In Yemen, the Revolution Is Far From Over


1)  Protesters in Aden

2) Protesters in Sana’a

3) A Warm Moment Between Protesters and Defecting Troops

4) EvenWomen Spoke Their Mind in the Revolt

5)  Ta’ez Burns with the Guns of Ahmed Ali Saleh in June 2011

By Hassan Al-Haifi

Since former President Ali Abdulla Saleh lethargically signed the GCC Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism last November, most of the Yemeni protesters who are not associated or affiliated with the more formal components, who later followed the Revolutionary bandwagon after the Godless Friday massacre in Sana’a of March 18, 2011, did not have any illusions that the Revolution then reached a decisive turn for the better.  In fact, the long stalling and give and take of Saleh over the “Implementation Mechanism” had actually made these pessimists come to the realization that their peaceful revolution against the long standing presidency of Saleh and his tight net autocratic regime was undergoing absorption, if not full takeover by their not so enthusiastically Revolutionary allies of the Joint Meeting Parties (dominated by the Islah Party) and defecting military officers (with their units) and many other senior ranking civilian officials..  It is clear  that these belated converts to political dissent and their  joining the millions of Yemeni peaceful protesters came only out of a desire to settle accounts with Ali Abdullah Saleh or to get at him before he gets to them.

The Revolution had to take so long to get the various hodge-podge of forces on a transitionary course that sets out the priorities of the Revolution in their right perspective accordingly.  On the other hand, these new additions to the revolutionary fever brought on a new dimension of violence and military confrontations, between some of the informal quasi military components, who Saleh has allowed to take on such military manifestations (Extremist Islah elements, the irregular tribal militias of the Hashid Tribe under the Al-Ahmar brothers, and the informal tribal militias, some of which were associated with the Islamic militants led by Sheikh Abdul-Majid Al-Zindani, who may have seen a temporary turn to progressive reform as a possible backdrop for a vacuum that would encourage the rise of militant fundamentalism long called propogated by Zindani, with the support of the Wahhabi Establishment in Saudi Arabia, wherever his students from Al-Eman University can be deployed).  The unfortunate violence that took place almost overshadowed the absolutely dignified peaceful stance of the non formal opposition forces made up of the youth, disenchanted academicians, low strata merchants, farmers and workers, who represented the overwhelming majority of real active peaceful protesters.   Many of the latter wondered if these new revolutionary elements were indeed probably in collusion with the Saleh regime, or simply propped up by external regional powers, whose long time presence in the Yemeni political scene has been a drawback to Yemen’s progress and certainly helped to destabilize the political, social and even religious situation in Yemen since 1970.  It was then that the end of the “Civil War” between the Republicans, who overthrew the Imam Mohammed Al-Badr, and the Royalists, who waged a fierce counterrevolutionary fight against the Egyptian engineered backed coup of September 26, 1962 finally came to an official closing.  Certainly, the peaceful protesters were not under any illusion that these new riders to the revolutionary bandwagon had undergone a magical political transformation that would disassociate them from the political schooling they had received under the Saleh regime.   This political education rested on “I do what I want and you do what you want and all of us will be happy!”  Of course this happiness was confined to the tight net mixture of players in the Saleh regime; namely the senior military brass (a majority of whom eventually become Saleh relatives) and  tribal chiefs and social dignitaries, Saleh had depended on to give him a semblance of a political base.  The Saleh political establishment also included a newly evolved religious hierarchy of Wahhabi/Salafi inconsistent and sometimes incoherent religious “scholars”, funded, nurtured and guided by the Saudi religious establishment.  The traditional mainstream Moslem establishments and institutions of Yemen (both Shaf’ei and Zeidi) in Yemen had been given a backseat in the regime’s political maneuvers because the Saleh regime could not accommodate the many genuine religious scholars, who still viewed conscientiousness and moral ethics as indispensible to religious practice and conduct.

