Should Yemen’s Saleh Await Gaddafi’s Destiny? – OpEd


Unemployment, deteriorating economic conditions, government’s proposal for modifying the constitution and removing the limit for presidential terms and the corruption of the ruling elite are the root causes of the growing indignation and resentment of the Yemeni people.

Ali Abdullah Saleh who has clung to power for more than 33 years was never challenged by a serious political rival or an all-encompassing social movement.

However, Saleh now faces the worst political crisis in his country since he assumed office as the President of Yemen Arab Republic in 1978 and seems to be awaiting a bitter destiny like that of the fugitive Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who was captured and shot dead in the Battle of Sirte on October 20, 2011 by the revolutionary forces of the National Transitional Council.

France 24, New York Times and Kansas City reported that 1,580 to 1,782 Yemeni civilians have been killed at the hands of the Saleh loyalists since February 3, 2011 and this makes the Yemen Uprising of 2011 an all-out massacre perpetrated by an unyielding dictator who wants to remain in power at the cost of the lives of his own citizens.

Perhaps the only propitious event that has taken place during the course of the Yemen Revolution against the corrupt government of Ali Abdullah Saleh was that Tawakel Karman, the female Yemeni journalist and political activist who has been called the Iron Woman and Mother of the Revolution by his fellow citizens won the Nobel Peace Prize and became the first Arab woman who has ever won such as prize. She also became the youngest woman to win the prestigious award.

She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous performance in organizing rallies and demonstrations in Yemen and writing insightful and enlightening articles in international media outlets regarding her country’s 9-month-long revolution. On January 22, 3 plain clothed men without police identification stopped her while she was driving with her husband and arrested her. She was taken to prison and kept there for 36 hours.

Four months later, she wrote an editorial for The Guardian where she called her detention a turning point in the Yemeni Revolution, “After a week of protests I was detained by the security forces in the middle of the night. This was to become a defining moment in the Yemeni revolution: media outlets reported my detention and demonstrations erupted in most provinces of the country; they were organized by students, civil society activists and politicians. The pressure on the government was intense, and I was released after 36 hours in a women’s prison, where I was kept in chains.”

On June 18 and after being arrested and released for a second time, Karman wrote a new article for the New York Times and attacked the United States and Saudi Arabia for supporting the corrupt regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. She criticized Washington and Riyadh because they “used their influence to ensure that members of the old regime remain in power and the status quo is maintained.”

She was right in her position to blame the United States for the miseries and pains of her country. The United States has been constantly a stalwart ally of Yemen during the past decades and over the past several fiscal years Washington donated an average of USD 20 million foreign aid per annum to the government of Abdullah Saleh. Also between 2006 and 2007, Yemen received approximately USD 31.5 million from the US Department of Defense’s Section 1206 account.

The situation in Yemen is not that much different from that of Libya. Abdullah Saleh has numerous loyalists and his mercenaries spare no effort to suppress the protesting people. They kill demonstrators mercilessly and are not afraid of international consequences, because they know that they have the unconditional support of the dictatorial regime of Saudi Arabia and the United States, as well.

On February 3 and during the first days of the revolution in Yemen, more than 20,000 people held a massive rally in front of the Sana’a University, chanting “Enough Saleh, Get Out.” But a couple of miles away and in the heart of the historic Old City, Saleh supporters staged a smaller counter-demonstration, saluting the President and accusing the opposition of disloyalty, The Times reported.

The Times writers Oliver Holmes and Majid al Kibsi noted in their article that the Yemen’s Revolution has failed so far. They referred to the numerousness of Saleh’s supporters, the complicatedness of political structure in this Arab country and said that Saleh cannot be easily removed from power.

Protestor Um al Thafri told The Times that she had prayed the President would be saved from “conspiracies.” “God damn everyone who goes against [Saleh],” she shrieked. “The future will not bring better than him.”

However, the situation in Yemen brings to mind the story of the Libyan civil war. Gaddafi had also thousands of mercenaries and supporters who believed that he had improved their living standards and bettered the North African country’s economy.

Helen Shelestiuk wrote an article for the “Left Russia” website which revealed that Gaddafi had almost paid enough attention to the country’s economy and had an acceptable record in terms of providing his citizens with favorable living conditions. For instance, the state paid each family member a USD 1,000 subsidy per year, or it paid USD 7,000 to every newborn infant. Education and medicine were free under Gaddafi and to open a private business, the investors and entrepreneurs would get a one-time financial aid of USD 20,000.

However, what toppled Gaddafi was his corruption, illegitimate accumulation of capital and wealth, creating a circle of his sons and other family members who had dominated the majority of enterprises and ventures in the country and his unchallenged, unrivaled political stronghold which had made the people reach the end of their patience.

The same applies to Ali Abdullah Saleh. He wants to transfer the power to his son or to his deputy who is absolutely compliant with and obedient to him and this is what makes the Yemeni people unable to tolerate him anymore.

As it was the case with Gaddafi, it seems that the same destiny awaits Ali Abdullah Saleh. Soon or late, he should hand over the power and perhaps the deplorable death of Muammar Gaddafi can serve as a good lesson for him to submit to the demands of the people; otherwise, it is the communal will of the people which will prevail and bring him down from his 33-year rule over the subjugated Yemen.

Now, the United Nations Security Council has adopted the resolution 2014 which demands Saleh to give up power; however, the Yemeni revolutionaries believe that this resolution is fragile and indecisive and will grant Saleh immunity from being brought to justice and put on trial.

The proposed power transfer plan brokered by the members of Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) has made sure that Saleh will be given amnesty and exempted from being tried. This is what the people of Libya cannot tolerate.

What is clear is that the oppression of the oppressor will not last too long. We should sit back and wait for the coming days to see how the people of Yemen will determine their future without the relentless dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Kourosh Ziabari

Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist, writer and media correspondent.

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