Al-Qaeda announces formation of political party in Yemen
BBC Monitoring Newsfile
January 04, 2013
Tribesmen loyal to al-Houthi Shi`ite rebel group perform the traditional Baraa dance as they arrive to a gathering in the northwestern Yemeni province of Saada on the border with Saudi Arabia to denounce what they say is a U.S. interference in Yemen July 11, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah.
Interview with Rashad Muhammad Sa`id Abu-al-Fida, Head of the Yemeni Salvation Party, by Thabit al-Ahmadi: “We believe in political action and peaceful transfer of power under the umbrella of the greater nation”
[Al-Ahmadi] Eventually, the Al-Qaeda Organization has announced the formation of a political party, which might seem astonishing to some. Would you give us a brief overview on this shift?
[Abu-al-Fida] After the Arab Spring and the huge vacuum created following the blessed revolutions, all those involved in social activities had to fill the void through the formation of political, cultural, and civil parties. Out of our sense of responsibility, we have established this party to help build a new Yemen, bring truth and justice, fight injustice and tyranny, and bring the Islamic Sharia back to the life of all people.
[Al-Ahmadi] You said that you came due to the vacuum. What vacuum do you mean? Do you mean that the former regime used to fill the void that you want to fill?
[Abu-al-Fida] No. Not so; tyranny was practiced by the Arab regimes that lured religious authorities to move with these authoritarian political regimes. The people were absent-minded and deprived of most of their basic rights, like freedom of expression; freedom of speech; freedom of decision-making; complete freedom in choosing their rulers; and freedom to choose the model and approach that they want to follow. These were templates that the people adapted themselves to, and then legitimized them in a way or another, but the blessed Arab revolutions broke the wall of silence. Everyone felt how bad the former regimes were and that many of their rights were missing, which prompted them to correct the course of their lives.
[Al-Ahmadi] When did you start considering the idea of establishing a political party?
[Abu-al-Fida] I thought of the idea before the onset of the crisis and the Arab Spring revolutions. However, we believed that the circumstances were not adequate back then to publicly announce this idea. There were great obstacles, challenges, and risks. However, after the Arab Spring, things have become easier and we had to take advantage of this opportunity.
[Al-Ahmadi] As far as we know, the former regime had called on you to establish a political party and work in public, instead of working in secret and adopt violence, is this true?
[Abu-al-Fida] We heard about this issue. However, it was not a serious call but rather a media show before some foreign powers. Had it been serious, other people would have been allowed to establish charities or human rights organizations. The regime wanted to contain people with some official positions. The regime aimed at containing them, rather than taking advantage of their potentials and abilities.
[Al-Ahmadi] You dealt with the former regime before, which party benefited more from the other?
[Abu-al-Fida] We dealt with the regime, but the relationship was not positive all the time because it was based on surveillance, imprisonment, pursuits, and arrests. Many young people have suffered a lot, especially the returnees from Afghanistan, who were unjustly thrown into prison under the pretext of suspicion and fighting terrorism. These acts were unjustifiable and done outside the framework of law.
[Al-Ahmadi] Excuse me, but you did not say which party benefited more from the other.
[Abu-al-Fida] Each party has benefited from the other to varying degrees, but which party benefited more? Of course the young people benefited more; because they were exposed to the difficulties of life, prisons, and detentions greatly. They earned a fair share in the completion of their manhood; as expatriation, fighting, and suffering are part of the completion of manhood, and these young people have fought on the three fronts to prove their manhood.
[Al-Ahmadi]But why cannot manhood be completed through modernity, construction, peace, and civilized acts, away from prisons and detention centres?
[Abu-al-Fida] The ancestors and successors said that the strong and positive features of the completed manhood are followed by construction and development. This would help the youth become a useful element in the process of construction and development.
[Al-Ahmadi]You have been placed in detention centres and prisons as you said, do not you see that you have committed crimes against the nation and the people and adopted violence?
[Abu-al-Fida] We have not committed any act that is wrong. We are ready to appear before any independent impartial tribunal that observes laws and respects human rights. If we were to be charged with criminal acts against rights, in accordance with the Sharia and law, we are ready to appear before this court.
[Al-Ahmadi] I do not talk about people; I mean the organization that adopted violence and killed people.
