Yemen and the Iraqi scenario [Archives:2006/955/Opinion]

June 15 2006

By: Mustafa Rajeh
In Yemen many have stood beside prisoners accused of being Al-Qaeda members because of the abuse to their legal rights. Likewise many stood by others who are in opposition with these groups, such as the Hothian Shiites . Respecting the law and dealing within its limits is considered a necessity.

The Iraqi occupation exposed the biggest of Arab illusions used to partition politics into right and left wings, beyond other modern classifications of antinationalist, leftists, and Islamists. The Arab world is really transferred into a state and citizens. The Iraqi disarray disclosed that doctrine and clan are still the decisive. Neither benefits nor political agendas are the binding links between community and its classes. Creed and faction proved to be the real link. It is true that occupation played a role in illuminating the darker sides; however, it did not create them. It has consciously or uncsociuosly contributed to a rekindling of the feelings of an environment saturated with grudges, and a country exhausted by splits. Iraq suddenly disintegrated to its most basic constituents, of Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis.

Yemen shares many similarities and just as many dissimilarities to the Iraqi case. Yet despite the differences, Yemen is not safe. There is a fearful scenario of the Iraqi experience permeating through out the area. Two years war in Saada has brought the issues of doctrine and faction to the surface. It has witnessed wide political discussions in the media. The subject has many sides that require discussion and demand reconsideration. Yet discussion in itself does not affect national unity, if it found the appropriate environment. It is all a matter of distinct perspectives where some areas tolerate different points of view while others do not. Some matters need to be dealt with apart from any ideology, and according to the era's facts. From this perspective we can discuss the situation of the Islamic groups in Yemen, whether they are from the brotherhood, Shiites or others.

The first stance is concerning the arbitrary arrest of the activists in contradiction to the law, whose rights are often abused and they are denied access to neutral courts. Such cases are dealt with regardless of the ideology and belief. However, these cases need consolidation of all political spectrum based on moral commitments and respect to human rights characteristic of the era. It is obvious legal rights should be observed and no one should be detained on illegal grounds. They should be referred to the independent judiciary. Yet this international culture that respects human rights was the very source which fueled solidarity for the detainees of Guantanamo and Abugraib. It is also the same incentive of the European and American press to disclose the scandals of American occupation in Abugraib and Guantanamo.

Yet this perspective is also the basis for the wider western protest movements in solidarity with the prisoners. It has nothing to do with the ideology of those prisoners or detainees. History is full of instances of solidarity with Islamic and leftist prisoners not because of their ideology, but because they were politically, racially or ethnically discriminated.

Consolidation is the right of everyone who is unfairly treated, regardless of their creed doctrine, ideology, or nationality. The value or importance of their ideology is not considered in these stances. In Yemen, to a wide extent there was a consolidation and human rights movement with those who were arrested for being Al-Qaeda suspects, and other Saada war related detainees. Al-Qaeda suspected detainees were imprisoned for months and years while the legal procedures provided that detention should have been according to punishable crimes. They have the right to be referred to courts immediately, and not be detained for long periods without charges. This behavior changes the State into a gang.

Al-Harithi and his companions were fugitives; killing them outside the judiciary was an unjustified crime. Lawpersons and, people within and outside Yemen stood by their side even when they did not share them their belief. They even condemn their methods of killing and subversion.

Jarallah Omer was assassinated by Ali Al-Sa'wani, but this did not prevent human rights, civil society organizations, and politicians from consolidating the Islamic detainees of Al-Qaeda suspects. The members of these organizations could be victims to those whom they stood by their side if they found opportunities of free movement. However this should not be an excuse to rid oneself of the humanitarian responsibility, to the extent that one should support their arrest in contradiction to the law. This contradiction between respect for human rights and security precautions became an international debate ever since the 9/11 incident. The Americans refused to give president Bush any extra mandate for detention and wiretapping used as the pretext for defending them against terrorists. Giving up this historical right will be triumph to the terrorists.

Many Yemenis also united in solidarity with Judge Noman, clerics Yahia Al-Dailami and Mohamed Miftah and other detainees of Saada war. This solidarity has nothing to do with their political belief nor their faith. The second level that should be distinguished in discussing the ideological creeds is the Saada war. Many political, legislative and civil servants, writers, presspersons, politicians and lawyers along the political spectrum, expressed their condemnation to the Saada war. Their justifications were quite different from that of the Hothian Shiite warmonger's point of view.

The state should in the first place resort to a political perspective to resolve things. Backward ideological thought should be faced through education. The government should seek alternative methods in dealing with the costs of war. Some mistakes will be at the expense of, and sometimes undermine, other areas such as national unity, investment and tourism. There should be research and analysis on the prospects, impact and development of any problem, which will result from a particular decision.

Three factors influenced Saada war: The Shiite ideology (Zaidi creed is no longer Zaidi but a Shiite). The other two influences were the tribal fanaticism and the spread of arms; both factors contributed to prolong the war. This is in addition to other mistakes and apparent differences within the ruling authorities. The third distinction was free discussion over beliefs, be they Shiite, Wahabi or mainstream Islamic. Differences of opinion on these matters is likely to happen, but let us leave the Shiites aside now. The Islamists are divided into two groups. Eighty percent of their size is a political stream represented by Islah party. The other 20 percent of the group are salafis. These have to get out into the light from their place under the table and discuss their agendas openly. Whatever stance one has towards these salafi groups, it is clear that violence is the favorite method of the Jihadists who went to Afghanistan, and not the political ones. The Islah's agenda in Yemen promotes democracy. The development of this Islamic stream leads to development of democratic opportunities. It is known that salafis are a joint Yemeni-Saudi agenda to direct a blow to the Muslim brotherhood, but this project was aborted by 9/11 incidents.

Mustafa Rajeh is a Yemeni journalist and human rights activist.