Archive for August 2011
What’s Amal situation in the light of the political crises in Yemen; how is it affecting her return?
After we discovered that Amal was in Pakistan I went to the Pakistani embassy in Sana’a – I visited them several times to get information about Amal’s situation there and also contacted the foreign affairs ministry who expressed their willingness in demanding Amal’s return, since she is a Yemeni citizen.
The ministry urged us to contact the Yemeni Ambassador in Islam Abad as the Pakistani government had previously vowed to send Bin Laden’s wives back to their countries.
But the current situation in Yemen makes us worry even more. Terrorism is a term that became a stereotype of Yemenis, and since the ruler and his opponents are trying to stick that name to each other, each of them have decided to be silent against our issue – though they know that we have nothing to do with Bin Laden’s group aside from this marriage.
I used to be one of the peaceful youth protesters, calling for change and democracy and to establish a civil society but after the news of Bin Laden’s death I decided not to attend the protest.
We are in country where making up an accusation against someone is the easiest thing to do and my biggest fear was that someone might accuse me of terrorism to defame the revolution by using the fact that I am Bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a protester.
I want human rights organizations to get involved, for sure, but it’s difficult to find neutral human right organizations nowadays.
I have to make it clear to them that the case of my sister Amal and her children is purely humanitarian – it shouldn’t be used by any of the parties against the other. It should be looked at by all the human rights NGOs and all political parties as a human rights case so they can help us to get her back.
What’s your next step to get her back?
The best way to get her back is via diplomatic demands from the Yemeni embassy in Islam Abad, as well as some individual initiative by me to speak to the Pakistani prime minister to get him to follow up on my sister’s situation.
I was about to travel to Pakistan myself to search for her – and I started the travel procedure – but the Pakistani ambassador advised me not to go as I would be wasting my time. He said I couldn’t do more than they are already doing. He also vowed to meet the head of the investigation committee that the Pakistani government has assigned to follow up on Bin Laden’s family.
I’m also focusing on cooperating with local and international NGOs, especially those international NGOs that do work in seeking human rights. We really hope they won’t let us down.
So you have not spoken to her by phone yet, how do you get news on her then?
We haven’t spoken to her since she had her first baby “Safia” before the war against Afghanistan.
We used to follow up her news through asking wives of deceased fighters’ wives who returned to Yemen after their husbands were killed. For many years now no one gave us any useful information that could lead us to my sister.
Even now that Bin Laden has been killed we still haven’t spoken to her, although we often ask to reduce our family’s fear over what might have happened to her.
I have demanded that the Yemeni ambassador in Islam Abad talks with her – he told me the Pakistani authorities promised him he could, but until this very moment this promise hasn’t happened.
All the information we have comes from the Yemenis and the Pakistanis assuring us that her health is in good condition.
What are the Yemeni embassy’s efforts so far regarding Amal Al-Sada?
The Yemeni embassy is doing good work and we really appreciate it, especially that the ambassador demanded Amal’s return to her country and treated her case honestly – as a Yemeni citizen and didn’t link it to terrorism,
He called me and vowed that Amal and her children will be back, so we are waiting.
Although his effort is good, we condemn the fact that they couldn’t let us talk to her and the mystery around her situation. We have no details, only promises.
In a statement you warned the press of dealing with a person who appears as a relative of Amal, would you tell us more about that?
Yes I warned against some people who appear on TV and in newspapers claiming that they are family members so I released a statement to clarify the political situation in Yemen, which might make it easy for some people to take advantage and use our name to defame our situation.
This defamation will only ruin any deal to get us back our sister. I think that these people are paid by suspicious parties to use our cause to serve political aims and show the world that Yemen is dangerous.
One of these characters is Waleed al-Sadah. This man has tried to get fame using his surname, which is same as ours. He says obvious things about us that anyone would know, and he said that we are sympathetic to Bin Laden and that Amal would prefer to die now.
Some big TV channels have bought him tickets and given him money to be on their shows even though we made it clear that he isn’t related to us. What makes us scared is that he will go on TV and lie the way he does.
Have you ever faced any troubles because of your sister’s marriage?
There were some failed attempts to recruit me by suspicious parties, who might even be related to security. They even created false information about me and made up stories that my father fled to Afghanistan as he refused to turn himself in to the Yemeni government; others said that we had armed clashes for days with security forces in our city Ibb.
Who would benefit from creating obstacles to Amal’s return to Yemen?
As I said, the only benefiters are those trying to use us in the name of terrorism. But that will be difficult as everybody in Yemen knows our beliefs and thoughts – and that this marriage was a normal thing.
