SHAFAQNA – I believe it was John F. Kennedy who said: “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”
Yemen today needs your tolerance … Yemen today requires that you set aside your assumptions and misapprehensions to look upon a people at war, and in resistance. I will ask you for the next few minutes to forget what you were told to think of Yemen, to see instead how a nation rose against tyranny to find itself united once more.
The poorest and arguably most fractured nation of southern Arabia, Yemen has long been plagued by tribalism, nepotism, pandemic corruption and a profound lack of nationalism. Led by a greedy elite which ambition has been to increase its bank balance, Yemenis hardly ever were given a chance to strive.
And strive they could have and should have! Yemen we ought to remember holds still immense natural wealth within its borders – oil, gas, minerals, water, notwithstanding the geostrategic advantages its borders offer. And yet Yemenis have been locked out of their own economic rights; held in abject poverty so that a handful few could assert their illegitimate claim to power.
But Yemen was not to be kept down ad vitam eternam – Yemen yearned for change, just as America once yearned to free itself from the yoke of imperial Britain to stand a free nation under God. Yemenis you see share such aspirations.
I would personally argue that Freedom against Tyranny, however it may be expressed, remains a universal natural right. A natural right which cannot, and should not be reserved to a privilege few. If we are serious about democracy, then we have a duty to want for others, what we claim for ourselves. And yet so far, Yemen has been denied by world nations.
Yemen was declared war to when it chose to rise in opposition of a system which ambitioned once more to rebuild the shackles of old, and imprison an entire people out of their democracy. Yemenis did not as you were told depose any legitimate power, they demanded to be given the democracy they were promised in 2012 and robbed of in 2014.
Today, following 19 months of a brutal military campaign, Yemen stands an open wound onto the region – Saudi Arabia’s very own sacrificial lamb.
But if Riyadh’s theocracy thought itself mighty for its coffers have allowed it to buy many friendships, Yemen has met the kingdom’s military hysteria with resilience and boundless courage. How many nations can claim to have withstand the fury of several military superpowers and one grand humanitarian blockade, and still find enough strength to wield resistance?
Regardless of what you may think of Yemen’s Resistance Movement there is humbling courage running through Yemen’s vein, the same courage which across History has crumbled empires and disappeared crowns from tyrants’ heads.
In the face of despair, death, destruction and the world disdain for a nation’s will, Yemenis have held on to each other, and for each other for their Freedom, their rights to political self-determination are theirs to claim, take and keep.
If Yemen’s back is breaking under Riyadh’s cruelty, its children starved and its history exploded, Yemen’s will belong to its sons and daughters … and they are not about giving up their Freedom.
Will you not recognize in Yemen, a nation’s grand cry against Despotism? Yemen has thrown itself in a deadly struggle against Saudi Arabia for it cannot bear to live another lifetime under the oppression of Wahhabism, and forfeit its claim to life. There is no life to be had under the kingdom’s blade. There is no freedom, no hope and no future to hold when under the feet of al-Saud Royals.
And so Yemen has resisted a grand resistance, regardless of any hardship. Mothers and fathers have lost their children to starvation, sons and daughters have watched as their parents breathed their last under collapse ceilings … a nation has watched in rage as its faith, rights to religious freedom and culture has been exploited for political gains.
I must say that Yemen’s greatest tragedy has been played out by our media, as they have offered cover to criminals of war in the name of geopolitics, and profits.
Yemen is at war against the very evil we should all aim to defeat: intolerance.
By Catherine Shakdam -Director of Programs for the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies
This article was published first in the Huffington Post