Politics and the evolution of Takfeer in Yemen

Published on Oct. 12, 2013 on The Atlantic Post

By Sama’a Al-Hamdani and Afrah Nasser
I was declared an apostate at the end of April 2013 because of a political seminar on women’s empowerment hosted at my college in Taiz. In this gathering, I stated that Islam’s most stringent provisions – whether in the Qur’an or the Sunnah – are meant to refine rather than to terrorize. A radical cleric twisted my words and said that I called the Prophet Mohammed a liar and based on it, I was labeled a Kafir (apostate).  - Sally Adeeb, age 21, law school student.
Since the overthrow in Yemen of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011, 11 people have been accused of apostasy (see chart 1 below) in the practice referred to as Takfeer. One of them, Jamal al-Junid, was detained by the police in May 2013 for 15 days and finally was released after the staging of several protests. Another accused “apostate” is Ahmed Al-Arami, a literature and arts lecturer who was labeled a “secularist” in April 2013 and subsequently fled the country because of serious threats and the possibility that he might be executed. The sensitivity of offending religion is a stumbling block in the quest to return Yemen to stability.
NDC and the Evolution of Takfeer
Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which was launched in March 2013 and is part of a Gulf Cooperation Council plan for a negotiated transition for Yemen, has been targeted for accusations of apostasy by one of the country’s leading clerics. Abdul Majeed Al-Zindani, Yemen’s influential Muslim Brotherhood/Wahhabist cleric who is also listed as a “specially designated global terrorist” by the United States Treasury Department in 2004, recently released a YouTube video in which he condemned the current NDC political process. The video presentation discussed the framing of the state’s legislation being managed by “the State Building Committee” and claimed that the majority of the committee’s members had voted that Islam is “the state’s main source of legislation” instead of “the state’s only source of legislation.”
Al-Zindani is a non-official politician who influences the Yemeni masses by claiming the custodianship of the Shari’ah, or Islamic law. He established an non-profit religious university, Al-Iman, in 1993 and has claimed to have invented a cure for HIV/AIDS and to have found scientific proof that women cannot speak and remember at the same time.
In July 2013, Al-Zindani’s office, which is managed by his son, issued an official statement announcing the names of 37 NDC members who are allegedly “fighting Islam” and asserting that the named individuals “reject the Islamic Shari’ah and are the enemies of Islam.” The statement is believed to be a warrant and could become a Takfeer fatwa pointing to these aforementioned members as apostates. The action prompted an urgent press conference held by the NDC that condemned publication of the list or the issuance of any such destructive fatwas.
The dispute reflects not only the struggle for dominance between the traditional religious base and the newly-emerging civil power in the decision-making process; it is also a critical factor in the evolution of the nation’s potential new identity. As of yet, it remains uncertain whether or not Shari’ah will be the only source of legislation in Yemen.
Takfeer has long been a key tactic used by radical political Islam to silence its critics. Given its importance to Yemen’s ongoing transition, it is useful to look more closely at the nature of Takfeer in Yemen, who is mainly affected by it, who implements it and how it might be ended.
Chart 1: People Declared Apostates in Yemen since 2011 
Reason for Takfeer
Consequences/ Legal Action
Fikri Qassim
Writer and playwright
Jan. 2012
Commenting about replacing Gods on Facebook
Death threats
Bushra Al Maqtari
Journalist & novelist (YSP)
Jan. 2012
Controversial article
Legal suit
Mohsin ‘Ayed
Feb. 2012
For posting an intimate picture of him with his wife on Facebook
Death threats and wife asked for divorce after the fatwa
Mohammed Al-Saeidi
Researcher and writer
Dec. 2012
Research on Qu’ran
Tried and found innocent after a huge pressure campaign
Samiah Al Aghbari
YSP member & journalist
Feb. 2013
Speech on the death of Jar Allah Omar
Legal suit
Ahmed Al Soufi
March 2013
Authoring a book that encourages infidelity
Received fatwa asking him to apologize; otherwise he’ll face death.
Sally Adeeb
YSP member
April 2013
For comments on Sunnah and Qu’ran
Jamal Al Junaid
Employee at Yemen’s Justice Ministry
May 2013
Constant objection over corruption cases carried out by Islamist groups in the Ministry
Imprisoned for 15 days after a trial
Sulaiman Al Ahdal
May 2013
Filing a lawsuit over looted land
Escaped prosecution after fleeing from Hudaidah city with his family
Ahmed Al Tares Al ‘Arami
Lecturer, poet & critic
May 2013
Suggested a provocative reading-list for students
Escaped to Egypt after receiving death threats
Nabeel Saif Al Komaim
Threatened to revoke nationality
What is Takfeer and Who Does It? 
Takfeer is the process of identifying and labeling a person an apostate from Islam. The objective of the process is to reprimand people who break fundamentalist norms, and it penalizes them on two levels. First, it publicly shames an individual by labeling him or her an “infidel” for “religious” purposes. Second, and on a more personal level, the individual becomes an “apostate” and his or her views are renounced as heresy. The “apostate” can be punished through social and/or legal ostracism, or even in some cases by execution through official or mob action. The Takfeer process effectively coerces the society to conform to a single ideology and is a means of enforcing a certain “norm.” Ultimately, the objective is to restrict creation of a pluralistic society.
The incidence of Takfeer is wholly political and can be traced back to the Abbasid Caliphate, where the targets were primarily influential thinkers, writers and philosophers, such as Al-Tabari, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes).
The modern Takfeeri movement tends to target marginalized individuals and women, because the wealthy and influential elements in the society tend to use the process themselves as a means of maintaining their position.
Declaring women infidels is not a new trend in the Middle East and is not unique to Yemen. For example, in Egypt, there was Nawal Al Saadawi and in Kuwait Laila Al Othman and Aliyah Al-Shouaib, among many others. The recent Takfeer attacks in Yemen have not been against corrupt individuals who were economically powerful or belonged to an affluent tribe. Marginalized groups and women simply constitute the easiest targets to be attacked.
The main centers of impetus for Takfeer have been the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam associated with, but not necessarily endorsed by, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabist faction (commonly referred to as Salafism). Salafism is a Sunni movement that calls for the practice of Islam in the way that the Salaf (“predecessors” or “ancestors”) did. Technically, both Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabis are Salafis; however, in the Arab world, the term Salafi usually refers to Wahhabis only. In Yemen, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis are at times grouped together due to the lack of general understanding of their differences and to their resemblance in political perspectives.
Most Takfeeris belong to either one of these two factions, but it is essential to note that not all Muslim Brotherhood members or Wahhabis endorse the practice. In fact, several imams have denounced the Takfeer process as unethical; for example, the late Yemeni Islamic scholar, Muhammad al-Shawkani, who had supported Takfeer in his early years as a scholar, subsequently recanted and issued public condemnations of it. Another contemporary and moderate Islamic scholar, Habib Ali al-Jifri, also condemns Takfeer.
What Do Takfeeris Want?
As it is often a reflection of the nation’s underlying political trends, Takfeer is frequently an evolving process. It is primarily a means of keeping people’s attitudes in check through the manipulation of public opinion; as Takfeeris long for a theocratic state, the process of Takfeer, especially in a transitional situation such as now exists in Yemen, is likely to be reactionary rather than progressive.
During Yemen’s Revolution in March 2011, Yemeni radical cleric Abdulmajeed Al Zindani stated, “The revolutions happening in the Arab world are introductions to establishing an Islamic Caliphate.”
A modern day Caliphate would be a centralized religious dictatorship. Advocates such as Al Zindani are seeking to influence, dominate and restrain the masses. They romanticize and glorify the time of the caliphates and use propaganda to tarnish the prospect of a civil state by claiming it would corrupt faith. Takfeeris are radicals who reject compromise and claim to hold absolute truths through the exploitation of religion.
As is true of other Takfeeri groups in the Middle East, Yemeni Takfeeris seek to change and dominate the “norms” of the societies in which they operate. Takfeeris exhibit their political and religious affiliations through outward appearances such as dress and social rituals and attempt to force these on society as norms.
For instance, Yemeni women no longer wear colorful dresses but instead are covered in black. Women who do not follow this norm are easily identified and could be targeted. Such an obvious outward expression of adherence allows the group to measure its success: the more people comply to the uniform, the more authority they gain. This distinction facilitates an impression of greater cohesion. In turn, the Takfeeris have successfully created a binary community in Yemen where people are divided into “us” versus “them.”
Takfeer also is a means of suppressing dissent and effectively silencing the “enemy.” In a pious society such as Yemen’s, once God is added to the equation, individuals of faith are fearful to stand on the opposing side. The innate injustice of this situation is expressed in the quintessential proportionality argument; bringing God into a political or an ideological argument is equivalent to fighting a defenseless village with machine guns.
Takfeer in Yemen
Historically, Takfeer in Yemen has not been limited to Sunni Islam. The earliest record of mass-Takfeer traces to 1205 CE when the Zaydi (Shi’a) Imam Abdullah Bin Hamza declared as apostates a faction of Zaydis known as Al-Matrifiyah, an action that precipitated a bloody massacre in the governorate of ‘Amran in 1213 (610 Hijri).
The use of mass-Takfeer against political opponents was more recently on display during Yemen’s Civil War of 1994, when Al Zindani and ِAbdulwahab Al Dailami, Minister of Justice during Yemen’s Civil War in 1994, invoked it to legitimize war against secessionists.
Al Dailami issued a fatwa to that effect, and went so far as to legitimize the killing of civilians, accusing them of being weak Muslims for allowing the secessionists to be “shoved” among them.
Al-Dailami’s fatwa against people in Yemen’s south during the 1994 Civil War is considered one of the causes of the killing of thousands of people in the south. In the post-war era, Al-Dailami and Al-Zindani denied that they had issued any fatwa during that war.
Years later, during Sa’dah’s string of six wars that began in 2004, the beliefs and practices of the Houthis (now called Ansar Allah) were questioned, and some clerics labeled Zaydis as heretics.
During Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule (1978-2012), the Takfeeri movement targeted not only political opponents, but also journalists, artists and writers, as well as anyone else who had the potential to influence people’s minds (see timeline below for detailed information). Most of the Takfeeri fatwas issued in Yemen over the past 33 years were mandated by Wahhabi clerics.
The declaration of women as apostates is often part of the larger “us” versus “them” mentality; women who refuse to adhere to the Takfeeri dress uniform of a very conservative veil (norm) are considered “western” and therefore associated with the enemy (them). Also, women who do not adhere to the prescribed doctrines governing female behavior are considered “anti-social” to conservative norms.
Women facing Takfeer frequently are independent thinkers and are likely to have closer ties to youth movements rather than being associated with traditional political parties. The objectives of such women are usually wider than merely fighting marginalization and extend to the sort of defamation and baseless threats that are usually a part of being singled out as an apostate.
For their part, Takfeeris tend to view women as a homogenous group. Inspired by the domino theory, Takfeeris believe that if one woman leader is terrorized, other emerging women leaders would become silent. The same theory applies to other marginalized groups.