How optimistic are you that Amal will be back?
We are so optimistic that Amal and her children will return as women and children have nothing to do with terrorism.
And because we believe that our cause is humanitarian; the world shouldn’t look at Muslims, Arabs or Yemenis as terrors but as people who believe in peace.
The attacks took place in two of the central areas of Abyan, Moudia and Lauder. In Moudia three people were killed. In Lauder the attacks left 11 tribesmen dead and injured several others, who were taken to al-Baida Hospital.
Moudia’s attack targeted Abu Bakr Al-Ashal, the head of the ruling party in Moudia. Al-Ashal was also a leading figure of Ashal’s tribes and the brother-in-law of the governor. He was killed by a man wearing an explosive belt.
“The man who committed the suicidal attack came over to Al-Ashal where he was sitting with two others, chatting. The guy greeted them and sat for a bit and then pressed the button that ended him with the others,” said Ahmed Yaslem, a freelance reporter in Abyan.
Yaslem said that targeting Al-Ashal was a big move for Al-Qaeda as Al-Ashal was an important political and social figure.
Moudia’s attack occurred at 10:10 pm, at the same moment as the other attack in Lauder. The Lauder attack was on the main road from Moudia to Lauder at a tribal checkpoint controlled by the Al-Nakha’een tribes.
“Someone was distributing money in Al-Arkub – it might have been Zakat [donations made by Muslims during Ramadan] – when an explosive-laden car leveled the area,” tribal sources told the Yemen times.
The same sources said that the attack against Al-Jada’een came in response to the killing of four Al-Qaeda members the day before.
More than 20 tribes held a meeting two months ago and vowed to expel Al-Qeada and any other militant groups in the area. They said they would start with Lauder, Moudia and Jaa’r, the central areas of Abyan, before joining the war in Zinjibar, Abyan’s capital.
“We [the tribes] decided to protect our lands from these militants groups, so we vowed to decontaminate Lauder first then Zinjibar “said Ahmed al-Aydaros from Al-Wadhe’a tribes in Abyan.
Al-Aydaros said that targeting tribesmen by suicidal attack is a very dangerous escalation, because the means available to protect against these types of attacks are weak.
“Now all the tribes should come together again to fight strongly. We will call another tribal meeting to decide how we should resist the militant groups,” he added.
Al-Aydaros noted that there are one or two members of Al-Qaeda from each tribe in Abyan. “The tribes have started fighting their own members, those whom they know to be members of Al-Qeada,” he explained. “This is one of the best ways to beat them.”
These attacks against the tribesmen have dangerous implications, according to the journalist Yaslem. “This is the first time Al-Qaeda or any other militant groups have directly target tribesmen instead of military forces. They are trying to send a message to the tribesmen to stop them from siding with the government against them,” said Yaslem.
Political analyst Ahmed Al-Zurqa agrees that this is a dangerous escalation by Al-Qeada, especially considering that it staged two attacks in different areas at the same time.
“These attacks wouldn’t happen if the militant groups didn’t have full information of the area. Because they are from the area, it is easier for them to make multiple plans of attack,” said Al-Zurqa.
Al-Zurqa also believes that these attacks are a way to discourage the tribes from siding with the government and fighting against the militants.
The big fear now according to Al-Zurqa is that this suicidal style will create a pattern for others to follow in other cities and governorates such as Aden, if international actors do not condemn the attacks and help to stop them in the future.
It is important to mention that this was not the first time Yemeni tribesmen have been targeted. On July 30, 35 tribesmen near Zinjibar fell victim to government airstrikes, although they were fighting on the regime’s side against the militant groups.
Suicidal attacks are hard to avoid because of their unpredictability. While Al-Aydaros expresses his fear of this fact, Al-Zurqa believes that this will strengthen the tribal role in expelling these militant groups. Even if they are unable to follow their plan of coordinated fighting, he explains, each tribe is likely to be successful in protecting its own area.
What will help the tribes in expelling the militant groups is their full awareness of the identities of those tribesmen who have aligned with the militant groups.
SANA’A, Aug 17 — Leaders of the opposition parties coalition: The Joint Meeting Parties, the National Dialogue Committee, National figures and Parliamentarians, held a conference on Wednesday afternoon to announce the formation of the National Council that would lead to the next stage of the peaceful revolution.