[Abu-al-Fida] Most of those detainees were illegally imprisoned and their detention had no justification, according to security officials. This is the reason why the authorities that had detained them could not refer them to the court; for the absence of a law that could accommodate these arbitrary and baseless cases.
[Al-Ahmadi] But people have been killed and blown up, and this is known.
[Abu-al-Fida] These [who have done those acts] must appear before a fair Shar`iah court, and not the Specialized Criminal Court that was established in violation of the law. They must appear before a civil Sharia court that takes legal and judicial proceedings, like regular courts. If they were convicted - after applying the Sharia and the law, we would have no problem.
[Al-Ahmadi] Excuse me, but you mainly targeted foreigners, and this is known.
[Abu-al-Fida] Targeting was just a reaction. First of all, it was not a war between America and the Mujahideen as of the year 2000. Therefore, the Arab regimes had nothing to do with that war. The Arab regimes engaged in a war with their people in response to US pressure and the so-called international war on terrorism.
[Al-Ahmadi] Now you have engaged in politics. Do you believe in the rules of political action?
[Abu-al-Fida] We have not engaged in political action because our action is mainly political. Any action intended to benefit the people is a political action, whether it was taken by human rights organizations, charitable organizations, or political parties. However, we introduce this new name the “Yemeni Salvation Union” to demonstrate to the whole world that we have many choices and options to serve this religion, save humanity, and work for the happiness of the people. Killing and fighting are only exceptional cases.
[Al-Ahmadi] You said that you have many options. Is Killing and bombing among this option?
[Abu-al-Fida] Wars and killings are practiced by all human beings and creatures. When I attempt to restore something belonging to me, I defend myself originally. Does this mean that I practice violence? People may resort to violence to get their rights.
[Al-Ahmadi] Are you a political party now?
[Al-Ahmadi] Do you believe in the rules of party politics?
[Al-Ahmadi] Including democracy?
[Abu-al-Fida] Including Shura.
[Al-Ahmadi] What about democracy?
[Abu-al-Fida] Terms like democracy and the like are not found in our religion or our language. We are Muslims; and democracy is a system adopted by America and Europe as a result of circumstances different from ours. They committed themselves to this system because it fitted their societies. However, democracy did not fit Latin America or Persia. Why do Arabs have to adopt this culture? We may not differ in the term but disagree in substance; democracy has no limits, but we have the religion that controls our lives and our relationship with others. We seek a political action that is consistent with our religious values and national principles. We believe that Shura is an ideal mechanism for peaceful transfer of power and decision-making. Following foreign terminology is a psychological defeat, and we have enough literature and political ideals that could astonish the West.
[Al-Ahmadi] You left Yemen to Afghanistan when you were approximately 15 years old and worked with Shaykh Usamah Bin-Ladin until you became his adviser. When you came back, you were classified as one of the Arab-Afghan movement. However, a few years ago, a British newspaper said that you changed from an adviser to Shaykh Usamah Bin-Ladin to an adviser to the former regime. What do you say?
[Abu-al-Fida] I was close to Usamah Bin-Ladin, and this is a source of honour and pride for me. I participated in the jihad against the Soviet Union. I also participated in the Taleban Government and engaged in many political and humanitarian activities. I returned to Yemen as a Yemeni citizen, and I do not have any hostile intentions towards America or the Yemeni Government. After the 9/11 attacks, I was sent to prison and questioned for approximately three years. I was arrested on charges of something I do not know about, and I do not know the reason why I was released. As for the allegations that I was an adviser to the former regime, this is pure fabrication. I have never had any official relation with the former or current regimes. I am not an official, and I am not associated with any activity at all.
[Al-Ahmadi] Ok. Al-Qaeda is a global organization that has its own literature, hierarchy, and discourse. It has many branches, and today you declare the formation of a political party. Can you work in isolation from the headquarters and guidance of the organization?
[Abu-al-Fida] There is no difference, but there is understanding that every place has its own characteristics that must suit the society and geography, and this differs from one place to another. There is no conflict between domestic and regional action; we know better about our country. Today, there are global projects, like the economic, political, and social ones in America that have taken the Arab region as a battlefield for its own interests. It comes to our countries to steal and exploit our wealth, under the cover of multinational companies. It comes under humanitarian organizations to corrupt our youth. The question is why Muslims are subjected to this humiliation? Why do we adhere to the Sykes-Picot agreement, while the Islamic Ummah [nation] is one nation?