Acceptance of Takfeer 
In the past 20 years, Yemenis have experienced a crisis of governance and have come to consider Takfeeri movements as a shift from the former regime, a lesser of two evils. Moreover, religious groups were the only opposition entities allowed to operate freely under Saleh’s regime, which saved him from being targeted as an “enemy of Islam.”
Operating in such a relatively free environment for the past 23 years, the Takfeeri groups have had plenty of time to assimilate into Yemeni society, and their level of organization has been enhanced as well by funding received from individuals residing in Saudi Arabia. Unlike other political movements in the country, their ideology is easy to articulate and powerful. The current transitional period in Yemen offers a fertile ground for their continued rise to power.
The increasing prominence of Takfeeris reflects a concomitant deterioration of ijtihad, the process of independent reasoning within Shari’ah, or Islamic law. It also highlights the domination of Sunni Takfeeri trends in the nation’s intellectual milieu and hints at an underlying confusion (because of the fragile religious scholarship in the country) in the ability to distinguish between what is ‘Aib(disgraceful/dishonorable) and what is Haram (forbidden/taboo).
Indoctrination, ignorance and political aspiration are the main reasons that Yemenis accept the process of Takfeer. Illiteracy in Yemen is 40 percent (around 70 percent for women) and the population depends heavily on the guidance of jurists. In the last two decades, Yemen gave precedence to Al ‘Ilm Bil Deen (religious studies) over Al ‘Ilm Bil Donya (scientific and technical studies). Yemeni society remains interdependent and it is easy to gain public support. Others fear being labeled irreligious. It is important to remember that most Tafkeeris genuinely believe they are carrying out God’s wishes on earth.
Takfeeris should be made aware that declaring people apostates will silence some individuals but is not a long-term solution of eliminating all opposition. The practice of Takfeer has no roots to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims and Islamists will benefit from a message that Islam is a tolerant and a rational religion. Atonement was and should be an option for “sinners,” especially when the sin is narrowly defined by a particular sect. Yemen desperately needs an Islamic critique on the use of Takfeer.
It is also essential that human rights, and especially those for women, be codified in the new Yemeni constitution. Members of the National Dialogue need to ensure that future jurists selected for the drafting process are aware of the need for a detailed consideration of people’s rights of expression to prevent future strife.
Shari’ah is presently the only source of legislation in Yemen. If this simplistic and vaguely defined body of law remains, it will be important to identify which schools of Islamic law will be followed and the specific jurists who will be issuing fatwas. Strict criteria also will be required on who can be an Islamic jurist in the future (perhaps graduates of Al-Azhar University or those who hold a Ph.D. or M.A. in Islamic studies). All of this needs to be done without restricting Yemen’s Islamic diversity.
Finally,  mandatory education must be enforced to help individuals make informed decisions. The Yemeni educational system, which is currently being revamped, needs to give equal importance to scientific education (learned knowledge over memorized knowledge). More importantly, the people need to be aware of the influence of religious imperialism from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Egypt and Turkey. When it comes to governance, people need to understand that there are modes of governance other than religious orthodoxy or failed “democracy.”
Sama’a Al-Hamdani writes the blog Yemeniaty, which covers a range of topics on Yemen, focusing specifically on women’s issues. You can follow her @Yemeniaty.
Afrah Nasser is a blogger from Yemen living in Sweden and co-founder of the @YemeniSalon in Stockholm.

حصة المرأة: هل هي نجاح للمجتمع الدولي أم للمرأة اليمنية؟

نشرت المقالة في منتدى فكرة

في 15 سبتمبر/أيلول، كتب الرئيس اليمني عبد ربه منصورهادي مقالته الافتتاحية الأولى له على الإطلاق على أمل طمأنة الشعب اليمني حول تقدم المرحلة السياسية الحالية. والمقالالذي نُشر في مجلة التايمز اليمنية والمتاح فقط باللغة الإنجليزية يبرز دور المرأة أثناء المرحلة الانتقالية ويثني على وضع المرأة في اليمن. والأهم من ذلك أن الرئيس يدعم بشكل غير مباشر حصة الـ 30% المقترحة، حيث يقول "لضمان سماع تلك الأصوات، عقد تحالف جديد للنساء المؤثرات مؤتمراً صحفياً اليوم لتأييد الدعم الوطني لتخصيص حصة 30 بالمائة على الأقل لتمثيل المرأة في جميع فروع الحكومة".