The announcement of the council comes one month after the announcement of the transitional council by activists defected from the Joint Meeting Parties. The announcement included 142 members include Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmer and three of Al-Ahmer sons (Sadeq, Hameed and Himiar). It also includes some of those who rejected the council such as Tawakkol Karman, who announced the Presidential Transitional Council a month ago.
Although the National council succeeded in collecting an amalgamation of powerful groups it left out two of the main strategic players: the Houthis (who waged a six year war with regime) and the southern Movement (who initiated the Idea of peaceful demonstrations five years ago).
However, the JMP leaders announced them as part of the Council, the Houthis have confirmed to the Yemen Times that they have rejected their participation due to different reasons. “One of the reasons is that the positions that the representatives were chosen upon were not fair,” said Ali al-Emad, the spokesman of Houthies at change Square and one of the Houthies that were mentioned in the National council’s members. “There are some forces at the square like the independent youth, Houthis and the southern movement that were not given the right percentage of representation,” Al-Emad said. Further he stated that the representation of the National council was upon personal relationship and wealth and not based upon revolutionary credentials, such as giving more representation to the tribal allies. This in turn leads to a situation similar to that which was prevalent before the revolution.
Al-Emad also said that the council tasks are yet not clear; “would the council be the only framework for its member actions or can the JMP can still go ahead with their negotiations and initiative with Saleh” asked Al-Emad.
This will be the second time the Houthis aren’t represented in any revolutionary council; however they continue to work on gaining allies that have rejected the National Council such as some of the southern Movement Factions who demand 50% of the council’s representation.
Activist Khalid al-Ansi is one member of the coalition that announced the Transitional council on July 16; he repeated his rejection of the National Council. He said that the problem with this council is that it is dominated by the Islah party and does not seem as a step forward.
“Is this council a revolutionary council or a political one?” asked Al-Anisi. ”The JMP announced their solidarity to the revolution but it hasn’t turned this into actions and therefore they are not a component of the revolution.”
Moreover, eleven coalitions from change square came together as an alliance that has eight branches in other governorates. “We blessed this step of forming a National Council but we decline being a part of it,” said Amen Dabwan, a member of the February Independent Revolutionaries Alliance. “We chose to be a monitor entity instead of participating one. Everything around it is mysterious,” he added.
The JMP intentions of forming the National council is still a concern for many of the Change square protesters and even of the council members themselves. Intesar al-Qadhi, a member of the National Council representing the Mareb governorate women, told the Yemen Times that although she accepted membership to the Council, things are not clear for her; she considers this step a test. “So far nothing matches my ambitions, we as independent youth always wanted to work as partners in making decisions with the JMP: if they formed this Council and give us representation to take advantage of us then we won’t accept it, we will find our own way then,” said Intesar al-Qadhi.
The conference was held at the Sana’a University, protected by dozens from the First armored Division forces; a few of their armored vehicles were stationed inside the university. The Division proved that they control the area starting from the northern Seteen.
The conference was a constituent meeting held to explain the components of the National Council. Earlier, these components were unclear even to the members. The council consists of three components: Firstly: the National Assembly of the public Revolution’s Forces, contents of “all” the parties and components of the National coalition such as the Youth of the revolution, military leaders, chamber of commerce, Yemeni scientists association, Parliamentarian, Civil society organizations, the tribal allies, Southern Provinces’ sons Forum.
The second being the National Council of Peaceful Revolution Forces. Finally, the third is the Executive Body of the National Council which contains of the head of the National council and 20 of its members that will be selected by the Council, and they will be the direct leaders of the revolution.
Mohsen Al-Aghbari is a third-year physics student at Sana’a University. At 32 years old, he is a member of the Free Independent Youth Coalition, one of the most active independent coalitions in Change Square, where anti-government protests have been taking place since February.
Al-Aghbari joined the protests during the last week of February after his first-term exams. Since then he has been facilitating awareness-raising sessions in Change Square. Al-Aghbari has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the need for cooperation between the independent youth and opposition political parties. But this has come at no small cost. He, like many of his fellows, suffered at the hands of the Islamists trying to control the square.
He speaks with respect of those who attacked him. On April 15 he was participating in a mixed march with female human rights activists, in response to President Saleh’s speech denouncing women’s participation in protests as forbidden by Islamic law. During the march, a group of Al-Islah Party members and divisional soldiers assaulted the female activists. Al-Aghbari, with six of his colleagues, tried to defend the activists but were detained and held at the Science and Technology Hospital for almost seven hours.
“We should be grateful that we are luckier than those who attack us, that we have better education and that we differentiate between wrong and right.” said Al-Aghbari.