With this mixture of political disharmonic influence peddlers, Saleh had an easy time steering the country into the abyss of poverty, social degeneration and widespread lawlessness.  For the majority of peaceful protesters, who were in the streets for a year of unrelenting outcry against all the elements of the Saleh regime (including the newly defecting elements), the new twists of violence brought on by the entrants of the new revolutionaries did not compromise any of the peaceful demands of the non militaristic protesters for a complete and total regime change.  Perhaps Saleh thought that by confronting these defecting elements with his powerful military/security machine, he could restore the  loyalty of the dissenters through projecting them and the “peaceful” protesters as an alliance for a military revolt against a “democratically elected” government.  On the other hand, it would give solid reasoning for Saleh and his thugs for clamping down against the unarmed peaceful protesters with the same ferocity as used against the armed dissidents.  The military and security hoodlums supporting Saleh were not abashed at using Scud missiles, air and heavy artillery bombardment, helicopters and Katyusha rockets against the paramilitary elements of the Islah and the Hashid tribe to bring these dissidents to heel.  On the change squares, which were mostly manned by non-partisan or non-violent unarmed protesters, Saleh softened the thunder of the ordnances and firepower a little bit, so as not to annoy his easily gullible friends in Washington and the European capitals.  This also may have been so as to  avoid intimidating the troops of the First Armored Division, who became the self-declared protectors of the tent encampments in Sana’a and some of the other major cities, where Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar had some military leverage.  He was not worried about his regional supporters, who were not hesitant to provide tanks and other lethal war machines to use as he wished (Saudi Tanks)

To make matters worse for the real peaceful grass roots protesters, who showed up by the millions, in the largest demonstrations of popular discontent ever mobilized, not just in the Arab World, but in the world at large (perhaps only surpassed by the Khomeini inspired mass gatherings that brought down the Shah of Iran in 1979), the role of the International Community was not only unhelpful, but even ridiculously negative at times.  From the beginning, it seemed impossible to believe that a club of regional autocrats  can be counted on to formulate a just “political solution” to the Yemeni political crisis, that would at least take into consideration the legitimate complaints and aspirations of the Yemeni people, many of whom have become cold blooded martyrs of the lethal weapons used by Saleh to try to quell the peaceful protests (Sana’a Massacre, Ta’ez Massacre – with horrible images).  Not only did the International Community back the doomed-to-fail-from-the-start Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative, which was finally signed by Saleh in November 2011, it blank endorsed the latter with the issuance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2014, even before he signed it.  Thus, Saleh was accorded international immunity from any legal or judicial pursuits for all the war crimes he and his multi-faceted security/military organs committed, for all the illegitimate hoarding of Yemeni Government funds and the misuse of public and private assets over the last 34 years of his rule as the undisputed dictator of Yemen, not to mention his gross violations of human rights in both the north (Sa’ada and other Governorates against the Houthis) and the south (against a rightly disappointed southern population who saw Saleh as a villainous occupier to the state of his unification partners in the Yemeni Socialist Party).  Saleh was also to get away from any criminal proceedings for all the repressions of journalists and social dignitaries and the tens of mysterious political murders he engineered for his own poltical security and to facilitate the inheritance of his throne by his equally autocratic minded son, Ahmed.

With the rather quick and almost suspect readiness and willingness of the JMP opposition parties and other defecting components of the Revolution to back the GCC Initiative, the protesters were almost bypassed.  A transitionary Conciliatory Government was instituted to work towards the implementation of the GCC Initiative  [mostly made up of Saleh Regime elements from the People’s General Congress (PGC), Islah and trace elements of non Islah JMP members].  The new transitionary Government, headed by former Vice President Abdul-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, with a Cabinet led by Prime Minister Mohammed Salim Basindawa, was also entrusted with the task of eliminating the rapid spread of Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula insurgency, incidentally launched by Saleh’s sons and nephews, who held charge of the remaining forces that remained with Saleh after all the defections, which still were formidable.  Of course, the Commander of the First Armored Division had promised to be able to end the AQAP phenomenon in one month’s time, once Saleh was removed.  This was repeated by another defecting Saleh ally, Sheikh Hamid Al-Ahmar.  The picture on the ground bears no reflection of these fabulous claims.  Nor did the unlimited drone attacks sometimes under the aegis of the US military Central Command and other times supervised b the Central Interlligence Asia make any strides towards this end.  Although both of the former Yemeni clamants declare themselves anti AQAP, one does not see anything on the ground to show that they are genuinely working to reach this goal.  In fact, the further spread of armed Salafi (e.g. Dammaj) extremism is being encouraged, at least by the defecting General and the Islah Party, in the northern Governorates of Sa’ada, Hajja and Al-Jouf.  The Saudi are also not hesitant in encouraging the latter, hoping that this would make up for their fiasco in their fumbled one-on-one with the Houthis of Sa’ada in 2009/2010.  It is not clear how long before this would develop into an all out war in these governorates, but for now the Houthis are doing their best to keep the confrontations contained.