وبدون شك فإن مشاركة المرأة في مؤتمر الحوار الوطني كانت قوية حيث تمثل المرأة 28% تقريباً من جميع المشاركين. كما ترأست المرأة ثلاث من لجان العمل التسع. فضلاً عن أنهن شكلن تحالفات داخل مؤتمر الحوار وخارجه لقيادة حقوق المرأة، ورغم كل هذه الجهود، إلا أنه تعذر الوصول إلى قرار بالإجماع بخصوص حصة الـ 30%. وبغض النظر عن ذلك، يبدو أن مؤتمر الحوار الوطني في اليمن سيوافق على حصة الـ 30% للمرأة في جميع فروع الحكومة الثلاثة، لكن هل هذا النجاح يرجع إلى الجهود الدؤوبة من جانب المرأة اليمنية، أم أنه يهدف إلى جعل اليمن تبدو وكأنها أكثر ديمقراطية؟

رغم أن مشاركة المرأة في مؤتمر الحوار الوطني مُلفته للانتباه، إلا أن الحوار يظل منفصلاً تماماً عن حقائق المرأة اليمنية على الأرض. لا تزال العملية الانتقالية، التي كان من المقرر لها أن تنتهي في 18 سبتمبر/أيلول، تلقى دعماً قوياً من المجتمع الدولي. وهذا يسترعي سؤالاً حول مدى النجاح المحتمل للعملية على المدى الطويل إذا كان الهدف هو تحقيق القبول الدولي مقارنة بالمشاركة الحقيقية والتأثير على الأرض.

حصة الـ30%

بحسب متطلبات العملية التي يقودها مؤتمر الحوار الوطني، يجب أن تحظى أي مادة في المرحلة الأولية بـ 90% من الأصوات بين اللجان من أجل الموافقة عليها، وإلا فإنه سيتم إرسالها إلى لجنة توفيق الآراء، التي تأسست للإشراف على عملية الحوار من أجل الحفاظ على الانسجام. وإذا قامت لجنة توفيق الآراء بتعديل المادة وإعادتها إلى اللجان، فيجب أن تحصل على موافقة بنسبة 75% وإلا سيتم إعادتها مرة أخرى إلى الهيئة الإشرافية. وأخيراً، يجب الموافقة على مسودة معدلة بنسبة 55% من اللجان. وإذا لم توافق عليها اللجان، فسوف تتخذ لجنة توفيق الآراء ورئيس الحوار القرار النهائي حول ما إذا كان سيتم المضي قدماً في هذه المادة أم لا.

تجتمع لجان بناء الدولة والحكم الرشيد والحقوق والحريات في مؤتمر الحوار الوطني لمناقشة حصة المرأة، وسوف تتطلب حال الموافقة عليها أن يكون 30% من المسؤولين من النساء عبر جميع فروع الحكومة. وقد كانت لجنة بناء الدولة هي اللجنة الوحيدة التي تمكنت من الموافقة المطلوبة بنسبة إجماع 90%، رغم أن هذا كان يرجع فقط إلى حقيقة أن بعض الأعضاء حجبوا أصواتهم على افتراض أن ذلك سوف يخفض من معدل الإجماع. لم تصل اللجنتان السابقتان إلى معدل الأصوات المطلوب، لذا فإنه بحسب إجراءات الحوار، فإن الأمر أُحيل إلى لجنة توفيق الآراء قبل أغسطس/آب. وفي ذلك الوقت، كان من المنطقي افتراض أن الموضوع سوف يُعاد إلى اللجان العاملة حيث سيتعين على النساء تشكيل تحالفات والعمل بجد للحصول على الإجماع المطلوب بنسبة 75% للموافقة على المادة.

وإذا كان للنساء والجماعات الشبابية أن يوحدن أصواتهن للفوز بالإجماع في اللجان، يرجح أن النسبة التي سيحصلون عليها ستقل عن المطلوب ولن يحصلوا سوى على 50%. ومن هناك، سيكون من الصعب للغاية الفوز بنسبة الأصوات المتبقية، لا سيما بالنظر إلى أن الكثيرين من الرجال الذين أعلنوا تأييدهم لحصة الـ30% رفضوها لاحقاً عندما جاء وقت التصويت. عارضت السلطات التقليدية في اليمن علانية فكرة تخصيص حصة 30% للمرأة، بل إن الأحزاب "الليبرالية" في اليمن اختارت حصة 15% بدلاً من نسبة الـ 30% المقترحة. غير أنه بعد المقال الافتتاحي للرئيس، غيَّر العديد من أعضاء الأحزاب المشاركين في الحوار من لهجتهم. ثم وافقت لجنة توفيق الآراء على أنه ينبغي تمثيل المرأة في جميع الهيئات الحكومية الثلاثة، ومن ثم أرجأت مناقشة حصة المرأة إلى حين عقد الجلسة العامة النهائية.

تقييم الحصة

تستند حصة المرأة إلى فكرة أنها سوف تُحسِّن من مشاركة المرأة في الحكم، بما يعزز قضايا المرأة، من خلال منهج تنازلي من أعلى لأسفل. أولاً، يقوم هذا على افتراض أن تحديد حصة الـ 30% للمرأة يضمن أنه سيتم تنفيذها، بينما في الواقع لا توجد أي ضمانات بأن هذا سيحدث. ثم هناك افتراض بأن النساء اللواتي وقع عليهن الاختيار أو تم انتخابهن سوف يقدِّمن حقوق المرأة على الأجندة السياسية لأحزابهن والسؤال الحقيقي هو ما إذا كانت هذه الحصة سوف تصنع فارقاً فعلياً وتحدث نقلة في الأوضاع المتدهورة لصحة المرأة ومعدلات الأمية والبطالة والوضع الاقتصادي. من المؤكد أنها تستطيع فعل ذلك، لكن يُشترط لذلك عمل النساء المشتغلات بالسياسة والموظفين الحكوميين بجد من أجل إنجاز هذه الحقوق.

يقول العديد من الرجال إن النساء غير جاهزات لنسبة الـ 30% نظراً لقلة عددهن، سواء بسبب التعليم أو الخبرة المهنية. بيد أن هذه الحُجة غير صحيحة. فالعديد من المسؤولين الذكور يشغلون مناصبهم بسبب روابطهم الاجتماعية وليس بسبب مؤهلاتهم. والحجة الأخرى هي أن نسبة الـ 30% هي حصة مرتفعة جداً، لا سيما وأن الرجال هم العائلون الأساسيون لعائلاتهم. وهذه الحُجة ضعيفة كذلك لأن الأرقام أظهرت أن النساء اللواتي يكسبن المزيد من المال ينفقن ثروتهن على عوائلهم. وعلاوة على ذلك، إذا اعتنق اليمن الفيدرالية، سوف تؤدي الحكومات المحلية الجديدة إلى خلق المزيد من المناصب والفرص وبهذا لن "يسرق" النساء أي من الوظائف المتاحة.

هناك تخوف بأن الحصة لن تُطبق وبأن النساء اللواتي يقع عليهن الاختيار من خلال الحصة سوف يعززن من أجندة أحزابهن وليس أجندة المرأة. وعلى كل حال، من المحتمل أن تكون حصة الـ 30% تهيئ المشهد لفشل المرأة اليمنية، لكن هذه مخاطرة ينبغي للمرأة اليمنية الإقدام عليها.

