By: Hassan Al-Haifi
January 8, 2012
The Yemeni revolutionaries for change have a resiliency to which there isn’t any limits that will bring it to a halt in the near future. The monumental popular uprising effort started as an almost suicidal effort by a few brave female and male Yemeni youth in Mid-February of last Year 2011. Inspired by earlier successes in Tunisia (launch of Arab Spring) and Egypt by peaceful protesters, who threw out their stale tyrannical leaderships, within periods of less than a month, the youth of Yemen were not about to be outdone or outclassed. The courageous youth of Yemen had no illusions about the serious danger and risks in trying to even think of getting Ali Abdullah Saleh out of the lavish and extravagant Presidential Palace, he began to build soon after taking the Presidency in July 1978. The original building has since evolved into a huge complex in a compound that extends to Hizyaz, some 20 km south of the south side of the Sixty Meter Road and includes the twin breast-like Nahdein (by which they are aptly called – the Pair of Breasts) Mountains. Most people hardly have the faintest idea of what lies inside this elaborate compound, which may probably exceed the extravagance of the imperial palaces of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, if Saleh were to continue his tight stranglehold on the Yemeni people beyond the thirty-three years he has been in power.
Almost from the very start of the Yemeni Arab Spring revolt against the die-hard Saleh regime (the second longest reigning dictator after Muammar Qadhafi’s 40 years in Libya), the Yemeni peaceful youth protesters defined their objectives simply and to the point:
- Immediate unconditional removal of Ali Abdulla Saleh from the Presidency.
- Immediate unconditional removal of Saleh’s sons, nephews, brothers and half brothers and the other family members, clansmen and fellow tribesmen of Saleh from the senior military command positions they hold.
- Immediate unconditional removal of all the relatives, in-laws and about to betrothed personnel, holding high civil service positions and other senior public institutional positions (university deans, airline company chairman, etc).
- Immediate unconditional removal of all the non-family icons of the Saleh regime, who have abused their positions, in order to safeguard and sustain the Saleh regime and to further their own narrow interests at the expense of the public interest they were supposedly serving.
- Bring Ali Abdullah Saleh, his relatives and other clansmen, senior government officials responsible for any violations of human rights over the 33 year span of the Saleh regime to justice and make them accountable for all the violations and crimes inflicted related thereto, whether by the military or security organs under their command or by the judicial authorities that acted on the instructions of the latter accordingly. In addition, make all the latter accountable for all the illegitimate acquisitions of public funds and property and also all the private property they either forcefully acquired or purchased with funds siphoned off from the Government treasury. Freeze and confiscate all such fraudulently acquired funds and property, whether found domestically or overseas, and reinstate them as the property of the people of the Republic of Yemen; bring the all perpetrators of the latter abuse of Government authority to justice to face their due punishment.
- Bring about a concrete restructuring and reinstitution of Government based on democracy, guaranteed human rights and civil liberties, decentralization, transparency and accountability for performance and free of all forms of corruption. This could entail the rewriting of the Constitution of the Republic of Yemen, and all other relevant legislations and laws so as to make them conducive to this overhaul of Government, which has been severely corrupted by the current constitution, laws and legislations that has been geared to ensure the sustainability of the Saleh regime, even if at the expense of the legitimate rights of the Yemeni people.
The youth leaders of the Arab Spring Revolution of Yemen fully understood from the very beginning that these noble objectives were not exactly favorite conversation pieces within the established domestic political arena (including the so called Official Opposition). They also knew that the regional setting, and maybe even the international stage, were either simply out of tune with the gross realities of the horrific Saleh regime, or perhaps erroneously saw that such a drastic regime change would go against their own interests. Such outside forces were not ready to get rid of a wily, but predictable tyrant, who always saw to it that he appeared obedient to those powers that will ensure his sustenance as dictator of Yemen, even if at the expense of the rights of the Yemeni people in the sovereignty of Yemen and without regards to the legitimate desires and aspirations of the people of Yemen. Unquestionably, the challenges faced by the strong-willed Yemeni youth were insurmountable. In the domestic front, Saleh’s relatives controlled every meaningful military and security organ. These organs have not in the past and would not hesitate now to use all the equipment and weapons at their disposal to suppress any opposition to the regime or any legitimate calls for long overdue reforms in Government. They certainly did not show any reluctance whatsoever, as the last 11 months of bloodshed inflicted by these forces against unarmed peaceful protesters, throughout the major cities of Yemen have shown.
