Yemen’s thieves outclass them allAli Baba & Robin Hood would turn in their graves [Archives:2007/1113/Opinion]

December 20 2007

“I can't believe that thieves can be so honorable as to devote their time to stealing from the rich, just so the poor can also have a slice of the good life. The writers who made up such tales must have been living in Mars or had something cooked in to their lunch to make them see a whole different world.” Nabila could not help wonder at the fantasies that holders of the pen would come up with sometimes.

“What on earth are you talking about, Nabila? You should stop reading those fairy tales or watching those Mexican soap operas.” Nabila's mother was not impressed by her daughter's remark.

Nabila continued her talk not minding her mother's sly remark: “Look, Mom, you heard about the story of Ali Baba and his Forty Thieves or Robin Hood and his forest renegades. Can't you see, how times have changed, even in the criminal world? Imagine, even in the depressing world of the Middle Ages, these two chivalrous thieves of East and West saw comfort in being able to relieve the agony of the downtrodden of the world by stealing from the rich and redistributing their loots to the poor. The problem nowadays is that good thieves like that are hard to come by. Nowadays it is hard to distinguish between good thieves and bad thieves. In those days, the good thieves usually kept their arms hidden and avoided any bloodshed against their victims or those who chased them on behalf of the authorities.”

Saboorah was not about to miss the opportunity her sister had opened for her. She was an avid newspaper reader: “Mom, the thieves of the land are now the authorities and they are chasing the downtrodden of the earth with helicopters mowing them down whenever any of them has anything to say to get the thieves back to hiding. Ali Baba is an angel in disguise when compared to the thieves we have today. Look at how the guards of the big senior officials just chase the poor people who come knocking at the gates of the thieves' extravagant mansions, hoping to get the excessive leftovers of their overly delectable scrumptious meals. I remember my grandfather once telling me that in the past, the people of Sana'a used to get a few morsels of food packed and ready for any needy people who might knock at their doors during lunchtime. Mind you, these were not 'leftovers', but neat and well ordered meals. He said that people in his day would never be able to see the light of day, if at least a third of their food was set aside for feeding the poor. In fact the Ali Babas and Robin Hoods of their day were the only people unempolyed, because, even these chivalrous masters of burglary were not needed, because charity and philanthropy was viewed as a human obligation and an inseparable cause of living itself. In fact, stealing was dealt with severely and thieves simply were not even heard let alone seen”

Her mother was behind her younger's daughter's comment: “Your grandfather, God bless his soul would turn in his grave, if he sees how the scales of society have turned upside down. Now, you see the biggest thieves in the country riding obscurely in the most luxurious of vehicles, that only allow the passengers to see out through three-inch glass, but those who are being seen can't see who is looking at them. Worse than that, you have the thieves of the treasury and everything on the ground, above the ground, below the ground, on the sea, beneath the sea – you have them protected by an accompaniment of at least five guards being paid from the Government's payroll! They have orders to kill anyone who dares to even lay a smudge on the thieves' cars. You have some thieves racing along our roads with a license to kill anything and everything that dare cross their paths at the wrong time. I have often wondered why these thieves must continuously be on the run, when they already have half of the armed forces and security apparatus protecting them and shielding them from the slightest contact with the people they purportedly govern. Why, Ali Baba would be at a loss at seeing how his fellow thieves have lost all sense of goodness and how the poor of the land have no one to turn to. Even Ali Baba to the thieves of our time would be denied the honor of being simply a petty thief to that of a 'terrorist' and then have every police department in the world looking for him. As for our honorable government licensed thieves, they are so busy being ceremoniously rewarded by the international community and the other 'straight' leaders of the world, who have robbed their own good people of the vision that enable their people to see the difference between good and bad.

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.