لقد عملت المرأة اليمنية بجد منذ أوائل تسعينيات القرن الماضي من أجل كسب كافة الحقوق التي نالتها. وفي حال الموافقة على الحصة، ينبغي للمرأة استخدامها لمصلحتها كفرصة لمواصلة العمل الجيد نحو تحسين أوضاع المرأة في المجتمع. إن حصة المرأة ليست الحل الوحيد، لكنها إحدى الطرق العديدة التي تستطيع من خلالها المرأة التأثير على السياسات. وللأسف، كان يُنظر إلى المرأة اليمنية في عام 2011 باعتبارها رمزاً للتغيير الديمقراطي في انتفاضة 2011 اليمنية، لكن لم يجري مخاطبتهن على الفور كفاعلين جادين في العملية السياسية. وإذا كان المجتمع الدولي والحكومة اليمنية ينظران إلى حصة المرأة باعتبارها معياراً رئيسياً "لنجاح" العملية الانتقالية السياسية الحالية بدون أي التزام جاد لدعم تنفيذها، فإن الحصة، شأنها شأن الحوار، ستكون مجرد عملية تشمل الفئات العليا من المجتمع ولن يكون لها تأثير فعلي على الأرض.

سماء الهمداني، باحثة يمنية وتكتب في مدونة Yemeniaty.com. يمكنك متابعتها علىTwitter @Yemeniaty

Yemen’s Quota: Success for International Community or Yemeni Women?

This article was originally published through Fikra Forum on Sept. 27, 2013

On September 15, Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi wrote his first-ever op-ed in hopes of reassuring the Yemeni people of the current political transition’s progress. The article, published in Yemen Times and available only in English, highlights the role of women during the transition and praises the status of women in Yemen. More importantly, the President indirectly endorses the proposed 30% quota; he writes, “To ensure these voices are heard, a new coalition of influential women held a press conference today advocating for national support for at least, a 30 percent quota for female [representation] in all branches of government.”

Without a doubt, women’s participation in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) has been powerful, with women representing almost 28% of all participants. Female representatives chaired three of the nine working committees. They also formed alliances within and outside the dialogue to champion women’s rights; yet in spite of these efforts, they could not reach a unanimous decision regarding the 30% quota. Regardless, it appears that Yemen’s NDC will pass the 30% quota for women in all three branches of the government, but is this success due to the persistent efforts of Yemeni women, or is it in order to make Yemen look more democratic?

While the participation of women in the NDC is impressive, the dialogue remains completely detached from the realities of Yemeni women on the ground. The transitional process, which was meant to conclude on September 18, continues to be strongly supported by the international community. This begs the question of how successful the process is likely to be in the long term if its goals are achieving international approval as opposed to true engagement and impact on the ground.

The 30% Quota 

According to the NDC process requirements, at the initial stage, an article must receive 90% of the vote among the committees in order to pass; otherwise it is sent to the Consensus Committee, which was established to oversee the dialogue process in order to maintain harmony. If the Consensus Committee modifies the article and sends it back to the committees, it must then receive 75% approval or it is returned again to the overseeing body. Finally, a modified draft must be passed by 55% of the committees. If it is not passed by the committees, the Consensus Committee and the dialogue president make the final decision on whether or not to move forward with the article.

The State Building, Good Governance, and Rights and Freedoms committees in the NDC all convened to discuss the women’s quota, which, if passed, would require 30% of officials to be women across all branches of government. The State Building Committee was the only committee that managed to pass the initial required 90% consensus, though this was only due to the fact that some members withheld their vote on the assumption that it would lower the consensus rate. The other two committees did not reach the required votes so, according to dialogue procedures, the matter was transferred to the Consensus Committee before August. At that time, it was reasonable to assume that the subject would be transferred back to the working committees where women would have to form alliances and work hard to get the required 75% consensus to pass the article.

If the women and the youth groups were to unite their votes to win consensus in the committees, they would still likely fall short with only 50%. From there, it would be extremely challenging to gain the remaining required votes, especially considering that several men who publicly endorsed the 30% quota later rejected it when it was time to vote. The traditional powers in Yemen publicly opposed the idea of a 30% quota, and even the “liberal” parties of Yemen opted for a 15% quota rather than the proposed 30%. However, after the president’s op-ed, several party members in the dialogue shifted their tone. The Consensus Committee then agreed that women should be represented in all three bodies of the government, thereby postponing the discussion of a women’s quota until the final plenary session.

Assessing the Quota

The women’s quota is based on the idea that it will improve women’s participation in governance, thus advancing women’s issues, through a top-down approach. First, this is based on the assumption that the creation of a 30% quota for women ensures that it will be implemented, when in reality, there are no guarantees that this will occur. Then, there is the assumption that the women selected or elected will put women’s rights ahead of their party’s political agenda. The real question is whether or not this quota can truly make a difference in transforming the deteriorating conditions of women’s health, illiteracy rates, unemployment, and economic status. It certainly can, but only if women politicians and government employees work hard for these rights.

Several men argue that women are not ready to have the 30% quota because too few women are qualified, either based on education or professional experience. This argument, however, is invalid. Many male officials are placed in their positions for their social connections rather than their qualifications. Another argument is that 30% is too high a quota, especially since men are the main providers for their families. This argument is also weak because figures have shown that women who make more money spend their wealth on their families. Furthermore, if Yemen embraces federalism, new local governments will lead to new positions and jobs so women will not “steal” any of the available jobs.

There are two main legitimate concerns regarding the quota: first, that the quota will not be implemented; and second, that the women selected through the quota will promote their party’s agenda rather than a women’s agenda. In either case, it is possible that the 30% quota is setting Yemeni women up to fail, but it is a risk that Yemen’s women should be willing to take.

Yemeni women have worked very hard since the early 1990s for every right that they have. If the quota is passed, then women should use it to their advantage as an opportunity to continue their good work of improving the status of women in society. The quota for women is not the only solution, but rather one of the many ways in which women can influence politics. Unfortunately, Yemeni women were seen as symbols of democratic change in the 2011 Yemeni uprising, but they have not so readily been approached as serious influencers of the political process. If the women’s quota is viewed by the international community and the Yemeni government as a primary benchmark of “success” of the current political transition without a serious commitment to supporting its implementation, the quota, like the dialogue, will merely be a process involving the upper echelons of society and will have no real impact on the reality on the ground.

Sama’a Al-Hamdani is a Yemeni researcher and writes on the blog Yemeniaty.com. You can follow her on Twitter @Yemeniaty. 

نداء للمشاركات في مؤتمر الحوار، لتعزيز الكوتا "الحصة النسبية"

نداء للمشاركات في مؤتمر الحوار، لتعزيز الكوتا "الحصة النسبية"
سماء خالد الهمداني
١٣ أغسطس ٢٠١٣

 قبل بدء الحوارالوطني، ، توقعت في مقال سابق نشر في "برنامج التدريب الدولي لإدارة الصراعات" أن المرأة اليمنية ستجد صعوبة في تحديد أولوياتها. هل هي ناشطة نسوية أو سياسية أولا؟ مع كل التحديات الملحة التي تواجه اليمن، هل ستهمل قضايا المرأة؟ في اعتقادي ان المرأة اليمنية لم تستعد جيدا لترتيب مطالبها  في وقت مبكر، ونحن الآن على بعد  شهر واحد فقط من نهاية الحوار ولم تنجح المشاركات في وضع جدول عمل مشترك لمناصرته في لجان العمل التسع. الآن وفي الشهر الاخير، ستضطرالمشاركات للنضال  من أجل معركة كبرى، وهي حصة الثلاثين بالمائة  بنسبة  في الهيئات التشريعية والتنفيذية والقضائية وحتى في مواقع اتخاذ القرار في الأحزاب السياسية.

في الأسبوع الأول من أغسطس، حضرت مؤتمرا للنساء المشاركات في الحوار الوطني، والذي أعد بالمشاركة بين منظمة فريدريش إيبرت والامم المتحدة. وسمعت من كثير من الحضور  أن هذا الملتقى ليس بالوحيد الذي رتب من قبل مؤسسات دولية للمشاركات في الحوار و يبدو أن الأمم المتحدة تقوم باحتكار لقاءات النساء والشباب.  بغض النظر، خلال هذا الحدث، قدم  الدكتور فؤاد الصلاحي ورقة ممتازة عن حقوق المرأة في اليمن وأهدافها في الحوار الوطني. وكان الجانب السلبي الوحيد لهذا الحدث أن د. الصلاحي صرح بإنه لا يعتقد حقا بأن الحوار قادر على تحقيق الأهداف التي كتب عنها أوعن أي شيء اخر، فهو يشعر بأن نتائج  الحوار قررت سلفا من قبل أفراد ذوي نفوذ وراء أبواب مغلقة.