[Al-Ahmadi] So, you will not resort to Ayman al-Zawahiri?
[Abu-al-Fida] No. We have an ideological and fraternal relationship aimed at providing support to the oppressed in the world.
[Al-Ahmadi] What is your intellectual religious authority at home?
[Abu-al-Fida] All clerics are our intellectual authority. We consult all of them and respect their opinions. We combine their different views to create ours to serve the project.
[Al-Ahmadi] How is your relationship with the Salafi Al-Rashad Party?
[Abu-al-Fida] Our relationship is based on brotherhood in God and common goals, which is to set up the law of God. They are our scholars and brothers. We reach out to them as we do to others. We cooperate in righteousness and piety, and everyone works depending on the endowments granted by God. We meet on one goal, which is the establishment of the law of God and the happiness of mankind.
[Al-Ahmadi] If you were called to merge the two parties into a single one, will you agree?
[Abu-al-Fida] This issue can be discussed later. We have no objection to cooperate for the good of everyone. The arena can accommodate many political components, not opponents, for the sake of diversity.
[Al-Ahmadi] What about the Joint Meeting Parties [JMP]?
[Abu-al-Fida] We consider the JMP an important faction and a pillar of the political action, especially the Al-Islah Party. However, there are imbalances and setbacks in the JMP`s political action and this was clear in many situations. This includes the lack of vision to save the country from bloody, moral, and economic conflicts, as well as its submission to foreign alliances, especially with regard to the fight against terrorism. We call on the JMP parties to reconsider their national and Islamic positions. I am going to give you an example; earlier the JMP used to get furious over any external interference in the economic, political, or military affairs. However, today we hear them say different opinions on intervention. They also have some negative attitudes related to revolution incidents. They had a passive attitude regarding what happened during the second March of Life in the Al-Sab`in Square. We have not heard them condemning this siege on young people. Regarding what happened to the US Embassy, their position was passive. Today, the JMP is much worse than it used to be when it was in the opposition side.
[Al-Ahmadi] Do you have a project to save Yemen as referred to in the name of your party?
[Abu-al-Fida] We dubbed our party the Yemeni Salvation Union, which means that we have a vision to save Yemen in all aspects, including economic, political, military, social, and judicial aspects as well as external and internal relations. We have an integrated vision to save Yemen, especially after all human`s theories have proven that the only solution to the Muslim communities is to combine under the umbrella of Islam that has ruled for 13 centuries. The Islamic rule was a model of intimacy, love, sovereignty, and dignity of Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, who have lived within the confines of the Islamic state.
[Al-Ahmadi] You call for the Islamic caliphate. What Islamic caliphate are you referring to?
[Abu-al-Fida] When we say the Islamic caliphate, we mean good governance that was followed by good caliphs; Abu-Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali, as well as Umar Bin-Abd-al-Aziz; may God bless them. All history books say that that era was actually the “golden era of humanity.” When we say good caliphate, we mean good governance that commensurate with the era regardless of the pattern of this rule; parliamentary, presidential, mixed, with full powers, broad powers; it does not matter. What is more important is good governance, taking into account the modern means for the State administration.
[Al-Ahmadi] You are calling for the return of the caliphate system, at a time when [Abd-al-Malik] al-Huthi, on the other hand, is calling for the return of the Imamate!
[Abu-al-Fida] Al-Huthi calls for the imamate based on a sectarian culture. He talks about the imamate to avoid the caliphate system; because caliphate involved caliphs that he does not accept - from his point of view - like Abu-Bakr, Umar, and Uthman; may God bless them. In all cases, we say to this faction or component that has existed throughout Yemen and raised a lot of internal and external concerns: “Let us agree on common grounds to protect the country from any external aggression and any sectarian or doctrinal beliefs that might cause division. Let us put the dispute aside and discuss what we have agreed upon.” Today a billion and a half Muslims are calling for the return of the Islamic caliphate and good governance, while Shia, who call for the imamate, do not exceed 150 million. The majority are calling for good governance, based on the Sunnah of the Messenger of God, then the footsteps of Abu-Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali; as well as modern means.
