SOMEONE TALKED!, Part 2 : تي بي يي للترجمة

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Today we present to you the second part of our translation of al-Sharq al-Awsat’s interview with Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, the leader (both political and military, it would seem) of the Houthi’s Saada-based insurgency in Yemen. Before proceeding to the interview we’re presenting a few links to people who are vastly more knowledgeable about Yemen than we.

Waq al-Waq is the best English-language blog providing analysis and links to other people’s news and analyses of Yemen.

Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee posts all his articles on Yemen online. It is mostly day-to-day reporting on the Houthi conflict, though it seems that neither side ever reports its own casualties. So one often finds the government reporting body counts for al-Houthi supporters and al-Houthi supporters making claims about the number of government troops they’ve killed. Because the government has a more effective propaganda machine, it appears that they are perpetually on the cusp of victory, though President Saleh’s speech yesterday, in which he promises to continue the war for five years if need be, would tend to undermine that notion.

The most important question that we haven’t seen answered, and this is probably due to our own ignorance more than anything else, is to what degree the uprising is a genuine popular mobilization and to what degree does it never reach a definitive conclusion because rooting out insurgencies based in mountainous terrain is incredibly difficult?

The Carnegie Endowment recently published “Yemen: Avoiding a Downward Spiral,” which details many of the many problems Yemen faces.

Lisa Wedeen, who practices the type of political science that TBE most admires, published a book about Yemen last year.

Finally, here are a few recent photos from the war zone.

We’re sorry it’s taken so long for the second part to appear and that the translation may be a bit choppy in parts. Our translator passed out while working on it. Part one can be found directly below Part 2, or here. From al-Sharq al-Awsat’s 20 September 2009 edition:

Abd al-Malik al-Houthi: We Don’t Rely On Any Regional Power and If The Government Stops Targeting Us We Will End Our Isolation

He Says They Are Found In Many Areas in Saada and Amran Provinces, and If The War Continues They Will Open New Fronts

SA: Is there any truth to the news of a dispute between you[r family in Yemen] and your brother Yahya in Germany?

AMH: There are no reports of differences between us and our brother Yahya, and we are joined by the same cause and the same oppression

SA: Why did the ceasefire collapse less than 48 hours after it was implemented and who is responsible?

AMH: The authorities were not serious about the ceasefire, and they used it to make military gains. This was obvious when it launched an offensive timed with the appearance of the mediation committee in Sufyan district. The committee was taken by surprise, as they went to the beginning of the highway they ran the risk of liquidation and murder by the army during its bombing. Had it not been for our brothers quickly taking the committee on safe and military roads.

SA: Do you trust the mediation committee under the aegis of Sheikh Faris Mana’a? [Mana’a’s brother, Hassan Muhammad Mana’a, is Saada’s (pro-regime) governor] If you have any problems with it, what are they?

AMH: We deal with the mediation committee based on our reading of the facts on the ground, so even if we trust the committee we don’t trust the government since doing so does not benefit us at all. Thus we observe the situation and behave accordingly.

SA: What is your response to President Saleh’s speech on 8/19/2009 in which he promised to eliminate you from Saada?

AMH: This logic is not strange, and this is not the first time he’s said such things. We’ve heard these threats to his people before, whether directed at the north or the south or the political trends. So we aren’t worried at all by his speech, which proved Saleh’s failure in the course of the last six wars. He is not currently in a better position than previously. Rather he is weaker and the country is less stable. Thus his failure is more than clear. We rely on the glory of God because he and the people are the strongest, whereas unjust and tyrannical governments are vulnerable to extinction and vulnerable to God’s abhorrence and indignation and punishment.

SA: Are you waiting for or depending on a specific degree of external interference or local {strategic?] situation to end the war, and to what extent are you able to stand firm in the face of the army?

AMH: We don’t place our hopes on any international or regional force. We place our hopes on God and on our popular movement. There has been a clear increase in the number of people joining us every day, and there has been a significant increase in the consciousness of the Yemeni people. But we don’t rule out moving to an international or regional side, not out of concern for the Yemeni people but rather for political expediency or political intrigues. The events in Palestine and elsewhere have proven to us that injustice does not drive the oppressed people away, and their reliance on God and their own strength to drive away their oppression.

As for our ability to remain steadfast, the people are the power, as we stated, and we are able to maintain indefinitely and across generations. We are very optimistic that if the war continues, our victory is assured. We say this with trust in God and trust in the fact of our oppression. We have numerous options in carrying out the war and a long confrontation, in a way that will exhaust the enemy and wear him down.

