Vice President of the Yemen American Political Action Committee (YAPAC):Yemenis finally showing a powerful presence in the political arena [Archives:2005/903/Reportage]
The Yemeni-American community is considered one of the fastest growing in the American society. For many years, they lived with little or no power and a voice rarely given any importance. Last year, the first Political Action Committee representing Yemenis in America was established and is making dramatic steps forward in serving Yemenis throughout the United States. Since last year, the Yemen American Political Action Committee (YAPAC) has given the Yemeni community the strong voice they desperately need to be politically represented in a country like America. Expectations are high and demands are greater. Here, Hakim Almasmari of the Yemen Times proudly interviews Dr. Khalid Almasmari, one of the founders and Vice President of YAPAC.
YT – Dr. Khalid, could you briefly tell us a little about YAPAC?
A – First of all, after beginning in the name of Allah, I would like to thank you, Hakim, for visiting us here in America, which is your birthplace. We really miss you here, but we wish you the best of luck.
Before I start, I would like to thank the Yemen Times for this interview and for it being the mouthpiece of Yemen to the outside world. We here in America are frequent readers of the newspaper and many Yemenis follow on its website.
YAPAC is the Yemen American Political Action Committee, specializing in the U.S. political arena. As everyone knows, here in America, politics is everything. For this reason, YAPAC is very much needed to represent Yemeni society in America. This is the first political action committee that Yemeni-Americans have ever witnessed. In our short history, we have achieved tremendous success. We try to get involved in every major election and for this reason, we have interviewed more than 45 candidates trying to find a suitable person to run our society and represent us in government.
YT – How can you describe the role of Yemeni-Americans in politics?
A – Unfortunately, Yemeni organizations have been concerned with other agendas. This is basically the first time Yemenis have involved themselves seriously in politics. In my opinion, this is a great start for Yemeni politics and the future looks bright. Most committee members are highly respected in Yemeni society. The performance achieved this year alone was unpredictable and great. This all goes back to the help that Allah has bestowed upon us. We visited Washington during President Saleh's visit last month and welcomed him. We offered our support to the president and we were available to assist him throughout his trip in the United States.
One of our main agendas is to build bridges between the United States and Yemen and I think so far, we have been successful.
YT – How has YAPAC served the Yemeni community in America?
A – Yemenis will tell you the importance of this committee and the great help it is offering. If you look back a couple of years ago, Yemeni society was not even part of the agenda. We were not even mentioned. No one considered how we felt. We were left behind. However, since this organization was established, people have started noticing that there is a Yemeni community and that we are for real. We are not going to rely on anyone for this responsibility. We have rights that we demand the American government give us. This is why we have been neglected for so long.
YT – Talk about the difficulties the committee has faced during its short existence.
A – Oh, there were many difficulties. We started having difficulties from the first day we organized this committee. In the beginning, difficulties came from within our own community. We had a lot of obstacles. Some brothers from older Yemeni associations and organizations thought we were going to take over. We made it clear that we are only supporting what they do and that we were going to establish the first and only Yemen American Political Action Committee. Afterward, they realized we were going to do what we thought was appropriate for serving our Yemeni community and raise our community's standard to the standard of other communities, if not better.
YT – Politically, how much time do you think Yemeni-Americans need to fully understand the importance of politics, especially in a country like America?
A – Unfortunately, as we all know, most Yemenis came to America for one reason – to support their families back home or here in America. I don't blame them at all. They were not involved in politics and didn't give politics any chance. At the same time, politics didn't give them a chance. As you know, I have been here in Michigan for the past 25 years. We faced many difficulties due to the fact that we were not involved politically. So, we got together, myself and 10 other colleagues, and decided it's time for us to show other communities that the Yemeni community is educated and ready to stand up to the challenge. We wanted to show them we are here and asking for our rights. In this country, if you ask for your rights, you'll receive them, sooner or later.
YT – What are problems Yemeni-Americans face living in a society like America?
A – To tell you the truth, I have been living here for 25 years, and if they say this is the land of opportunities, that it is definitely. This is the land of opportunities and, in my personal opinion, if you don't make it in this country, it will be difficult to make it in any other part of the world. The simple fact is that we have no major problems. We live our daily lives. Yes, we have certain problems from certain people, but I wouldn't say it's governmental; rather, it's personal. We also faced some difficulties after the 9/11 attacks. Nevertheless, we still have to stand strong. This is still our country too. We have the right to live our lives as normal as any community in America. As I indicated earlier, we also have friends and colleagues who are government officials and police officers and in general, we don't have any problems. If we as a community have problems, it's due to negligence or misunderstanding of the laws by certain people. As you know, most people in our community don't speak much English. They have difficulties understanding the laws here and the procedures they must follow. Other than that, everything is fine and normal.
YT – What kind of support does the Yemeni government offer to this committee in particular?
A – Until now, we haven't received any financial support. Politically, we have met with a number of officials who have visited here, including members of parliament. We recently met our honorable president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Washington during his U.S. visit and introduced him to the organization. Hopefully, we'll get more involvement. One of the things we are planning to do is strengthen bridges between the United States and Yemen. Hopefully, at the beginning of next year, we will invite many important U.S. political figures to visit Yemen with us. We have already talked to a few of them and they are happy and enthusiastic about the trip. Hopefully, from there we'll get to meet more officials and try to strengthen the ties of both countries.
YT – Where do you see YAPAC in the future?
A – I think YAPAC has a great future. If you look at what we did in only one year, we accomplished what many organizations fail to achieve in many years. The main reason I am saying this is that the YAPAC board is very dedicated to spend their time and money to serve our community.
YT – Do you have any closing comments?
A – I would really like to thank the Yemen Times. Hopefully, we'll meet you when YAPAC visits Yemen, and Inshallah, we will have an opportunity to visit the Yemen Times. We really appreciate its strong efforts in serving Yemenis living abroad. We wish you the best, as well as all the Yemenis back home. Thank you.