بالرغم من ان المعلومات والفعالية كانتا مفيدتين للغاية، إلا ان أملي خاب لان الوثيقتة لم تتعامل مع معتقدات الباحث الشخصية وفهمت من سلوك الحاضرات  أن الشك ينتابهن في قدرتهن على تحقيق أي شيء يذكر للمرأة. فيما بعد وفي حديث خاص، قالت لي واحدة من أبرز الحاضرين : "أتمنى أننا ناقشنا أساليب الضغط لفرض حصة ال ٣٠٪ أو اي من حقوق المرأة في الدستور". هكذا وباختصار، هذه المقالة هي عن الآليات والتكتيكات التي يمكن أن تستخدمها المرأة اليمنية في حوارها الوطني.

ليس من السر أن المرأة في الحوار الوطني هي في وضع غير مؤات بنسبة ٢٦٪ (وفي خارج الحوار ثلاث وزيرات من أصل خمسة وثلاثين، وامرأة برلمانية من أصل ٣٠١ برلماني). على الرغم من أن الحوار الوطني جار ، فان التعيينات الحالية لا تأخذ نسبة ال٣٠٪ للنساء بعين الاعتبار. ومن المرجح أن العديد من هؤلاء النساء قد يقفن إلى جانب سياسة أحزابهن والتصويت ضد حقوق المرأة لأنهن يفضلن أن يكن ساسة بدلا من ناشطات في مجال حقوق المرأة. ولكي تنجح المرأة، يجب على هذا المبدأ بالتغير. ومن الواضح أيضا، في هذه المرحلة من الحوار الوطني، أن الحوار لن يؤدي إلى تحقيق أي مصالحة أو إجراءات لحل مشاكل اليمن. نتيجة الحوار الوحيدة ستتمثل  في شكل الحكومة والنظام الإنتخابي الجديد، بالاضافة الى دستور مفصل. مشكلة اليمن الرئيسية لم تكن قط في الدستورـ بل في تنفيذ القوانين - ومع ذلك فإنه لا يزال مهماته تحاول  للنساء ضمان حقوق أفضل للمرأة في المستقبل في حالة بدء تنفيذ القوانين. في ظل هذا الجو السياسي الكئيب، لا اظن ان ثمة انجازات كبرى في انتظار المرأة ولكن إذا لم تستطع النساء الوصول لحصة الاناث، فإني سأدعو المرأة اليمنية لتثور على نفسها.

مشكلة النساء في اليمن (وكل المجموعات المستقلة أخرى) هي أنها ترفض القيادة.
 ينظراليمنيون الى الفرد ويتفحصون معتقداته وفلسفته السياسية الكاملة، و إذا لم يتفقوا معه بشكل تام يرفضوا تأيده. هذا النهج بحاجة الى التغيير، فالنساء بحاجة إلى الجلوس معا والتفاوض والاتفاق العام ، فإن الاتفاق بالإجماع ليس ضروريا  اذا تم اشراك الغالبية. وبدون ذلك، الباقي لا طائل منه.
عندما يتم تأمين اتفاق مبدأي على بعض النقاط الأساسية، يجب على النساء الانخراط في تحالفات ونسج  شبكة للمرأة اليمنية تمتد إلى خارج مؤتمر  الحوار وتغطي كافة انحاء اليمن.على الرغم من السياسات، والمواقع والمذاهب والمخاوف المختلفة، لا تزال المرأة موحدة من خلال نوع جنسها مما يسهل عملية الدمج بين الفئات المختلفة. وبعد تكوين التحالفات، يجب على المشاركات التركيز على أساليب خلق مواقف ايجابية من الشعب. اولا، يجب جمع التعاطفات فالفوز لا يأتي رخيصا. وكل حملة بحاجه الى المال ومن حسن حظ نساء اليمن فان الكثير من المنظمات يدعمن نطور النساء. لذا يجب على المشاركات البدء بجمع المال من الجهات المانحة الكبرىداخلية قبل الخارجية، ومن ثم جمع التبرعات الصغرى، مع الأخذ في الاعتبار أن الوقت بدأ ينفد.

يجب على النساء ممارسة الضغط على القواعد  (أو الضغط بطريقة غير مباشرة) وهنا تطلب النساء من المجتمع الاتصال بالمسؤولين الحكوميين وأفراد المجتمع الذي يؤثرون سياسيا بشأن مسألة الكوتا. أبجديات الضغط تشمل كتابة رسائل إلى جميع المنظمات اللاربحية لإبلاغهم بخطط التحالف النسوي، وبإمكان المنظمات المساعدة في تنظيم حملة للمرأة وبدعمها من خارج البلاد. ويجب على المعنيات بالأمر  القيام بالزيارات الشخصية للنساء في منازلهن في مختلف القرى والمحافظات (ويجب تحديد هدف الزيارة بدعم حقوق  المرأة لا أكثر ) وباللبعد عن القضايا الايدولوجية والسياسية). وعندما تصبح المجموعة أكثر تنظيما، يجب محاولة لقاء رئيس الجمهورية لتقديم متطلبات المرأة في الحوار الوطني.

ما تحتاجه المرأة اليمنية الآن أكثر من أي وقت مضى هو حملة إعلامية على شبكة الإنترنت، وفي وسائل الإعلام التقليدية مثل التلفزيون والراديو. يجب ان تصاغ الاهداف خارج الجعجعة السياسية، وأن تكون مبادؤها  مبسطة. وسيكون من المفيد إذا تم اختيار ثلاث ناطقات بإسم حركة المرأة  للتواصل مع مختلف وسائل الإعلام بشكل منتظم وللتواصل مع الجماهير والشعب بشكل عام. وبعد ذلك فإنه من ألسهل جمع النساء لإحداث تأثير كبيرفي وقت لاحق، ويمكن استخدام اساليب مثل المقاطعة وحشد المظاهرات. المرأة الان بحاجة الى ادراك قوتها الاجتماعية واستخدامها لصالحها.

اما في داخل الحوار، تحتاج المرأة لاستخدام النداء الأخلاقي لتحقيق حصة ال٣٠٪ كطلب عادل. بسبب القوالب النمطية الثقافية في مجتمعنا الأبوي، نادرا ما تنجح المرأة في الانتخابات بناء  على نوعها  فقط وبغض النظر عن مؤهلاتها ويمكن تصحيح هذا الظلم عن طريق منح النساء حصة محددة من التمثيل في البرلمان. الهدف من التفاوض داخل الحوار هو الحصول على الرضا المتبادل ومناشدة شعور الآخرين للعدالة. تخصيص حصص للمرأة لا تصنع التميز، ولكنها تعوض عن حواجز فعلية في مجتمع  لا يمنح المرأة نصيبها العادل من المقاعد السياسية. للنساء حق، كمواطنات ، إلى التمثيل المتساوي وهناك حاجة إلى تجاربهم في الحياة السياسية لضمان نجاح مستقبل اليمن على المدى الطويل. الحصة النسبية ضرورية لأن المرأة في وضع غير مؤات (الأغلبية أمية)، ولا يمكن اختيار النساء في الحكومة والاحزاب على أساس المؤهلات التعليمية - لأسباب كثيرة منها استبعاد المرأة العادية وتشجيع صنع حكومة نخبوية أخرى. الحصة النسبية هي عادلة لأنها توفر مقاعد للمرأة في حال اختيار نظام التمثيل النسبي في انتخابات اليمن القادمة.

