Opinion | Columnists

No democracy in Yemen

Citizens have no access to basic necessities while the Saleh regime spends millions of dollars on PR campaigns to polish its image

  • By Khaled Al Ziadi Staff Writer
  • Published: 00:00 August 4, 2011
  • Gulf News

The advent of Ramadan seems to have only made the Yemeni youth more confident. They are demanding their right to determine their destiny and bring about democracy in Yemen. Tribal leaders have been proactive in declaring their support for the alliance of pro-revolution tribes on July 30.

This alliance is led by Shaikh Sadeq Al Ahmar, head of Yemen's largest tribe, the Hashid, which extended critical support to the formation of the Transitional Council last week.

This move negated the futile process of discussing the power transfer between the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP). It is obvious that Saleh and the ruling party are more interested in political theatrics than implementing the GCC initiative, which had the backing of the international community.

There are no changes in the government position towards the GCC initiative. The regime insists on imposing fake democracy on the people, and worsening the political turmoil in Yemen.

I strongly agree with Abdul Al Janadi, the Yemeni deputy minister of information, who in a letter to the editor, published in the July 31 edition of Gulf News in response to my previous article, asked a simple question: ‘Why does a democracy need a revolution?' But I would simply ask him: ‘Does democracy exist in Yemen?' It is well known that it is a dictatorship, and that is the reason the youth, and not extremists, have been protesting peacefully on the streets for more than five months.

They are on the streets — day and night — to achieve the most prominent democratic values: justice, equality and freedom from the dictatorship of the ruling family in Yemen.

If the notion of democracy had existed in Yemen, Saleh would have stepped down long ago. He would not have ruled the country for 33 years, and would not have tried to pave the way for his son to take over. Also, Saleh must be subjected to criminal prosecution for many massacres.

Let me remind the Yemeni official bragging about democracy in Yemen that in March this year more than 52 peaceful protesters were massacred in Sana'a.

In May, at least 50 peaceful demonstrators were murdered in Taiz, including physically challenged people who were burnt to death in their tents. More than 100,000 Yemeni families fled Sana'a, Taiz, Abyan and Arhab seeking help and shelter from the United Nations agency working in Yemen. They have become refugees in their own country.

Yemen is in chaos and there is no evidence of democracy in the country. Human rights violations are rife. No country in which the regime shuts down newspapers, arrests writers, assassinates opposition figures, and fires rockets at the homes of its political opponents can claim to be a democracy.

Only a fake democracy exists in Yemen, where one family controls the army, the air force, the Presidential Guard, the Central Security Forces, the counterterrorism unit, and the National Security Bureau. In democratic countries, state resources cannot be monopolised by the president's family. It is well known that Yemen's oil resources are controlled by Saleh's regime and his family.

Unfortunately, the Yemeni government is also taking advantage of Saudi and UAE oil aid; Saudi Arabia has donated three million barrels of crude oil while the UAE also donated three million barrels of oil and 40,000 tonnes of diesel to help people in Yemen. But, unfortunately, the black market in oil is booming in Sana'a.

The government is continuing its policy of punishing its people for protesting by creating an economic crisis that worsens their living conditions. It's difficult to describe how most Yemenis live in poverty. They do not even have access to basic necessities, while the government spends millions of dollars on PR agencies in the UK and US to polish the image of its "democracy".

The international community should not give direct support to the Saleh regime, which is unwilling to change its confrontational approach. It is particularly important to support the revolutionaries who want to make Yemen stable and ensure a prosperous future for all peoples of the region.

Gulf News