One of the most significant and almost inescapably noticed traits of Yemenis is that they perform best when the challenges are almost unbearable. The revolutionary youth rightly felt that the Saleh regime is almost impossible to bear any longer, with the terrible repressive military – security machine at its disposal and the notorious corruption network that it has set in place at all levels of Government. Furthermore, there is a large caliber of Yemenis, who have developed advanced intellectual acumen, administrative and other professional capabilities here and overseas. All of the latter have a fervent desire to see their country achieve genuine progress, economically and socially, which would bring Yemen up to par with most modern nations. These highly sophisticated Yemenis are well known for their patriotic stances and noble visions of where Yemen should really be and the constructive role Yemen can play in stabilizing the region and in working towards the enhancement of international peace. The Yemeni youth were determined to put all these positive factors together, to correct thirty-three years of gross mismanagement at all levels of public administration and to do away with the criminality in Government, which the Saleh regime has brought into and made part and parcel of Government in Yemen. The youth and all the domestic supporters and large number of Yemeni residents overseas hope to reinstitute a pro citizen government, with the reasonable hopes, dreams and aspirations of the people of Yemen providing the driving force for all future government activity. Such driving force is predicated on principles of honesty, integrity and submission to the will of the people and governed by a modern constitution, a simplified legal framework and a strong and effective judicial system.
The foregoing is intended to make sure that the world truly understand why the Yemenis legitimately must bring the Saleh regime to an end and why they must pursue their ideals for the post Saleh era. The youth of Yemen did not go to such levels of sacrifice in blood, safety and material well being hoping that the world will give them an almost sure to fail arrangement worked out by despotic regional leaders. No one is under any illusions about the sincerity of these leaders for wanting democracy and corruption free governance next door. It is not a secret that the most of the leaders in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) rule their dominions under despotic regimes themselves and are surely in need of comprehensive reforms so as to be responsive to the will of their own constituencies. These despotic regimes are bound to be subject to accountability by their own people as well for all the suppression they exercise against their people and the gross mismanagement of substantial public resources, which has been directed for the most part against the interests of their own people. Thus, the GCC Initiative, with or without its Implementation Mechanism was not and could not be answerable to the genuine legitimate demands of the Yemeni people, in the immediate future or after a hundred years.
Having said that, the Yemeni people are now coming to a stage where they can become more aggressive and resilient towards achieving their rightful quests, especially after having sacrificed so many of their youth. The world has clearly seen how many of the latter were killed and wounded mercilessly by the military and security forces of the Saleh regime, since the Yemeni Revolution began. With over 1,000 deaths and nearly ten thousand wounded, the Yemeni people know that they can only be consoled by the achievement of the Revolutionary objectives outlined above in total and without compromise on any goal whatsoever.
That is why the youth of Yemen decided to proceed with new initiatives in bringing their case to the Yemeni people and the rest of the world at large. Two weeks ago, the people of Ta’ez launched the “March of Life”, with a view towards demonstrating that the Yemeni Revolution involves all the people of Yemen and is present throughout the country. The March of Life began in Ta’ez and proceeded on foot to every village and city along the Ta’ez – Sana’a Road, until it grew into a convoy of 100,000 strong, with the people that joined the March of Life along the way. If there was one thing that the March of Life demonstrated, it was that indeed the bloody nature of the Saleh regime lingers on and its security/military wings continue to exercise their penchant for shedding the blood of innocent unarmed people. When the March of Life reached Dhamar, hired mercenary thugs gathered and led by Yahiya Al-Ra’iee (believe it or not, the Speaker of Parliament – alias Saleh mobster) and supported by the Governor of Dhamar Province, tried to stall the marchers. But local tribesmen would not allow the cold blooded murder of unarmed peaceful demonstrators in their domains and protected the marchers until they crossed their domains safely. Even in Sanhan, the tribe of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the tribesmen refused to allow anyone to endanger the safety of the marchers and they safely made it to Dar Salm (20 km south of Sana’a). There, regime forces (Republican Guards – Central Security – hired thugs) commanded by Saleh’s sons and nephews carried out an unholy massacre shooting indiscriminately and randomly at the 100,000 unarmed marchers. By the time the marchers had reached within two kilometers of the Presidential Palace, 13 peaceful marchers were killed and over a hundred were wounded. Automatic weapons, machine guns, water cannons, clubs and other weapons were used to try to disperse the marchers. It was only a miracle that finally got some of the marchers to reach Change Square, where they were joyfully received by the protesters, who had been camping out there, since the beginning of the revolt. The only surprise in all of this was the tragic intervention of some of the former components of the revolt – present partners in the GCC Initiative Government to disperse or stall the marchers. But the resilience and perseverance of the Yemeni youth prevailed again.
As the days continue to pass, it is clear that the continued presence of Saleh’s relatives at the top of such forces as the Republican Guards, Central Security and other military and security units, as well as the assurance of guaranteed immunity by the GCC Initiative, have only made Ali Abdullah Saleh continue playing an active tacit unwavering role in conducting Government affairs, albeit sometimes in an indirect way.
