Adonis Diaries

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Yemen National Crisis: We have no water, no electricity, no food…

I edited a published piece from Sanaa, Yemen on October 1, 2011.

“I don’t know why Anwar al-Awlaki was important,. The US says he is a terrorist from Al Qaeda,” said Belal Masood, who works in a restaurant in Sana’s old city. “But maybe this will create a problem for us Yemenis (US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was assassinated by a US drone in Yemen), because when you strike Al Qaeda they normally strike back later and at larger scale. Really, we wish they could have killed him in another country. We Have Bigger Problems Than Al Qaeda”

Many Yemenis had not even heard that Awlaki had been killed, even by Friday night. And most had only a faint sense of why the United States considered him a highly significant target. If anything, Yemenis thought his death would only increase their woes.

Walid Seneb is sitting on a street curb with three friends on Friday night. Walid  was the only one of the four men who had heard of the cleric’s death. and he said: “We don’t like these terrorists who make problems for us. But right now, there are worse problems than Al Qaeda. Our national crisis is the biggest problem. There is no water, electricity, everything administrated by the government has stopped.”

Eight months of anti-government protests tore the Yemen’s government apart. The armed forces are divided between those loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and those who follow a rebel military commander. Conflict between the two sides turned into urban warfare in Sana two weeks ago, with over 100 people being killed.  There are fears of the breaking out of a large-scale civil war.  The debilitating economic crisis has absorbed Yemenis daily concerns and worries: They lack the attention span to devote to the death of a man who was most known for reaching out to the English-speaking world of Muslim extremists.

Nadwa al-Dawsari, who works for a nonprofit organization in Sana, said: “Awlaki’s life or death doesn’t matter for Yemenis. It is not a priority for us. Not many Yemenis know who Awlaki was anyway. It doesn’t matter how many Al Qaeda members are killed as long as the underlying causes that makes extremism thrive are resolved.”

Yemenis in the opposition suspect that the Saleh family provided information to the United States on Awlaki’s whereabouts to gain political favor.  Saleh’s family controls the security apparatus responsible for counter-terrorism activities. (As if terrorist and counter-terrorist activities have not converged to be simply similar in terrorism mentality and consequences)

Is the Obama administration working diplomatically to find a way to ease President Saleh out from office? Many doubt this alternative and the US intentions. Nader al-Qershi, a youth organizer at Sana’s large antigovernment demonstration, said: “Now Saleh is going to tell the people that he can kill al Qaeda, and who can kill them except Ali Abdullah Saleh? Saleh administration has a lot of intelligence pieces on the members of Al Qaeda.”

It was widely assumed in Yemen that Saleh’s government must have been aware of Mr. Awlaki’s whereabouts l, but was reluctant to hand over that information to the Americans or kill Mr. Awlaki, because he is from a powerful tribe in southern Yemen that might seek retribution if he was killed.

“Saleh wanted to show the world that he is a hero against Al Qaeda,” said Hussein Mohammed, who runs a small hotel in Sana’s old city. Mohammed, like many people here, did not think that Mr. Awlaki’s death would alter the political dynamic in their country. He said it was not al Qaeda, but the struggle among Yemen’s political elites that poses the greatest risk to the country’s future.

Tribesmen loyal to Saleh’s main political rival, Hamid al-Ahmar, have engaged in almost daily street warfare with the government’s security forces in a northern district of Sana over the past few weeks. The sound of artillery fire echoing through the capital has become commonplace.

“They struck Anwar al-Awlaki, why don’t the Americans strike Ali Abdullah Saleh and Hamid al-Ahmar?” Mohammed asked.




June 2023

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