Yemen’s Islamic Jihad Movement’s Leader to YT: “The Yemeni regime that it should not stand in our way as it is not in their interest to do so” [Archives:2001/35/Interview]

August 27 2001

The Islamic Jihad Movement is a well-known international organization that has representations in several countries all over the globe. Yemen, Palestine, plus many Arab and Islamic countries do have operational and active representations of the movement. The Yemen-based representation of the movement is concentrated in the governorate of Mareb, where the movement has flourished since the return of the ‘Mujahideen’ Afghans in 1988.
However, the latest developments in the Yemeni arena, including the USS Cole incident, and the consecutive kidnappings of foreigners resulted in intensive operations against the members of the movement, leading to the arrest of many of them, who are still held in jails until this very day.
Abu Al-Miqdad, or as they call him “Devils’ Enemy” is a leader of the movement in the Governorate of Mareb, and among the most active members of the worldwide organization. He was enrolled in the movement in 1983 and left to Afghanistan until the Afghan’s Taliban State was established, and returned to Yemen to represent the movement in Yemen. He openly states his admiration of the Taliban movement and believes in its causes.
As part of Yemen Times continued efforts to focus on this active movement in Yemen, especially that it has been concluded that the kidnappers of the German diplomat, Rainer Berns, are members of the movement. Hassan Al-Zaidi of Yemen Times was able to make the first ever interview of the Islamic leader who was not only very difficult to reach but also extremely difficult to convince that he be interviewed. The interview revealed striking information for the first time, and exposed the true dimensions of Islamic movements in Yemen.
Q: Is the Islamic Jihad behind the kidnapping German Diplomat Rainer Berns?
A: Islamic Jihad is certainly not involved in any way in the latest kidnapping of the German diplomat. However, even though I cannot deny that a number of those involved in the kidnapping may indeed be members in our movement, yet their individual action does not at all represent our official stand as a movement. 
Q: We know that most of those members called ‘Mujahideen’ came returned from Afghanistan. When was their return?
A: In 1990, there were 8,000 Afghani ‘Mujahideen’ who returned from Afghanistan and since then the number have increased to 50,000. They do not usually appear unless they are called in times of war and jihad. However, let me note that those Mujahideen aren’t here to turn Yemen into another Somalia. Our main goal is to have Yemen united and strong despite all the weaknesses of the government. The USA wants Yemen to turn into another Somalia but we are all against this. 
Q: Yemen has adopted democracy, what’s the Islamic Jihad’s stand regarding this?
A: Democracy is a Western concept and we see it as a total interference into our Islamic religion. The West had imposed democracy on nations to get them out of their religions just as they did with Christianity when the West killed their saints and demanded to establish democracy to get out of religion. In other words, democracy is secularism, which is the removal of religion from daily life practices. Arab leaders have placed themselves into this democratic mess and have done utmost damage to their people. By adopting Western style democracy, these Arab leaders have become guards for the Jews. The Mujahideen instead are awaiting the chance to die for the cause of protecting their fellow Palestinians, who are slaughtered by the Jews, who are in turn defended by those Arab leaders. 
Q: How do you evaluate the Islah Party, especially when knowing that many of their members were Mujahideen who returned from Afghanistan as well?
A: We are common in all aspects with Islah concerning faith, religion, objective, and principles. However, Islah chose to go in the path of democracy and politics, which is the very thing we refrained from being involved in. 
Q: Who administrates the Islamic Jihad movement worldwide?
A: The Islamic Jihad movement, in Yemen and elsewhere in the world is being administered and sponsored by our idol, Osama Bin Laden, who is currently in Afghanistan. 
Q: Have you met Osama Bin Laden before? Could you describe him and his ideas for us?
A: Of course I met Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. I particularly remember fighting side by side with him in the ” Ma’sada battle” in Afghanistan, which was the decisive battle between the Afghans and Russians. I used to be with him when he would use all sorts of weapons in his fights. I have personally seen no one in the world in courage, and strong faith as Osama Bin Laden. I cannot explain enough about this man, but in brief he was a man who defeated the USSR super powers in the battle that freed Afghanistan from occupation. 
Q: Why does Osama Bin Laden stand against the USA?
A: The answer is simple. Just as all Muslims should be against Israel, they should also be against the USA because Israel is the USA and the USA is no other than Israel. They are the two sides of the same coin. Besides, his stand reflects strong faith in Islamic religion. We cannot forget that Britain planted Israel in Arab and Islamic soil with the strong support of the USA. The Arab armies were lead by Christians during the time Israel was founded. They were weak, and could only lead to the shameless consecutive defeats.
After Britain, the USA now took over as the caring mother of Israel. It hence supports Israel in its oppressions against the Palestinian people. It was behind the destruction of houses and cities of our Palestinian brothers. Why can’t Bin Laden oppose the USA when he knows very well that the USA is the main partner of Israel, who is the enemy of all Muslims.