By playing on the Al-Qaeda card, he and his supporters are misleading the world that they represent the best guarantee in continuing (but of course not necessarily winning) the war on Al-Qaeda. Nothing is further than the truth. The Al-Qaeda militancy is a well groomed spinoff of the Wahhabi culture of Saudi origin that Saleh has been nurturing for the last thirty-three years, in all the manifestations of this sectarian inclination (Salafis, AQAP, extreme “Sunnis”, etc). The propagators of this imported doctrine enjoyed substantial freedom and liberty and were accorded generous facilities under the Saleh regime. The Saudis contributed substantial financial resources to the growth and spread of this generally unorthodox religious orientation with its uncompromising call to extremism and militancy that is in many ways anathema to genuine Islamic teachings. This domestic and external support to the growth of this extremist “Jihadist:” culture was coincided with the parallel suppression of all other mainstream Moslem efforts to thwart the spread of such extreme “unorthodox” renditions of Moslem doctrine (such as the Wars against the Houthis in Sa’ada).
Since the signing of the GCC Initiative and the Implementation Mechanism thereof, Saleh has not moved any substantial step closer to relinquishing his reigns of authority on Government in Yemen (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/31/MN6T1MJFV4.DTL). On the contrary, Saleh continues to appear as an active player by chairing meetings, making press conferences, responding to “appeals of his supporters” not to abandon ship, and has not shown any evidence that he is in the process of moving out of the Presidential Palace. He has even declared that he will manage the campaign of the already won election of his Vice President, Abdu Rabbu Hadi Mansour. Furthermore, the latest demonstrations by employees of the various military and civilian units (outside of the control of Saleh’s sons, nephews and relatives) have prompted the not so outgoing President to declare that he will not stand idle while the institutions of Government face “collapse”. Many of Saleh’s cronies and supporters running these institutions are facing large outbursts of protests by the employees of these government organs against the senior managements of these institutions for their corruption and misuse of their positions. This new twist of revolutionary fever, has touched upon such iconic figures of the Saleh regime as the Commander of the Morale Boosting Directorate of the Military and Editor in Chief of 26 September Newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Military, and the Chairman of Yemen Airways Corporation, as well as leading regional commanders of General Security.
On the other hand, Saleh has used the controversial entry visa request to the US Government as grounds for his remaining in Yemen and continuing to play his “presidential role” (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-yemen-saleh-troubles-20120105,0,6288043.story).
In the meantime, the Yemenis are still coming out by the millions every Friday, protesting against any immunity legislation being pursued by the GCC Initiative Government and the already expired Parliament, where the People’s General Congress (Saleh’s political organization) did hold a comfortable majority. The protesters are demanding for a comprehensive termination of the Saleh Regime with all its various components, which are still in power, in one way or another, thanks to the GCC brokered “transition deal”. They are in fact rejecting the GCC Initiative altogether as an imposed solution that was devised without any consideration of the demands of the Yemeni protesters against the Saleh regime. In fact they were imposed without any consolations with the youth and independent revolutionary leaders whatsoever. The latter are the leaders of the majority of the hundreds of thousands of people one sees continuing to gather in at least 18 Governorate capitals of Yemen and other major cities every Friday, even though some of the former “components” of the Revolution, who have made some minor political gains by the GCC Initiative, try to dilute the strong ongoing display of revolutionary fever. They even go far as promote divisions among continuing revolutionary forces, or incite violence against them to intimidate them to respond in kind to disrupt the peaceful nature of the continuing revolutionaries (such as the Dammaj, Sa’ada sectarian fighting between Houthis and Salafis, strongly backed by the Islah Party: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g7EeBhQnZzjh8NYrWtryqwb6Nd9w?docId=52fd1b8fca9844ab84d334d4e1eeec4e).
The recent announcement by the Untied Nations Higher Commission on Human Rights, that any immunity granted to Saleh, by any instrument whatsoever, would constitute violations of international law have added credence to the ongoing demands for Saleh to be arrested and tried for all his crimes against the Yemeni people. The youth of Yemen applaud this very important opinion and consider the latter as an important international recognition that their cause is just, reasonable and by all means properly ordained (“Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement calling on Yemeni decision-makers to respect the prohibition under international law against amnesties for the worst violations – http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40892&Cr=yemen&Cr1=. The same has also been said by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International after the issuance of UN Security Council Resolution 2014 on October 21, 2011.
Yet, the only way that Saleh will ever really come to any realization that his power is going to diminish is if the continued regional role player in the internal politics of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, cease the Saudi regime’s unconditional and unlimited direct and indirect support to Saleh and the remaining elements of his regime, financially, diplomatically and politically (through the large network Yemeni agents, who are substantial beneficiaries of Saudi regular systematic financial backing). Otherwise, the Yemeni Revolution is far from being in the past tense.