“We Have Not Forgotten” [Archives:2000/23/Focus]

June 5 2000

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
It seemed like only yesterday that the late Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf met his untimely death, not only because time seems to pass so quickly these days, but also because the things, which the good Dr. stood for, still remain so much a part of us. For sure, time can not easily erase them from our minds and our hearts. Such is the postmortem destiny enjoyed by those who lived by the vitreous their lives reflected. These virtues are not intended to please anyone, in particular, or to attract public amazement in the hope of deriving political advantage, but because they are really a part of the personality and come naturally to their bearers. Such people really believe that achievement and success in life is not measured by the mundane parameters wealth, real estate holdings, foreign bank accounts in different currencies, etc. Success and achievement in such terms are often suspicious and lead eventually to postmortem contempt. On the other hand, such mundane parameters are often realized at the expense of making other, perhaps more deserving human beings poor. If such forms of success were easily accessible to the late Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, given his wide sphere of contacts, ties and relations, they certainly failed to enter his mind as the ultimate parameters, by which people should look back upon him and his achievement in life. Dr. Al-Saqqaf was more inclined to insist that success without any traces of goodwill to leave their marks on the hearts of people after leaving this world only is testimony to having lived a plastic existence a faade.
Perchance, just 24 hours exactly, before the tragic day of 3 June 1999, this observer, having been out of touch with the late Dr. Al-Saqqaf for several months, I passed by the YT Headquarters Building (1:00 P.M.), and decided to pay a call to a good old friend. I went up the steps, noticing several chances since I last have been in the building as a permanent staff member some 2 years earlier. On top of an additional floor to the building, I noticed considerable further investment in new equipment and furniture all new and state of the art. I recalled the first office of the YT in a remote corner of the city of Sana’a, with its minimal equipment and scanty furniture. What Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf was giving me a tour of on that day was testimony to the big strides that Dr. Al-Saqqaf has taken his pet baby, the Yemen Times, through in such a relatively short time. We chatted for a while, on the situation in the country, and I was happy to see that despite all the significant signs of success he has been able to realize, Dr. Al-Saqqaf did not fail to maintain his cordial manners, modesty and self-esteem, the characteristics that made him stand out among the celebrities and social dignitaries, who have taken prominence in the social fabric of society, in one way or another. On the other hand, I was pleased to see that Dr. al-Saqqaf never toned down his concerns for the dim course the country seems to be guided upon and the unsteady trends that seem to have overtaken just about every facet of our society. He was still in touch with the people the real people, who counted the most in Dr. Al-Saqqaf’s concerns the discontent, and those who desired to be free to release their energies and capabilities for the good of their country, or merely just to make an honest living. Dr. Al-Saqqaf did not hide to his friend the sense of despair at realizing that, no matter what you seek, or attempt to engrain in the political and social orientation of the country, you are countered by monstrous obstacles and even the threat of harm. Dr. Al-Saqqaf also echoed to this observer that it is getting tougher and tougher to get anyone to listen to you, as you try to raise to the authorities concerned, the despair and the agonies suffered by people, not just on the lower scales of the economic and social ladder but throughout the different elements that made up Yemeni society. Dr. Al-Saqqaf also reflected on the fate of the free press the freedom of which is getting narrower and narrower, day by day, as was the case, in every facet of life in Yemen, whether by intent of the ruling authority or by the conditions created by an incapable government regime that seems to encounter difficulties in just about every normal function of government. Dr. al-Saqqaf knew full well that the general public mood was reflective of a society where vice and disorder have taken over as the norms of the day and despair has set in as a common disposition among all the various elements of society who are out of the regime and its maze of power mongers and influence peddlers the Silent Majority. To Dr. Al-Saqqaf the grounds for optimism were dim indeed on that last full day he had to live, yet there was nothing that showed that Dr. Al-Saqqaf was ready to give up his maverick ways of upholding the national interests of the country and speaking out on the rights and the legitimate interests of the people he kept continuously in touch with to speak out on the issues of the day that are of concern to them, in the belief that this is a responsibility and a duty that should never be forsaken. This last half hour or so, with Dr. Al-Saqqaf could never leave this observer’s mind, because it was a matter of good luck, for me at least that I had such an important opportunity to see a good friend and an important source of inspiration. Little did any us knew that it would be the last meeting, but for sure, it seemed that God wanted it this way and I thank Him for it greatly. However, it made the death of Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf more traumatic for me, when perchance I heard the news no later than 2 hours after the tragic accident just a kilometer away from the place where we parted from our last meeting the home of the Yemen Times; a last chance to see that effervescent smile and exuberance, even in such dim and unpredictable times, the final place where the good Dr. placed his marks on permanently as a permanent tomb to the legacy he lived and the principles and values he lived by and advocated strongly.
On the Slaughterhouse in Sana’a University Disgusting; that is only the mildest description of the most horrible incident to anyone’s recalling in Yemen and perhaps in the world. In addition, it happened in an institution that Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf was so much a part of, and tirelessly screamed for reforms in all facets of its management and administration. Thank God, for the good Dr. was not around to hear such ugly tales that would make Count Dr. Dracula seem like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz. Surely it would have hurt Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf intensely to find that such gory tales of death and sadism are part and parcel of the prominent educational institution of the modern Republic of Yemen, and at a time when so much fanfare and splendor were unleashed to produce a world of make-believe amidst such horrendous horrors. Such tragic gory details as has been disseminated in all the local and international press would have been repulsive to say the least and surely add to the list of the number of calamities faced by government by ineptitude.
What happened in Sana’a University should not be viewed as being merely the work of a Sudanese mad-man (of course, without prejudice to the high respect and great admiration this observer as well as most of the Yemeni people harbor for our Sudanese brothers, in general). The tragedy goes beyond that by leaps and bounds. The sad events in the Human Anatomy Hall of the Medical College of Sana’a University reflect the lack of proper controls, in a place where it would be expected that maximum controls would be in place, and where there would be a number of entities, from within and outside the Sana’a University complex, keeping their eyes and ears open to ensure the absence of any evil doing. Where is the Medical profession that has commercialized the medical profession to a tasteless trade, with nothing in its mind except the exploitation of the people of Yemen, by a profession expected to apply the maxstandards of care and practice, not just in the direct professional service our good Doctors provide to the people, but also in the indirect regulatory functions they are implored to exercise throughout the different areas involving medicine, including the creation of the future practitioners in the field. What about the security officials who failed to follow up on the several “missing in action” cases that were reported to them, by the parents of the missing ladies long before all the mess was unraveled. How can such horrendous deeds be carried out continuously, without the complicity of others, who may have been benefiting from the sadist’s monstrous deeds? Yet, despite all the vibrations that this disgusting tragedy has unraveled, we find the short range implications, by which the case is being handled by all those concerned, in itself as repulsive as the actual crimes being continuously uncovered day by day, to be just as repulsive. God bless your soul Dr, Abdulaziz and it is an honor bestowed upon you by God that you did not live to see the mess you were trying to avoid become so real and so ugly.