We also need not forget that the British, American, and French interference in the Gulf War was lead by a Jewish General. They all cooperated against Islam and Muslims. We need to understand that Osama Bin Laden is not alone in his opposition against the USA. All faithful Muslims stand beside him, and it is well known that Yemenis everywhere in the world support Osama Bin Laden in his cause. However, Arab leaders are unfortunately being pressured by the West to harass and arrest every Mujahideen anywhere in the Arab world. We, for example, in Yemen have not been able to understand why the authorities are chasing and arresting our members. We are supposed to be supported and not arrested. Do they want us to turn into Christians and Jews? We will never divert from our Islamic path and we shall fight for the cause of our religion. We are living in a time during which Muslims are blindly obeying their leaders even in what is seen as against the interests of Muslims in general.
Mujahideen are not fighting for their leader. They are fighting for the spread of the Islamic religion and they are to obey their countries’ leaderships if they call for the implementation of Islam and abiding by its laws and regulations. Unfortunately however, today’s Arab leaders seek only for their own selfish interests and are being orchestrated by the West. 
Q: What is your response to the arrest campaign launched by the government against members of your movement in Yemen?
A: Firstly, I would like to remind you that during the secessionist war in 1994, it was the Mujahideen who sacrificed their money and lives for their country in the war against the Socialist Party that was then supported by Russia, the West and by some Arab leaders. Hundreds of Mujahideen were killed in this war and amongst those killed were pioneering figures in the Jihad movement. However, the Yemeni regime seems to have forgotten about the sacrifices we made and at the same time tried to ignore all those Mujahideen unlike in the past.
Why is the President taking back his words, “May Allah have mercy on every mother that gave birth to a Mujahid”? He is instead sending every Mujahideen into prison in an effort to comfort the Jews and Christians. Isn’t the President a person with solid Islamic faith? Doesn’t the President fear death? Isn’t the President aware that death is in the hands of Allah and not in the hands of Jews and Christians? I suggest to the Yemeni regime that it should not stand in our way as it is not in their interest to do so.
The Mujahideen were not involved in any Jihad movements in Yemen until today. We do not want the security of Yemen to deteriorate further and we do not want to provide any excuses for the West to intervene into Yemen’s domestic affairs. We are eager to maintain stability in the country and would rather like to focus on Palestine.
It is enough that the West had interfered in the Gulf War resulting in thousands of Jews and Christians entering the Arabian Peninsula with celebrations and symposiums throughout the region. Part of the Western Army that entered the Arab Lands are 15,000 female soldier.
Q: Do you have a precise idea of the number of your members arrested in Yemen due to terrorist acts including the USS Cole incident and the latest kidnapping of the German diplomat? 
A: There are many prisoners in Yemeni jails in Aden, Sanaa, Hodeidah, Hadhramout and in many other prisons throughout Yemen. However, I want to stress that even though they were imprisoned, none of the members are confirmed to be involved in the USS Cole incident. I do know that the ones who managed and carried out the attack left the country a long time back. All those who are in prison have nothing to do with it and they should be freed, especially those belonging to our movement. However, I personally do not want to get into any further friction with the State. If there were any members of our movement involved in such incidents – including the kidnapping of the German diplomat, that would only be due to individual interest and does not represent the official position of the movement as a whole. The Islamic Jihad movement could not be held responsible for individual incidents caused by a few of its members. Such acts are not approved by the movement’s leadership and are not given permission from the start.
Q: You mentioned that some members commit acts without the permission of the leadership of the movement? Do you represent the ultimate leadership in Yemen, or is permission required from Osama Bin Laden?
A: There is no certain leadership of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Yemen. We are all followers of Osama Bin Laden. We do not want to create hierarchies that could potentially cause frictions between the movement’s members. We are all in harmony and consider each member as a brother of the other. However, we are in odds with some of the members who became bounded with the regime.
Q: Does your movement’s have military wings and operations in Yemen and abroad?
A: Of course, the movement does have military wings in Palestine, Afghanistan, the USA, and the UK. But they all operate in secrecy due to operations of intelligence units along with the Interpol in those countries that consider the movement’s operations as terrorist. Unfortunately, those countries also hire spies who committed apostasy and worked against our movement.
Q: What exactly is the point of dispute between the Mujahideen and the government? Is it because the government has not yet fulfilled its obligations for what they have done in the 1994 war?
A: No. The Mujahideen have not and will never fight for earthly interests. They are all doing what they do for the sake of Islam only. They worked on removing the atheism that dominated former South Yemen.
Q: Any final comments you may have?
A: I recommend to all Muslims to  identify who their true enemy is. They should not agree on having democracy in Yemen. It has caused damage to the country and resulted in the division of the people into political parties and affiliations. The current situation is not optimistic at all, especially when we see the religious regulations being abandoned by the State. Muslims have surrendered to the West. And the West is entertaining our Arab Leaders with the daily slaughter of Muslims. Islam require that we equip ourselves with all possible tools to combat the enemies of Islam. Our leaders need to understand that they should side with us and with their people against the enemies, not side with the enemies against their people. The Mujahideen today are in a position of defense. We are unable to combat the haughtiness and arrogance of the super power of today against Muslims all over the world. We need the support of the leaders, we need them to rectify their negative image of being passive  in reference to what is very important for the Muslim world, including the on-going problems in Palestine.