When will we actually be free? [Archives:2007/1055/Viewpoint]

May 31 2007

Republic of Yemen is not a free country. It is ruled by a cruel system that controls our every day life. Our phones are tapped. Our talk is recorded. Every move is monitored, and every action is registered.

One would think that with such severe security measures, peace and stability would prevail. One would think that order and rule of law would dominate and the judiciary system is above all. Unfortunately this is not true, not even remotely.

Not only are we ruled by the fierce fist of security, we also have no legal rights or justice. Civilians are kidnapped and killed everyday. press is paranoid with self-censorship to the extent that the majority of Yemeni media have become “more royal than the king”, and last but not least, we are living in a state of fear.

Yemenis fear for their lives because of the spread of arms and the absence of law. Yemenis fear for their living because of the deteriorating living standards and soaring prices of basic commodities. They fear for their health because of the enormous risk of catching diseases and the pathetic health care services. They fear for their intelligence because of the ridiculous education and spread of ignorance, not to mention being stoned half the time with Qat.

But most of all, Yemenis fear for their freedom because they are driven into the verge of insanity, always looking behind their shoulder. For at any time, without having a chance to defend yourself, someone could simply accuse you of being a terrorist, an Islamic fundamentalist, a spy of a “friend country” – which by the way the government maintains diplomatic ties with, only it kidnaps and harasses anyone who is suspected of entering its embassy. Someone could accuse you of being a threat to “public security” because of voicing unconventional ideas such as equal citizenship and freedom of expression, and last but not least, the latest fashion is the accusation of being a Houthi follower.

Everyone knows Yemen is a “strategic partner” in the global war against terror. Under the pretext of terrorism everything is possible. After all, everything is allowed in love and war, isn't it? And who loves us more than our beloved government?

I used to think that we are in a country with a margin of freedom and emerging democracy. I used to look with pride to our recent presidential and local council elections and admire how close we have become to reasonably free elections, especially when I look at the political systems of less fortunate countries.

But, my smile fades when I realise how small this achievement is compared to the undignified life Yemenis suffer everyday. I don't care if the coming elections are going to be fair and if I am not going to live long to witness them, either because I have starved to death, died of malaria, or lost my sanity because of everything else.