[Al-Ahmadi] Yemeni Salvation Union is said to include Mujahideen, formerly known as Arab Afghans, and does not include the second generation of the Al-Qaeda Organization; therefore, it does not fully represent Al-Qaeda, especially since they have not announced joining you?
[Abu-al-Fida] First: The term “Arab Afghans” is not accurate; we said that the Yemeni Salvation Union is for all Yemenis. We have no reservation against any Yemeni. We will only reject those who actually threaten the security, stability, and tranquillity of the country. We must contain them, speak to their minds, and seize the harmful tools from their hands. It is not reasonable to hold harmful tools in our hands and try to contain these people. We contain everybody and we will never close the door because we are not a sectarian party following a Sheikh that guides us. Our country is our umbrella and only those who follow the peaceful path can join us. We do not set special conditions for people to join us. We will not believe in the culture of exclusion or penetration. Political action is public and practiced on the table, and working under the table is not a political act.
[Al-Ahmadi] What about those who disagree with you?
[Abu-al-Fida] When we disagree with someone, we resort to the Sharia court that discusses the case and issues the verdict.
[Al-Ahmadi] Do you mean a state`s Sharia courts or special courts that you set up?
[Abu-al-Fida] Independent state-controlled Sharia courts that judge by the religion of God and the consent of the people.
[Al-Ahmadi] What about your brothers of the second-generation who have not joined you?
[Abu-al-Fida] Some have reservations due to a previous culture. Others expressed their dissatisfaction over engaging into parties. We are more open-minded than our opponents can imagine, and we will tolerate their insults because we work for the sake of God. We intended to take this step for God`s sake, and whether we did right or wrong, we would be rewarded by God. We are optimistic that we will be rewarded for our deeds, sooner or later.
[Al-Ahmadi] But do you blame them for their violent acts?
[Abu-al-Fida] We condemn all acts that are not based on a legitimate reason. Some acts are not based on legitimate reason and ignore the conditions of the country. We consider these reckless acts and their perpetrators must bear the consequences.
[Al-Ahmadi] What do you think of Ansar al-Sharia elements, who appeared in Abyan and then disappeared?
[Abu-al-Fida] Most of the elements affiliated with Ansar al-Sharia are students, who were angered when the country`s sovereignty was violated. The group was created during the security vacuum and chaos to fill the gap back then. The vacuum might have been intentional to lure them to specific places, or unintentional due to the inability to cover some places. They are being targeted by security forces and aircraft, depending on accurate information from Yemen. A few days ago, I read a report by a Western writer saying that security crackdowns in Yemen are more than those launched in Pakistan, due to the accuracy of the information provided in Yemen.
[Al-Ahmadi] What do you think of the phenomenon of assassinations that we are witnessing these days of a number of political security officers, which is considered an unfortunate phenomenon and disturbing for security personnel?
[Abu-al-Fida] You feel sorry due to these acts, and I feel terribly sorry when I see the Yemeni blood being shed. We feel sorry when we learn that a Muslim, whose father is a Muslim and his mother is a Muslim, was killed by a Muslim. How sad we feel about this situation, at a time when both sides are supposed to be in one rank against the enemy to secure, build, and develop this country. How sorry I felt last week when I heard that an air raid killed six Yemenis, and that six were killed in the streets by Yemenis. Who benefits from this? I call on everyone to reconsider the matter, and I call on all Yemenis to stand united as one to stop the bloodshed at home and abroad.
[Al-Ahmadi] You are now forming a new political party. Will you hand over the weapons in your possession to the state?
[Abu-al-Fida] We do not possess any weapons. However, if you mean the armed Al-Qaeda elements, I am telling you that this is a procedural issue that must be preceded by other procedures, including a serious call for dialogue. Dialogue will not be held without the release of prisoners and cessation of prosecutions. The issue of handing over the weapons will be reached later. It is not reasonable to ask me to hand over my weapons while you attack me from all directions, arrest me, and put me in prison. This issue is not suitable in Yemen; Huthists possess an arsenal of heavy, medium, and light weapons and they are in the Dialogue Committee. Arms belong to the state, and if the state was serious about dialogue and easing the painful situation within the country, arms would be a procedural matter. We want to tell our country that we now have a political party, but no official authority has yet to morally encourage us for taking this step.
[Al-Ahmadi] So, you want to be added to the National Dialogue Committee?