Basindwa’s government is literally frozen in trying to portray any meaningful display of functioning government, as government continues to operate by the same rules and procedures (and of course corruption) as those of the Saleh regime.  The few efforts to institute changes in military and civilian senior command positions have not touched on the real effective strongholds of Saleh military/security power (the Republican Guards, commanded by Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Saleh, who some say is even more lifeless and repressive than his father, and Yahya Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, Saleh’s nephew and heir Commander of Central Security, formerly run by Saleh’s brother Mohammed Abdullah Saleh.  Yahya is still a part time Chairman of a number of private enterprises, set up under highly dubious money laundering schemes, in order to legitimize the large amounts of funds his dad  had fraudulently siphoned off the Government treasury, which the heir is also still doing now with full vigor. Yet, even these changes could have brought on fighting between some of the military branches, because of some of the refusal of some of Saleh’s minor relatives to leave their long-held posts, had not Jamal Bin Omer, the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, come in to issue some symbolic threats of international action if President Hadi’s cosmetic engineering of military and security commands is not implemented.

The obvious feeling of disappointment of the real protesters of the Yemeni people, who have yet to see any of their demands being realized, are leading to an effort now to bring back the revolt into full gear albeit minus the involvement of the backstabbing components, who are now satisfied with the niches (and large amounts of financial bonuses) they have acquired by acquiescing to the GCC Initiative.  Even the offers of being given a chance to participate in the National Dialogue has not brought any degree of reassurance that the latters’ sacrifices have not gone in vain.  For most of these people, the Saleh regime is viewed as being intact, with the only change being less of the daily appearance of Saleh on the 9:00 PM news bulletin on Yemen TV.  The public continues to suffer from the collective punishment of sporadic electricity outages for days.  The public continues to see government processing needing the greasing and lubrication of bribes and kickbacks.  The victims of the repression of the security and military forces against the peaceful protesters have yet to be repatriated for their losses of the hundreds of loved ones killed or injured by Saleh’s trigger happy thugs during the days of the revolt.  Everyone in Yemen is of the contention that AQAP is hardly a logical excuse for keeping criminals at the helms of government authority, just because these criminals allow for American Drone Air Strikes here and there in Yemen against suspected AQAP elements.   These are legally unquestionable violations of Yemeni sovereignty and worse than that lead to the killing of many more innocent victims, who have nothing to do with AQAP, than AQAP members themselves.

The end result:  Yemeni protesters are again considering going back to the streets and pushing their demands to the highest limits.  The blood of Yemeni peaceful protesters must not be lost in vain and must be offset by more than a game of political musical chairs, with the same power sharing schemes, and intertwining corrupt machine of Saleh and his clique still prevalent throughout Government.

As for the international position, the Yemen “Friends’ Meeting in Riyadh underscores the obvious contempt shown by the international community to Yemen’s almost scary humanitarian situation and other failed state situations (see Yemen’s Other Crisis).  The reliance on exaggerated sensationalism in the latter article is more than made up by the numbers given, many of which only tell half the story.

But for now, the world only views Yemen in the War Against Terrorism context, while all other things equal zero.  In this context, the number of innocent deaths and thousands of suffering internally displaced persons are left for international humanitarian relief agencies to ponder.  The sensible conclusion that is drawn up from such an analysis is that Yemenis must themselves work out their political problem, and must be allowed the right to opt for a civilian and democratic government that protects their rights and freedoms, ensures the equitable application of the Law on all Yemenis, regardless of political clout, social standing or religious denomination and offers equitable access to services, financial resources and the right to pursue enterprising ventures without facing the monopolistic practices of a pubic and private sector cutthroat mercantile establishment.

As for the remaining elements of the Saleh regime, all one can say is that the contention of “Either we rule, or else its hard times for all” as projected by the former revolutionary components, now believing themselves to be on top, as well as the remaining hoodlums of Saleh, simply does not work anymore in the world of the Twenty-First Century.  They must sooner or later pack their bags – and better sooner than later.  The Yemeni people really deserve a better break.  Change is inevitable and the Yemeni people will not accept anything less than full and total regime change.

About Hassan Al-Haifi

Columnist, Political Analyst; knowledgeable on Middle East and Islamic Affairs; specialist on economic and financial affairs and development issues.
This entry was posted in Human Rights, UNSC Resolution 2014, Yemen Peaceful Revolution, Yemen Politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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