talked to after the event said that if they knew this would have happened to them, they would not have come at all. Isn't it time for us to explain to those soldiers the need to respect others?
Yes. Time has come for soldiers to know what human rights are all about. I hope that the president will realize this and work on putting an end to this phenomenon.