[Abu-al-Fida] We are not keen on this issue. We believe in the importance of national dialogue to get the country out of the current crisis and miserable condition. However, the current Dialogue Committee does not bode good results, due to the imbalance in forces within the committee, as well as the absence of influential people. In addition, the dialogue committee includes men of war who put the country in this situation. Additionally, the committee lacks the legitimate reference to settle disagreements. Unfortunately, the Gulf initiative has become the reference, instead of the constitution and the Yemeni wisdom. Decisions and outcomes in dialogue are subject to the outside. Everyone in the dialogue committee follows the guidance of their party, each party is originally subject to the outside, and everyone is eventually subjected to the outside. We are neither optimistic nor keen on joining this committee. We hope everyone fears God and preserve the money that will be wasted on this dialogue. We call for a parallel serious national dialogue led by influential figures, clerics, tribal chiefs, specialists, academics, and others away from the current dialogue committee and sponsors of the Gulf initiative. This is a general point of view for the National Dialogue Committee.
Source: Al-Jumhuriyah website, Ta`izz, in Arabic 2 Jan 13
© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Former Yemeni President Salih being pressured to relocate
BBC Monitoring Middle East
January 04, 2013
A view of a village in the Haraz mountains, around 100km (62 miles) west of the Yemeni capital Sanaa January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
Report by Muhammad Jamih in London: “Yemen: Efforts To Convince the Former President To Leave the Country; Official Source to `Al-Sharq al-Awsat:` Salih Will Not Go to Italy for Fear of Prosecution, Prefers a Gulf State.”
An official Yemeni source has said that efforts are under way to convince the former Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih to leave the country for a Gulf state.
The source, who preferred to remain anonymous, stressed in a telephone call with Al-Sharq al-Awsat in London that “the former president will not risk going to Italy, which has granted him an entry visa, because it would be easy for him to be prosecuted there and because he is afraid of being assassinated in a country where mafia gangs are active”.
The source added: “The former president has a pressing need to leave the country to undergo a necessary surgical operation, but there are also efforts under way to convince him to remain abroad until after the transitional period has ended.” He said: “Many offers have been presented to the former president to convince him to leave the country, and a Gulf state has come forward with an offer which is perhaps the closest to the former president`s wishes.”
The source added that it would be incumbent on the former president to adhere to certain conditions if he left the country to reside in the Gulf state, which he did not name. The source indicated that a number of ambassadors from countries overseeing the Gulf initiative were working to convince the former Yemeni president to leave the country in order to enable the political process to move forward, saying: “The ambassadors of a number of countries overseeing the Gulf initiative are working on this.” The former president`s office could not be reached for comment on the news.
The former Yemeni president left the country for medical treatment on two occasions since being subject to an assassination attempt last year, first to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and second to the United States, though he insisted on returning to the country both times.
The former Yemeni president reiterated his refusal to leave the country for a temporary residence of two years abroad, and insisted on continuing to practice his political activities as head of the General People`s Congress (GPC) party. This has provoked - and continues to provoke - suspicion in the ranks of the Joint Meeting Parties and many of the youth components. The official website of the GPC announced at the end of last month that the former president intended to head his party`s representatives at the national dialogue conference, provoking a storm of criticism and rejection among a number of political parties and youth components.
However the former president`s secretary Ahmad Abdallah al-Sufi stressed to Al-Sharq al-Awsat on a previous occasion that for Salih to head the team from his party at the national dialogue would be natural and in harmony with the nature of the work of political parties, which are represented by their leaders.
In this regard, the official Yemeni source mentioned that “the former president faces pressure to leave the country temporarily, especially after he detonated the bombshell of him heading the members of his party participating in the national dialogue, which threatens to stop the national dialogue being held, given that many of those participating refuse to take part if Salih attends the national dialogue sessions in person.
Yemen has suffered from a state of instability since a popular uprising deposed the regime of former President Ali Abdallah Salih, as Al-Qaeda is spread throughout wide areas in the south of the country and launches bloody attacks against military and civilian targets; Huthi rebels - an armed Shi`i group - control Sa`dah province in the north of the country, and oil and gas energy lines are subject to acts of sabotage on a continual basis.
Source: Al-Sharq al-Awsat website, London, in Arabic 3 Jan 13
© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.