What’s Comes Next? [Archives:2001/22/Law & Diplomacy]

May 28 2001

images/cont/abdulbari taher.jpg
Abdulbari Taher
The religious institutes emerged in the beginning of the 1970s during the regime of President Ibraheem Al-Hamdi. A law pertaining to these institutes was issued after the southern movement of 1986. These institutes were also approved and supported by the next regime of Abdullah Al-Hajri.
The emergence of these institutions was a result of a coalition with the ‘Ikhwan Al-Moslimoon’ headed by Sheikh Abdulmajeed Al-Zindani and was a means to satisfy and please the People’s Forces Union party. They also represented a move to come closer to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and, at the same time, to drift away from the Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi and USSR nexus. The Saudi Islamic University in Al-Madinah played a great role in supporting these institutions. Thousands of teachers have graduated from these institutes. They have been working in many educational institutions, especially at the religious institutes themselves.
As the conflict got more tense between the National Democratic Front, which was supported by the government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), and the northern government, the latter depended heavily on these institutes and the Ikhwan Al-Moslimoon who were given more opportunities in the Educational administration in general. Many schools were converted into religious institutes with the approval of the government which allocated a very generous budget to the authority controlling these institutes. Moreover, the Institutes Authority was given freedom to appoint and contract teachers. Chairman of the Authority, late Yahia Al-Fuseil, freely traveled to Egypt, Sudan and Syria to meet with teachers belonging to religious movements to recruit them to teach in the religious institutes in Yemen. Neither the Yemeni embassies, the ministry of education nor the governments of those teachers had any idea about such contracts. Most teachers contracted to teach at these institutes were religious leaders whose religious partisanship was more important than their qualifications.
From 1967 until recently, ministers of education were mostly from the Ikhwan movement. The ministers who were not affiliated with them or refused to abide by their instructions did not stay for a long time at office. Al-Aanisi, Al-Gaifi and Al-Qubati are examples of these ministers. The General People’s Congress (GPC) could not compete with the Ikhwan in this respect, specially after the latter controlled all schools teaching the Holy Quran, as well as religious institutes and even the public education.
The government helped the Ikhwan movement control the Students’ Unions through which they administered a serious blow to the left and nationalistic movements. The government’s justification was always its conflict with the Yemeni Socialist Party of the South.
Following the unity, institutes were maintained due to the continuation of the conflict with the YSP. Despite the parliament’s decision to integrate the educational systems in 1992, the decision was not endorsed by the president, but became, according to the institution, valid after 30 days. The decision was neglected owing to the continuation of the conflict with the YSP after the Civil War. The governments of Dr. Faraj b. Ghanem and Dr. Al-Iryani called for implementing the decision, but such calls were given to put pressure on the Ikhwan for special purposes. What is the reason for the stance of Bajamal’s government in this regard? Why has the government been so serious this time to implement the 8-year old decision? Is the government’s determination meant to avenge the blow the GPC got during the Local Elections during which Islah proved to be a stronger contender? Has there been an American pressure, especially after the US Cole incident? Is there any relation to the improvement of the Yemen-Saudi relations after the signing of the Jeddah Treaty and the decision to integrate curricula? Does integrating the educational system mean the end of the political coalition with Islah? What are the bases for this intended integration? Such questions must be answered.