استراتيجية أخرى هي استخدام "التغطيه" أو التعميم في الحديث عن حقوق مشاركة المرأة السياسية. هذا الاسلوب ابتكره الاطفال ومن اسهلهم استخداما. فالكثير من الدول العربية والمسلمة استخدمت الكوتا مثل ليبيا، تونس، العراق،المغرب، مصر، والأردن. والان اليمن استخدمت هذا النظام في الحوار الوطني ولم ينتهي العالم. وبامكان النساء استخدام استراتجيات اخرى مثل الإقناع الرشيد، النداء الملهم، والتشاور. ثم يمكن تبادل المنافع مع مجموعات الاقليات والشخصيات المحرومة الأخرى باستخدام  المقايضات  (مع التركيز بشكل خاص على فتة الشباب المستقل).

في الختام،علينا الادراك بان الجماعات المعارضة لحصة ال٣٠٪  تقوم بتعبئة الناس وهم مستعدين لخوض  المظاهرات.
المرأة في الحوار الوطني بعيدة نوعا ما عن الواقع اليمني وهي بحاجة إلى التواصل مع الشارع اليمني أكثر من اي شيء أخر. النساء بحاجة إلى ترسيخ قضيتهن ولتجاهل الأيديولوجيات السياسية. وعلينا تذكير الجميع بأن اليمن قد وقعت بالفعل على العديد من الاتفاقيات الدولية لضمان حقوق المرأة. وعلى جميع النساء العلم بان حقوق المرأة متوافقة مع ديننا الإسلامي وأحثهن  باستخدام هذا الدين الرحيم لصالحهن بدلا من استخدامه لتعقيد مستقبلهن ومستقبل غيرهن. حان الوقت لتقوم المرأة اليمنية بدورها كقائدة وارجو من المشاركات في الحوار الوطني إلهام وتوحيد الأجيال الشابة من النساء فهن في حاجة إلى ذلك. فارجوكن ، ضعن  حاجتكن الشخصية وتطلعاتكن السياسية جانبا من أجل مستقبل الامة.

Threatened Unity: Understanding the Tihaman Hirak

Tihama is a coastal region extending from Hijaz to Hodaidah*. Part of Tihama now belongs to Saudi Arabia (since the Taif Treaty), when Talking about the Yemeni Tihaman Hirak, we are talking about the regions that belong to Tihama within the Yemen Border.


Prior to 1941, the region of Tihama was occupied by the Ottomans (twice), their ports were completely destroyed by the Italians during the Italian-Ottoman War and then controlled by the British.  Parts of Tihama were ruled by  the Idrissi Emirate, and then the Zaydi Imamate (under Imam Yehaya). The Tihamans track their first revolution to 1918 (against the corrupt Ottoman rule). Their most famous tribal confederation is the Zaraniq - from Bait Al Faqih - who fought against the Zaydi Imamate. Tihama has several other tribes (like Al-Monasirah, Al-Ma'azibah, Al-Wa'eriyah, Al-Mazahirah, Al-Masa'eed, and Al-'Aqiriah to name a few), but they are all weak today. 

Tihama has the majority of Yemen's valleys - including Wadi Moor which is the biggest in Yemen - and fisheries, as well as several farmlands. Between the area of Bora' and Al Sokhnah is a forest (3-5km long) protected by UNESCO. Also, the region of Tihama is wealthy in historical artifacts, many of which are traced back to the Himyarite Kingdom. 

Their Grievances:

The tribes of Tihama weakened significantly since 1920. Many of the people in Tihama practiced trade and embraced civilian life long ago. Unlike other parts of Northern Yemen, the people there are rarely armed. Many of the Tihaman lands do not belong to them. Security forces are absent from the area - they are present in the mountains but not on the coast -  and poverty levels continue to soar.  

Due to Tihama's location near the Red Sea, the region is rarely at peace. For instance, there are many passing refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia. Moreover, Tihaman fishermen are constantly targeted by pirates who steal their boats and imprison their workers. The area is also used for all kinds of smuggling (weapons, drugs, human trafficking, child trafficking, diesel & petrol, and illegal pesticides).

Logo of the Peaceful Tihaman Hirak 

Since the early 1970s, the standards of living have not improved and the centralized government oppressed the people. Historically, Tihama had fertile farmlands, fisheries and valleys, yet they remain poverty-stricken. Some of the lands have parched due to the lack of management/maintenance. Other Fertile farmlands are managed and owned by powerful individuals outside of Tihama. Fisheries are monopolized by people in the former government and some who are still in the current government. 

Flag of the Tihama Region

When it comes to governance, the area has been mostly managed by the General's People Congress (GPC) from 1982-2011. Many of the politicians and traders in Tihama are publicly allied with GPC; however, some have financial ties to Islah. Tihamans have been completely absent from the political arena. President Hadi visited the area about three months ago (after his trip to Moscow). The locals complained about the absence of a local economy. As a result of this visit, a deal between the government and the wealthy traders (allied with international corporations) was nullified. To date, nothing on the ground was implemented. 

The Movement/Hirak: 

In February 2011 (Yemeni Revolution), the people of Tihama finally had the courage to speak up about their oppression. The Tihaman Hirak is a massive movement that is not limited to a specific group and is open to all its directorates (see map below). They have thousands of members. A few individuals belonging to this movement call for armed resistance. 

The Tihaman Hirak has influential members from different political parties and some independents. The independents in the Tihaman Hirak lack a unified ideology or leadership; however, they put the interests of Tihama first. From this group, there is Mr. Mohammed Mo'men and Mr. Muhammed Al Dohni (who runs a cultural forum). Other members are from the Islah party, like Mr. Ismael Abdul Bari. From the GPC there is Qadi Ishaq Salah, from Yemen's Socialist Party there is Dr. Tibah Barakat, and Amal Maknoon (member in NDC), and from the Nasserite party there is Mr. Hassan Harad and his brother Taha Harad. Other members representing the Tihaman Hirak are 'Izzi Shuwaim and Khaled Abdullah Khalil, who are in the NDC. 

Directorates of the Tihama Region
Their Demands: 

The people of Tihama, like other Yemenis, demand improvements in services. The lack of medical services caused the return of "old diseases" like malaria, smallpox and other similar epidemics. Even though Tihama constitutes a large portion of Yemen, they are not involved in the decision making process and demand political participation. So far, in the National dialogue, their needs are not heard because they are considered a weak minority, even though there are several individuals representing their demands. 

Tihamans want relative autonomy in a Federal Yemen. When it comes to financial matters, they demand that more revenues be allocated to their region. They demand that some of their own resources be dedicated solely to the people of Tihama. Also, they demand the government's assistance in purchasing agricultural equipments in order to revive what once used to be fertile farmlands. 


The biggest challenge facing the Tihaman Hirak is maintaining its peaceful operations. According to several Tihaman activists, they feel that powerful Sheikhs  - who have interests in keeping the people weak-  try to instigate trouble in order to drag the Tihaman people into armed conflict. They struggle to reject radicalism especially since they are very angry.

Another challenge is the politicization of the Hirak members, which can result in deep divisions within the movement. Moreover, Tihama, like other parts of Yemen, is witnessing an increase in sectarian divides between the people. New labels are being paraded around to divide the diverse Tihaman population. Finally, their voices remain faint in Yemen and outside of Yemen, especially in comparison to other oppressed groups. 

*Map from Dr. AbdulWadoud Moqashr PhD Thesis: (Tihaman Resistance and Opposition Movements from 1918 to 1962).

- Special Thanks to Mr. Abdul Bary Taher, Secretary General of the 'Afif Cultural Institution and Mr. Khaled Abdullah Khalil member of the Transitional Justice Committee in the NDC. 