SA: How do you view the announcement that tens of thousands of your Yemeni tribal brothers have volunteered to fight on the government’s side?

AMH: This is not true. There is limited movement to the government’s side amongst mercenaries, but this movement is inspired by greed, nothing more. There field positions are very weak because they are defending their material interests only. Therefore, when they feel threatened they quickly flee. Their positions are not a danger to us, and they don’t represent any real strength for the army. The issue is more about exploiting the media than facts on the ground because it makes the army look larger.

SA: The leaders of two well-known tribes, considered the largest in Yemen, Sheikh Sadeq Abdallah bin Hussein al-Ahmar, leader of the Hashed tribe, and Naji bin Abd al-Aziz al-Sha’if, leader of the Bakil tribe have confirmed they are on the side of the government against you. What is your explanation for that?

AMH: It is clear that our Hashedi brothers have not moved to support the government except for the mercenaries amongst them. As for the honest and free amongst them, of which there are many, they have refused to participate in this unjust and criminal war that no one honorable would join. We have many Hashid and Bakil fighters, and we can confirm as well that if any tribe or power does move to the government’s side it will not benefit the government at all because God is with us, and he is the most powerful of all. Also, we are based on strong principles and foundations, which makes us stronger in our positions than those who are motivated by material gain and ambition.

SA: Do you believe there is an Arab or American role in the latest war in Saada?

AMH: There clearly is.

SA: Could you not have informed the mediation committee about the violations you say were committed by the military and treat the situation without resorting to arms?

AMH: The issue does not end at violations but rather attacks on whole regions. We informed the mediation committee but without results. When the authorities resorted to all-out war we were forced to face the aggression by moving against it, which is our legitimate right.

SA: There are those that say that since President Saleh’s announcement of the end of the fifth war on July 17, 2008, your behaviors have suggested that Saada is under self-rule by the Houthis.

AMH: That is not true and is a baseless claim. We have not moved beyond claiming our legitimate rights as citizens and on the basis of the teachings of Islam.

SA: When did the last round of telephone discussions between the Houthis and President Saleh take place and what took place during those discussions?

AMH: I did not claim that there was any direct contact between us and him. It doesn’t happen. Usually we communicate indirectly, by means of the mediation committee. In the recent past, for a not insignificant amount of time, most of the letters or indirect communications have not included any solutions or positive suggestions or anything important. Instead they consist of insults and threats.

SA: What are the terms of the agreement concluded between you and President Saleh to end the fifth war and was it a written or verbal agreement?

AMH: There was a verbal agreement to end the war and military campaigns and exchange prisoners but the government had not fulfilled any of that until today.

SA: What are your suggestions for ending the war and resolving the issue of Saada once and for all?

AMH: The fundamental solution is a serious review of its positions undertaken by the government and reforming their behavior, because the authorities treat us with arrogance, and not as citizens but as slaves. We can never accept this. The authorities do not deal with their people on the basis of laws, nor on the basis of rights nor on the basis of the constitution. This aggravates the situation and does not lead to a solution.

If the authorities review their positions and reform their behavior and deal with us as citizens with rights, including the right to adhere to the teachings of Islam and its values and morals, which do not allow anyone to banish us no matter what, then there will be no problem.

SA: Why do you reject governmental proposals and lay down your arms and come down from the mountains?

AMH: The government proposal is not fair and is not a just solution and does not treat the issue from its root causes. We carry weapons in the face of aggression. If the government stopped its aggression our side will stop as well. As for the mountains, most of the areas we inhabit are mountainous, so do you want us to flee from them? This we cannot accept. We reiterate that if the government stops its aggression and stops targeting us, we will stop and end our guerrilla activities. As for our displacement (from the mountains), this we cannot accept.

SA: If the war continues will you widen it so that it spreads to areas other than Saada province and Harf Sufyan in Amran province?

AMH: Indubitably.

SA: What is the fate of your father, Badr al-Din al-Houthi?

AMH: He is in good health and doing well, praise be to God.

SA: Do you actually aim to rule the country and deny the republican order and consider the government in Yemen brutal?

AMH: That is not true. We seek to establish our rights and justice. We don’t seek positions (in the government), but we do not accept injustice or unjust people.

SA: What is the structure of your organization, and who would take over if you are injured?

AMH: Our organization is made up of groups from amongst the people, and they organize themselves as they see fit, based on the situation in their area and the disposition of the people and their needs. The truth is we don’t see the need to disclose the details. As for who would replace me, there is not worry at all. There are many brothers who could play a big role in confronting any event. Our movement is popular, not individual, and we will not be stopped by the departure of any one person.

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