Are the Houthis a symptom of regional mistrust?

by Abdullah Hammidaddin,, Saturday, 20 September 2014

Ten years ago this month Ali Saleh had ordered the field execution of Husayn al-Houthi. This was after a three-month war between government forces and Husayn’s supporters in a remote village in northern Yemen. At the time, Husayn’s supporters were few and I believe the matter could have ended there. But Saleh decided to push on and confront the rest of Husayn’s family who then reacted by picking up arms again. They ended up surviving five wars waged by the government. Today Abdulmalik al-Houthi – Husayn’s younger brother – has forces in Sanaa and this time he is threating the Yemeni government, forcing it to make concessions.

In the past year alone, the Houthis have altered the political landscape of Yemen. They pushed the Ahmar family out of their homes and overthrew their three hundred year sheikhdom and authority in the tribal federation of Hashid. They took the al-Jawf area as a strategic last stronghold for their adversaries. They’ve forged alliances with most tribes in the northern region and also in the south. And now in Sanaa they are fighting against both the militias of the Islah party (Muslim Brotherhood branch in Yemen) and military factions loyal to General Ali Muhsin Al-Ahmar in what could escalate into a major war in the fragile capital city. (more…)

يقرب الله لي بالعافيه والسلامه … وصل الحبيب الأغن
ذاك الحبيب الذي حاز الحلا والوسامه … وكل معنى حسن
ونسأل الله تعالى عودنا من تهامه … الى سفح صنعاء اليمن
لأن صنعا سقاها الله فيض الغمامه … منزل حوت كل فن

ما مثل صنعاء اليمن … كلا ولا أهلها
صنعاء حوت كل فن … يا سعد من حلها
تطفي جميع الشجن … ثلاثَ في سفحها
الماء وخضرة رباها الفايقه والوسامه … وكل معنى حسن
كم يضحك الزهر فيها من دموع الغمامه … فيا سقاها وطن

يا ليت شعري متى الأيام تسمح برجعه … إلى مدينة أزال
ونستعيد ما مضى يا سيد أفديك جمعه … وطيب بساط المطال
لأن من بعدكم ما كف لي قط دمعه … والشوق بي لا يزال
وكلما غردت ورقاء بأعلى البشامه … طلقت طيب الوسن

أهيم في عشقتك … والدمع جاري غزير
والروح في قبضتك … وانا بحبك أسير
والقلب من فرقتك … يكاد نحوك يطير
فارحم أسير الهوى من قد تزايد غرامه … إن لم تكن له فمن
لأنني لا أطيق الهجر ذا والعدامه … ولا أحتمل ذا الشجن

تظن يا منيتي ان قد نسيت أو تناسيت … او خنت عهدي القديم
شاحلف براسك بأني فيك من حين وليت … أبكي و ساعه واهيم
ولا حلى لي سواك و لا بغيرك تسليت … يمين والله عظيم
يا ناس ما حيلة المشتاق في ريم رامه … ما حيلة ابن الحسن

يا ربنا يا مجيب … عجل لنا بالرواح
لوصل ذاك الحبيب … بالأنس والإنشراح
والدهر ذاك الكئيب … قد تقضًى وراح
سهل لنا منك باللطف الخفي والكرامه … وعافنا واعف عن
صلي وسلم على طه شفيع القيامه .. والأل ما المزن شن

So if you were to pick the ten most dangerous cities in the world, what city in the Middle East do you think would be near the top of the list? Mogadishu, by the way, is number 7 and Peshawar, Pakistan is number two. So would you believe that number 3 is Sanaa? Sanaa more dangerous than Kabul, Aleppo or Baghdad? This is what an Internet top-ten list says, although I seriously doubt the person or machine compiling the list has ever been to Sanaa. And dangerous for whom exactly? Here is what the blurb says:

A politically instable country, Yemen has its share of problems. That being said, the capital city, Sana’a, is one of the most dangerous places in the entire world. Despite the best efforts of US allies, the city remains a high risk destination. Those who do make it there enjoy visiting the Old City, a section of Sana’a full of beautifully designed buildings from a more peaceful time.

Indeed Yemen is unstable, but there are relatively few deaths reported there and life goes on pretty much as usual for most Yemenis living there. I know that there is instability in Yemen but the word “instable” for me conjurs up Dodge City and the OK corral. Sanaa may have its security problems, but I will take it to the destruction going on in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan any day.