At his detention Mohsen said he won the soldiers’ sympathy to his cause as he spent time chatting with them and raising their awareness.
That caused a split between the different constituencies in Change Square has emerged over which groups ought to control the square, as well as whether change should come through a political solution or revolutionary actions.
Many of the independent youth in the square lost their trust in the opposition political parties, whom they accuse of being too slow with respect to the revolution.
The opposition political parties [Joint Meeting Parties] opted for a different path than that advocated by the independent youth at the square when they accepted the Gulf Countries Council [GCC] initiative. This agreement guarantees a peaceful transfer of power in Yemen only if President Ali Abdullah Saleh is granted immunity from prosecution.
Al-Aghbari, like other independent youth in Change Square, condemns the Joint Meeting Parties’ [JMP’s] acceptance of the GCC initiative. Still he thinks it was a mistake by the JMP and the independent youth should forget it to continue their revolution and should work with the JMP as a partner in the revolution
“We need to work hand to hand with the Joint Meeting Parties, it’s so wrong to take a side and isolate the others.” Al-Aghbari told the Yemen Times. He believes the independent youth should be included in the National Council that the Joint Meeting Parties are forming; the JMP has vowed to announce the final form of the National council on Ramdhan 17th.
“The JMP made a mistake by accepting the negotiations with Saleh but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore their political role in the past, or deny their experience,” he added.
Al-Aghbari explains that both the National Council and the Transitional Council are necessary but the Transitional Council missed two key opportunities. First, they failed to inform the representatives they chose that they were chosen to represent the protesters in the Transitional Council. Second, they were unable to explain what the Council’s needs were to be successful. In his view, the National Council is a step toward ending the revolution the way it should be ended.
Al-Aghbari encourages the independent youth to take part in the National Council because it will give the youth the chance to be political partners in the crucial transitional decisions. The independent youth, he notes, are the main players in this revolution, but they are still unorganized.
“I think the JMP has the right intention – to end the revolution by forming the National Council – and it should be considered a primary goal to form a transitional council,” he adds.
Al-Aghbari says that although revolutionary actions have proceeded slowly, the political awareness one gains from being in the square is incomparable.
“We [the youth] will never be fully aware of the depth of the Yemeni cause,” he noted. “For my part, I have discovered just how strong is the foreign interference from such as the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran.
ABYAN, Aug 14 — After three days of continues armed conflict Ja’ar district in Abyan has seen relative calm lately. However the locals are still anxious and not sure whether the shelling will return or not. They also are affected badly because of the scarcity of water now that the main water tank was attacked as well as the local hospital.
Locals from Ja’ar, Abyan, confirmed that shelling on the governorate has resumed since last Sunday. Some of the displaced families have returned to the governorate after a few days’ ceasefire between militant groups and state security forces in Ja’ar. The attack, launched by state forces, leveled the governorate water tank on Khanfer Mountain. It was the first military action to occur this Ramadan.
“The attack on Sunday started in the morning and lasted till now, more than seven air strikes” Ahmed Yaslem, a local reporter, told the Yemen Times. “The strikes targeted local interests such as the water tank, a workshop and an empty health institute.”
According to Yaslem, when the state target these places, they have usually received intelligence that militant groups are located there. But by the time the state reacts and initiates its attack, the groups have already long vacated these locations.
“When the water tank was shelled and polluted the locals cooperated to empty it of polluted water. They also separated the damaged part and disposed of it,” said Yaslem.
Locals, who for few days felt safer, are back to worrying. Most of the air strike victims in Ja’ar, they note, are locals and not militant groups. Apart from the war in the governorate, the governorate also suffer from fuel shortages and continuous power cuts. These strongly affect the one hospital they have.
Dr. Mohammed Fadhl the deputy of Al-Razi Central Hospital told the Yemen Times that most of the medical staff has left the governorate. Only 120 employees out of 443 employees remain in Abyan. Most of those who left lived in the areas most stricken by violence, such as Mudyah, Zunjbar, Al-Kod, and al-Musimer.
The emergency department is the only department still functioning in the hospital. General emergency, delivery, X-rays, and the lap and general services are all the hospital can provide now.
According to Dr. Fadhl diarrhea cases are increasing. “We have been receiving diarrhea cases since April 28,” said Dr.Fadhl. “In June and July we treated 1890 case from diarrhea, yet no one knows what the causes are, though only some of them got it from polluted water from different areas.”