NDC: An exchange of Ideas

This post is a bit lengthy but is beneficial to those who are curious about Yemen's National Dialogue. In response to an article I wrote in regards to transparency in the National Dialogue, I received comments from Samira Ali BinDaair, who holds a Masters in Education from the University of Manchester,U.K. She is a lecturer and has worked with UNFPA, OxfamGB, UNIFEM and IPEC. She has several publications on Education. The following exchange occurred:
Dear Sama'a, 
It was nice seeing you and talking to you and a pleasure to see the little girl I once knew blossom in to a beautiful and smart young lady. 
I agree with some of the points you raised about the NDC but here I would like to clarify to you as to why the dialogue is as it is  but also to make a general comment on the dialogue.
First of all, about the dialogue being too fast I do not agree….On the contrary, the majority of Yemenis think it is dragging on and on and this fact is not to the advantage of the dialogue.The Yemeni public is getting impatient and the initial enthusiasm for the dialogue is beginning to wan, especially seeing that the talks have not been accompanied with the implementation of transitional justice and restitution of the loss of people's rights.
I agree with you that the NDC suffers from a lot of flaws but are all these shortcomings due to the points you raised... lack of transparency choice of attendees outside political parties etc. 
I would like to argue that the stage had already been set for either the success or failure of the NDC and goes beyond these logistics.  I think most of the reasons that may stand in the way of its success are structural and lie within the socio-political structure of yemen that goes back to decades. The power centers in yemen that have prevailed since the revolution of 1962 in north yemen and independence in south yemen are difficult to dislodge even at this stage (after the spring)  and even Abdurabo Mansur would not have survived to oversee the process of the NDC had he attempted not to include them as the major players in the NDC. The whole purpose of the NDC is to get these power centers to dialogue and accept the concept of power sharing  and diffuse the underlying dynamite to start with. It would be naïve to expect more than that at this stage in yemen. The civil state that we dream of is going to take time and will need a lot of hard work in the near future and despite the bleak outlook at the moment there is hope . The rewriting of the Constitution may be an important step but in the end it is a piece of paper that may lack credibility if mechanisms for implementing the different clauses are not effectively defined. Therefore we need to look beyond it and as to how we can achieve social justice.
Revolution is a process not an event and the best type of change is change that starts from the bottom up and is gradual not drastic change that leads to social upheavals. Therefore we have to accept some of the negative aspects in order to lead to the positive in future. (We cannot afford armed confrontation in yemen)  These power centers will gradually filter away and outdate themselves if they do not do their homework if we are to believe the lessons of history.. As Ibn Khuldoon says in his Preface about  the reasons for the rise and fall of empires as  prevailing from within (ie internal flaws). People have woken up and become aware and we cannot go back to the past since the chains of silence have been   broken. Indeed what is the alternative to dialogue imperfect as it may be? I have yet to see anyone delineate this alternative…. if I were to conduct a random survey about what should have been done at this stage within the prevailing circumstances in yemen I doubt I would get a convincing answer. I notice that we Yemenis or Arabs in general (and this is not about your article Samaa) tend to make sweeping statements about everything without focusing on a specific issue or criticizing a specific point about a phenomenon. I have heard people who are involved in the NDC make statements like "we don’t know what is happening it is all a mess" etc etc. Surely all this effort that has been made for people to sit on the table and discuss issues is not all negative? The reason why there is dialogue is because there are many differences of opinion which is inevitable in any society.
To come back to your points  regarding transparency etc….some of the proceedings were shown on yemen tv but I do not think it would be in the interest of the dialogue to show the different actors thrashing out the issues when the process is incomplete that might lead to more loss of confidence in the dialogue within the general public. Isn't it better to publicise results once synthesized? We should not compare yemen with western countries which have experimented with democracy for decades and built institutions that support it. The variables here are different and we cannot jump stages in the process.
About the Yemeni public being made aware of the assistance from the world bank you said etc….what is the significance of that and in what way will it contribute to the success of the dialogue or achieve transparency? In fact it could work in the opposite direction because people are already disenchanted with the US due to many reasons one of them being the unmanned drones that cause havoc to civilians. The world bank /IMF are at the moment pressurizing the Yemeni gov. to remove subsidies from petrol and gas thus putting the govt in a very awkward situation considering the suffering of the people at present from high rates of inflation. Thus it will further antagonize the public to know about the involvement of the world bank in the dialogue. Honestly I have yet to read a complete success story about the structural adjustment package of the WB/IMF in any third world country.  Yemen is in a weak position at the moment and all these regional and international forces dictate their terms. Where is the money that the "friends of yemen" promised to get us out of the economic emergency situation? The answer for yemen lies in attracting investment as partners in future to get us out of this position of "beggars" that the regime has got us into for the last three decades.
Further on in your article you rightly criticized the involvement of foreign experts and the money being wasted on them…..but then considering the fact that the gulf initiative has been transacted by the gulf the UN and the foreign partners this is inevitable. All these international partners are waiting for a pretext to demonize yemen…..and as the Arabic saying goes:"if your hand is under a huge stone remove it gently lest you break it"Much as we resent their interference we have to know the rules of the game and play it right. Moreover publicizing the nitty gritty of daily expenditures of the NDC will not necessarily set a precedent for accountability to the public but publicizing the returns from oil and gas and gov. expenditure and how budgets are spent is going to achieve that starting from now. I believe civil society organizations and the general public should demand that from the government.
You mention engaging the Yemeni public or the lack of it ….but how do we do this beyond the field teams that are supposed to have gauged opinion limited as it may be? I agree that to some extent the NDC has excluded some important independents but then in the end how many people can be included in a dialogue without it turning into a circus? I think it might be a good idea to find a way of including peoples opinions and presenting results of research of experts to the NDC to be included in the final draft of the working groups. I think Dr.Waheeba Fare has tried to do this through her academic group of experts but a way has to be found to effectively transmit this to the NDC before it is too late. There may be other forums who may also be doing this and I am sure that in future there will be a lot of opportunities for expressing public opinion on different matters.  In the past this was not possible and even if youth inclusion in the dialogue has been limited in future I believe they will make the changes for better or for worse. Social movements take time to grow and mature and create leadership and this will happen slow as it may be. There are many  smart young people like yourself in whom we have hope for the future. We have to be positive and we need some idealism that will spring people into action and believe the picture is not all negative. It is healthy to criticize provided we are objective and offer alternatives.
Abdurabo Mansur is in an unenviable position and considering many facts about the present situation which we all know he has managed to achieve some results even if slowly but there are so many challenges to contend with and the old regime is not letting go yet and is doing everything to disrupt the process of rapprochement and national stability. The main mistake he made was to ignore the southern issue and not go there sooner to dialogue with the southern movement and thus the vacuum has led to the forces inside and outside yemen to capitalize on this state of affairs  and incite the more rigid section of the Hiraak to create the explosive situation prevailing in the south. The southern issue is a core issue and will determine the nature of the future state and it has to be taken very seriously and secession is not at all to the interest of yemen. However there are genuine demands that have to be met before this is done.
Unfortunately yemen has suffered from too many armed confrontations in the past….in the north the educated and good leaders like abdulrahman aliryani,Abdullah salaal and alhamdy did not last long and since Ali took over we have not seen much progress and with all the outside assistance should yemen have the lowest human indicators in the region next to Somalia? But people have short turn memories and want him back some from sheer ignorance and others with vested interests. This is a transitional stage and we cant have miracles overnight.  In the south too the good leaders like Qahtan Alshaaby and Salim Rubaya ali were knocked off by the more extremist socialists and armed conflict also has led to the destruction of the country and alienating some of the best people who could have made a difference. Now we need to move forward and start creating the stage for a different yemen and how we will do that depends very much on keeping our heads above water and think of solutions to different problems rather than drown in the sea of troubles and become paralysed  negative and defeatist and repeat platitudes like it’s a big mess and we are heading for disaster nothing can prevent it. Maybe I am one of the lucky few who always see the silver lining in the cloud and half the glass as full rather empty. I would suggest looking at some of the positive things in yemen and remain optimistic and take it from there. 
 I know I have not entirely focused on your article and have digressed but all these issues are interrelated.I do hope however I have managed to clarify some of your doubts even if you are not convinced I am ready to be convinced by you when we meet and discuss.
Have a good day and keep up the good work.         