Yemen is about to shrink administratively, but there is hope for a resolution of the ongoing insecurity in the wake of the Arab spring toppling of Ali Abdullah Salih, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades. One result of the National Dialogue Conference is a recommendation that Yemen become a federalist state with six regions to replace the former major regional units. As described in the official Saba News agency of the Yemeni government, the existing governorates would be assigned as follows:

• Hadramout will include al-Mahra, Hadramawt, Shabwa and Socotra, with al-Muklâ as its capital.

• Saba will include al-Jawf, Ma’rib and Al-Baydha, with Marib as its capital.

• Aden will comprise Aden, Abyan, Lahj and Dhala‘, with the capital in Aden.

• Janad will comprise Taiz and Ibb, with Taiz as a capital.

• Azal will consist of Sa‘da, San‘a, Amran and Dhamar with the capital to be determined within the former San‘a governorate, but not San‘a city.

• Tihama will include al-Hudayda, Rayma, al-Mahwit and Hajja with its capital in the city of al-Hudayda.

For those who prefer to see the divisions in Arabic, here they are:

الإقليم الأول: محافظات المهرة حضرموت شبوة سقطرى، ويسمى إقليم «حضرموت» وعاصمته المكلا.

الإقليم الثاني: محافظات الجوف مارب البيضاء، ويسمى إقليم «سبأ» وعاصمته «سبأ».

الإقليم الثالث: محافظات عدن ابين لحج الضالع، ويسمى إقليم «عدن» وعاصمته عدن.

الإقليم الرابع: محافظتا تعز إب ويسمى إقليم «الجند» وعاصمته تعز.

الإقليم الخامس: محافظات صعدة صنعاء عمران ذمار، ويسمى إقليم «آزال» وعاصمته صنعاء.

الإقليم السادس: محافظات الحديدة ريمة المحويت حجة، ويسمى إقليم «تهامة» وعاصمته الحديدة.

The plan also calls for the city of San‘a being an independent capital area, perhaps like the District of Columbia in the United States, to guarantee its impartiality. Its geographical extent will be increased by some 40 percent. Aden will also have special status as an economic zone and its geographical extent as a city enlarged. (more…)

Old city of Sanaa from the Bakiriya Mosque, from a photograph taken in 1962; courtesy of Dr. Muhammad Gerhoum

Here is a recent short film made in the old city of Sanaa and entitled “Mono” by Mohammed AlAsbahi. The film has a profound message and is well worth watching. It can be found on Youtube.

The People’s Mosque in Sanaa; photographed by Turki Al-Mohaiya

There is an extraordinary Facebook album entitled “So you think you ‘ve seen Yemen?” that is well worth visiting. Here are a few of the photographs I like.

Old Sanaa; photographed by Mohammed Alnahdi


Shops in Crater in the 1960s

[This is the second part of a reflective essay on the author’s upbringing. For part one, click here.]

by Samira Ali BinDaair

Back to the roots

The return to Yemen came sooner than we expected in the last phases of British rule in South Yemen. Being young, my brothers and I managed to adjust quickly to our new life and whereas I had enjoyed riding bicycles and climbing trees in Africa we found new forms of entertainment like riding gari gamal (camel carts) and others. Quite often when we went shopping in Crater we were suddenly told to get to the floor as the bullets passed over our heads and while my mother looked worried, to us it seemed like a cowboy film. It was the exchange of fire between British soldiers and what they called “Snipers” but what the Yemenis called “freedom fighters,” There were many checkpoints then especially at the “Aqaba” and the golden highlanders with their Scottish kilts and red caps were a common sight in those days.

As adolescents we were filled with nationalistic ideas of independence, although I dare say without necessarily understanding the historical antecedents of British rule nor all the political implications of the struggle then. As soon as we went to Abyan beach in Khormaksar, we became children again as we played with the waves collecting seashells and chasing the sea gulls, forgetting all about revolution. Alas we had weaved dreams bigger than the half pennies in our pockets.

The convent school I went to in Crater Aden was a completely different version of Yemen and I still remember the kind sister Serena who had taught me how to play the piano,contrasting with the life within my grandfather’s cousin’s stone house in Sheikh Abdulla street in Crater with its old fashioned structure. His wife would sit in the afternoon in her elaborate sitting room, chew qat and smoke the mada’a (waterpipe). In those days it was shameful for young girls to chew qat or smoke in contrast to what is the case today when qat chewing has crossed the age barrier across the board. (more…)

« Previous PageNext Page »