Another problem plaguing Ja’ar is the lack of security on the roads between Aden and Abyan. Emergency cases that can’t be treated in the Al-Razi Central hospital must be transferred to Aden’s hospital, but the road has been blocked since the spring. “We used to take Al-Alam road, which is only 45 minutes from Ja’a to Abyan, but as it’s blocked now we take other roads. The shortest takes four and half hours and puts the patients in danger because of floods and air strikes as well”, he added.
Moreover, the hospital is short on stored oxygen, according to Dr.Fadhl. He has contacted the local authority. “The local authority didn’t but they haven’t done anything about it yet,” he added. The Financial Ministry stopped the hospital’s allocation since July because the hospital treats injured militants. According to the hospital administration, the medical mission is humanitarian and should never be linked to any political point of view. This financial cut put the hospital in a critical situation as there is no chance to pay diesel or fuel for the generators.
Some of Abyan’s tribe came together to expel the militant groups, according to Ahmed al-Aydaros, the governorate’s council member. After successfully expelling the militant groups from Lauder, they formed popular committees.
“The tribes now discuss their plans to free Zunjbar from the militant groups, but there is a dirty game being played by the authorities to hand Abyan to the militant groups, groups without who believes that the Central Security was under the militant groups without even one bullets” said al-Aydaros.
On the other hand, the main military camp 25 Mika in Abyan has been surrounded by the militant groups for more than three months now. Abdalrahim al-Aswary, public relations officer at the 25 Mika camp, told the Yemen Times that this week things have improved at the camp. “We managed to evacuate the martyrs and casualties from the camp.” Although the camp is still surrounded by al-Qaeda from Zunjbar’s side, the state is using air strikes to free the camp, said Al-Aswary. Food is provided well there but al-Qeada has managed to cut the phone coverage
In contrast to the usual complaints accompanying continuous power cuts in many Yemeni cities – the capital, Sana’a, foremost among them – many people have started to realize some advantages to the outages. People have started to get along and adjust their lifestyles to the circumstances around them and to the reality of being without power most, if not all, of the time.
Some told the Yemen Times that they are spiritually higher this year than any other year, although many people called this Ramdhan a “romantic” one. For many, eating Iftar – the meal to break the fast at sunset – by candlelight really is romantic. People have found it a good way to pass the stage of anger after more than five month of blackouts.
“Although I hate to admit it, the continuous power cuts give me more time for better worshiping, as Ramdhan is for worshiping,” said Hala Ahmed.
Ramdhan is a busy month. It’s indeed a month for Muslims to worship and strengthen their faith by fasting all the day, praying more and reading the holy Qura’an more. On the other hand, Ramdhan is also an occasion for more food, more savoury dishes and more sumptuous desserts. And recently, it has also become an occasion for new television series, with TV stations competing for viewers’ attention throughout the month.
“We usually fight on what to watch. There are too many choices in Ramdhan, which makes it hard to decide, so we spend more than six hours watching TV without interacting together,” said Ameera Al-Madhaji. However, Ameera said that during this Ramdhan, her family had to create more social activities because of the power cuts, “We have found different games that collect the family together to spend time.”
Marwa Al-Ansi agrees that the power cuts brought her family together. “Families spend more time together now, discussing many things. It’s a great opportunity for families to rebuild their relations after the political defections among family members in the last months,” said Marwa.
Marwa also said that the power cuts give her more time for worshiping and spiritual matters. “I now find more time to go to the mosque as I am more motivated to worship Allah in Ramdhan and also to change the house atmosphere. There is no power at home, and there is power at mosque.” She added, “We pray there and strengthen our relationships with our neighbors who usually attend different religious sessions at the mosque.”
Sharif Al-Ashwal said that Ramdhan is always an occasion for families to spend more time together, but the power cuts have made it even more so. Friends are gathering every day, not to watch TV, but to discuss different things, especially the political situation.
Moreover, Marwa Al-Ansi thinks that due to the power cuts Yemeni have also had a healthier Ramdhan than ever. “As there is no power and no refrigeration, people mostly stopped making desserts. So they eat healthier food instead,” she explained.
The power cuts have had economical benefits as well. Since large quantities of food can’t be stored without refrigerators, people have stopped buying in bulk for Ramdhan this year. Instead they have learned to buy what they would need each day.
Loay Al-Aswady said that the power cuts have changed consumers’ attitudes away from buying more than their daily needs. While in recent years, bulk shopping during Ramdhan has led to food price inflation, prices this year have remained stable.
Marwa agreed that the power cuts have changed people’s attitudes and the value people attach to their time. She thinks this change will continue even when the power returns.