In response, I wrote: 

I am thrilled to see such a response! Thank you for sharing all of these points. I agree with several points you make but first, I want to let you know that I am restricted in my writing (especially when I have a 1500 word limit). I need to focus on a specific topic. In this article it was transparency.
It's hard to present my entire opinion on the dialogue in one article. So, I write on specific topics in little doses. Second, I really enjoyed the points that you raised and I would like to share it in my blog with your permission of course. Unfortunately when we met, we did not have a chance to speak longer. I appreciate that you took the time to write this and I delighted to see that you mentioned Ibn khaldun and use Yemeni quotes. I am one of those who fully understand that Yemen is not part of the West.

Now, I stand by what I wrote in regards to transparency. I think we tend to underestimate the Yemeni people. While many are illiterate, they deserve to know what is happening in the dialogue. Especially when it was promised to them. Perhaps the only way to get the dialogue participants to respect the transitional process and their duties is to publicize their irresponsible behaviors. Since the number of participants is very big, cutting participants out (who are not working towards a resolution) would solve two problems: 1) members who are not serious and are there to play can be removed and 2) the dialogue would look more credible because it is not tolerating child play. I know this will never happen and I am being idealistic here but it's unfortunate to see that we like to fool and undermine the worth of the average Yemeni citizen. The original flaw lies in the selection process but now it is too late to fix.

I recently started to hear about the work of dr. Wahiba Farea. While her process is not officially adopted by the national dialogue, it seems to be operating better. She selected academics who are capable of drafting solutions and I look forward to exploring this process further soon. Again, this process and similar parallel processes highlight the flaw in the selection process of the NDC: giving seats to please and occupy all of Yemen's influential figures.

As for the process of reconciliation, this is the subject of my next/current project. Without it, the dialogue would not be able to produce long term solutions. I look forward it sharing it with you soon.

As for the speed of the conference, It is possible that the transitional process seems slow to you because the dialogue has failed to move according to plan because its not managed well. Moreover, so many people outside of the dialogue are continuing to make other plans (like separatists, Islamists, etc), it is in the interest of Yemen to reach solutions soon. There is pressure building inside the dialogue and I sympathize with all of the participants who are pouring their hearts and souls into this process. That being said, the only way to calm the Yemeni people is to provide them with services like water, electricity, etc. This would relieve them of their anguish and foster trust in the future Yemeni government. The dialogue failed in providing a temporary economic solution to Yemen. The NDC process is purely political. On the bright side, it succeeded in providing temporary jobs to 565 individuals.

Each transitional process needs to be custom made to the country undergoing transformation and in Yemen's case, the structure of the dialogue could be described as "too sophisticated". At times the structure of the 9 committees and the large number of participants created an obstacle in the path of political progression. Many of the subjects intersect and the second general plenary meeting failed to achieve anything. All our hopes are now in the hands of the final and third plenary meeting.

I definitely agree that the decisions that the committees come up with will need implementation. Without it, all of this hard work would go to waste (& this is a possibility).

Finally, my argument on the subject of transparency is based on the fact that the NDC promised something that they didn't deliver. I was just following through. Also, It is hard for a single person like me to provide solutions to such grave problems. I think my criticism in this particular article is just a cry for better transparency so people like me, who are not members of the dialogue, can feel that we are somehow included.  At the moment, I am still waiting to get my badge to go to the NDC. I think I will have a better picture then

Thank you for reading what i wrote, for sharing your thoughts and for your encouragement.


She then added: 

In addition to what I wrote you yesterday (as I said I couldnt type long from my fon with one finger its so slow thus I couldnt reply to all your points I am more comfortable now using my laptop) I forgot to mention to you that I hope my point about the yemeni public not following every little point of the dialogue did not indicate my considering the fact that they are illiterate that they cannot understand whats going on.....that would be terribly patronizing  what I meant is that as it is there is so much frustration that this will only add to their frustration which is not to the advantage of the NDC because the reaction from the public could be really fierce .We cant afford whats happening in egypt right now and added to the fact that yemenis are armed to the teeth. Transparency could be achieved by transmitting the outcome of the discussions at different stages of the talks which I think is being done from what I read in the papers and also on yemen tv and radio. I think a list of people who left the talks and people who were replaced has also been publisized if I am not mistaken .
On the contrary yemenis are very politicised and very aware and as I said in my article "Yemeni spring nipped in the bud - where do we go from here" it does not take a university degree to know that one is dispossessed of one's most basic rights. I believe my grandmother had far more wisdom and awareness than a lot of Ph.D holders who may be qualified in a specific field  but not necessarily aware.....I had also pointed out the process that Paulo Freire the latin american educator had undertaken in raising the consciousness of the oppressed in his revolutionary adult education programme.(Pedagogy of the Oppressed)  This is also possible in yemen but not through the NDC....I still maintain that the NDC is not the panacea to resolving all the problems in yemen....on the contrary it has quite a limited function which as I said before is to get these power centers to agree as a first step because whether we like it or not they wont let go at this stage and   their lack of agreement could be threatening to yemen. We also hope some of the good people(I am sure there are many despite our doubts) in the dialogue would also act as a neutralizer in some way. I think the real work of nation building will start when the NDC ends and then the role of the people will come in. I have heard people say that once the NDC is over and the big guys concoct the articles of the new constitution their own way  then the game is over. This is not true because there are technical experts who have given their input and are still doing so and whats more important is the nature of lines of accountability that will be established where officials are concerned including the President and the type of political system i.e. parliamentary (the way it is now) and how will decision making powers be delineated between cabinet parliament and president . I am sure you know that there are many types of sytems where the president could be a figure head and prime minister have more power or like the old regime president is the be all and end all of yemens existence and so on and so forth. Let me give you an example about the old constitution which clearly stated matters concerning human rights, women's rights, etc but did we have the mechanisms for ensuring its implementation and define the checks and balances. I agree that once things are in the constitution they are binding but still we  have to go beyond this formality to the more important issue of specifying all these other matters and I think a kind of opinion poll needs to be done before it is concluded. There could be many other mechanisms for ensuring public opinion is included in the process but the most critical issue at stake at the moment is resolving the southern issue and understanding the demands of the houthis and other forces which might threaten the very stability of yemen and turn the country into small warring factions and provinces. I am not saying we need to compromise to save the country but there are some serious issues  that we have to take into consideration  since the situation in yemen is not idealand not to demand the impossible so as to pave the way for the possibilities in future.. The spring has achieved something but it will take time and effort to achieve all the aspirations of those who initiated the process and the rest of the public. I sincerely hope that we will have more honest people in future who will run the country and who will put the interests of yemen and the people before their own. Now that the public is more aware they will be more proactive in keeping a watchful eye and expressing their opinions on issues that concern the welfare of the yemeni people.
As it says in the Holy Qoran"
فأما الزبد فيذهب جفاءاً و أما ما ينفع الناس فيمكث في الأرض
So I am hoping that what is now not obvious to the eye all the precious jewels of yemeni wisdom and goodness the people who are the unknown soldiers ...the independents if you like or call them whatever you will ....all those who did not have a voice will have it soon.....it does take time for things to crystallize institutions to be built and institutionalised corruption to be purged but what is two years in the life of the nation. I think we have made a start and the process will continue.