SHAFAQNA – For 300 days, Yemen has suffered in the midst of a war which its people, neither asked for nor provoked.
For 300 days Yemen has looked on as its cities, its places of worship, its hospitals, its schools, its historical monuments, and its people have burnt under the fire of war – aided by none, abandoned by most.
300 days of war has all but obliterated Yemen, the one nation of Southern Arabia which once stood a democratic promise in a region dominated by totalitarian monarchies. But Yemen today stands but a shadow of its former self. Bruised, battered to the point where few will ever recognize this once joyous Yemeni nation.
Still, past the hardship of war, and the many tears this people have cried over the death of their loved ones, Yemenis have forged themselves a heart made of stealth. Amid the destruction and lament, Yemenis have risen a Resistance movement, which determination has only been made stronger by the realization that all has already been taken from them.
If Yemen has long been plagued by divisions: whether political, social or tribal, war exploded those differences, to lay bare a common desire to reclaim a people’s land, a people’s pride, a people’s future. Beyond all other adjectives and attributes, Yemenis stand firm in their national pride – an island in the middle of a furious it maybe, but an island nevertheless.
“While we may have lost much … while we may still lose much, we will fight for our land until we can no more. And since there is no way around this war we might as well go through it,” said former Republican Guard Amr al-Iryani, a member of the Resistance movement against Saudi Arabia.
If Yemen’s war has been often depicted as a democratic struggle by proxy – an attempt by Saudi Arabia to re-assert the presidential legitimacy of former President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the rebellion of the Houthis, such a summary denies too many geopolitica truths to be taken seriously.
“Yemen’s war is a liberation struggle pitting a people against an imperial power: Saudi Arabia,” said Marwa Osman, a political analyst for the Middle East in exclusive comments.
Mohammad al-Khosee, a human rights activists and researcher on Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in Yemen explained how Yemen’s conflict is actually being fought on more than just a military front. “This war we are fighting is much more complex than meets the eye. We are coming against a military complex, an imperial political juggernaut and a capitalistic media narrative … Yemen has been signed away to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh’s attachment to Hadi serves a cover. Media’s bias towards the Houthis is also a manipulation. Has anyone bothered to ask what Yemenis want? I think not!”
Back in March 25, 2015, when Riyadh unilaterally announced it would strike its impoverished neighbour, the public was sold a pro-democracy narrative, whereby al-Saud monarchy was allegedly working to restore Yemen’s rightful president to his office, and thus fulfill Southern Arabia’s democratic aspirations.
The truth is more complicated than that.
To begin with President Hadi was never the people’s choice – rather, he was risen to power through western and GCC patronage – the designated political partner both Gulf monarchies and western democracies said they could work with. And so, the man former President Ali Abdullah Saleh nominated to be his successor in 2011, ran in a one-man election in February 2012, for a two-years term. As noted al-Khosee, “democratic is not exactly the word I would use when referring to those elections … a sham would be better suited.”
Still Yemenis played along, hopeful a pretense democracy was better than none at all.
Then came the political wrangling, then came powers’ attempt to derail Yemen National Dialogue (NDC), and those agreements Yemen’s political, civil and tribal factions came together to democratically fashion – the blueprint of what should have been a new constitutional contract in between the people and their representatives.
THEN came the Houthis – Yemen’s outcast, Yemen’s eternal dissidents.
Labelled Shia rebels by a press which cannot see past sectarian affiliations, the Houthis have been mis-represented, mis-labelled and mostly discriminated against false assumptions.
A tribal faction from northern Yemen, the Houthis came to be in 2004, a militant reaction against Sana’a discriminatory policies against Zaidi Islam (one of Islam’s oldest school of thoughts). The Houthi rebellion needs to be looked at within the grand campaign Riyadh then ran in the region against all which opposed its dogma: Wahhabism.
Imam Hassan al-Wazir noted, “Wahhabis and Salafis began their campaign of proselytization in 1994. 2004 however marked a point of no return for northern tribes as leaders understood that their faith, traditions and history stood in the balance. The Houthis were really JUST a resistance movement against Wahhabism, and their anger towards Sana’a was merely a call for a new political direction away from Saudi Arabia.”
He added, “2014 marked another important crossroads for the Houthis as the group went from representing a tribal cause, and a call for religious freedom to taking on an entire nation’s democratic dream. The Houthis actually answered Yemenis’ calls for actions … the move was organic at this point. It is only when an alliance was brokered with former President Saleh and political factions that the Houthis became one element within a grander, more complex Resistance Movement.”
Where mainstream media see sectarian-based dissidence against the powers that be, Yemenis see a Resistance movement which is just as much theirs than it is the Houthis. Where corporate media see an Iranian proxy against Oil mighty Saudi Arabia, Yemenis see a popular movement resisting an imperial power.
Narratives it seems have clouded our perception of realities.
Amid this furore of words, allegations, and rhetorics, stands one reality: war.
“Yemen has been at war for 300 days! For 300 days blood has flowed freely so that Wahhabist Saudi Arabia could have its crusade. For 300 days my people, my land and my faith have been dragged in the mud so that Riyadh could be spared the stench of its crimes. For 300 days Yemen has been denied its truth, to better for politicians’ lies. But Yemen will be reclaimed by its own … Yemen will roar until it is heard – Imam al-Wazir.
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna