I still remember that sentence whenever Yemen is mentioned. That was in 1988 when I accompanied my friend Abdel-Hakim Gamal Abdel-Nasser in a visit to Yemen to honor the name of leader Nasser along with other Egyptian figures who contributed to supporting Yemen revolution like martyr al-Wakkad and martyr al-Messeri. In that visit, we met General Mortagi and Lieutenant General al-Qadi. Also, Yemeni people warmly welcomed the delegation.
In our way from Sana’a to Taiz, a retired Brigadier-ranked old man was driving our car. He was one of those who fought with Lieutenant General Hassan al-Amri and won in the 70-day Siege of Sana’a. After visiting the palace where Imam Ahmed used to stay in Taiz, the old man narrated part of the stories about the conduct, tyranny and bloodiness of Imam’s ruling or Hamidaddin family, and how the Imam used to have an executioner assigned to beheading those whom the Imam wanted to kill.
He also told us about martyr Ahmed ath-Thalaya, leader of 1955 revolution against ruling of the Imam, when he was arrested and brought to Imam Ahmed Hamidaddin in Taiz. In front of the palace, he was beheaded after talking to his executioner saying: “kill me well, you dog… tomorrow dogs will eat both you and your master”. Our guide told us that ath-Thalaya pronounced the first half of Ash-Shahada or the two declarations of faith while he was still alive and his lips continued pronouncing the second part after his head had already been cut off his body!! I asked the man: “how did this happen?” He answered that if the executioner is well enough and the sword is a sharp cutting one, then the one being beheaded does not feel anything and his body organs keep functioning for several minutes.
He continued saying that “Killing by sword is more merciful that shooting down” provided that the executioner and sword are like I’ve already described above. Our guide added that after prince Al-Badr became Imam, people rejoiced and thought he would be better than his bloody tyrant father until he stood behind that window – our old guide pointed towards a window in the palace – and addressed people ascertaining that “if my father used to order heads be decapitated, then I will order bodies be cut in halves”!
Here we have a comparison between dying by sword or by gun as if killing, death and blood are inevitable and we’re just discussing how well the means to kill is.
Therefore, bloodshed didn’t stop unless for a small period of time after Imam’s rule was toppled and 1962 revolution erupted and stabilized. During that time, the graphical line representing the historical events was continuous with ups and downs not void of blood. In fact, the matter that Ali Abdullah Saleh was still alive and playing his effective and perhaps decisive role during the time from 1978, when he became president, until the day he was killed on December 4, 2017 should be called into question and not the way he was killed, for all laws of nature and those in the holy books, also the norms and human cultures, rule that the bloodshed Saleh was involved in is enough to pay his life for more than one time.
A poor orphaned child raised by his step-father, Saleh worked as a shepherd then was looked after by his brother. At 15, he joined the army and went promoted in ranks in the armoured forces until Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahim al-Hamdi seized power and went constructing a contemporary modern Yemen and trying to establish an institutional development replacing the under-developed tribal structure. Al-Hamdi had along with him hundreds of the best university graduate Yemeni youth who had a clear Arab-national orientation.
However, Saleh directly colluded with al-Ghashmi in killing al-Hamdi and his brother in a heinous unbelievably mean way as al-Hamdi and his brother, a military leader as well, were baited to a villa in the suburbs of Sana’a to attend a meeting for the leadership of the military arm of the unionist group including those youth. There, several foreign girls were brought and everyone was slaughtered to make it look as if president al-Hamdi and his brother were involved in a moral scandal.
Supported by Saleh, al-Ghashmi assumed the office of presidency until al-Hamdi’s friends and partners in the union movement between northern and southern Yemen avenged his killing. An official delegate from the south went to deliver a message from Salem Rabie’, president of southern Yemen, to al-Ghashmi and once the bag containing the message was opened, it exploded and everybody was killed.
Saleh didn’t come to power on board a tank or cannon, rather amid bloodshed that did not halt as Saleh killed with his hands thirty young men representing the leadership of the unionist group while his troops killed hundreds others. I have no idea if that phase in history was documented and its events were evaluated or not. I do not hide that I was a friend to and shared common political ideology with many of the leaders whom Saleh killed.
Bloodshed went further on, whether in northern or southern Yemen, as all interested in the Arab affairs in general and in Yemeni ones in specific still remember the heinous fierce fighting that took place in the Democratic Republish of Yemen “southern Yemen” although they all belonged to one party. Also the Marxist ideological belief was replaced by the geographical affiliation. Such bloodshed also targeted Yemeni figures who were genuine in their patriotic roles, their culture that was away from tribal and parties’ orientations and their behavior opposing all tyranny and corruption. Of course Saleh was not far from those crimes.
Saleh did not only master bloodsheding but was also an expert in stealing the fortunes of the Yemeni people and confiscating their future and all their aspirations in stability, union and development; that smart quick-witted people possessing the great heritage both in civilization and in culture. Even in the field of doctrines, Fiqh and philosophy, Yemeni people had great characters in those fields. It’s enough to say that the legacy of judge Abdel-Jabbar, a Mu’tazilite theologian, contained an establishment for the dialectic methodology long before Hegel and Marx started such thing. Also Yemeni people had significant contributions to poetry. Moreover, Yemen people are the best ones who tamed high mountains by planting them and building dams and unique architecture over them.
There are unlimited questions concerning the present and future of Yemen for it’s not about political, demographic and natural geography of a far state, rather a country that possesses a highly important position not only in the Arabian Peninsula nor in the Arab or Middle East area, but worldwide. Details in such regard are known to everyone with the slightest interest in the region.
Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar
This article was published in Al Ahram newspaper on December 7, 2017.
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